Speedy Japan: Japan’s Awesome High-Speed Rail Network

If you have been travelling overland for some time you will have no doubt noticed some of the incredible high-speed rail networks available across the world. From Asia to Europe, high-speed rail networks are taking over the way in which we travel overland, entirely eliminating the need for air travel on certain routes – which is not only good for us, but it’s good for the environment too.

A great example of this is the high-speed line between Madrid and Barcelona in Spain. Before it was put in place the air route between these two major cities was the busiest in Europe as Spaniards and foreigners alike hopped on the short plane ride several times a month between the capital and it’s footballing rival. All that changed with the inclusion of a high-speed rail line between the two cities. With trains travelling at up to 195 miles per hour (310 km/h) it’s no wonder the air route quickly lost it’s ‘busiest in Europe’ title.

And so we come to Japan. Japan’s high-speed rail network is simply awesome, which some could say is hardly surprisingly considering how far ahead the country is in terms of technological developments, both for consumer electronics and private works alike.

Due to Tokyo being located in the centre of the country (even when you take into consideration the islands on either side, the high-speed train networks across the country are spread out fairly evenly, though it has to be said that even though as of writing Hokkaido doesn’t get a look in, there are plans for the Tohoku Shinkansen (line) to be expanded from it’s final destination of Aomori through the Seikan tunnel towards the city of Hakodate by 2016 and further on towards Sapporo by 2035, forming the Hokkaido Shinkansen.

Known as bullet trains, for obvious reasons, the Shinkansen high-speed network run by Japan Railways runs at speeds of up to 185 miles per hour (300 km/h) across the country, visiting a range of famous cities including Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Morioka, among many others.

As of writing there are currently six different lines for high-speed bullet trains across the whole of Japan, some of which branch out from Tokyo to serve the north of Honshu (the main island in which Tokyo is located), while the others come off of each other to serve the south west of Honshu down towards Kyushu island. Those lines are namely:

  1. Tokaido Shinkansen
  2. Sanyo Shinkansen
  3. Tohoku Shinkansen (off which branches Yamagata Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen)
  4. Joetsu Shinkansen
  5. Nagano Shinkansen
  6. Kyushu Shinkansen

The one thing all of these train lines, and the high-speed bullet trains on them have in common across Japan is their incredible efficiency. The puntualition of the Japanese bullet trains means most of them leave to the very second, meaning you won’t be given a second chance if you’re later for your train, but you will arrive to your destination on time if you make it.

Nobody can beat the Japanese when it comes to their high-speed rail network, though for the sake of innovation, it would be pretty interesting to see somebody try.