China High Speed Rail and Japan’s Shinkansen Comparison

This trip I’ve taken rides on both China’s High Speed Rail or Gaotie (高铁), and Japan’s Shinkansen (新幹線). There are many similarities and differences between them so let’s compare them.

Shinkansen (新幹線) 

The Shinkansen is Japan’s High Speed Rail, the initial connection was between Osaka and Tokyo. 

The N700 Shinkansen 

Visitors to Japan can ride on the Shinkansen by using the JR Rail Pass, it costs around A$300 and has to be exchanged for an actual pass at any JR Service Centre (we exchanged ours at Shinjuku Station). The costs gets paid off almost instantly (as we took our trip between Osaka and Tokyo – which covered at least 60% of the cost). 

With your JR Pass you can get into some Shinkansens (we only took Hikari and Sakura trains) and any JR train (after getting the pass we took most of our trips on JR Lines including around Osaka, Kyoto and Nara).

The JR Pass gives you access to reserved (you can reserve up to 10 mins before the train leaves) and non-reserved seats only in the standard class. But we managed to get our hands onto the Green car, which is like business class on a plane. 

The green car is really big and comfortable

Even though the standard car seats are slightly smaller, the legroom you get is huge, and way better than an economy class on a plane.

The standard cars have a 3 + 2 configuration, while the green car has a 2 + 2 configuration. 

Something that you see and may find weird is that, everytime when a JR conductor inspects the carriage they would bow after when entering the carriage and exiting the carriage.

You can buy snacks and drinks on board, the station also sells bento boxes. I would recommend getting the green tea the Ooi Oocha brand. 

Price (4 / 5)

Comfortable (4.5 / 5)

Customer Service (5 / 5)

China’s High Speed Rail (Gaotie, 高铁) 

China’s High Speed Rail can be brought by anyone as long as you have a form to verify your identity. For me, I buy using my Australian Passport at a train station ticket shop.

The Fuxing (复兴号) rolling stock 

The standard tickets are fairly cheap (around 110RMB (A$22) from Guangzhou to Shaoguan, 70RMB (A$14) from Guangzhou to Shenzhen). Tickets are split into 2nd Class (equivalent to standard) and 1st Class (green car). 

The most annoying thing about using China’s High Speed Rail, like using various subway systems is that you have to go through security: Identity, Quarantine (Baggage Check) and Ticket 🎫 Inspection – but it goes really smoothly.

The cabin is more modern, but still follows a 2+3 configuration

The seats are the same size as the standard car. With ample leg room, as I rode on the The Fuxing (复兴号) rolling stock, which is the newer model it meant that the cabin was more modern, had bigger windows and underneath each seat as a power port, and 2 USB 2.1A charging ports.

A nice big window seat was really good,especially with the nice scenery. 

Price (4.5 / 5)

Comfortable (4.5 / 5)

Customer Service (4.5 / 5)

China Trip: Beijing

Wow, that was quick! It was only a couple of days ago that I was heading for Beijing. 

Beijing, is the capital of China – for many years I wanted to visit Beijing,and finally I did. I did Beijing with a tour group based in the province of Guangdong. And taking a night flight there, we headed out to visit the amazing sites around Beijing.

Something that you have to be aware of when travelling to Beijing, is that places may or may not be open on any given day – it depends on many factors such as security, political events, weather, etc. So we were very lucky that we managed to visit all the sites.

Day 2: Tiananmen Square, Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, Forbidden City, Birds Nest (Olympic Village) 

When you ever talk about Beijing, the first thing that world pop into your mind would be Tiananmen Square. In Tiananmen Square, there are many cultural sites like Peoples Cultural Hall, the flagpole, Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.

We were very lucky that the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong was open. When inside you can’t carry anything, wear a hat (or beanie) or gloves. 

The preservation of many of the historic sites around Beijing is really amazing to see, especially the Forbidden City. Even we came on the light season, the amount of tourists and locals inside the Forbidden City was a lot. But the architectural design of the palace was amazing, the historical artefacts was definitely intriguing.

Forbidden Palace

Day 3: Great Wall of China & Summer Palace.

Badaling Great Wall

The Great Wall of China is the symbol of China, its really beautiful there is a saying: “
不到长城非好汉” or One who fails to reach the Great Wall is not a hero. Climbing the wall is hard and difficult. There are many walls around Beijing, the one we went to is the most famous, the one on Badaling Great Wall. 

There two sides of the wall when you first enter, the left side is more steeper and the right one is more popular. 

Summer Palace

The Summer Palace (Chinese: 頤和園; pinyin: Yíhéyuán), is a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces in Beijing. It was an imperial garden in the Qing Dynasty.

Day 4: Central Radio & TV Tower, Temple of Heaven

Central Radio & TV Tower

Temple of Heaven

Hall of Prayer

The Temple of Heaven (Chinese: 天壇; pinyin: Tiāntán) is an imperial complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. Most of the complexes are circular because the old people of China believe in 

There are 3 main complexes in the Temple of Heaven:

  • The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿) is a magnificent triple-gabled circular building, built on three levels of marble stone base, where the Emperor prayed for good harvests. 
  • The Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇) is a single-gabled circular building, built on a single level of marble stone base. It is located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and resembles it, but is smaller. It is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, the Echo Wall, that can transmit sounds over large distances. Legend it has it that one day that the Qianlong Emperor was alone in the Vault, when he heard voices. He looked around and saw no-one, he then discovered a few people talking on the other side of the vault – hence discovering that the wall has the echo property.
  • The Circular Mound Altar (圜丘坛) is the altar proper, located south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones, each decorated by lavishly carved dragons. The numbers of various elements of the Altar, including its balusters and steps, are either the sacred number nine or its nonuples. The center of the altar is a round slate called the Heart of Heaven (天心石) or the Supreme Yang (太阳石), where the Emperor prayed for favorable weather

Prince Gong’s Mansion (Gongwangfu)

Gongwangfu (Prince Gong’s Mansion, Mandarin: 恭王府) is a huge mansion situated to the north east of the Forbidden Palace. It was originally built for the one of the most corrupt officials of ancient China –  He Shen (和珅). 

There are many sites within the Mansion itself, all of which was based of designs of Forbidden Palace and also based of the philosophy known as Fengshui. The amount of gifts given to him by the Emperor was stored in a large building within the mansion with a 4 metre thick wall.

One of the things that also exist in the site is a doorway arch that existed both in the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan, 圆明园) and here, as the Old Summer Palace by the army of the 8 countries during the 2nd Opium War. So inside the mansion stands the last standing doorway arch of its design.

The doorway arch

China: Week 1

Coming to China from Japan, you can instantly see the cultural differences. This is my 3rd week away from home and I’m starting to miss it, alot. Even though I told myself 5 weeks isn’t a long time to be away from home. But without the company and friends, you sort of get really lonely and you want to go home. 

But, tonight I’ll be going to Beijing with a tour group – hopefully I won’t feel as much homesick as I do now. 

This week’s gone by really fast, I’ve visited many memorials and climbed Baiyun Mountain. Meaning that most of the things I wanted to do is now done. 

Next time, I’ll probably plan for a shorter holiday. Japan was amazing, and I really want to visit Japan again. 

Day 12: Nara

Nara is a really beautiful city situated near both Osaka and Kyoto. It’s famous for its mochi and the deers.

The trip between Osaka and Nara takes around 40mins (you can get on the express train either at Osaka or Tennoji stations). And it’s a really comfortable ride (not as comfortable as the shinkaisen of course, but still really comfortable) 

After arriving at Nara, we walked to the park and ate some takoyaki. Nara has really good street ffood, and the pipping hot takoyaki was really delicious.

We walked up to the park, at the front gate sat a deer, looking uninterested at the tourists and locals entering the main park. 

The fawns are really cute

We got some deer biscuits (around 150yen) and they started chasing us around the park. They were just looking for food and learnt to bow in order to get a reward, you can see that the older ones were more confident.

A curious deer

There’s also quite a bit of temples around Nara which was also really fun to explore too. 

Nara also has quite a few Buddhist Temples

Day 10: Himeji Castle and Mt Shosha

Himeji Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Japan.

 We explored the eastern bailey and the main castle and actually ended up exploring the castle for 2 hours without realising it. You can also see how  thought out the defences were, several walls each wall with Archer holes, and at each gate also stood alot more Archer holes. The low lying roof upon the stairs designed to slow attackers down. 

After lunch we explored Mt Shosha, which was a mountain full of temples. 

Day 9: Hiroshima

Hi there! I haven’t posted in a while because we were moving from Tokyo to Osaka.

Yesterday we went to Hiroshima. As some of you might know Hiroshima was the city where the USA dropped the first nuclear bomb as a weapon.

N700 Shinkaisen 

After travelling on the Shinkaisen to Hiroshima, we head over to the Atomic Bomb Dome, where. The dome was preserved as part of the Peace Park.

Hiroshima’s Street Car reminds me of Melbourne 

Then it sank in, the horrors and atrocities of war, the deaths of peaceful civilians all gone in a mere few seconds. And exploring the Eternal Flame (where the flame keeps on burning until there are no atomic. Bombs in the world), the memorial and the Peace Bell  was really sad. 

Atomic Bomb Dome
Peace Bell

Another awesome place to explore was Shukkeien Gardens – where the lords can have a peaceful rest in Feudal Japan.

Day 6: Ueno Park, Ameyoko Market, Akihibara

After having a rest day yesterday exploring the Kitchenware Street, we headed down to Ueno Park. 

The main walkway in Ueno Park

As it was a public holiday the park was full of people. There even was a ninja event on – which we watched the shows for a bit.

I really like taking bodies of water

Ameyoko Market is a street market where it was a blsck/grey back in post-World War 2. The market was also packed with people, with vendors selling street food (such as kebabs, soup dumplings, takoyaki), clothes, bags and other cool things. One thing we saw everywhere was the hospitality that everyone provided. (I also managed to finally find my dads Christmas present, finally) 

 After lunch at Ameyoko, we headed down to Akihibara to satisfy my weeb tendencies. (there was also a lot of ‘exotic’ material too). And everywhere you go there’s people looking at figurines, manga, posters and other anime materials.

Akihibara was an amazing experience to enjoy the culture of Modern Japan (and for all the weebs and otakus out there, no shame) 

Day 4: Mount Takao

Sitting at 599 metres tall, Mount Takao is a mountain around 1 hour from Tokyo (or 2 hours by train from where we are staying), along with Mt Fuji it is one of the more popular hiking spots around Tokyo.

Taking the train was Mout Takao was really enjoyable, as we were sitting in the first carriage we get the extordinary view as we approached Takaosanguchi Station. It was also a beautiful sunny day with barely any clouds. 

Driver’s Cab on the Keio Takao Line

As we got off the station we were greeted by amazing view of the actual mountain itself and bearing our directions we set off on our hike. Not before we got a cheeky Soy Sauce flavoured Mochi Dango.

We took Route 1 which was the longest and the one with the most scenic views of Mt Takao’s surroundings. The route was a total of 3.8 kilometres.

We stopped halfway for lunch on the observation area (around midway up the mountain). 

“Woah, we’re halfway way there” 

After taking half an hour for a break and lunch, we trekked forwards passing the cable car station onto the next scenic viewing area. 

Looking away from Tokyo you get greeted by this view

Eventually we passed a Buddhist Temple which sits on the mountain.

Eventually we made it to the top after 2.5 hours and it was totally worth it, the views you get and the autumn foliage made Mt Takao really beautiful.

View of Tokyo from Mt Takao

The hike down was nice and fast, and after hitting peak hour metro trains. We stopped by Shinjuku Station to get our actual rail pass. My legs are so sore (did around 21000 steps)

Day 3: Meji Shrine, Takeshita Street and Shibuya Crossing

Today we decided to go to Meji Shrine. Meji Shrine is actually located in a forest in the Middle of Tokyo which makes it look really pretty in the inside.

Torii at the main entrance of the shrine

Walking inside makes you feel a sense of wonder and peacefulness, looking the famous Sake wall with all the various sakes from prefectures across Japan. 

Sake Wall

Walking into the main part of the shrine, after performing Omairi. We walked into the main part of the shrine where gave our wishes to the actual shrine.

Votive Tablets (ema) at Meji Shrine
Group Selfie at the shrine

After leaving the shrine, we had lunch at a really popular ramen store and headed off to the famous Takeshita Street. 

Takeshita Street 

After spending the afternoon browsing Takeshita Street, we went to a Karaoke place (this is the first time I’ve been). I still got the songs stuck in my head. 

Ramen Noodles

We also went and attempted to the Shibuya Crossing and went to the observation deck to look at the crossing.