How Japan’s Bullet Trains Changed Travel
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How Japan’s Bullet Trains Changed Travel

August 8, 2019

Today’s high-speed trains will have you cruising along at 350 kilometres per hour. A ticket is about the same as a flight, and the door-to-door time on some of the world’s most popular routes is the same, or less than getting a plane. But decades ago rail travel was in decline. It faced fierce competition from the air and auto industries. Then came Japan’s bullet train. By the late 1950s, Japan’s economic miracle had transformed the war ravaged nation. Its economy was growing quickly. The area between Tokyo and Osaka was booming with industry. People were flocking to the capital for work but the rail line connecting the two major cities couldn’t take the stress. In 1958, a government panel was set up to tackle the problem and several potential solutions arose. Among them, building the world’s first high-speed rail line. Many were skeptical, but two men were true believers. Shinji Sogō was the then president of the state-run Japanese National Railways. The other, Sogō’s colleague, veteran engineer Hideo Shima. Up against bureaucratic obstacles and fierce opposition – the two drove the project forward. In 1959, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line started construction under Sogō’s leadership. Shima was appointed the project’s chief engineer. His team designed the sleek and revolutionary cone-shaped front – from which the bullet train got its name. Rather than being pulled by an engine in front, each carriage of the bullet train was driven by an individual electric motor, which has proven to be safer, faster and more efficient. Apart from the train itself, the team also built wider tracks, which were more costly but allowed for greater stability and higher speeds. 3,000 bridges and 67 tunnels were built on the 515-kilometer line to allow a clear and largely curveless path. Older trains were banned from the new line. Equipped with advanced technologies, the new trains were able to travel as fast as 210 kilometers per hour, a breakthrough in the passenger rail industry and the world’s fastest at the time. The journey time between Tokyo and Osaka was cut from over 6 hours to 4. On October 1, 1964, the new line opened, just in time for the Tokyo Olympic Games. But neither Sogō’ nor Shima were invited for the inauguration. They both resigned in 1963 because the project’s budget came in at double what was promised – 400 billion yen, the equivalent of 3.6 billion US dollars today. But despite their premature departure, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line was an immediate success and quickly turned a profit. It transformed the nation – allowing more people to work in metropolitan areas and became a symbol of Japan’s postwar re-emergence as an economic and tech power. Now over 300 trains operate on the line everyday. And the trip between Tokyo and Osaka has shortened to two and a half hours. The number of passengers has also soared, reaching 165 million in 2016. After the success of the Tōkaidō Shinkanse line, Japan has continued expanding its high-speed rail network and plans to build more. Following Japan’s lead, countries like France, Germany and China have also developed high-speed railways. By the end of 2018, the total length of high-speed rail network in the world will be over 46,000 kilometers, and over half of it is in China.


  • Reply Romy Ilano September 16, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    A true measure of a society’s progress is its high speed trains

  • Reply BLACK BOT September 16, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Here in India people are skeptic of bullet train and yes we still a lot of problem to solve probably more than other countries due to diversity we have but high speed railways will bring economy to next gear and accelerate the economy and better connection of major cities. That will help solving problem much faster than before.

  • Reply vivek sharma September 16, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    China's Success Put Other Countries to Shame.. especially Mine… Our Fastest Train is 160kmph.. that Too On a Single Route to Taj Mahal

  • Reply Dennis Vu September 16, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    U.S.: 0

  • Reply Dennis Vu September 16, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    China stole Japan bullet train designs lol

  • Reply Robert Pemberton September 16, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    The wrong side won WW2

  • Reply takeru Ishibashi September 16, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Thank you for picking up the 🇯🇵Japanese 🚅Bullet train (Shinkansen). I am really proud of 🇯🇵Japan and it is very convenient. I am surprised that 🇺🇸America is not running at all in developed countries.

  • Reply ww ww September 16, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    So at 1:50 you are sure that they build 3000 bridges and not 3000

  • Reply exorientelux September 16, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    first high speed experiments with electric trains running faster than 200 km/h have been made south of Berlin before the First World War.
    Italy has build two "Direttissima" in the time of Mussolini. Japan has been running 1435 mm railway systems in occupied Manchuria where they intruduced the Asia Express between Dalian and Xinjing. With a maximum speed of 134 km/h this was the fastest train in Asia in those days.

  • Reply Aboelenein September 16, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    China changing so fast.

  • Reply Tony Bailey September 16, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    Older trains were banned ! – The bloody gauge was wrong for them! Talk about stupidity in reporting.

  • Reply B M September 17, 2018 at 12:05 am

    Japanese reliable stuff…..

  • Reply William Morrison September 17, 2018 at 12:57 am

    There is no reason why we can't have bullet trains in the USA. We just need to get rid of the Republicans and their coal mining/oil burning overseers.

  • Reply 良好ツ September 17, 2018 at 2:31 am


  • Reply Transformatron Prime September 17, 2018 at 2:35 am

    Bullet team transformers rid

  • Reply RyanL September 17, 2018 at 2:44 am

    I went to Japan a year and a half ago, and the Shinkansen is so nice. It's a bit expensive (more than a flight would have been I think), but waaaay more leg room than an airplane and you don't have to go to the airport, go through security, taxi to the runway, … you get the rest. Plus, you get some nice views from the train. The plane you wouldn't get as many (although seeing the clouds/ocean is still nice, just really far below the plane).

  • Reply sym tay September 17, 2018 at 3:27 am

    Definitely on my bucket list 😊

  • Reply Nitin Pawar September 17, 2018 at 6:18 am

    India is soon going to be on that map !!

  • Reply UNiCoRn PeGaSuS September 17, 2018 at 6:25 am

    So when chinese were eating trees japans were using fast speed trains

  • Reply Weeb Destroyah September 17, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Fun fact, the guy who designed the first shinkansen used to design aircraft for the war, he designed the P1Y Ginga.

  • Reply Strand September 17, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    Loved riding the Shinkansen in Japan. Everything is spotless, train timing is down to the minute, and they sell cute little bento boxes on the platforms

  • Reply Herman Munck September 17, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Thought it was Johny Ive at first

  • Reply derbaumdahinten September 17, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Haha, Germany and high speed trains😂🤣yes, we technically have the ice but…yeah…german trains suck big time. Cologne to Berlin is roughly the same distance as Osaka to Tokyo. But the ice needs 4.5h to complete the Trip. Plus it's always late and most likely will get cancelled, so expect more like 6h

  • Reply fireaza September 17, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    You can see one of the first shinkansen engines at the Omiya train museum! If that's the sorta thing that interests you, definitely check it out if you're in Saitama!

  • Reply Jessie September 17, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    If all goes well, Texas could have the very first high-speed railway with a Bullet Train connecting Dallas to Houston sometime between 2021-2024. A 4 hour drive would then turn into an hour and a half train ride away.

  • Reply shayrockshishi September 17, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    sogo and shima were the real hero's here. much respect

  • Reply LTK_ Viled September 17, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    As a steam train enthusiast, I can say that I am not a big fan of auto travel. It is the most wasteful modes of travel ever.🚂🚂🚄🚄

  • Reply Oscar Kavanagh September 17, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    You all should lookup how Japan’s rail system was optimized by a yeast sporum

  • Reply theharper1 September 18, 2018 at 2:59 am

    And Japan is building the Chuo line to replace the Tokaido line with a maglev that will operate at 500 kmh.

  • Reply Fide Nemini September 18, 2018 at 6:48 am

    Meanwhile in America, "not in my back yard" 😡

  • Reply クハ489-1 Productions September 18, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    The Shinkansen’s track gauge is standard gauge.

  • Reply Him September 18, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    So basically ruining the landscape and nature… because we want fast and we care about nothing else just our pleasure, aka because fuck you.

  • Reply The Guy You Know September 18, 2018 at 9:42 pm


    You need to catch up

  • Reply 李凯伦 September 19, 2018 at 10:49 am

    how American automobile giant, Boeing earn money when American all using train to travel? For some reason, USA will remain as a car country forever

  • Reply Peter Francis September 19, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Japan is a small country with 40% US population

    train could find more customer with high population density when the US could not

  • Reply Roy Hoeksema September 19, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    Not to be a bitch. But the Japanese didn’t really change anything in European train travel.

  • Reply jbgrooves September 20, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    It would be a great infrastructure and jobs project to start construction for lines from Boston to Miami and Seattle (Vancouver BC even better) to San Diego. it won't ever happen but it would be great.

  • Reply V42 September 20, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    Wish my country could have high speed trains

  • Reply Raagul ARJUNAN September 21, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    Woah people are genuine✌

  • Reply Hideo Kuze September 21, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    China's going berserk with high speed train networks..

  • Reply Mister V September 23, 2018 at 2:12 am


  • Reply Fa23had Ahmad September 24, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    Yeah it's fast but fucking damn expensive

  • Reply Yoshiaki Okaguchi September 25, 2018 at 6:39 am

    The high-speed rail line between Tokyo and Hozaka

  • Reply ia2949 September 27, 2018 at 4:57 am

    We do not need more Shinkansen bullet trains in Japan. Most of them are in red operation. They are built for politicians' ego. From one of the Japanese.

  • Reply NCT ist Top September 27, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    We have even more bullet trains than Japan and they are not expensive. Welcome to China everyone!

  • Reply Grant El October 3, 2018 at 10:23 am

    We want this. Pls Thai gov. keep dreaming

  • Reply Kaleb Bruwer October 4, 2018 at 11:38 am

    This only works between two high density locations that are relatively close to each other. That's why this won't catch on in most of America. Besides their coast lines, their population simply isn't dense enough to support these lines.

  • Reply Ji Cho October 4, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    I’m surprised at how much quicker and more efficient bullet-trains are vs flying. Big ups to Japan!

  • Reply smile444 October 5, 2018 at 5:11 am

    rail is a lot cheaper than plane no ? Especially in shorter distances

  • Reply No October 5, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    I just realized vbucks and yen are nearly equal in value

  • Reply Christopher S. O' October 6, 2018 at 7:56 am

    I prefer to travel by train long distance which I do travel on Amtrak. I also travel on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner when I’m home in he San Diego area from San Diego to Los Angeles & Oxnard,CA alternating my visits between Los Angeles & Oxnard. It beats driving on the I-5/U.S.101 & I-405 parking lots and also beats the bus, beats flying domestically. The only way I’ll fly is Trans Pacific between Los Angeles & Manila on Philippine Airlines, Los Angeles & Honolulu, San Diego & Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines, Trans Atlantic between Boston & Dublin’s on Aer Lingus Irish Airlines, Between Boston & Oslo on Scandinavian Airlines and between Philadelphia & Rome on Alitalia Airlines.

  • Reply Wide World of Trains October 8, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    Wow great video on the Bullet Trains. If you like Train Videos visit Wide Wrld of Trains on YouTube, we add new Train Videos every day of the year!

  • Reply LordArioh October 9, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    Where is that first shot from? Must be somewhere shortly after Shin-Fuji st. towards Tokyo. And shot with super telephoto, to have Fuji so big in a frame.

  • Reply Stephen Rios October 12, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    The MTA should be ashamed!

  • Reply Mahir Rahman October 14, 2018 at 3:41 am

    The MTA and infrastructure in my country of the USA is an utter joke and embarrassment compared to this video!

  • Reply Sunforged October 16, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    A video about Japan yet everyone brings up the USA 🤔

  • Reply Kevin October 16, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    america can not have high speed trains that is final

  • Reply Roblox grbhrg October 17, 2018 at 5:44 am

    It’s Osaka not Ozaka I’m japanese

  • Reply Tchety The Great October 17, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    The us need to get a fast bullet train system in the us

  • Reply Rahul Bali October 19, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    INDIANS… where is MODI?

  • Reply Douglas MacArthur Productions October 19, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Boi These coming to Texas along with Renfe.

  • Reply Jason Learakos October 20, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    America has horrible passenger trains, but our freight trains, we have the best freight system, plus the world's most powerful locomotive. But trains the American passenger train was great, until the about 1960.

  • Reply RamenShaman October 23, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    I rode that train from Tokyo to Osaka. It was great

  • Reply 臼井咲乃 October 25, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Lol. I used to live in the US, and if you didn't own a car you basically had no means of transport, and riding a train was considered poor. Whereas in Japan if you own a car it means you live in the countryside, and if you don't own a car and live near the station it means you can afford the rent and have easy access to public transport.

  • Reply Some Random Person October 27, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Japan's 1964 bullet train is almost faster than America's fastest train today

  • Reply Mario October 28, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    I rode the Shikansen from Fukuoka to Kyoto then to Tokyo(stopped twice for sight seeing) and it was one of the best times traveling. The speed and engineering are superb(I love when two trains cross in opposite directions, not sure how they solved that wind problem) but what's great is seeing the Japanese country side on a summer day. Small villas, bridges, and acres of rice paddies can be seen in the distance even at high speed.

  • Reply kennedy Chong November 5, 2018 at 6:58 am

    People are complaining why there no bullet train in the US, the answer is simple, US is the biggest aircraft manufacturers in the world. It 10% of GDP. Why would they kill off gold laying goose.

  • Reply Abdulaziz AlOtaibi November 19, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    The world appreciate having Japan in this planet !!!

  • Reply tirapalla December 10, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    3:20 You forgot to mention Spain. Now, Spain is the nº 2 country in the world with more kilometres of high speed train (behind China), and the nº 1 considering the ratio of habitants

  • Reply Ecclesiastes 2:24 January 4, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    Perhaps this video also ought to mention that only 1 line is profitable (Osaka Tokyo) and that the long term debts resulting from HSR construction is 300 billion dollars, which basically bankrupted the state run Japanese Railway company. HSR is a boondoggle, which is only useful between extremely densely populated regions not too far apart from each other. Only 2 HSR lines worldwide actually make money.

  • Reply XavierKatzone March 3, 2019 at 5:01 am

    The secret : Japan is chock-full of JAPANESE!

  • Reply Abhishek Pawar March 6, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    This video was poorly made , some things wrong and some important things not even mentioned

  • Reply Ryan G Gitau April 27, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    Laughs in SGR

  • Reply OmniUltima May 2, 2019 at 9:50 am

    60 years ago since, Japan had build Shinkansen almost stretching all over the country now. While NYC still uses trains from 1970's not to mention the fact that we still swiping cards to go through platforms. SMH

  • Reply Ron Villejo May 9, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    "Up against bureaucratic obstacles and fierce opposition, [Sogo and Shima] drove the project forward."

  • Reply victoria brach May 9, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    it took me like 4 hours to get from Tokyo to Kyoto which is still an hour from osaka, idk where the 2.5 came from lolll

  • Reply francis mark May 11, 2019 at 4:45 am

    Meanwhile in Philippines

  • Reply Dhiya Khairi May 11, 2019 at 9:54 am

    Currently when I write this at May 11th, 2019, the Shinkansen max speed is 320 km/h on the Tohoku Shinkansen between Utsunomiya and Morioka. JR East planned the max speed 360 km/h by 2020.

  • Reply F. OPE May 11, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    There are things that require true visiob and courage. And public investment, of course.

  • Reply precious jose May 12, 2019 at 6:06 am

    You saying older trains were banned is similar to saying older trains were banned from hyperloop infrastructure. Well, duh!. They're not compatible with each other so, one would believe a 'ban' is vital.

  • Reply Dominic Pretorius May 13, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    This is so Vox

  • Reply D. A. May 14, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    In Japan they have bullet trains. In America we just have bullets.

  • Reply HQU May 14, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    Japan seems to be the only place where the government works for the people and actually gets jobs done.

  • Reply DaGreat7 May 15, 2019 at 8:17 am

    Meanwhile in Australia, we are still arguing about the safety of public Electric Scooters 🛴 😂😂 smh

  • Reply xhuagg burl May 15, 2019 at 11:00 am

    India will catch up with Japan on the bullet train in 2022. great friendship between India and japan.

  • Reply jakarta gamer May 15, 2019 at 11:36 am

    America: we have the greatest vehicles of all time! look at that constellation!
    *japan builds high speed train
    America: HA! can't beat us with that "fast trains" of yours our planes will be the image all around the world!
    *japan finishes high speed trains and beats america
    [surprised pikachu]

  • Reply Akash Bansal May 16, 2019 at 10:07 am

    Fuck off Flipkart

  • Reply David Rosner May 16, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Japan is currently working on the Chuo Shinkansen, a maglev version of the Tokyo-Osaka high speed rail line capable of even higher speeds.

  • Reply Thomas Paine May 18, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Wow, so sad the 2 men resigned on principle when the budget got too high. GREAT JOB ! 210 kph = 130 mph ! OUTstanding !
    I wish we had these trains in the USA !
    In California, a Bay Area train to silicon valley San Jose would be fantastic, and probably be quicker then any car commute, which can be 1-2 hours ! For 30 miles.
    So, I guess in all these high speed trains, there is one electric motor per car? INTERESTING. And the motors can probably brake by recirculating current?

  • Reply JoachimderZweite May 19, 2019 at 5:49 am

    The Japanese who always plan ahead decided that an advanced economy needed to be able to transport a skilled population quickly and efficiently to and from their jobs and schools and industries.

  • Reply Zweihander11 May 21, 2019 at 4:56 am

    Nowadays most infrastructure aimed to shift from fossil fuel to electric sources still face fierce opposition and claims about cost rise. Have humanity ever learned about history before?

  • Reply Hermann Fegelein June 1, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    They may have bullet trains but they can't beat warp speed.

  • Reply Hermann Fegelein June 1, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    And here in Philippines our trains break like after 2 uses…just like a gold sword

  • Reply Peter Wang June 2, 2019 at 1:59 am

    Great Japanese economic prosperity until USA torpedoed japan with plaza accord

  • Reply Locoroco June 7, 2019 at 2:07 am

    So japan saved the railway industry?

  • Reply YOUTUBE 平成ゆうた Hiranari Yuta June 7, 2019 at 12:46 pm


  • Reply ChickenCurry66 June 8, 2019 at 3:17 am

    ※China's Shinkansen pays no copyright fee.

  • Reply fridge666 June 21, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    A long time ago in the galaxy trains were profitable but then turned into socialistic subsidized taxpayer money pit and instrument of corruption and state power.

  • Reply William Wong Kim Ping June 25, 2019 at 11:00 am

    How Japan’s Bullet Trains Changed Travel, How CHINA’s Bullet Trains Changed the World. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  • Reply Chi Huang June 25, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    China has the fastest trains in the world.

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