Shinkansen the Bullet Train – June 20

23 06 2010

by Professor George Sanchez

Riding the bullet train — or Shinkansen — across Japan is one of the most important experiences in technological development our students have had. Not a new technology since it was constructed for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the ride on the Shinkansen made it clear how far the United States has to go to reach first class rapid train service as normal and natural. We traveled almost half of the entire expanse of the nation of Japan today in a total of five hours, a Tokyo to Hiroshima trip that would take at least twice that time in the U.S.

Remembering what we were told in Los Angeles about Japanese train technology by Jon Kaji, the students marveled at the efficiency, cleanliness and punctuality of the bullet train in Japan. We were able to order snacks and drinks on the train, and many students caught up on much needed sleep during the train ride.

Arriving in Hiroshima, the students were immediately struck by the change of pace in this part of Japan, much less hectic and crowded than the life we had gotten accustomed to in Tokyo. One student remarked that the people of Hiroshima seemed “more normal” and “less hurried.” It was important that students see this other side of Japan that, while still urban, was quite distinctive from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. We rode the streetcar to our hotel, then took a nice stroll through the central part of town to the Hiroshima Castle and surrounding gardens.

We got our first sense of the historical side of the destruction of the city by the atomic bomb by viewing the “A-Bomb tree,” one of the only trees left standing in the center city after the atomic blast of August 1945. We enjoyed the gardens and the Shinto shrine, as well as seeing the majestic wood-framed Hiroshima Castle. Like so many of our other days, this one ended with a group dinner at a local restaurant. Here we cooked much of our own food over hibachi flames and paid by time spent, rather than by meals ordered.




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