Japan High Speed Rail Travel Times

Japan High Speed Rail Travel Times

Japan’s high speed rail network is a marvel of modern engineering, connecting hundreds of cities and towns. Known as Shinkansen, the network consists of 12 different railway lines, each capable of reaching speeds over 200mph. With speeds this high, Japan has become the world leader in rail travel velocity, showing what can be done when superior technology is combined with an efficient transport system.

In Japan, the average travel time for a one-way trip between Tokyo to Osaka is just 2 hours and 30 minutes. This is significantly faster than other countries, as a one way trip from New York City to Chicago by Amtrak’s Acela Express takes approximately 6 hours and 5 minutes. This speed has a major impact on the Japanese way of life, as it allows residents to easily move around the country without worrying about long disctances.

The Shinkansen service has been active in Japan since 1964 and it has provided remarkable stress-free transport for long distances between the major cities. Apart from making travel faster and easier, it has also had a great economic effect on the country, stimulating business and tourism. According to the Japan Times, a 2013 study by Osaka University estimated an 8.4 trillion yen ($81 billion) annual boost in economic activity over the preceding decades due to the network.

Though the technology employed in the Shinkansen network is highly advanced, its safety record is exemplary. On October 1, 2020, Japan celebrated 56 years without a single passenger fatality associated with Shinkansen service, an impressive feat when compared to other countries’ rail track safety records. Road transport in Japan is actually deemed more dangerous than railways, ensuring that travelers can stay safe while traveling at remarkable speeds.

To embrace Japan’s high speed rail potential, millions of tourists flock to the country every year, taking advantage of the vast network connecting all of the major cities and sites. Many are surprised by the speed, convenience, and affordability of the trains – a trip from Tokyo to Kyoto costs between 13,000-20,000 yen ($110-180) in economy class, depending on the train line.

But Japan’s high speed rail technology isn’t limited to just domestic transportation. In 2014, the country opened the Istanbul-Ankara high speed rail, connecting the capitals of Turkey – the first high speed railway to span two nations. The project was funded by Japan, as part of the wider Silk Road Economic Belt.

Environmental Impact

The Japanese high speed rail system already satisfies many environmental policies. All carriages must incorporate a sophisticated system to reduce the amount of noise emitted when the train is running, and the Department of Railways calculates how much air pollution is generated by the railway.

Furthermore, Shinkansen is powered with electricity drawn from Japan’s renewable energy sources, making it one of the most energy efficient large-scale transportation systems in the world. This not only drastically reduces carbon emissions within the railway network, but it also helps Japan in its strive to become a carbon neutral nation by 2050.

The infrastructure of the Shinkansen network is also designed to be incredibly resilient against natural disasters. Many of the lines include highly advanced tunnels and bridges built to withstand strong winds and severe snowfall, making it one of the safest ways to travel during difficult weather.

The impressive technology within the Shinkansen network also carries with it certain cost benefits. Reliability is paramount on such an intense high speed railway system, and with the technology employed on the lines, Japan has significantly minimised repair and maintenance costs associated with its transportation.

The trains are also designed to maximise energy efficiency. All Shinkansen carriages feature an aerodynamic optimised shape, allowing it to glide through the air, reducing energy used to overcome air resistance. To further increase efficiency, the brakes used within the Shinkansen network are designed to recycle energy, creating electricity to be used at the start of the next journey.

Future of the Network

Japan’s high speed rail technology is continually improving, with plans to launch the ALFA-X series in 2022. This next generation of Shinkansen bullet trains are expected to achieve maximum speeds of 400kmh (218mph), allowing passengers to travel between Tokyo and Aomori station in just 2 hours and 4 minutes.

These new trains are deemed “superconducting”, featuring longer nose, modified pantographs (devices which convert electricity) and more lightweight acceleration plates to redistribute the weight of the trains.

The project has been funded by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, in an attempt to further protect against the impacts of a changing climate. Other projects in the pipeline include the integration of solar panels and wind turbines on the tracks to supply additional electricity to the Shinkansen network.

To further the longevity of the Shinkansen lines, Japan has invested into introducing an additional 5G LTE wireless network, helping to improve the safety performance of the railway. The network is designed to operate on the same frequencies as the police, offering extra security along the railway.

It is clear to see that the Japanese high speed rail network is constantly evolving, striving to create the most impressive and reliable railway transportation system. Over the next few years, the Shinkansen network is likely to come more at the forefront of technological advancement, as Japan strives to improve their already remarkable network.

Alternative High Speed Rail Routes

If the Shinkansen network doesn’t take your fancy, then Japan offers many other rail journeys which should suit your needs. Local trains offer the opportunity to take scenic routes through Japan, travelling through rural communities, enjoying an insight into Japan’s local cultures.

Alternatively, Japan’s larger metropolitan cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka offer their own individual express services. These services will take a little longer, but offer an experience within larger cities, with the longer journey allowing you a platform on which you can experience the hustle and bustle life in Japan.

For luxury and comfort that goes beyond the ordinary, The Gran Class service in the Shinkansen network offers luxurious cabins with large reclining seats, foot rests and in-seat power outlets. The free food and drinks which comes with this service makes for a delightful trip, especially when travelling in groups.

Finally, the Twilight Express allows travelers to experience breathtaking landscapes and locations. Taking a 3 day and 2 night journey around northern Japan, this luxury service stops in various locations and landmarks, providing a fascinating insight into Japan’s long history and beautiful nature.

Merchandise and Memorabilia

For those of you who can’t get enough of the Japanese high speed rail, there is a market of merchandise and collectables which can be purchased. Products can range from Japan Rail-themed pillows and phone covers, to specially designed pint glasses with the Shinkansen logo.

For those looking for more authentic products, there are scale models of various Shinkansen trains which can be purchased. Many manufacturers provide detailed replicas of Shinkansen train lines, featuring accurately placed landmarks, cities and even distant towns. With over 600 individual pieces and a scale of 1/150, these models provide an incredibly fun way to experience the complexity of so many Shinkansen lines packed into the Japanese landscape.

Finally, souvenir shops located at almost all train stations provide exclusive merchandise, with products ranging from special edition sake flasks to entire sashimi kits. These products are extremely popular with tourists, providing authentic mementos of an incredible experience.

Technology for the Future

Veterans of the Shinkansen network are already preparing for the future. Teikoku Databank, a Tokyo based financial research company, estimated the potential total market value for the Japan Railway market at one trillion yen ($9billion) in the following years.

Future projects include the improvement of the Tokyo to Osaka line, with the introduction of thinner and lighter seats allowing for further weight reduction. In addition, the hydrogen powered locomotives, which are scheduled to enter service by the early 2030’s, will drastically reduce pollution, making the Shinkansen an even more pleasurable experience.

There are also plans to launch radical high speed services, such as a Shinkansen route between Tokyo and Osaka in 67 minutes and a Tokyo to Okinawa route in 3 hours. Though these journeys are certainly ambitious, the efforts and technology required to achieve this milestone could enable present projects such as the Hyperloop to become a reality.

Ultimately, Japan’s remarkable Shinkansen network is constantly improving, both in speed and reliability. In the years the come, Japan’s persistent efforts to innovate its infrastructure and technology will continue to shape its high speed rail network, opening up a variety of new possibilities for the future.

Nancy Weiner

Nancy A. Weiner is an experienced journalist and author specializing in Japan. She is a published author of several books and articles about Japanese culture, history and politics. She has also been a featured guest speaker at many international conferences on Japanese culture, politics and education.

Leave a Comment