Jul 14, 2017

Blog spot Japan: The Tokaido Shinkansen between Kyoto and Tokyo

As a mode of inter city transportation anywhere in the world, the Shinkansen must take some beating. Travel has surely never been this intuitive, hassle free and smooth. However, as smooth as these bullet trains might be, how do they fair as a temporary office, a place to get some work done or in this case, write a blog post, which is what we are doing now … on the Shinkansen? Let’s take a look.

Tools of the trade

First of all, what are we working with? This Shinkansen blogger is currently loosing off these words on a MacBook … and that’s pretty much all I can tell you about it other than to say that it’s light, slim and fits pretty well on the drop down table of the Shinkansen seat. I’m currently off line and am writing this draft on a simple text editor. The cell phone is on hand for some tethering when I need to get online to upload this post.

The Shinkansen being ridden is a Nozomi between Kyoto and Tokyo stations. That should give me around 2 hrs 20 mins to finish this post. It’s currently light outside but will be at least past sunset by the time we roll into Tokyo.

An early gripe about blogging on the Shinkansen

Internet connection. The lady on the automated announcement system tells me that wireless free Internet is available on this Shinkansen but I can’t find it. In fact I never have been able to. Maybe someone can tell me how silly I’m being in the comments at the bottom of this post.

I suppose what is good about blogging on a Shinkansen is the pretty comfortable seats. Compared to, say, a coffee shop where seat choice might be something of a lottery here on the bullet train there is at least parity. That said, elbow room and favoured typing position might be compromised depending on who you’re sitting next to. Currently, I’m in a window seat and the other seat is vacant. I also have to make sure to keep looking away from the screen every now and then so as I don’t throw up from motion sickness.

In a slight ironic twist having often been a proponent of praise for just how much leg room there is on the Shinkansen, the distance from bum to laptop is a little too far for my liking, and I’m pretty tall.

Still, it’s nice to have that net thing on the seat in front where bottled drinks can be stowed to avoid cluttering the ‘desk’. This does, however, bring to light another negative aspect facing the Shinkansen blogger - there’s almost no room for notes, stationary, materials of reference or for hooking up to cameras if that is required (which it may well be if you’re on a MacBook). And whilst being in the window seat of a Shinkansen affords the opportunity to hook up to the grid, elsewhere and you’re going to need to make sure you’ve the power in reserve to get you to the end of the journey .  

"This is a key point of understanding required of the Shinkansen blogger - mobility is likely to be restricted."

We’re just pulling into Nagoya now which means I also have to worry about who it is that might sit next to me. If I was in the aisle seat and the person next to me wanted to get out, I’d have to tidy up all of my blogging clobber and set it up again once everyone is settled. This is a key point of understanding required of the Shinkansen blogger - mobility is likely to be restricted.

Such restriction might make it tricky to use some of the other “facilities” available to the Shinkansen blogger - toilets, places to wash the hands and face, and smoking rooms. In fact, a dude has sat next to me (I hope he can’t read English) and cracked open his own laptop so I’m a little bit stuck now. Any attempt to get out is going to be a right hassle for both of us. The presence of a passenger in the next seat has also got me feeling a little paranoid or self-conscious about blogging, especially if he notices me uploading images of the seat that he is currently sitting next to.

Still, it is what it is - blogging on the Shinkansen. At least I can get a table service of sorts when the person with the trolley comes along with the drinks and snacks. I don’t have to get out of my seat for that!

Shinkansen come with the blogging benefit of being pretty quiet, especially when compared to other places one might choose to blog in public in Japan. Plus, the scenery changes. OK, so the run between Kyoto and Tokyo is largely through a pretty bland belt of industry and featureless towns but I’m on the right side of the train (meaning the left in this case) to have a good gawp at Mt. Fuji during the latter stages of the journey. And it is pretty smooth. Doing this on a bus would be out of the question.

"One can’t really just get up and leave at the first signs of blogger’s block. To this effect, the environment is rather conducive to ‘getting things done’."

Another good thing about blogging on the Shinkansen is that you’re kind of stuck. One can’t really just get up and leave at the first signs of blogger’s block. To this effect, the environment is rather conducive to ‘getting things done’. I meant, it’s over two hours to Tokyo, what else am I going to do? And it’s also quite nice to set that challenge of getting the post finished before reaching one’s destination. Although this might be to the detriment of the post’s quality, as I’m sure we’ll see when the time comes.

Overall I’m quite please with how the Tokaido Shinkansen is working out as a blog spot in Japan. Of course, it has cost me over 13,000 yen to be here, so financially it’s been a bit of a disaster (although it hopefully doesn’t need to be said that this blog isn’t the reason for the journey). I’m also shattered after having chased around Kyoto in the searing heat for the last couple of days and all I want to do is be back at home on the sofa. Still, doing a bit of blogging is a nice way to get through the time. The clear downside of blogging on a Shinkansen is that it’s a little finicky. If someone is sitting next to you, there really is only the space for the laptop on the drop down table. Everything else has to be brought out with care, and tidied away before moving on to any other bit of kit, drink, or snack that might be required. I almost forgot, you’re also at the mercy of the person in front who may want to recline their seat (although that could make the typing a bit easier in my case)!

Know of any great places to blog in Japan? Let us know in the comments.

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  • genkidesu

    on Jul 14

    I laughed out loud at "financially it’s been a bit of a disaster"! I feel like for me personally I'd love working on the shinkansen, particularly if it was writing/blogging - I find that when I'm out and about I tend to get ideas flowing and what better way to be out and about than watching the world pass by on a bullet train! I do get a little self conscious when I blog too (which is ironic considering I post my thoughts on the internet!) but it's more the awkward possibility of someone reading over my shoulder that I'm not too keen on!

  • City-Cost

    on Jul 18

    @genkidesu "I do get a little self conscious when I blog too (which is ironic considering I post my thoughts on the internet!) " - very good point! Didn't think about this at the time (too distracted by the possibility of the guy next to us having a look at what we were doing, maybe)! I think the Shinkansen most most effective in that it kind of forces you to settle into what you are doing. It's just much harder to get up from your seat and wander around. Still, the potential motion sickness from staring at a screen is a definite minus point.