Shinkansen trains are Japan's famous bullet trains. We absolutely loved riding the shinkansen trains for several reasons- they are always on time, relatively silent (you can't even tell you're on a train), comfortable, safe, and efficient. Since we had the JR Pass, it didn't cost us any money to ride them either, and it was a great (and cost-effective) way to travel throughout Japan.
How do I get on my Shinkansen train?
Shinkansens have their own platform, and thus the signs at train stations are easy to locate
How to read your Shinkansen ticket:
They are very straightforward and easy to read. When I used my JR Pass to reserve my seats on the shinkansen trains, she wrote out everything for me (see below).
I was traveling from Kyoto to Hiroshima on 5/24, leaving at 7:20am and arriving at 9:05am. I would be taking the Shinkansen HIKARI #491, riding on the 7th car, row 5, seat A, non-smoking.
(This ticket was for a reserved seat. thus the car, row, and seat were determined for me.)
How to get to your right car:
Here is the 7th "car"- the car number is usually posted up high on a post, on a signage, or sometimes even painted on the station platform on the concrete
Some larger stations have signs like this
What a Shinkansen interior looks like:
Here is what a Shinkansen looks like (not all look the exact same, but they all look similar). The seats are a bit narrow, but comfortable.
Most of the Shinkansen trains we were on were Shinkansen Hikari, and most of them had 3 seats on 1 side and 2 seats on the other
Every seat has a "head cover"-like napkin
As for legroom, we were both really impressed how much legroom there was. Granted, the shinkansen is a great way to travel throughout Japan for long distances so it's great they planned a fair amount of space between rows of seats. Darin is 6' tall and he was comfortably able to cross his legs. I am 5'1", and I was able to fully extend my leg out in front of me and not kick the person in front of me
Every car has a digital display that tells you what shinkansen you are on and where it is headed
As for luggage space, there is a long row of shelving above your seat where you can place your luggage. We brought a rolling carry-on suitcase, my green Mother Lode backpack, and our (2) day bags for our 1-week travel.
Tip: All of our stuff fit on top on the shelves. The rolling carry-on suitcase can be "extended" to fit more things in the suitcase, and if we extended it, we could NOT fit it on the shelf above us no the shinkansen. However, if we kept it as is (with no extension), it definitely fit in the overhead shelf.
There was a definite speed difference we could tell right away between a regular train and the shinkansen train. We were going FAST.