Despite my lack of Nihongo speaking and reading abilities, one thing that makes my travel across Japan quite manageable is the vast network of trains and the website called Hyperdia.
I mentioned on my previous blog post that in order to experience India one must experience its railway system, I guess same analogy perfectly fit for Japan, though by comparison the latter has by far better, cleaner and safer system.
If you been to Japan, whether it is for work, study or tour, chances are you will find yourself familiarize with the term “JR” which stands for Japan Railways. There are six Japan Railways Group currently operating across the country four main island of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. The surrounding region around the capital city of Tokyo is under JR East.
Run by JR East(East Japan Railway Culture Foundation), the Railway Museum is like a one stop shop to everything railway related locally and abroad. For an entrance fee of 1,000 Yen for Adults, 500 yen for students and 200 yen for toddlers,payable using your Suica card, the two storey building is divided into seven section, depending on the era and the purpose of the train.
The second section is called “Nationwide Railway System” which showcase the train used on the later part of Meiji era to Taisho era (1912-1926) and marked the nationwide expansion of the railway system.
The fourth exhibit is called “Mass Transport and Electrification”. Train lines underwent technological advancement after World War II, where local lines started to fully use electricity and power transmission.
The one that really exemplifies Japan’s train technology can be found at sixth exhibit called “Birth of Shinkansen”. It is a culmination of various works, study and development of railway system since Meiji era, a technology that was developed out of a very simple requirement- to solve the passenger congestion problems along Tokaido line (Tokyo-Kobe route).
Shinkansen and I share a special connection.
I work in the Telecommunications field and part of my job is to ensure that every passaeger will have uninterrupted service whenever they use their mobile phone inside the bullet train. So you can only imagine, how much hours I spent analyzing, studying each and every turn of the bullet train.
It also contains a brief timeline explanation of the railway system development, display of train related materials and the one I like the most is how the train drivers uniform evolve from Meiji era to the present.
Children at the museum not only run around to go inside the trains but their dream to operate one is fulfilled at the miniature simulation and for those who wanted to design and built one, a short course inside the lab can be attended.
Another aspect as to what makes railway system in Japan more inspiring is how much the citizen respect and appreciate the people who work in the rail system in general. I explore this country alone, I always tell my family and friends at home not to worry about me as long as there is a nearest train station then I am safe.
Apart from providing easy commute, for me the best part of taking the train in Japan whether I’m on my way for a day hike, a customer meeting or out of town trips is the chance to pullout a paperback from my bag and enjoy the quietness inside the train. I can’t remember how many novels I finished reading inside the train, I read regardless whether I’m standing or sitting.