You probably know that you need a special ticket to ride on the Shinkansen trains. It can be quite expensive if you want to ride a short distance, and if you do, getting back can be a major hassle - if you go to Shin-Yokohama, the easiest way is to ride the Shinkansen back. Which means you have to buy a second ticket.
There is a cheaper alternative to get tickets to the Shinkansen, but you can not ride them anywhere. Going to Oomiya or Shin-Yokohama not only costs money, it also takes time. And taking that extra time might mean changing your itinerary.
The Shinkansen Platform Ticket
But you can get a ticket which allows you to make your children happy, at least if they are boys. It may be gender stereotyping, but my girls are much less interested in trains than their brother. And the way to make him happy this weekend was to go to Tokyo Station and show him the Shinkansen trains. Yes, he was extatic, but a bit shy about talking to the train staff. His sisters had to do it for him.
We bought platform tickets. They allow you to go on the platform and see the trains. You can not ride the trains, not even get on them. But you can look in through the windows. And you can talk to the train staff. And best of all, the ticket only costs 140 yen for grownups. And children under 6 do not need any tickets.
How To Get The Ticket
Not only was the ticket cheap, it was also easy to get. You just go to one of the automatic ticketing machines, switch to English guidance, select ”platform tickets” and then the number. When you enter the Shinkansen area, you just push the ticket into the slot, and you are in. Since your kids are short, they enter with you without having to pay.
The Local Speciality Bento Box
The Shinkansen trains go to destinations all actoss Japan, and when trains were new, they stopped at local stations long enough for them to buy a bento with local specialities.
There are occasional stations where trains stop long enough for passengers to buy a bento, but mostly trains today are so effective that you have to buy the bento before you board the train. In particular if you are boarding the Shinkansen.
Get Your Shinkansen Bento Early
You do not even have to go to far-off train stations to get the local specialities. They are readily available at Tokyo station. There is a special store that only sells ”ekiben”, the local speciality bento boxes.
Your kids are likely to be less than interested in high-quality Japanese meat or fish, however. The bento box you need to buy for your kids is the Shinkansen bento box. The contents are nothing special (grownups may find convenience store bento more tasty), but the plastic box in the shape of a Shinkansen train may be the most loved souvenir your kids will get in Japan.
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I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a brief visit to Honolulu on the way. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning four and a half - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.