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Coronavirus casts shadow over Japan's bullet train operators

Workplace reforms to outlast epidemic, leaving some JR units struggling

More Japanese companies are cutting back on business travel budgets due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, which translates to fewer passengers for bullet trains. (Photo by Koji Uema)

TOKYO -- Japan's bullet trains may be an icon of the country's technological prowess, but the shift to remote working and a prolonged downturn in travel brought on by the coronavirus threaten to sidetrack the high-speed services and the Japan Railways Group companies that operate them.

The famously sophisticated and profitable shinkansen, as the bullet trains are known in Japanese, offer fast, comfortable transport across the country for business and leisure travelers. But these days the bullet trains as well as conventional lines are running virtually empty as the government labors to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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