Thank you Shinkansen, 50 year anniversary

October 1, 2014 Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

stream train

The word Shinkansen (新幹線) has almost become an universal word as well as Sushi. In case you don´t know what it is, they are Japanese bullet trains. And today is their 50th birthday. Wow, Shinkansen is older than me. 

Japan´s train history started in Meiji period (明治時代) in 1872. It connected between Shinbashi (新橋) and Yokohama (横浜), 9 trips a day at the beginning. The train ran 32.8km/h and took 53 minutes for one way. The opening day was the 14th of October and since then this day is Train Day (鉄道の日). 



shinkansen 1


Shinkansen launched in 1964 and just before the opening, the railway company appealed in the public for a nickname. Among 558,882 letters, the name "Hikari (ひかり/ the light speed)" has been chosen. At the same time, "Kodama (こだま/ the sound speed)" was selected as a pair. 

After having a nickname, Shinkansen was launched. It was nine days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympic Games. 




yellow doctor


In 1974, the Yellow Doctor was launched. The first model was built in 1965 but there were several problems in the operation. Then it was remodelled and in 1974, the second generation of Yellow Doctor appeared in the public. It ran 210km/h. However, after Nozomi (のぞみ) appeared, which ran 270km/h, the third generation Yellow Doctor was launched in 2001 and this model also ran 270km/h.  





In 1975, the new route, from Okayama and Hakata was opened. Before there was a buffet in Shinkansen but as the travel distance became longer, the railway company predicted the demand for food would rise. So the buffet car was added to Hikari (ひかり) that carried many long journey passengers. At the beginning, the design wasn´t so good that people couldn´t enjoy the view of Mount Fuji while they ate. In 1979, "the project Mt.Fuji" was realised.  

Now the passengers could enjoy both the Mt.Fuji and the ocean.




As you may know, Japan´s another name is "earthquake". Japan suffers from the quake all through the year. Of course the Japan railway took preventive measures against it. At the beginning of the Shinkansen history, 12 seismometers were installed along the railroad line. In 1970, 25 seismic sensors, which shut the electricity to stop the train as soon as they sensed the certain level of tremor. However, the new quake early warning system changed the security dramatically. This system could detect the early stage of the tremor (P wave) and estimate the scale of the quake. If the system predicted the big quake, it would shut the electricity early enough to stop the train.






Shinkansen´s speed kept rising. 300X met their wishes. After the several attempts, in 1996, this Shinkansen marked 443km/h, which is still the fastest record in the history of Japan railway. 

Shinkansen never stops improving, faster and comfortable. 





n700aAll these testing, investigations, re-modelling and willing that never stop brought Japan to the new generation Shinkansen, N700A. "A" means advanced. Yes, this is the most advanced Shinkansen at the moment in Japan… or perhaps in the world.

The new braking system can stop entire train 10-20% quicker than the usual system. LED is used for the lighting inside the wagons and the electricity consumption is 20% lower. The seat cushions are made of the material, which can be 100% recycled. New Shinkansen is not just stylish and fast but also the environment friendly. 

Now, we are looking forward to seeing their revolution in the next 50 years. Happy Birthday, Shinkansen!


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