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How the Shinkansen bullet train made Tokyo into the monster it is today
Fifty years ago on Wednesday two Shinkansen bullet trains completed their first journeys, kickstarting a high-speed rail network that would transform Japan
• Riding the Shinkansen: share your bullet train photos and memories
Philip Brasor and Masako Tsubuku
Tuesday 30 September 2014 13.48 BST

At 10am on 1 October 1964, with less than a week and a half to go before the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games, the two inaugural Hikari Super Express Shinkansen, or “bullet trains,” arrived at their destinations, Tokyo and Osaka. They were precisely on time. Hundreds of people had waited overnight in each terminal to witness this historic event, which, like the Olympics, heralded not just Japan’s recovery from the destruction of the second world war, but the beginning of what would be Japan’s stratospheric rise as an economic superpower. The journey between Japan’s two biggest cities by train had previously taken close to seven hours. The Shinkansen had made the trip in four.

The world’s first high-speed commercial train line, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on Wednesday, was built along the Tokaido, one of the five routes that connected the Japanese hinterland to Edo, the city that in the mid-1800s became Tokyo. Though train lines crisscrossed the country, they were inadequate to postwar Japan’s newborn ambitions. The term “shinkansen” literally means “new trunk line”: symbolically, it lay at the very centre of the huge reconstruction effort. All previous railways were designed to serve regions. The purpose of the Tokaido Shinkansen, true to its name, was to bring people to the capital.

50年前のニューヨークタイムズの記事をご紹介します。アーカイブの充実ぶりは日本のメディアが見習ってもらいたい所です。記事では新幹線のひかり号をThe sleek streamliners, named ”Hikari” (Light)と紹介しています。

World's Fastest Train Line Is Inaugurated by Japanese

TOKYO, Oct. 1 — Japan in­augurated the world's fastest scheduled train service today with ceremonies participated in by Emperor Hirohito and Em­press Nagako.

The sleek streamliners, named ”Hikari” (Light), have reduced the time of the 320‐mile rail trip between Tokyo and Osaka from six and a half hours to four. By spring, when the new roadbed has settled, engineers expect to cut another hour off the time and riase the average speed from the present 80 miles an hour to 106.


Japan: Fast Ride to Osaka
Friday, Sept. 04, 1964

Across paddyfields, through mountains and over highways last week streaked the world's fastest long-haul train, slithering like an ivory worm along the 320 miles of rail between Tokyo and Osaka. For the first full test run of Japan's $1 billion New Tokaido Line, the super-express Hikari averaged 80 m.p.h. and often went as high as 125 m.p.h. Crowds waved and cheered, highway traffic stopped to watch, and planes of newsmen circled overhead. Japan was greeting not only a new rail service but a symbol of the nation's postwar industrial growth and a new bond between its two largest cities.

Even with stops at Nagoya and Kyoto, the Hikari covered the run in a record 3 hr. 56 min. When regular service opens Oct. 1—ten days before the Olympic Games begin—some of the line's 60 passenger trains a day will make the run in four hours v. 6½ over the parallel Old Tokaido Line. The new line took five years to build, and skirts the sea for most of the way; its architects did away completely with grade crossings, designed 548 bridges, 66 tunnels and 57 miles of elevated right of way. The specially built streamlined trains are models of luxury and, unlike most Japanese trains, travel over standard gauge tracks.

当時のTIMEの記事で大阪を含めた関西地区が紹介されていました。Osakans are naturally so commercially minded that their favorite salutation is "Mokari makka?" (Are you making money?).なんて書き方は今でも通用しそうです(笑)

Osakans are naturally so commercially minded that their favorite salutation is "Mokari makka?" (Are you making money?). Though Osaka recovered from the war's devastation more slowly than Tokyo, it has picked up enormous speed in recent years. With adjoining Kobe, its port ships 41% of Japan's exports, is a center of shipbuilding. Its factories have diversified from traditional cotton spinning into electronics, chemicals and precision machinery. Its stock market is studied as Japan's most accurate economic barometer.