Fifty years ago this year, the first Shinkansen bullet train shot out of a station platform in Tokyo.
Nine days before he declared the 1964 Tokyo Olympics open, Emperor Hirohito presided over a ceremony that witnessed the first white-and-blue 'bullet' train streaking from the Japanese capital at 210km/h (130mph) past Mount Fuji and on to Osaka in record time. Sprinting along a brand new, dedicated high-speed passenger track, featuring the fewest possible curves and shooting through 67 miles (108km) of tunnel and over 3,000 bridges, this was no one-off exercise to publicise the international games. The Tokaido Shinkansen (-New Trunk Line') would become not just the world's fastest and most advanced, but also its most intensely used main line railway.
Today, the latest, snake-like, 16-car Shinkansen trains leave Tokyo for Osaka up to every three minutes, each offering comfortable seats for 1,323 passengers and cruising at 270km/h (168mph). From last year, trains on the Tohuku Shinkansen, one of the six high-speed lines opened over the past fifty years, scythe through sections of Japan's mountainous landscape at 320km/h (199mph). Japan's renowned bullet trains have made domestic flying all but redundant between major cities. Not only are they very fast, frequent, spotlessly clean and on time to the second, but their carbon footprint is 16% that of cars making the same journeys according to the Japan Railway and Transport review. And since Hirohito waved that first train away from Tokyo in 1964, there have been no fatalities on the network. In 50 years, two trains have been derailed, one during an earthquake in 2004, another in a blizzard last year, yet the Shinkansen's safety record has remained unimpaired.
Fukuoka Prefectural Police on Friday took the acting chairman of the Kudo-kai organized crime group into custody for a shooting death that took place seven years ago, reports the Sankei Shimbun (April 24). (Tokyo Reporter)
Japan's Cultural Affairs Agency said Friday it has put 18 cultural assets on the newly created "Japan Heritage" list in hopes of luring more foreign tourists and revitalizing regional economies. (Jiji Press)
Two men, a male teenager and a female teenager are under arrest on suspicion of abducting an 18-year-old teen from Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, and holding her captive, police said Friday. (Japan Times)
The Apple Watch launched globally on Friday with a small queue of Japanese tech-addicts lining up in Tokyo for Apple Inc's first wearable gadget, but there was no sign of the excitement usually attached to the company's product rollouts. (Reuters)
An unusually high level of radiation has been detected at a park in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, the ward office said Thursday, prompting speculation that some kind of material has been buried there. (Japan Times)
Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Wednesday announced the arrest of an organized crime member believed to be behind multiple fraud scams involving fake pregnancy accusations, reports TBS News (April 23). (Tokyo Reporter)
On Thursday, police from five prefectures, including Kyoto, arrested two executives of a company operating live streaming site FC2 Live in Osaka on charges of distribution of obscene material, reports the Sankei Shimbun. (Tokyo Reporter)
A pet shop in Tokyo has been ordered to close for not maintaining a clean and safe environment for animals. It is the first time for such an order to be issued by the Tokyo metropolitan government. (Japan Today)
Kunihiko Kase, frontman of the music band "Wild Ones," was found dead at his home in Minato Ward, Tokyo, early on Tuesday. The Metropolitan Police Department is examining the cause of death, with the view the musician may have killed himself. He was 74. (The Japan News)