Shinkansen Bullet Train & Reflections on Japan

The view from the Shinkansen train near Nagoya, Japan.
The view from the train near Nagoya.

Our trip to Japan was split between Tokyo and Kyoto, with five days in each city.  Within a blink of an eye, our days in Tokyo were over and we were headed to Kyoto on one of the world’s fastest trains, the Shinkansen Bullet Train.

The Shinkanesen Bullet train in Japan.
The Shinkanesen Bullet train.

When I first planned the trip to Japan, the bullet train was not a site to see or an activity; it was simply how we would get from one city to the next.  But once I was on board, the Shinkansen quickly became one of the most memorable moments of my trip.

The view from the Shinkansen train near Nagoya, Japan.
The view from the train near Nagoya.

Traveling nearly 300 miles per hour, the train showcased the side of Japan I hadn’t experienced yet:  mountains covered in heavily-forested blankets of green trees, plaid patch-works of rice patty fields, peaceful harbors and seaport shorelines, and small quiet towns full of cookie-cutter houses.  I spent the entire three-hour ride sitting straight up in my seat, eagerly watching the world of Japan whiz passed my window with a wide-eyed stare, only glancing away to write my thoughts in my notebook.

Rice fields near Kigahara, Japan.
Rice fields near Kigahara, Japan.

The train ride was also the first opportunity I had to relax and breathe while outside of my hotel room.  (The only time I spent relaxing in my hotel room was when I was sleeping.)  As I tried to write down the feelings inspired by my first five days in Japan and watch out the window at the same time, something incredible happened: I caught a glimpse of the notoriously shy Mount Fuji.  I scrambled for my camera as it flashed passed, but couldn’t get a good shot.  I quickly gave up, in a trance by the mountain’s magnificence.  It was glorious.

Mountains and fields near Kora, Japan.
Mountains and fields near Kora, Japan.

And that’s when it hit me:  I. Am. In. Japan.  I made it here, to the land of my ancestors.  I made a literal life-long dream come true, a dream I wished a thousand times and then some.  I realized that my ancestors gazed upon Mount Fuji for thousands of years and now I, too, was staring at it.

I may never know why my ancestors left Japan for the United States four generations ago; I may never even know the names of those who left.  But I know that they started here in Japan and generations of my family lived and died in this world.  And I, too, have breathed the air of Japan and have marveled at Mount Fuji.  I may have very few ties to my Japanese heritage, but being in Japan just created one more.

Coming up :: the breathtaking temples of Kyoto and our traditional kaiseki meal.

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