The Japanese bullet trains, literally translated as new highways, began operations in 1964, coinciding with the Tokyo Olympics. Some of that difference with the history of the United States is of course driven by geography and the fact that it’s much easier to build straight rail in country forced to redevelop itself after bombing. Nonetheless, given the decay inflicted upon our cities by the interstates, I feel confident in saying that President Eisenhower should have gone with trains, at least on the North-East corridor and the like.
Our journey south had two legs; the longer stretch was between Tokyo and Osaka. The picture on the left is of the more rural end of the spectrum of what we were seeing. Cities and towns were also regularly present at the foot of misty mountains. Prior to going to Japan we had picked up a deck-building board game called Trains with a Japanese theme. One of the features of the board was that plains were in light green and mountains were in dark green. After this section I understood why; vast hills were everywhere and from what we could see beneath the mists they seemed consistently below the tree line.
The stop in Shin-Osaka was fun for me, although we didn’t have time to leave the station. Shin-Osaka refers to the new Osaka station; the older central one couldn’t affordably be expanded to become a network hub and as a result you’ve got to catch a quick train to get between the two. General fans of technological wackiness should note that there’s an escalator that briefly turns flat in the middle. This was actually our second strange pedestrian aid of the trip. When we were transiting through Toronto they had a high speed moving walkway with foot-wide platforms moving at higher than usual speed, spreading out for most of the journey and scrunching together at the ends. I suppose the lesson there is just that inventors and designers think a lot about how to efficiently move people through hub stations.