Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I love the Japan Railways Shinkansen (bullet train) network as much as I love the Indian Railways, but the two could not be more different. Indian trains may be late or may make up time. The average annual delay for the Tōkaidō Shinkansen – including all delays due to human error, earthquakes, typhoons and snow – is thirty seconds.

Shinkansen leaving Kyōto station

Shinkansen simply means ‘new main line’ but it is a poetic word. It just sounds... fast.

There are three types of trains on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line. The slowest (only in relative terms, for it has a top speed of 285 km/h) is called Kodama, the Japanese word for echo. The next faster is called Hikari, meaning light. And fastest of all is the Nozomi, which means wish or hope.