By Sarah Sieloff, Bloomberg CityLab; October 7, 2020
It’s hard to overstate the power and significance of Japan’s bullet trains. A global symbol of the nation’s technological sophistication for more than 50 years, the network of high-speed trains known as “Shinkansen” (or “new trunk line”) is both a source of national pride and a critical element in the country’s transportation infrastructure. The trains can hit 200 miles per hour on more than 1,800 miles of tracks, knitting together an archipelago that, if lined up against North America, would stretch from British Columbia to Baja, California. Since launching in 1964, the bullet trains have proved to be remarkably safe, resilient and lucrative: Not only do many of the lines turn a healthy profit, but Shinkansen technology, including the software that supports the trains’ famous punctuality, is a valuable Japanese export.