Mad day trips on Japan’s bullet train

Tokyo is a city lit up with technology, where public transport is refreshingly efficient

Public transport is slick in Japan. Travelling from Tokyo to the historical city of Hiroshima 806km away takes just four and a half hours. Compare that w

Driving from Sydney to Melbourne – a similar distance of 876km, meanwhile – would take the average driver just over nine hours without stops.

While queues of passengers pushing one another onto an already-packed train is a common vision in Japan, so is the charming Shinkansen, or bullet train, which over time has become an icon to impact Japan’s economy, business and society.

The slick, silver-tinted Shinkansen travels at 300km/hr and is one of the fastest trains in the world.

But the train isn’t just about speed.

One of its best-known features is its punctuality, arriving not a second past its scheduled time.

As I look down at my map, a crinkled outline of Japan creased with the ventures of the past two weeks, I note just how much of the country I have covered, simply in the warmed seat of the bullet train.

The Shinkansen was top on my list of must-dos.

With Kyoto, Hiroshima, Naoshima and Osaka pinned as destination hot-spots, it seemed a good idea to book a 14-day rail pass for the fastest and most efficient mode of transport. But then, fast is relative in Japan, considering virtually every mode of public transport is faster than the rest of the world.

After wasting countless hours trying to find the right departing platform and almost missing the train that arrives without fault to the exact destined minute, I finally found my carriage.

Before I reached my seat, the train was off – building to the uninterrupted speed of 300km/hr.

Using the trusty snapchat speed filter, I could see the train wasn’t wasting any time, reaching 298km/hr within minutes.

Within the warm walls of the Shinkansen that smelt of bento boxes and once-hot green tea, the four of us gasped as we zipped past a soaring Mount Fuji.

Forty-five minutes later, still hypnotised by the train’s dazzling speeds and the picturesque views of Japan, we realised we had completely missed our first stop.

After vigorous laughter, more green tea, two albums of “j-pop” and a round of cards, we decided to head to our second planned destination, Naoshima Island.

Until 20 or so years ago, Naoshima was a sleepy island where the locals lived and breathed fishing and harvesting. Today the island is a giant artwork, a rather secret location of untouched beaches, sculptures, museums and world-famous architecture.

Upon first foot, we spotted Yayoi Kusama’s yellow pumpkin, a vegetable that symbolises the artist’s youth during the years of World War Two. The island is speckled with museums, installations and modern architecture that blends with the area’s picturesque natural surroundings.

Impossible to ignore is Naoshima’s perfect equilibrium of tradition and modernity.

The island is home to a small population of roughly 3400 people, with many local residents happy to open the doors of their traditional guesthouses to travellers. While the Benesse Hotel is one of more renown museums overlooking the tranquil sea, the hidden gem is without a doubt the ChiChu art museums built by Japanese architect, Tadao Ando.

The ChiChu museum is home to the creations of artists James Turrell, Claude Monet and Walter de Maria.

Built into a seaside cliff, the museum shines with natural light despite being designed as an underground museum to avoid overshadowing the islands natural beauty.

At dusk, lilac light engulfs the museums through its various open ceilings, performing a theatrical show for art-enthusiasts from around the world.

De Maria’s captivating sphere is the perfect start to the museum venture. The room is a work of art, with perfectly positioned inanimate objects crafting a path for visitors to follow, mirroring De Maria’s artistic thought process.

Turrell’s lights leave you questioning the realms of perception. The artist works directly with light and space to distort the way visitors perceive nearby surroundings.

Claude Monet’s Water Lilies series is housed in a white tiled room that make each flower jump from the walls.

As night falls, most visitors head to the hotel or booked guesthouses. But the four of us head to the train station, knowing that in no time the Shinkansen will take us 761km back to Tokyo.

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