The Shinkansen, or bullet train, is a high-speed train. The Japanese archipelago stretches a long way from north to south, and eight Shinkansen lines connect Japan's major cities. There are two types of Shinkansen lines: The original Shinkansen, which travels at speeds over 200 kilometers per hour (125 miles per hour), has six lines, and there are another two "mini" Shinkansen lines on which the trains run at slightly lower speeds. The Shinkansen allows people to get wherever they are going fast.
The first Shinkansen was created in 1964, and researchers are always working to develop new trains that can go even faster. The first Shinkansen was the 0 series. These trains had a round nose. By the time the current 500 series was created, the front of each train had a streamlined "long nose" that stretched some 15 meters (50 feet). The Shinkansen is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest train ever to carry passengers, clocking in at 300 kph (186 mph). A Shinkansen train with 16 carriages costs a whopping ¥5 billion ($41.7 million at ¥120 to the dollar). The newest type of Shinkansen train is the N700 series. The nose for this train was designed using airplane simulation technology and is known as the Aero Double Wing, because it resembles a bird with both its wings open. The N700 will make its debut in the summer of 2007 on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen Lines.
The Shinkansen is especially popular among boys. While there are many related toys and books, the best way to enjoy the Shinkansen is to ride it with your family. Maybe you can ride on the Shinkansen someday!