(NOT a bullet train)
Japan leads the planet in passenger train service, running up
to 26,000 trains a day. It puts the United States to shame,
where passenger trains barely survive. Japanese trains are
incredibly efficient and punctual, with many different levels
of service, from local to the super express (shinkansen). My
2005 trip made full use of the Japan Rail Pass, available for
purchase to foreigners before they arrive in Japan.
Japan's super express trains are called "Shinkansen", which
means "new main line". They come in different shapes, and
the newer one pictured above both looks and moves like a
rocket. Nevertheless, English speakers, especially
Americans, still call them "bullet trains", a term unknown in
Japan. I think we should all learn how to pronounce
"Shinkansen", and abolish the use of "bullet train".
Here in the Tokyo Japan Railway Station, a older Shinkansen
has pulled up next to the modern train. The clunker on the
right does resemble a bullet, but that is clearly an inferior,
outmoded design, which must be on its way out. The Japanese
keep improving the Shinkansen so they go ever faster, and the
future lies with sleeker trains like the one on the left.