Am I being obsessive about Japanese trains, especially the Shinkansen? Probably the reason being that I am jealous. Why can't we have such trains in Australia?
We travelled on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hachinohe. You can see the line in red on the right of the map, up the top on the east coast. From there we changed to a limited express train to Aomori and then on to Hirosaki. Aomori is further north of Hachinohe in about the middle of the main island. For the purposes of this, let us just say we are travelling to Aomori only.
The one way fare costs around $220, which is why every foreigner who is going to use the trains buys a Japan Rail Pass for under $380.
We departed at 10.00am from Ueno in Tokyo and arrived at Hachinohe at 1.00pm, so trip time of 3 hours to cover 630km. We changed to the Limited Express at 1.10pm and arrived in Aomori at 2.10pm, just on another 100km. Total time, just over four hours and about 730 km covered.
On December the 4th this year, the Hachinohe (Tohuko) Shinkansen extension will open and run on new track to Aomori, bringing the time down to 3 hours and twenty minutes, a full forty minutes less and without a change of train.
But wait, it gets better. When this beastie below, the E5 Shinkansen, starts running in March 2011, it will cut the time even further. Once it is really let loose in 2013, it will be running at 300km/h or about 190mph. The E5 has a very spacious interior and can carry 731 passengers. Planes and airports, bah. Cars and buses, bah.
Btw, if you think it is too expensive for you, there is the option of the overnight express sleeper train or a road coach.
Later edit: A feasibility study has been proposed for a high speed train in Australia. By the time it is feasibilityised, discussed ad infinitum, planned, postponed and constructed, I'll be too old to ride on it. I have heard too many proposals of high speed trains to Sydney, or even a quick train to our airport.
Here is a vid of the new Shink in action.