TOKYO -- Central Japan Railway (JR Tokai) celebrated the 50th anniversary of the country's first shinkansen bullet train service at Tokyo, Shizuoka, Nagoya and Shin-Osaka stations Wednesday.
At Tokyo Station, a ceremony was held on platform No. 19 as the Nozomi No. 1 train left for Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, at 6 a.m.
"The technology of the shinkansen, which has led Japan's economic, cultural and social development, is the fruit of efforts made by many companies," JR Tokai President Koei Tsuge said at the ceremony.
The Tokaido Shinkansen, which links eastern and western Japan, was the world's first commercial train service to achieve speeds of more than 200kph, underlining the country's postwar recovery.
The train has traveled a total of 2 billion kilometers, a distance equal to circling the earth 50,000 times. It has carried total of 5.6 billion passengers over the past five decades.
When the shinkansen began operating, it connected Tokyo and Shin-Osaka in four hours, running at a maximum speed of 210 kph. Travel time between the two stations on the newest trains has been cut to 2 hours 25 minutes. They run at a maximum speed of 270 kph, and this will rise to 285 kph next spring.
In 1964, the shinkansen served an average of slightly over 60,000 passengers a day. By fiscal 2013, that figure had risen sevenfold to 424,000.
Japan's shinkansen network has expanded over the decades from Aomori Prefecture, in northern Honshu, to Kagoshima Prefecture, on Kyushu island in the southwest. The Hokuriku Shinkansen will begin running from Nagano to Kanazawa next year, and the Hokkaido Shinkansen will be rolling by 2016.
JR Tokai is planning to bring a maglev train line into service by 2027 that will link Tokyo and Nagoya in 40 minutes, with trains operating at a maximum speed of 500 kph.