Here's a radical notion - a rail system that works... It's nigh on impossible for an inhabitant of these fair islands to comprehend the radical notion of a rail system where trains (gasp) run on time, are clean (choke) and smooth running, and where you are given more than (hope you're sitting down) five minutes notice of which platform yours might arrive at.
Welcome to Japan
Introducing Japanese Transport. Most people don't visit for long enough, so zipping around on bullet trains is by far the best way to cram in as much as possible into a stay. Naturally, this has all been thought through immaculately, and the Japan Rail Pass is an incredibly good value way for visitors to see this stunning but, admittedly, expensive country. The stations themselves are spotless, efficient and full of signs in English, and there are some excellent station restaurants, such as the stalls serving oysters or okonomiyaki (a savoury pancake filled with anything from cabbage and pork to squid, octopus, and cheese) at Hiroshima station.
Catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji
Travellers' tickets, picked up in advance thanks to the Japan Rail Pass, state which platform the train will leave from, and even which point on the platform you should stand at to board the right carriage. Once on board the seats are comfortable and, top tip ahoy, for anyone heading from Tokyo to Kyoto, sit on the righthand side to catch a glimpse of the beautiful Mount Fuji.
The best bit of all...
Then, the best bit of all. Nothing encapsulates the intriguing Japanese combination of tradition and modernity so much as the sight of staff on the station platform bowing reverentially to the bullet train as it eases away before accelerating to speeds of up to 186 miles per hour on its way to some far distant megalopolis. We are seriously impressed with the Japanese transport, the trains themselves look pretty cool, too.
Part of our new series 'Around the World in Travel Stories', celebrating our favourite things from our extensive travels. As with any self-respecting list, there's absolutely no scientific basis to the choices we've made. It's all shamelessly subjective, and we'll be listing this year's Travel Stories (in no particular order) between now and Christmas, so keep an eye out for new entries here on the blog and on our Twitter and Facebook pages.