The Tokaido Shinkansen is the Japanese high-speed bullet train line which began operating in 1964, just nine days before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. The line goes through Japan’s three largest metropolitan areas and it is the most heavily travelled of all Shinkansen routes. The Tokaido Shinkansen has carried more than 5.5 billion passengers since its debut and it is set to mark its 50th anniversary in October of this year!
The shinkansen line was originally conceived in 1940 as a 93 mph dedicated railway system between Tokyo and Shimonoseki, which would have been 50% faster than the fastest express train at the time. With Japan’s involvement in World War II, the project was stalled in its early planning stages.
It wasn’t until April 20, 1959 that construction of the line resumed and the entire project was completed in 1964, with the first train travelling from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka on October 1, 1964, reaching a top speed of 130 mph. Since then, speeds have increased to 168 mph, except for a lower limit applying to a segment between Tokyo and Shinagawa.
The shinkansen served as a locomotive of Japan’s economic growth since the 1960s. When the World Exposition was held in Osaka in 1970, some 10 million of its 60 million visitors reportedly got there by bullet train. The shinkansen not only became the foundation of Japan’s economic growth by linking Tokyo and Osaka, but also gave hope to the Japanese public as a symbol of postwar recovery.
The shinkansen’s slogan is “3S” which stands for speed, safety and stability. There have been no fatal accidents involving the bullet train network to date and the trains are known for sticking to their timetables. In fiscal 2013, delays of scheduled arrivals averaged only about 50 seconds per train.
In anticipation of the bullet train’s 50th anniversary, the Central Japan Railway Company plans to submit an application to begin using the latest N700-A series on the Tokaido line between Tokyo and Osaka by the end of this year. The firm also plans to begin constructing tracks for magnetically levitated trains as early as this spring. The “maglev” trains under development are able to travel at 310 mph. Central Japan Railway Company hopes to launch a maglev train service between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 and a Tokyo-Osaka route in 2045.
If you have never traveled on Japan’s bullet trains I would highly recommend doing so. You will find the Japan railway system highly efficient, clean, comfortable and always on time, except for uncontrollable circumstances such as typhoons, etc.