On Sunday I took my first ride on the Shinkansen or in English it is known as the bullet train, from Osaka to Tokyo and back. Shin means new in Japanese, although the high speed train is celebrating 50 years of service in Japan. It was very easy to get a ticket and get on the train. The train left from one of the major stations on the daily commuter train line, Shin-Osaka, and with 16-car trains leaving every 10 minutes, it was easy to buy a ticket moments before getting on the train. The return ticket was a bit expensive, around $250, but getting to Tokyo, a 5 and 1/2 hour car ride in 2 and 1/2 hours, is worth it. Especially with Tokyo traffic! The 3-hour mark is the cut-off for convenience over flights, and considering getting taxis, baggage, check-in, etc. it is the easiest method of going between Osaka and Tokyo.
The ride was comfortable, with much more leg room than a plane and my seat had a pull down table and electric charger. I struggled with reading or getting work done however, as the train did shake a bit and it made me a little motion sick. The outside scenes whir by and you can tell how fast the train is going. They can reach speeds of up to 150-200 miles per hour (320 km/hr).
The shinkansen has lines connecting the big cities on the two central islands of the Japan archipelago. They had planned to expand it to Hokkaido and further south, but those have been postponed. Around 150 million passengers per year take the line between Osaka and Tokyo. The train uses only 16% of the carbon of a car, so it is good for the environment.