In part three of their voyage, Arnaud and Adrien hop aboard Japan’s Shinkansen for an outward-looking, high-speed wizz through the country’s urban landscapes.
“So we hit Tokyo Station to try out our very first Shinkansen (Japan’s answer to France’s TGV), we buy tickets at the counter with a nerdy grin on our faces. Next in line’s an overweight old-school yakuza with a gold chain, potbelly and dark shades. We make our way through to the platform with our heavy suitcases (Arnaud’s already regretting the shit-load of books he bought yesterday) followed by our new bodyguard.”
“An interesting fact about trains in Japan is that they’re never late. Well, 99% are on time, the remaining are late by about two minutes…two minutes. I love it! And when they’re on strike they actually come to work, but wear a black armband to show their contempt. SNCB/SNCF people take out your notepads. Now.”
“So we step in, hostesses clad in pink bow and smile as we make our way to our seats.We sit down, and I realise they’ve fully mastered the concept of ‘leg space’. Recline your seat all the way, they all do, because you know what? it all comes down to the leg space. A steward enters the carriage, bows to excuse himself and doesn’t even check our tickets. He then leaves, not without bowing one last time and retrieving in a discreet yet well executed moonwalk.”
“Slick, stylish and sexy, that’s how you travel in Japan. I feel like royalty. You don’t even feel the train leave the station; it’s smooth and incredibly quiet. It takes an hour and a half at 400 mph for this wingless Concorde to leave the Tokyo cityscape. The small towns and rice fields rush in front of our eyes in a psychedelic blur, I start to doze off hypnotized by the uneven snore of our bodyguard across the aisle… a safe meter away.”