Dokodemo Door!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Okay, this is pretty messed-up

Yeonpyeong island being shelled off the west coast of South Korea.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shinking to Nagoya

I hate waiting for trains. Jeez, can't they go any faster?


...well, anyway, one of the things I like the most about travelling around Japan is the ease of riding the shinkansen. This past weekend, I headed to Nagoya from Osaka. Once you get on the bullet-train, it takes 50 minutes. Consider going from the downtown of one major city to the next? Minus the hassles and delays of air travel? On a mode of transportation boasting zero fatalities out of 7 billion passengers over 46 years? Hands-down, it's the best way to go. I can't believe there's any disagreement whatsoever on whether or not to build these things in the U.S.

No, it wasn't me who was coughing.

Alas, it's not perfect. Once in a while, it gets shut-down due to earthquakes or typhoons. In February, I had the rotten luck to wait for a train in Shin-Osaka when the entire Tokaido line was shut-down due to a downed power line traceable to four missing bolts.

Anyway, within the next 4 months, the high-speed rail network is going to undergo two significant expansions.

December will witness the start of train service to Aomori along the Tohoku line in the north. Aomori is not a densely-populated area or an important place per se, but it's at the northernmost point on Honshu and the project was technically-complex, requiring the construction of the second and third-longest terrestrial rail tunnels on the planet.

Starting service to Aomori is also a big step towards fulfilling a major goal for 2015: extending the shinkansen line under the Tsugaru strait through the Seikan undersea train tunnel (the world's deepest and longest). Thus, high-speed train service will be brought to southern Hokkaido. Considering that the Tokyo-Sapporo air route is the busiest in the world, there will probably be no shortage of passengers.

In fact, the video clip at the top shows the E5 locomotive, which was specially developed for extra-high speeds to make the Aomori and future Hokkaido routes competitive with air travel.

In March, 2011, the Kyushu line in the south will extend northward from Kagoshima to Fukuoka. Coming from the direction of Tokyo or Osaka, Fukuoka's Hakata station has always been at the end of the line since the mid-70s and it's kind of a bummer that you can zip to the northernmost point of Kyushu but, suddenly, you have to get-off and board a slower mode of transportation to reach virtually anyplace else on that rather large island.

Getting around has never been easier!