Should Australia invest in a fast train? Let me think…

Here’s some of the features of the N700 Nozomi (super-express) I took from Tokyo station to Shin-Kobe:

  • Train departed on time.  Made me realise that my watch was wrong.
  • Desperately had to charge iPhones.  Had 3 power outlets nearby.  One spare then.
  • 50cm of leg room.
  • Ate matsutake mushroom (like on Iron Chef) bento.  Could have had a beer or whiskey highball if I was so moved.
  • Car had two multipurpose rooms (sick room, baby change/feeding), a toilet and 2 vending machines.
  • So clean I could lick the walls.

If a mere $100 billion gets anything like that to travel from Melbourne to Brisbane, it would be well-spent.

N700 Shinkansen to Kyoto

The Shinagawa Shinkansen station is a short walk from the hotel.  I planned to be there early so that I could take lots of otaku video before I had to board.  I didn’t expect to see George Gregan waiting for the Shinkansen before ours.  He was waiting in the Green Car (First Class) section.  He said “Hello”. I said “Hello”. He was with a tall Japanese man who I assumed could be a rugby player.  In respect of his privacy, I didn’t demand a picture.

More importantly, I was waiting for the particular series of Shinkansen.  The N700 Nozomi service marks a full set of JR West Japan series I’ve been on.  These include 0 (original “bullet train”), 100, 300, 500, 700 and now N700.  The N700 is faster on the windy Tokaido route as it tilts 1° in corners.  This allows a full 270km/h in corners of 2500m radius, unlike previous series that must slow to 250km/h.  This cuts a few minutes from travelling time and contributes to energy savings of 17%.  And there’s a 100V socket at each seat space, which proved handy for recharging Chikako’s DS and my video camera.

Shinkansen has wireless connection from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka.  However, I couldn’t connect to any of the four networks without a certificate or passcode and I couldn’t find those anywhere.  Passenger near me had was reading his Lotus Notes email. In the hotel earlier I managed a download speed about 1000 times faster than my 1.5Mbps connection at home, so I was looking forward to maxing out my wireless G.

But I did manage to connect my video camera to 100V socket and my netbook and transfer many megs of video and stills for later use.  Cityrail can’t offer that.
Snow and earthquakes can play havoc with Shinkansen timetables and sure enough snow between Nagoya and Kyoto, where the Tokaido line goes inland, pushed us back 16 minutes.  It is true that you will get the express portion of your ticket refunded but only if the train is more than 1 hour late.