Happy 50th Anniversary Tokaido Shinkansen

Shinkansen

Shinkansen speeding past Mt. Ibuki.

Happy 50th anniversary to the Tokaido Shinkansen! The world’s first high-speed train. After about 5 years of construction and test runs, it was on Oct. 1, 1964 when the shinkansen “bullet train” started commercial service between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka Stations. It initially took 4 hours (via Hikari trains) to cover the 515 km (320 mi.) distance at a maximum speed of 210 km/hour (130 mph). By Nov. 1965, travel time was shortened to 3 hr 10 min., and now it’s 2 hr. 25 min. via Nozomi trains. Before the shinkansen, it took 6.5 hours between Tokyo and Osaka by train. A commemorative ceremony was held this morning on Oct. 1, 2014 at Tokyo Station next to the first shinkansen departing at 6 am.

Maibara

Original 0-series (1st generation) shinkansen at Maibara Station.

Shiga is fortunate to have Maibara Station as a shinkansen station. They first wanted Hikone to be the shinkansen station since it had a higher population, but construction would be more expensive and people in the Hokuriku Region (Fukui, Kanazawa, and Toyama) wanted Maibara Station since it was closer to them. After the shinkansen opened, people in the Hokuriku Region usually transferred trains at Maibara to go to Tokyo or Osaka. And those of us in northern Shiga lucked out with the shinkansen stopping at Maibara. (People in southern Shiga used Kyoto Station.) It was highly unusual to have a shinkansen station in a town (Maihara-cho) rather than a city. Of course, Maibara is now a city.

Generations of kids and adults alike are still awed whenever they see a shinkansen whizzing by. I have to say “Arigato” to the shinkansen for transporting me safely and quickly many times. Sometimes it wasn’t so comfortable when it was standing room only. For peak travel times, I wish they offered a cheaper, standing-room only ticket. I also wish they had more room for large pieces of luggage. I remember the double-decker shinkansen and dining room car on the upper deck. The first time I saw Mt. Fuji was from the shinkansen on a clear winter day. The attendant pushing the cart selling food and drinks used to look like a kitchen worker. Now they look like an airline stewardess. Lots of memories.

I’m posting photos of the original 0-series shinkansen trains. This is the original “bullet train” that was in service from 1964 to the mid-1980s on the Tokaido Shinkansen. The design of shinkansen trains has evolved dramatically since then, especially changes to the nose. Call me sentimental, but I never liked any of the latter nose designs (sometimes looking like a duckbill or platypus). Why tamper with perfection and a worldwide icon? The original bullet nose looked perfect to me.

shinkansen

First-generation Hikari shinkansen passing through Maibara Station.

The Japan Post Office is also marking the anniversary by selling a set of five die-cut postcards. One of the cards show a 300-series Shinkansen speeding past Mt. Ibuki. The set costs ¥1,100.

Tokaido Shinkansen postcard set

Tokaido Shinkansen postcard set

Upper right card shows Mt. Ibuki.

Upper right card shows Mt. Ibuki.

If you’ve never seen the original 0-series shinkansen train, you should visit a train museum such as the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Nagoya and Railway Museum in Omiya (Saitama). In spring 2016, the Kyoto Railway Museum will open as well.

Here’s a good visual history of the shinkansen (in English): http://shinkansen.the-japan-news.com/index.html

Maibara Station is also celebrating the 50th anniversary with a weekend of fun and entertainment (especially for kids) on Oct. 11-12, 2014 from 10 am to 9 pm on Sat. and 10 am to 6 pm on Sun. (weather permitting). http://poppofes.com/