Shinkansen: From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan

The image of the shinkansen or 'bullet train' passing Mount Fuji is one of the most renowned images of modern Japan. Yet, despite its international reputation for speed and punctuality, little is understood about what makes it work so well and what its impact is. Since 2000 I have been conducting research on the shinkansen - its development, what other countries can learn from it, and the symbolism of it. My first book based on this research is Shinkansen: From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan.

This is a comprehensive account of the history of the shinkansen, from its planning during the Pacific War, to its launch in 1964 and subsequent development. It goes on to analyse the reasons behind the shinkansen's success, and demonstrates how it went from being simply a high-speed rail network to attaining the status of iconic national symbol. It considers the shinkansen's relationship with national and regional politics and economic development, its financial viability, the environmental challenges it must cope with, and the ways in which it reflects and influences important aspects of Japanese society. It concludes by considering whether the shinkansen can be successful in other countries developing high-speed railways. Overall, this book provides a thorough examination of the phenomenon of the shinkansen, and its relationship with Japanese society.

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(C) Christopher P. Hood, 2003-17.

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