The Amazing Bullet Train – Still the Best at 50

shinkansen_1October1964

We waited on the platform for the arrival of the Shinkansen Nozomi #130 to pull in, and for the cleaning crew to do their magic. The train, as scheduled, pulled in at 16:53. The doors opened, the passengers walked out, and the 56 members of the Central JR Tokaido-sen cleaning crew, clad in pink, streamed into the 16-car bullet train. The train was to depart at 17:10, 17 minutes after arrival, but they had to complete the clean up in 12 minutes.

Nozomi Shikansen_Cleaning crew

First they had to forcefully rotate the sets of seats so that they faced the other direction, as the train was now going to head West. Next they had to gather the newspapers and drink cans, sweep up the floor, replace the headrest coverings, check the overhead racks for items left behind, and check the seats for moisture (ie: spilled drinks, excessive sweat, who knows what). On the day I was there, a seat actually had to be replaced as it was too damp.

And then, they’re done and out of the train. a few moments later, after the head of the cleaning crew gives the go ahead, the passengers for Western Japan are allowed on board the renamed Nozomi #53, bound for Hakata. 12 minutes. Done.

On October 1, 1964, 9 days before the beginning of the Tokyo Olympics, Japan commenced operations of the fastest train in the world, The Shinkansen, also known as The Bullet Train. As much as the Olympics did, the Shinkansen symbolized Japan’s impressive recovery from bombed-out and destroyed to world class.

In 1964, the Shinkansen ran at a top speed of 210 km per hour and made it from Tokyo to Osaka in four hours. Today, the top speed is now 285 km per hour and the trip is completed in only 2 hours and 20 minutes.

More impressive is that JR Central Railways runs over 330 bullet trains a day, carrying over 400,000 passengers a day. And not a single death has occurred on the safest high-speed railways system in the world.

Yesterday and today, Japan’s Shinkansen is still the best.

Nozomi Shinkanen

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