Frequent bullet train passenger Meg says this seat is the travel bull’s-eye.

The Shinkansen is by far the most convenient way to get around Japan. Far faster than traveling by car or ordinary trains, the bullet train is often as fast, point-to-point, as flying, since Shinkansen stations are usually found in city centers and don’t require a lengthy check-in before boarding.

However, even if you’ve already made the decision to travel by Shinkansen, you’ve got one more choice to make: which seat to sit in. But which one is the best?

To find out, we asked our Japanese-language correspondent Meg. When Meg’s schedule isn’t packed with Starbucks taste-testing, she spends a lot of time zipping back and forth between Tokyo and Japan’s Tokai and Hokuriku regions, averaging about two Shinkansen round trips a month.

So in Meg’s expert opinion, where’s the best place to sit on the Shinkansen?

“The aisle seat in the very front row of the carriage.”

As for why, Meg counts five reasons.

1. Mobility

The most obvious advantage is that, just like on an airplane, being in the aisle seat makes it easy to get up whenever you feel like it, whether you want to stretch your legs, throw away your empty ekiben bento boxed lunch container, or go to the bathroom. Sitting right next to the aisle saves you the trouble of saying “Sumimasen” and asking other passengers to get up so you can get out, or passing the agility challenge of crawling over someone who’s asleep.

Plus, with the short amount of time Japanese trains spend stopped at the platform when they arrive at the station, being in the aisle seat makes getting off the train less stressful once you reach your destination.

2. Much more comfortable than the window seat

Speedy as the Shinkansen may be, the long-distance nature of its service means that you’re probably going to be on the train for a few hours, spent hurtling down a track with few curves that runs through rural areas with few tall buildings. Sitting next to the window for all that time often results in getting baked by the sun and arriving at your destination with sweat stains and/or a sunburn.

Being in the aisle seat puts a buffer between you and those harsh sunbeams. Of course, that also puts you farther away from the view of the outside, but actually the best place to scope out the scenery is actually from the sections between the carriages. There you can stand at a much larger window than the one find next to the window seat, and since you’re sitting in the aisle seat, you can easily get up and move there when you spot Mt. Fuji or some other beautiful sight outside.

3. Legroom

While most Shinkansen seats are reasonably roomy, you’ll get the maximum legroom in the very front row, since you’ll never have to worry about a person in front of you reclining their seat.

4. An extra-large table

While the other seats on the Shinkansen have a tray that folds out of the seatback of the row in front of them (like on an airplane), the very front row instead has a table that’s mounted to the wall. This table is bigger than the other trays, with plenty of space to fit a laptop, pork cutlet sandwich, and a bottle of hojicha roasted green tea, so that you can stay full and hydrated as you take care of a work project or research sightseeing spots at wherever the next stop on your travel itinerary is.

5. An empty seat next to you

Unlike the other items on this list, this one isn’t a guarantee. However, in Meg’s experience, if the carriage’s rows have three seats, the middle seat in the front row is frequently empty. So by snagging the aisle seat in the front row, oftentimes you’re getting an extra half-seat’s worth of elbow/knee room.

Really, Meg says there’s only one downside to taking the front aisle seat, which is that the front row is the only one that doesn’t have in-train magazines, since those are stuffed into the nets on the backs of the chairs.

But hey, if you need some reading material to pass the time, as long as you’ve got a smartphone or PC with you, we’ve got a suggestion.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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