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Zipping cross-country in a super-high-speed train has become commonplace in many countries these days, but it was unheard of when Japan launched its bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka 50 years ago Wednesday. The Shinkansen, as it's called in Japan, gave a boost to train travel in Europe and Asia at a time when the rise of the automobile and the airplane threated to eclipse it.
Araki, now 73, drove the Shinkansen briefly in the summer of 1967 as part of his training as a railway operations engineer. Japan started building a high-speed line during World War II, but construction was halted in 1943 as funds ran out. Neither the service provider nor the domain owner maintain any relationship with the advertisers. It also was a symbol of pride for Japan, less than two decades after the end of World War II, and a precursor of the economic "miracle" to come. Last week, he slipped back in time as he sat in the driver's seat of one of the early model bullet trains at a railway museum outside of Tokyo.

The idea was revived in the 1950s, but many questioned undertaking such a costly project, particularly with the expansion of air travel and highways.
France and Spain are among the leaders in Europe, and Turkey last year became the ninth country to operate a train at an average speed of 200 kph, according to Railway Gazette. Shanghai launched a German-built maglev train in 2004 on a 30-kilometer route between the city and the airport.
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The first bullet train, with its almost cute bulbous round nose, traveled from Tokyo to Osaka in four hours, shaving two and a half hours off the 513-kilometer (319-mile) journey. He pulled a lever on the control panel, looking straight ahead as he was trained, though all he could see were other museum exhibits. Criticism turned to pride when construction, financed partly by an $80 million World Bank loan, was completed in time for the Tokyo Olympics in October 1964.

Today's bullet trains, in Japan and elsewhere, have reached and in some cases exceeded 300 kph (186 mph).
The latest model, with a space-age-like elongated nose, takes just two hours and 25 minutes. By average speed, China has the fastest train in the world, averaging 284 kph on a route between Shijiazhuang and Zhengshou Dong, according to a biennial World Speed Survey by Railway Gazette. The United States is an exception, though there are proposals to build lines in California and Texas. The fastest train in the US, Amtrak's Acela Express, averages 169 kph (105 mph) on a short stretch between Baltimore and Wilmington, Delaware, the speed survey says.

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