Observations on Japanese Culture - Part 3 - Trains and Efficiency

The interior of a 700 Series Shinkansen (Nozom...Nozomi N700 is the newest, most elite train in the Japan Rail fleet. The clientele on this train looked like cabinet ministers, rock stars and Yakuza. We were accidentally booked on the Nozomi between Nagoya and Kyoto, although our JapanRail passes didn't allow it. The conductor was very concerned about the incident, but our reservations showed that we hadn't made the mistake -- most likely an inexperienced ticketing agent -- so he let us continue the journey without paying the $2000 or so that it would have cost! I'm thankful for that!

The train was scheduled to leave at 12:14. It pulled into the station at 12:12 and left before 12:15. The trains were very punctual, and it looked like all the schedules for 3 months were printed in fat paperback books about the size of an edition of the Guiness Book of World Records.

Here's a shot of the cab for a "Rapid" train, which was two slower than the Nozomi.

The dashboard has a slot for the driver's personal pocket watch. The watch was synchronized with another digital clock on on the train.
Every minute as the train ran from station to station the driver would check the time with a schedule from the central computer.

Also note the cute white gloves. Every time he synchronized he would point into the distance in front of the train with his white gloves.

Part of what helped keep the trains efficient were the markings on the floor. Passengers would be assigned a specific car, door, seat. They'd line up at the markings on the floor. When the Shinkansen came zooming up to the platform it would suddenly slow, and then coast to rest exactly in line with the markings. In less than a minute everyone would be on board and the train was ready to zip away.

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