One of the great experiences in Japan is to ride the Shinkansen, the so-called "bullet train." The Shinkansen has progressed from the original Type 0 model, with many very high tech models of Shinkansen running across Japan. Most of Japan uses narrow gauge track (there are exceptions for some private railways, subways, etc.). The most common narrow gauge in Japan is so-called Cape Gauge, or 1067mm. The Japanese Shinkansen ride, in most cases, a dedicated track system that is built to the standard gauge (4' 8.5" or 1435mm). This track network is only for Shinkansen, which allows the trains to travel full speed without having to share tracks with freight, commuter, and other trains. Shinkansen have their own platforms at stations and in some larger stations have their own station-in-a-station. (There are what are called "Mini Shinkansen" in the northern part of the main island. These are standard gauge, but at certain points branch off to ride on shared, dual-gauge track to areas where it is not economically feasible to put in dedicated Shinkansen only track. These Shinkansen are made narrower since they share platforms with narrow gauge trains that are not as wide -- using extendable walkway platforms when using normal Shinkansen platforms that expect a wider loading gauge) With the privatization of the Japan National Railway in 1987, there were, I believe 6 JR (Japan Rail) companies created from the former Japan National Railway. Three are on Honshu (the main island), one on Kyushu, one on Shikoku, and one on Hokkaido. While each has a legal name, they are commonly called "JR XXXXX" where XXXXX represents the area they run in. The Central Japan Railway Company is called JR Central (JR Tokai in Japanese). The Kyushu Railway Company is called JR Kyushu. West Japan Railway Company is called JR West, etc. The various JR companies are all independent private companies, but share some things like reservations/ticketing (so you can buy a ticket for a trip that cross JR company boundaries at one location). The main Shinkansen network is on Honshu, with JR West in the southern end, JR Central from Osaka to Tokyo, and JR East covering the northern end of the main Island. JR Kyushu runs Shinkansen on Kyushu and in cooperation with JR West continues up to Osaka. JR Hokkaido has newly opened Shinkansen service onto Hokkaido but the Shinkansen just reaches the very bottom of the island of Hokkaido (but is actively being built out). JR Hokkaido runs their Shinkansen to Tokyo in cooperation with JR East. JR Central runs between Osaka and Tokyo, and also runs the fastest high speed lines all the way to Hakata Station in Fukuoka on the bottom tip of Honshu. So you get overlap in services. While they have different names, there are generally 3 main levels of Shinkansen service. I'll use the names JR Central uses (some of which may be also used by others). Nozomi -- the fastest service, these trains just stop at major stations. (Mizuho is the HR West equivalent and both Nozomi and Mizuho service are NOT included with the JR Pass for tourists. JR East calls their version Hayabusa, and it IS included with the JR Pass.) You can often see 3-6 Nozomi type services leaving Tokyo for destinations south per hour. They run often. Mizuho starts at Osaka and runs south. Hikari -- this is almost as fast as Nozomi type services, and uses the same rolling stock. The major difference is that they will stop at a few extra larger mid-size stations. This service IS included in the JR Pass and is what I have ridden many many times. They run about twice an hour during busy times, and once an hour during less busy times. The time difference from Osaka to Tokyo from the Nozomi is about 10-15 minutes IIRC. Not a big deal. JR West calls their mid-level service Sakura, and it IS allowed with JR Pass. JR East has multiple other services that would be included in this level of service. Kodama -- this is the "local" service on the Shinkansen lines. They basically stop at all or almost all stations on the Shinkansen network, and it can take twice as long to get to Tokyo from Osaka on a Kodama train. They often use the same rolling stock as the other levels of service, but by stopping a lot more often, they cannot travel at speed for great stretches, as they are having to stop and start. They also often will use the older Shinkansen rolling stock that has been "retired" from Nozomi service. The purpose of the Kodama service is not to go all the way from Osaka to Tokyo, or where-ever the service runs. The purpose is to allow residents of smaller cities to hop on a Shinkansen for a ride to a major station, where they transfer to Nozomi or Hikari services. (Naturally Kodama service is also allowed with the JR Pass). One interesting tidbit of information is that Japan has two power grids. Both are 100V (and use the same plugs, though usually only the two prong variety, as the US). The grid in western Japan runs at 60hz and the grid from Tokyo north and east runs at 50hz. This spills over into their rail network. The Shinkansen are all electric multiple unit type trains, and run at 25k volts. However the Shinkansen running with JR Central, JR West, and JR Kyushu run at 60hz, while those from JR East run at 50hz. Tokyo has two "station-in-station" Shinkansen areas, one for JR Central and 60hz trains, and one for JR East and 50hz trains. They are next to each other and you can easily transfer between them, but it is not as simple as getting off one platform, and walking across the platform for your continued train into the other area. There are some newer trains that can run on both 50hz and 60hz, but most trains run at one or the other. This means the Shinkansen types/models are different depending on whether you are running north of Tokyo or south of Tokyo. (The new Hokuriku Shinkansen, which goes directly north of Tokyo to the Japan see and then south along the west coast along the Japan see uses trains that can run at both 50hz and 60hz -- the E7/W7 models). Typically (with some older exceptions IIRC), the 3 digit Shinkansen type numbers (100, 300, 500, 700, N700, etc) are 60hz trains used by JR Central and JR West/JR Kyushu, while the E-series (E1, E2 -- mini, E4, E4, E5, E6 -- mini) are 50hz trains run by JR East. In the JR Central/JR West area, the most current model is the N700/N700A trains. You still sometimes see the older 700 series, and the 500 series are still used in Kodama services I believe. While I have ridden 100 and 300 trains 10 years ago, I believe they are all retired. On the E-Series side, the E5 and E6 are the most modern ones, though you see E3 a lot. E1 (double decker) are all retired and E4 (also double decker) is actively being retired, though still runs. I am not sure about E2 -- it is a so-called Mini Shinkansen and I think it still runs some but is being replaced by the E6 AFAIK. I could be wrong. The E7/W7 is a newer train that both JR East and JR West have their own versions of, and they are 25kV 50hz/60hz trains to run on a new Shinkansen line I mentioned above, the Hokuriku Shinkansen). Most of my experience is with the 3-digit trains of JR Central and JR West/Kyushu. I have taken short jaunts on E-series Shinkansen for the experience. Usually 20-60 minutes and then a return back. This summer we will be going all the way to Hokkaido and will be getting much more E-series experiences. Model railroads in Japan are VERY popular, and there are lots of stores where one can buy model trains (including small hobby shops, specialized train shops, and larger "electric" department stores). N-scale is the most popular with Z-scale growing pretty fast. H0 has some followers but because it requires a lot more room to run, it is not as popular as in the western world. N-scale has the greatest availability. Because most non-Shinkansen lines are narrow gauge, Japan uses a 1/150 scale for n-gauge, 9mm track (even for those trains that run on standard gauge that are not Shinkansen). However, for Shinkansen trains, Japan uses 1/160 for n-gauge. The first picture is an E7, the next an E2-E3 paired combo, and then an E3. The E2 (and E6) mini Shinkansen will be attached to a regular Shinkansen for the first part of the trip, and then the mini Shinkansen will be separated when the mini Shinkansen line breaks off from the main line. These shots were from Dec 2017 when my son and I went on a day trip to ride the E7 and others. Due to bad weather we ended up not going as far as planned and spent part of the day at the Omiya railway museum.