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Japan Adventures: Transportation

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Japan Adventures: Transportation

[fusion_text]By Eric Wong

In my two months in Japan, the one aspect of Japanese culture that seems to permeate into everything is the pursuit of perfection. Life in Japan, as seen in transportation, is inseparable from the influence of that goal.

Growing up in New York City and relying on the MTA to get back and forth to school every day has left me with a jaded view of public transit. Frequent delays and failing infrastructure are traits that I have come to associate with taking the subway. As for the bus, it was a necessary evil that was to be avoided at all costs.

Fast forward to just seven weeks conducting research and exploring Japan, I now see how efficient and effective a well-run transportation network can be. Any branch of public transit, whether it is the upscale Shinkansen, the humble local train, and most surprising for me, the buses all are held to the same degree of professionalism and expectation of promised service. With timetables that are actually followed and orderly stations I find myself excited to take public transit and now see a car as a luxury rather than a necessity.


Shinkansen pulling into Shin-Kobe station.


Time tables are strictly followed in Japan. The trip from Kobe to Osaka took only 12 minutes (about half the time of a regular train on just a 25 mile trip)!

However, as with any system, not everyone can be satisfied. There are always changes to consider. For one, the strict accordance with published timetables would leave trains that arrived earlier than expected waiting at the station until their scheduled departure that, at times, meant sitting for minutes on end until father time finally caught up. Personally, that extra time spent in the stations was further dampened by their overly utilitarian-based design. While they were effective in directing passengers to their respective platforms, the stations left me uninspired and wanting more. For a space that see thousands of users walk through its gates and under its cover, train stations represent a great opportunity to showcase the local area.

Hats off to you, Japan, for showing this Brooklyn kid what public transportation can really be.

Eric is a rising junior at MIT in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a focus on the intersection between structural engineering and architecture. He’s interested in the power and process of design in creating sustainable, captivating structures. This summer Eric is researching structural optimization under Professor Makoto Ohsaki at Kyoto University through CEE and MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives).[/fusion_text]