The Story of Japan's Shinkansen: The Train That is The Envy of the World

Considered beyond futuristic in the 1960s, the advanced train that could travel at speeds in excess of 120 mph (200 km/h) would forever change train travel history.
Loukia Papadopoulos

In 1964, Japan unveiled a novel high-speed railway that connected the country’s two largest cities at the time: Tokyo and Osaka. Considered beyond futuristic at the time, the impressive train could travel at speeds in excess of 120 mph (200 km/h), the highest service speeds in the world.

But the project's success was not without obstacles. It took over five years of construction and cost of building reached nearly ¥400 billion. Its fiercest critics within Japan dismissed the Shinkansen as surely destined for failure even referring to it as the “height of madness”.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world waited with a mixture of curiosity and skepticism since many in those days speculated passenger trains would be extinct by the end of the 20th century. But the Shinkansen finally came to be and changed trains forever!

For the first time, a train was seen as the fastest mode of travel for intercity trips and within just the first 3 years in existence, the Shinkansen carried more than 100 million passengers safely and speedily to their destinations.

And the success did not stop there. Over the next half-century, the network would be continuously expanded to reach nearly every corner of Japan. Meanwhile, the Japanese speedy train would then also inspire other nations to develop their own rail networks, such as France’s 1980 TGV, bringing high-speed train travel to the world!

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