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

Seattle Times, October 9, 1964
Seattle Times, October 9, 1964

This is a bit of a mystery to me. The above ad states that the Opening Ceremonies of the Tokyo Opening Ceremonies would start at 1 am in Seattle, which would have been 16 hours earlier than Tokyo, or 5pm in Tokyo. That would mean that NBC would have started live coverage two hours after the beginning of the opening ceremonies. Did people stay up late to catch the Opening Ceremonies two hours in? Did they bother to show anything live on the East Coast? So much was made out of NBC’s decision to broadcast the Olympic Games live from Tokyo through the technological magic of the satellite, Syncom III. In the end, the only live coverage was this partial showing of the opening ceremonies. Of course, if you’re living in the US, that’s to be expected with a time difference of 13 hours in the East Coast, and 16 hours in the West Coast.

Syncom III, the satellite that sent live pictures across the world from Japan to America...just once.
Syncom III, the satellite that sent live pictures across the world from Japan to America…just once.

But apparently, NBC’s overall coverage was pretty bad. Wrote one viewer to The Sunday Star TV Magazine, “May I be the first of many (I’m sure) who will register discontent with NBC’s coverage of the Olympics in Tokyo. The first objection I have concerns the time the games are being shown… It seems to me that more could be shown earlier in the evening. The second objection I have is the poor continuity of the clips…. The whole affair seems to lack enthusiasm… I guess I’m just disappointed after the excellent job done by ABC during the Winter Olympics.” According to the US press, NBC was not wholeheartedly invested in showing the Games during prime time, when sponsors pay the big bucks to watch their favorite entertainers. Wrote the TV Writer for The Oregonian on October 23, 1964, “Instead of pretending to ‘cover’ the games on a day to day basis, NBC would have been better advised to save the film and tapes, edit them and