The Monorail: From Tomorrowland to Tokyo

From the book, Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency
From the book, Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Agency”

When American Olympians prepared for departure to Tokyo for the 1964 Summer Games, they were feted at Disneyland in Los Angeles, where they undoubtedly saw the first daily operating monorail in the Western Hemisphere. It opened in 1959 as an attraction in Tomorrowland.

So while many Americans were amazed to see this high-tech transportation system high above the ground, they must have been doubly amazed to see it in Tokyo when they arrived at Haneda Airport. Although almost all Olympians were shuttled to the Olympic Village by bus (escorted by police cars and motorcycles), they likely did see the gleaming train flowing by at 60 miles per hour along Tokyo Bay.

What originally took about an hour traveling by car on the congested roads of the most populous city in the world at that time, took about 15 minutes via the monorail, built by Hitachi under license of Alweg. The monorail has proved to be a safe and efficient way of moving people from the airport into the city, and its longevity and success may have been due to the fact that a Shinto priest blessed this feat of engineering a day before it opened, according to a UPI story from September 16, 1964.

Monorail receiving blessings from shinto priest, from the book "Games of the XVIII Olympiad, Tokyo 1964", Shinchousha
Monorail receiving blessings from shinto priest, from the book “Games of the XVIII Olympiad, Tokyo 1964”, Shinchousha

Here’s an American newsreel announcing the opening of the Tokyo monorail.