Page 3 of 4
Shinkansen Travel (Bullet Train)
Should you arrive in either Osaka or Fukuoka Airports, neither airport has connecting flights to Hiroshima Airport, and you must take the Shinkansen (Shin) to Iwakuni from these arrival points.
Shin tickets cannot be purchased in advance from the U.S., but both Yen and most major credit cards are accepted to purchase them here in Japan. The Shin is expensive, difficult for first-timers to navigate, only stops for about 1 minute at each stop, and will not allow pets other than with a small, “hand-carried” carrier. If you have more than 1 suitcase per adult you may also run into problems, because you basically have to keep your luggage with you where you sit and space is very limited.
Due to this limited baggage space, the baggage delivery service is recommended for all personnel traveling via the Shin from Kansai or Fukuoka airport, particularly those traveling with numerous bags. Note that in many cases, families were not allowed to board the Shin if they had too much luggage.
Inbound personnel should have baggage delivered to TMO, Freight Shipping and Receiving, Bldg 1710, MCAS Iwakuni, phone number 253-6716/4379. Total linear dimensions cannot exceed 67 inches or 170 cm, and total weight cannot exceed 66 lbs or 30 kg. The cost is about 1,300 – 2,700 Yen ($11-24) per bag depending on size (this is currently reimbursable on your travel claim).
Note also that you must transfer Shinkansen trains at Hiroshima Shin Station if you come from Osaka or Tokyo Station to make the last leg to Iwakuni. Review the Air Station website for more detailed information, including very well made videos on how to travel to Iwakuni from Narita and Osaka Airports, and information on how to buy/read train tickets, use Japanese phones and info on baggage delivery service.
Information about available luggage services can be found here. The service will take your luggage and send it to Iwakuni for you so you don’t have to lug it around between trains when you get here. Be sure you separate out what you will need for a day or two into a smaller suitcase to keep with you, and send the rest via the baggage service, and it will arrive a day or two after you do.
Additional Travel Notes:
Hyperdia.com is a nice resource for traveling within Japan. Click the English in the top left corner of the page next to the search boxes to begin. Then enter the starting point and destination (such as Narita to Iwakuni), then click Search. On the next page, you can further define your starting and destination points, choose whether you wish to include travel by airlines or shinkansen or both, dates and times of departure, type of seat, etc. Then click Start to see the resulting options based on your input.
Remember – You are responsible for getting yourself & your family to the main gate of MCAS Iwakuni. It is not the responsibility of the sponsor or the unit, as there is no duty driver or vehicle designated expressly for picking up inbounds, nor do sponsors currently get reimbursed for picking up inbound members (About $70 in gas & tolls to travel to Hiroshima Airport). However, most sponosrs will work with you and assist in every way they can to get you here.
Be aware that Japan has two different train systems: the Japan Rail or “JR” which is the local train system, and the Shinkansen or “Shin” which is the bullet train. Iwakuni and Hiroshima, as well as other cities, have both JR (local) and Shin train stations. At Hiroshima’s main station, they are both present within the same set of terminals. In Iwakuni, the JR train station is downtown (near the base) and the Shin station is situated a bit more remotely (near Kintai Bridge). Just be sure that you are on the correct type of train for your destination.
Travel lighter than you are normally accustomed to (your orders may say 2 bags per person, but trains, airlines, taxis may not have enough space for that much luggage). Have a valid credit card and ample Japanese Yen to cover travel and expenses for the entire family. It doesn’t hurt to have a sense of humor also.
It is highly recommend that you ship some of your uniform items to your sponsor (cammies, boots, alphas, short/long sleeve shirts, etc.) and ask them to send them to the cleaners, pick them up, and have them put in your TLF room the day you arrive. Have the sponsor keep the receipt so you can properly reimburse for the expenses. Doing this ensures that you have all of your uniforms ready to go when you arrive, and you get to avoid lugging them through airports and finding space for the extra luggage.
Taking the Local Train
These are my instructions for traveling on the local train system in Japan, otherwise known as JR or Japan Railway.
Examine the posted train schedule, which shows the train destinations, times, track numbers, and status of the type of train (whether it is a regular train that stops at all the stations between destinations, or an express train that will skip the smaller stops and only stop at the larger stations along the way to save time to popular destinations; the express trains are colored in orange on the schedule).
Destination: The destinations are listed across the board in both Japanese and English.
Time: Near the train schedule will be a clock showing the official time. If there is a discrepancy between your watch and this time, use the time posted.
Time (Hours): The numbers down the left side of the display represent hours of the day that the train is in operation. The one pictured shows hours from 4 to 23 (0400 to 2300, or 4am to 11pm; the local train for Iwakuni is closed between the time the last train leaves for Hiroshima at 11:32pm and the time the first train leaves the next morning at 4:53am for Hiroshima).
Time (Minutes): The bottom numbers across from each of the hours represents minutes past the hour that the trains arrive. For example, the first train each day that departs from the Iwakuni local train station on the Sanyo Line leaves at 4:53 and the destination is Hiroshima.
Track Number: The track number that the train departs from is displayed as a number inside a circle to the right of the destination name. For example, the train that departs at 4:53am for Hiroshima departs on track number 6, so when you buy your ticket, you will follow the signs to track 6 to board your train. Please note, the track number is not always the same for the same destination at different times of the day. For example, the 6:47am train to Hiroshima departs on track 4.
Note: Hiro is NOT the same as Hiroshima! We often abbreviate the word Hiroshima as, “Hiro” when we talk about it to each other, but realize that they are not the same destination when it comes to buses and trains.
Great website – connects to all JR stations just type in your destination. http://www.hyperdia.com/