If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Japan, then there’s a huge chance that you have tried to travel by using the infamous bullet train. In Japan, you’ll know it better as the Shinkansen. With the top speed of 320km/h (or 200 mph), you’re guaranteed to reach your destination as fast as possible. It’s crazy to think that this kind of technology has existed for 50 years, right?!
The process of making bullet trains is not easy. In fact, only a handful of countries have successfully implemented their own version of Shinkansen. But the result proves to be really beneficial for Japan. It really impacted the economy, environment, as well as the Japanese’s lifestyle as a whole. Let’s take a better look at the fast-paced train that is able to travel across Japan at a blink of an eye. We’re sure that you will learn something astonishing here!
1. The Man Behind
Japan is widely regarded as the first country to produce the highly sought out train. However, people rarely talk about the brilliant engineer who acted as the mastermind behind the birth of the bullet train. If you don’t know who we’re talking about, let us do the honor of introducing Mr. Hideo Shima.
Born in 1901, Hideo Shima began to rise up as an excellent engineer. While working at the former state-run JNR, he began designing prototypes for bullet trains. However, he resigned from the project in 1963, just a year before the launch of the Shinkansen. He claimed to be taking responsibility for the high development costs for the train.
2. A Sustainable Solution for Half a Century
Cars and motorcycles. What do these personal transportations have in common? The answer is air pollution. Just imagine millions of people riding their own transportation to work each day. That’s the reason why governments all around the world are promoting the use of public transportation to help protect our environment. And that’s where bullet trains play a part.
A shinkansen is able to carry up to 1,300 passengers per unit, and it proves to be a sustainable transportation unit. Add to the fact that bullet trains hardly emit any carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses. It is reported that they only produce around 16% of carbon dioxide in a car’s journey. This will be beneficial in the long run.
3. Limitless Potential
Previously, we have stated that the bullet train can reach a top speed of 320 km/h. However, it is important to note that the speed that we’ve mentioned before is just the top speed when carrying passengers. When they ran in a closed track for testing purposes, a Japanese train was reportedly running at a maximum speed of 600 km/h!
The train that we’ve mentioned is a Japanese Maglev train, short for magnetic levitation. Although it is able to cruise through the railway at such a high speed, the train still proves to be comfortable and stable enough for passengers. However, concerns about building and infrastructure costs for the Maglev really put the development on hold. But still, the thoughts of riding a faster bullet train in the future sounds really exciting.
4. Safety is Number One
When you think about fast-paced transportation, you might fear what accidents might await you. Normal trains have a chance of electrical failure or derailing, and bullet trains probably have the same potential for that kind of accident.
Fortunately for you, Japan has reported that since the bullet trains started operating in the 60s, there’s been no accidents that resulted in fatalities or injuries for the passengers inside. You might be relieved to learn that safety protocols and awareness are still being implemented and improved despite the astounding record.
5. We’re Not Messing Around When We Said That the Bullet Trains Are Really Safe
Yes, we have bragged about the incredible record that the Shinkansen held since its launch. However, there are so many more safety protocols that need to be implemented to further ensure the safety of the passengers. Natural disasters should be the first thing that they prevent, and they’ve successfully done that.
Earthquakes are one of the major problems that need to be dealt with. Because of the risk that it imposes, the Japanese government has implemented the Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System (UrEDAS) to the Shinkansen. In the event of large earthquakes, the bullet trains will stop due to an automatic braking system.
6. Aiming to Be Punctual at All Cost
The Japanese government previously released a report mentioning the excellent punctuality that bullet trains have. In contrast to the long delay time that you have to endure if you’re traveling by airplanes or conventional trains, bullet trains only have an average delay time of 0.9 minutes. Most of the time, the delays are caused by natural disasters.
Earthquakes aren’t the only natural causes that can delay bullet trains. The Tokaido Shinkansen often needs to deal with heavy snow in the area. But more often than not, the snows prove to be no match for a bullet train. There’s a lot of sprinkler systems around the train to help prevent snow from damaging the glass window and the passengers inside. Hence, it really didn’t affect a bullet train’s punctuality.
7. Alternative for Those Who Fears Airplanes
People normally choose to travel by air, simply because airplanes can get us to our destination faster than trains and ships. Add to the fact that airplanes are generally a more comfortable option to travel, unless you suddenly get sick because of all the bumps. However, bullet trains can be a real competitor to air transport.
If you’re just traveling inside the country, bullet trains feel like a better option. It provides flexibility, the scheduling frequency is higher than an airplane, and the seats are super comfy. The traveling speed of both transportations remains competitive. It really makes bullet trains a viable option for you guys!
8. Noisy, Much?
The bullet trains are widely regarded and praised due to their speed and comfort. However, this type of train still presents some problems to the local residents. Although bullet trains are really fast, they also generate a loud noise that disturbs the local area. Since the protests, the government has decided to implement a protocol that limits the noise to less than 70 dB when they pass through a residential area. It is achievable through the application of noise barriers and the improvement of pantographs.
9. Themed Shinkansen
We’re no stranger to seeing trains that get a thematic modification. Please be aware that the themed trains that we’re currently talking about are trains that get a makeover, not themed train rides in Disneyland or Universal Studios! But it really is beautiful to see unique trains with amazing themes implemented into them.
For a bullet train, Japan has released the first thematic Shinkansen in 2018. If you’re in Japan within that time period, you must have seen the Hello Kitty Shinkansen that rides around Osaka and Fukuoka. The exterior design is cute, but wait until you’ve seen the interior decorations. Magnificent!
10. USA Not in Contention?
When you talk about highly advanced technology, the USA is usually in the mix. However, we have yet to seen any updates regarding the development of the high speed railway system in the States. There’s a lot of reason to back the decision. The main point that factors in is budgetary reasons.
The government felt that it will take years to develop this kind of train, and it will definitely cost them a lot of American dollars. The premise of having a high-speed railway system is deemed not necessary, especially because of the density difference between the USA and countries in Asia and Europe. There’s a huge chance that implementing the system is not viable from an economic perspective.
11. Heavy Competition
Since the launch of the original bullet train, many other countries have started to develop their own versions. China, France, Spain, and Germany have already launched their own high-speed railway system, while most other countries are currently developing the bullet trains. But from all of the nations that we’ve mentioned, China proves to be the worthy competition for Japan’s bullet train.
There have been reports that the Chinese high-speed railway reached a record 2.3 billion annual passengers in 2019, surpassing Japan’s record of 353 million passengers in 2007. By the end of 2019, the railway has reached an impressive milestone too, clocking at 35,000 km in total.
12. Japan Still the Country to Beat
Although China is closing in on Japan’s cool bullet train, it doesn’t mean that we should overlook the achievements made by the Land of the Rising Sun. Although the Chinese government has successfully developed a maglev train that is able to compete with the Japanese’s, it seems that Japan has set their sights even further.
Plans for putting the maglev into action have started. By 2045, the maglev trains are expected to link Tokyo and Osaka in just about an hour! Tests for the trains have begun, and it is reported that the faster it runs, the more stable it becomes.