Tuesday, August 24, 2010


John Marine | 8/24/2010 05:28:00 AM | |
(UPDATED: February 22, 2012)

Don't blink... because the Shinkansen may pass you by in a heartbeat! Not even half a second passes until you first see the bullet train pass you by with its heart-stopping speed. This blog entry concerns Japan's bullet trains. They may not be the only bullet trains in the world (the TGV in France comes to mind), but they are certainly some of the coolest land-based machines anywhere in the world.

NOTE: Most facts and figures based on Wikipedia and YouTube.


^ from: japaneselifestyle.com.au - Shinkansen. When you're standing still, it passes you by in less than half a second at full speed.

Shinkansen (Sanrio)
^ from: pirun.ku.ac.th - "Shinkansen," the Sanrio character. As fast as the real Shinkansen, only cuter.

I have never ridden a train in my life. The one thing I'd feel like if I was on Japan's Shinkansen (or "bullet train") is like being in a fighter jet that seats hundreds of people. A plane is probably more appropriate in describing the Shinkansen (which I've also never been on) since the interior is like being on a plane. In addition (and according to Wikipedia), there are about 16 cars to the train while also having a maximum capacity of about 1,300 people. For comparison, the Shinkansen seats almost 2.5 times as many people as the Airbus A380's 525 seating capacity (three-class configuration) and about 1.25 times as many people as an all-economy class Airbus A380 (853 seating capacity). It's basically a land-based airplane minus the huge wings.

The Shinkansen in Perspective.

Let me put this train's speed into perspective. In a test run in 2003, a Japanese maglev train reached a record-breaking 581 kph (or 361.03 mph). The fastest a top fuel dragster has ever gone was 336.15 mph (or 540.97 kph) So the Shinkansen goes at least 30 mph faster than a top fuel dragster. BIGGEST difference between the two? The top fueler only needs to go down the track for five-second passes while the Shinkansen goes for so long while also making stops to pick up other passengers. Usually, the Shinkansen can go at about 186 mph (or 299.33 kph). That speed is about as much as a NASCAR stock car does racing around on any of the high-speed ovals NASCAR races. As for how long it takes to go from one place to another, I learned in a YouTube video that it takes four hours (including stops) to go from Tokyo to Hiroshima. Hiroshima is about 894 kilometers (or 555 miles) from Tokyo. So in other words- the Shinkansen is bloody fast!

Considering the many elevation changes and undulations of Japan, it's incredible the Shinkansen can go so fast and sustain its speed for so long while also being safe. I remember once watching an episode of Top Gear when the there was a race between the new Nissan GT-R and the Shinkansen in a race across Japan. Let this image be a preview of this heavyweight fight:

Shinkansen vs. GT-R
^ from: themotorreport.com.au - Nissan GT-R vs. the Shinkansen. Who would win? You would know if you seen the episode of Top Gear featuring this cross-Japan showdown!

Still... you folks in Japan that ride the Shinkansen are riding on something totally awesome. It may not be the world's only bullet train range, but it's certainly one of the coolest (if not THE coolest) in the world!

Thanks for reading this blog entry. Please take care and have an amazing day/night!

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