Railways in Japan -- from the beginning to Shinkansen --

Dr Fuminao Okumura (Engineering Department)

Saturday, 18 March, 2006; 7:30-9:30pm

Seminar room, No1. Newnham Terrace, Darwin College

In Edo era (1603-1867), before railway service was introduced, freight was principally borne by water transportation and people traveled mainly on foot. In 1872, the first railway was inaugurated in Japan between Shinbashi and Yokohama and this development of the railway system encouraged the industrial evolution in Meiji era. During the two world wars, the railways were heavily used for passenger and freight transportations, but in the consequences, they suffered serious damages. After the World War II, the railways were slow in recovering from the damage and they could no longer cope with the transportation demand. By 1960's, automobiles and airplanes became dominant in both short and long distance transportations. The bullet trains, 'Shinkansen', emerged in such a crucial period in the history of railways in Japan. The creation of 'Shinkansen' was based on a totally new conceptual mode of transportation, such as the use of standard gauges, the installation of new railway lines with wider area coverage, the use of passenger-only system and the use of motor car. After the successful introduction of Shinkansen, the railways took back the main role in middle to short distance transportations. Shinkansen also had a significant influence on the speeding-up of railways in Europe. This seminar tries to illustrate the development of the railways in Japan, focusing especially on the development of Shinkansen in the past and present, which has introduced a number of significant benefits both in Japan and world-wide.