Aomori Shinkansen

Back a long, long time ago, in December 2010, the new Shinkansen line to Aomori prefecture in northern Japan was opened. Shin Aomori station is about as far as you can get in a hurry from Tokyo, but that also means people "up there" are now able to go to meetings and conferences, if they really have to, in the big city. (I'm sure they all mostly prefer to stay up there in Aomori and enjoy the slow life...)

Japan likes fancy commercials and even dramas about things like this. The "CM" as it is called here sometimes contain a certain element of drama, with characters that carry a message of hope, concern, love.

In the case of the Aomori Shinkansen, they have put all of that into a series of 30 second long TV commercials.

The main guy is a young JR employee who gets selected to be transferred to Aomori prefecture - not a great move at first sight. His nick name is simply "Tokyo" and he has a lot to discover. But, the real reason he is here is that the Shinkansen will be forthcoming, thus a new breed of staff will be needed. The old guard, who have kept the stations and the lines open during all kinds of snow storms and whatnot, are proud enough, but it will be the young ones, like Mr. fresh face station worker, played by heart throb Miura Harume (from Nagano prefecture), that can make it happen!

And, if you really want to know, here is a fun behind-the-scenes video that shows how the above commercials were made:

Did I mention love? Mr Tokyo has falled in love, but his gf is going to enter a university in Tokyo. Thanks to the new Shinkansen, they will be OK...?

Back in Sweden, we have the same concept of a "trunk line" 幹線 (kansen) that connects my home town Malmö in the south to the capital city, Stockholm. We never quite made the leap to dedicated tracks. That is the reason Japan's fast "bullet trains" can run on schedule. In most other countries, the cargo trains have right-of-way as goods are considered more important than people. Since 1964, Japan put people first, and thus the success of the Shinkansen. Another feature of course is safety. No accidents in almost 50 years of service.

But, you need something else. To make trains part of the pathos of a country, I wonder if you can just import the technology, and hope that magic will happen. One of the reasons that a series of CMs like the above can move people here, is the hidden messages. You almost missed it, but isn't that old guy in a white uniform a captain of a ship, in another era...? And the way they salute...? The play on strings that move people will have to be different, depending on which country adopts fast and safe trains. Especially when dealing with people, potential passengers, in rural areas. Watching this CM I was wondering how far they would push the hints of the Imperial Navy legacy.

All that of course is a moot point. If you just need to go from A to B, it is either drive, and you will arrive a mess, too tired to make any difference. Planes? Too complicated. At least with great train connections, you can have a nap in a comfortable seat, and a bento meal, and still have time to read all you need to read before that darn meeting...


Tom O said…
Jeepers, two CONSECUTIVE posts featuring trains?!? I suppose you are next going to tell us what a wonderful thing the Seishun 18 deal is... And now you've made me think of those Christams Shinkansen CM's from 20 years ago ('Silent Night...') with that Eri Fukatsu in. Gomen, ne, but you just know how much I/ME hates trains. Hold on, how did I get to Japan in '89?????
Tom O said…
Oh boy, in NO way did any of many memories came back OR did in any did the word 'natsukashii' appear in my head. Next time in Japan will the Shin-Aomori no shinkansen tabi, even as a higaeri. Actually, chotto matte ne.. Right, first actual Shinkansen leaves at 06:28am and gets in at 10:01am. First Hayabusa leaves at 08:12am, arr @ 11:22, just over 3 hours later - amazing. Last one regular S'sen back dep 19:03, arr 23:08, Hayabusa = dep 18:14 arr 21:08. It is of course a cool Y17,000 or so each way.. But since a JR Railpass costs around Y28,000... The word 'zurui' somehow comes to mind.
Here btw is a website that requires further attention:

That's another box to tick mirai ni, a Japanese night train. Its been a while since last took one anyway but since that 'box' needs ticking. Tanoshimi!
Tom O said…
So, arrive back at just after 9pm and still time enough to head to Yuurakucho, ne...
Tom O said…
Gomen, but the guy at the very end of the last scene is the same sipping sake with Tokyo-kun. He says something to the effect that arrival (thus future) of the arrival of the Shinkansen is the beginning of the end for people him and/or his generation. 'Progress' and all that..
Martin J Frid said…
Thanks for the comments, glad if they stirred up some old memories and led to inspiration for the future!
Tom O said…
Btw, ascertained there is a night train from Tokyo to Takamatsu (think 'Okoru' card..) on Shikoku and in summer it runs thru to Matsuyama (trying to think who has been there recently...). Here's the excellent typically Japanese part. There are of course various single/twin cabin options BUT there are also 'normal' seats. Here's the great part, they lie flat! So, like me, if one cannot sleep upright, that is perfect AND are valid for use by Railpass users. The train leaves Tokyo at 10pm and arrives Taka' just after 7am. All just magic.
Martin J Frid said…
I think nobi nobi is the term you are looking for! Large rooms in the compartment to sit down or lay down on the floor and relax. I only tried it on the ship from Tokyo to Ogasawara, it was great.

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