14, 1995 21:06
14:38 Nozomi Shinkansen; Hiroshima-->Tokyo-Japan ::
14 JUN 95
Have you ever moved over the earth at 300 kph? Without leaving
the ground? Japan's Nozomi Shinkansen, Super Bullet trains, reach top
speed at about 300kph.
I've alwasy considered train travel to be 'AK-47 sight-seeing'
Little bullets of information, scenic views, faces, situations; cultural
tracers: all zip past the window, rapid-fire. Capture them in a moment,
for they are gone and another's already blazing by. It's interesting trying
to construct a composite image from pointillist bullets. On a Nozomi,
those bullets strike faster than you can think so the dots in the image
become larger, more vague.
The unevenness of the Japanese countryside (81% of the land surface
too steep and unstable to build on) means that in order to keep the track
strait and flat there are going to be lots of tunnels. For example, the
Shinkansen line runs underneath the mountains behind the port of Kobe.
The only opening to the city along the tunnel is Shin-Kobe Station. The
Nozomi trains don't stop there, only the regular Shinkansen (slower at
a max speed of 250kph). If you were planning on getting a glimpse of the
earthquake damage from the train, you'll have to take the much slower
regular Japan Rail and private lines.
When not underground, the image bullets ack-ack-acking through
your consciousness reveal terra-cotta rooves and stucco walls stretching
out under a net of powerlines. The Japanese appear not to 'see' the black
or yellow cables strung between reinforced concrete poles or slung over
the tall steel-frame towers. This surprises me, given the cultural attention
to architectural detail and finish, to the aesthetics of design, particularly
in older structures built before the economic realities of population,
space and income dictated a general movement toward efficient implementation.
But then too they seem undistracted by all the visual noise in their advertising,
much of it due simply to the detailed nature of the character set.
In more rural areas the high-tension towers run the ridgelines
of the surrounding mountains. Below, the dwellings and powerlines give
way a little to rice paddies.
When passing through urban areas more concrete apartments rise
above the terra-cotta into the low wire net. Smoke-stacks and their spew
pop up amidst flat grey and beige buildings of steel and concrete that
bulge with pipes and tanks.
Japanese rail ain't at all like Thai or Malaysian trains which
are slower than cars, even buses, and which seem to traverse the front
doorsteps of village dwellings. On the Shinkansen, and even the local
commuter rails, the distance between faces is too great to discern features,
or even whether the expression is happy or glum. It doesn't matter much,
the bullet is so quick there's no possibility for that momentary eye contact,
the fleeting contact of individuals that you often experience on the slow
trains that causes you to wonder as the face recedes in the distance what
the life of the owner is like.
Patrick. -- Responses Sought --
Ever since these events, there has been speculation
as to whether it was necessary to drop the bomb, whether a demonstration
of its capabilities would have prompted the Japanese to surrender and
whether a warning should have been given. Whether the Japanese would have
resorted to using atomic weapons if they had invented them first has raised