Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quick Trip

There was a young lady named Bright
Whose speed was much faster than light;
She set out one day,
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night.

~Arthur Henry Reginald Buller, in the December 19, 1923 issue of Punch

Maybe she sailed a Laser?

We've been travelling this past week, and though not anywhere near the speed of light, we were doing a respectable 270 kph for a while - on the ground! The Shinkansen (new trunk line) - In Japan, it's "the only way to fly".

Nozomi 700 series trains in Tokyo Station. Earlier cab design (the Duck) on the right; latest design (the Eagle) on the left. The aerodynamics of the Eagle squeezes an additional 30 kph out of the Nozomi, allowing it to hit 300 kph on some sections of the Shinkansen line. The main limit to speed is noise, so near cities, the trains are a bit slower.

Think of it as flying without the time table restrictions (there's one leaving every ten minutes), waiting in line, security bozos (sorry Mam, your baby's pacifier could be a liquid explosive), waiting for luggage (you keep it with you), CO2 emissions (perhaps the most efficient mode of travel available except for my much slower bicycle), cramped seating (it's more like business class), cranky flight attendants (food and beverage service offered with grace), or air turbulence. When you consider the time lost getting to and from airports, going through check-in and security and waiting for your baggage at the destination, it is faster to take the Shinkansen than to fly. And much more comfortable.

For guys who need additional motivation for taking the Shinkansen....

Ms Hisanaga went to high school near a Shinkansen station and became interested in them. She worked as station staff for 2 years, then as a conductor for 4 years, passing the driver test at age 25. She is one of 35 women out of a total of 622 Shinkansen drivers. The job is much more demanding than shown here. Drivers must keep eyes on the track at all times, watch for warning lights and listen for audio alerts from their panels, and are busy changing speeds by braking or accelerating to match limits while making sure to make each checkpoint at the precise time required - within a few seconds. You can literally set your watch by the Shinkansen.

We visited Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture where we stayed in a Buddhist Temple, and after a 4.5 hour bus ride through forested mountains and along jade green rivers, came to Nachikatsuura on the coast where we stayed on an island for a night and then went inland again to see Nachi waterfall - 133 meters (436 feet) high, and more temples and ancient Shinto Shrines. Massive, Japanese cedar trees, hundreds of years old, towered above us everywhere we went. Awesome nature, amazing history, new friends (monks) and food to die for. All of it part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We'll be posting about the entire trip on Pacific Islander blog as time permits this week. Back to sailing Sweet Bluesette tomorrow. We are blessed.

As Ralph Kramden would say, "How sweet it is!"

Until next, sweet sailing.


Don Snabulus said...

I would love to see the US build a few of those lines, but I don't see it happening in our current social/political environment. I guess we will have to come visit. ;)

Pandabonium said...

Don - ah well, in the long run, the trains are no more sustainable than automobiles. But they do make less pollution while they last.
I hope you do make it over here again sometime.

Zen said...

Love the bullet train!