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Nine Things You didn't Know About Shinkansen

02/06/2014 16:08 BST | Updated 30/07/2014 10:59 BST

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Shinkansen at Tokyo Station

The Shinkansen (新幹線 new trunk line), also known as the "bullet trains" is a network of high speed railway lines in Japan. The shinkansen network consists of multiple lines, connecting most major cities on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, with construction of a link to the northern island of Hokkaido underway.

Traveling by the shinkansen can be pricey, but it's an incredibly pleasant and comfortable experience. It's by far my favorite way of traveling the country.

Here are 9 interesting facts about the shinkansen:

1. How reliable is it?

According to the report in 2012, the Shinkansen's average delay from schedule per train was 36 seconds, including delays due to uncontrollable causes, such as natural disasters.

2. Is it safe?

The Shinkansen has an impressive safety record. Over the Shinkansen's 49 year history, carrying nearly 10 billion passengers, there have been no passenger fatalities despite frequent earthquakes and typhoons.

3. How fast is it?

The maximum operating speed is 320 km/h (200 mph). Test runs have reached 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 581 km/h (361 mph) in 2003.

4. How many Shinkansen do they run per day?

About 800 trains per day, although the number of tarins depends on the day.

5. What is "Shinkansen Theater"?

It refers to the cleanup crew who clean the entire train in 7 minutes. I don't know how they do it, but the shinkansen is always clean. You'll have to see it to believe it. Click here to check out this video.

6. Who invented Shinkansen?

The shinkansen was invented by Japan's chief railway engineer, Hideo Shima (島 秀雄). He wanted to design the trains to "feel like an airplane" which he succeeded in creating. After retiring from the railway career, he became the head of the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), where he pushed the development of hydrogen engines to power rockets.

7. Can you bring food and eat at Shinkansen?

Yes, you can. Typically it is not okay to eat in trains in Japan, but it is fine to do so at Shinkansen. Most people bring foods and beverages and enjoy them on the train. For this reason you'll always find stores selling bento box (lunch box) at Shinkansen stations.

8. Are there discount tickets for Shinkansen?

Yes, check out Japan Rail Pass . Note that this is available only for foreign tourists, and it has to be purchased before arriving to Japan.

9. Can you see Mt. Fuji from Shinkansen?

Yes. When you are traveling on the Shinkansen around Shizuoka prefecture, you can enjoy viewing Mt. Fuji if the weather is good enough.

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View of Mt. Fuji from Tokaido Shinkansen

Photo by Alexander Mirochnik, Under the Creative Common License

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