According to Simon Calder who writes for The Independent, The Japan Rail Pass is one of the world's greatest sightseeing bargains. I don't know who that guy is, but he is visibly new and not very well informed about Japan. I am surprised that such a reputed newspaper as the Independent would let him write such things !

Let me quote a few passages from his article A fast-track travel plan

But I quickly learnt that you need no platinum credit card to survive in 21st-century Tokyo. Low-cost accommodation is easy: if you prefer not to turn Japanese in your capsule hotel, you can check into a cut-price hostel. The next essential, eating, is easily negotiated thanks to the ubiquitous bowls of ramen noodles
Any travel writer on Japan should know that hotels in Japan are in average cheaper than in Western Europe (and especially the UK, where his audience is) for the same quality. Japan abounds with cheap business hotels such as Toyoko Inn (with over 100 branches all over Japan), which offer very modern, fully equipped air conditioned rooms with free breakfast and free internet for just 8000 yen for 2 people (=40 pounds). For the same price, one cannot even get the simplest Bed & Breakfast in the South of England (rates usually start from 60 pounds without the same comfort and facilities).

Capsule hotels ? That's a typical stereotype Westerners have of Japan. First of all, there aren't many of them. Secondly, I don't know anyone (Japanese or not) who has stayed in one, or would like to stay in one for more than a few minutes. They are normally for business people who missed their last train after s drinking evening, but there are enough alternative to that or an expensive taxi ride home. For example, the "Manga kissa" (place to read manga, but also use the internet, watch DVD's, sateliet TV, sleep, take a shower, etc. for about 500yen per hour). But many hotels also offer discount after midnight (e.g. Toyoko Inn has double/twin rooms for 5,000yen after midnight).

Ramen as a cheap way to eat out ? Ramen usually costs 600 to 1000 yen a bowl in Tokyo, more than many other typical Japanese food, such as tendon (500yen in the chain Tenya), gyuudon or butadon (about 300yen), and especially the numerous bento sold everywhere (usually from 300 to 500yen).

Seven days is the duration of one of the world's great travel bargains, the Japan Rail Pass, and I was determined to make the most of my £150 investment.
Visibly his first 7 days in Japan ! The Japan Railpass is not good value at all. It is only interesting for people who want to travel hurriedly from one end of Japan (say Kyushu or Chugoku) to another (Hokkaido or Tohoku) using the shinkansen. People with more time and less money will use the seisshun 18 kippu , which allows unlimited travel inside Japan for one day for just 2300yen (but cannot use shinkansen), or use lang distance buses, which are Japan's real transport bargain (about twice cheaper than regular trains, and thus 4x cheaper than the shinkansen).

You could easily while away a week on Hokkaido: taking the plunge at the hot springs resort of Noboribetsu, then taking the free tour of the Sapporo brewery in the island's capital.
Yes, if you like onsen, you could spend a week in any good onsen anywhere in Japan. But if you don't care much about hot springs and are more into traditional sightseeing (historic buildings, temples, castles, museums, etc.), then one week is quite a lot for Hokkaido without getting bored - especially coming from history rich England. The oldest building in Hokkaido is from the late 19th century (a modern building by European standards) and is probably less impressive than many private houses in England. What about hiking in Hokkaido's nature, or see the flower fields in spring and summer or the snow festival in Hokkaido in february (although a bit overrrated and overcrowded) ?

The Bullet Train was an icon of the Sixties: the first ran on the Tokyo-Osaka line on 1 October 1964, and this stretch of track remains the spine of the network. The fastest trains cover the 553km in two-and-a-half hours; these are 300kph Nozomi "super expresses". But even the ordinary Bullet Train services travel at speeds of which British train drivers can only dream. As you glide along through the cityscape and countryside, the nation is revealed in fast-forward.
Has Mr calder already forgotten that the Eurostar is partly British (owed 40% by National express and 10% by British Airways) and indeed has its HQ based in London. Yes, Britain also has its shinkansen, and it is faster than the Japanese one. According to Wikipedia, in July 2003 a Eurostar train set a new UK rail speed record of 334.7 km/h. The average speed of the Eurostar on French soil is also higher than the average of the shinkansen.