Trains – Japan’s Doing It Right

JR_East_Shinkansen_lineup_at_Niigata_Depot_201210Today marks the 50th anniversary of Japan's shinkansen (bullet train) system. If you haven't read about it, I suggest this article at the Guardian; it's a very interesting look at the history of the shinkansen in Japan. Let's be honest, I'm a city gal. But I don't think I'd like living in Tokyo; it's a huge city and pretty expensive. But the shinkansen makes it possible for me to visit Tokyo every weekend, if I so choose. For about $40 a train ticket, I can get there and back again in about 1.5 hours (not all of it by shinkansen, which is only about 40 minutes from Mishima). I'm from Arizona, a city that has basically no passenger trains -- unless you count the one that stops at Tucson late at night, doesn't stop in Phoenix, and keeps going to the west coast. Which I don't. As a result, most my life has been spent using a car. Being able to ride trains to get places is still a nice novelty for me, and what's more, Japan's shinkansen are clean and comfortable, even if you don't buy a first class ticket. And it's punctual. According to the Guardian:
The Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area, composed of four prefectures, became the world’s pre-eminent megalopolis – some 35 million people by 2010, or 27% of Japan’s total population. It isn’t unusual for commuters to spend two hours getting to work every day on trains that exceed 150% of capacity. [...] Meanwhile, the bullet train has sucked the country’s workforce into Tokyo, rendering an increasingly huge part of the country little more than a bedroom community for the capital.
The article seems to suggest the bullet train is responsible for Tokyo's megalopolis growth, however I say this is only partly true. Maybe Japan is just ahead of us all, or maybe because it's a smaller island, it doesn't have the space for suburb communities like America. Regardless, the American suburb as we know it may be a thing of the past. In the last few years, it's been American cities that have grown, not the suburbs. As a result of increasing city populations, there is a need for public transportation.The only downside is the expense it will take to create a train system in cities which were initially built with automobile in mind (like Phoenix). I say it would be worth it. Yes, I know that America is bigger, and many of its cities have been built with the idea of automotive transportation, but I'd love to see an America connected by bullet trains -- especially if they are as clean and comfortable as Japanese ones. I like train travel, I wouldn't mind buying a ticket to major cities by rail (especially now that airline travel seems to be full of angry people, luggage fees, no food, and a lack of leg room). The shinkansen seats recline; I get a bento box beforehand to munch on. In America, it would be a comfortable way to travel. Take a good book, my laptop, get some work done on the commute, and then relax all weekend in Los Angeles or Chicago or New York or Seattle. Am I the only one who thinks like this?
Because everything must be cute in Japan, even the shinkansen has it's own kawaii character.

Article by Himani

Himani enjoys a diverse life of trying to survive the educational world (now in Japan!) while still having time to participate in her hobbies like writing, reading, cooking, and photography. Prone to sarcasm and impatience, she's still trying to rise above the little things.

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