Friday, March 04, 2005

A note on the jr700

The JR700 is the biggest most civilized airplane you've ever been on. Sure it flys kinda low and it has no wings, but it zips between hub cities fast enough to make the temporal distance between Tokyo and Osaka similar to that of Tokyo's outlying suburbs. This morning I caught a Nozomi super express bound for Osaka at 08:53 and had arrived at Shin-Osaka by 11:27. Another 45 minutes on a much slower train out to Kansai airport and I'm ready to board the United Airlines (777) meat-can back to the west coast. One can debate the wisdom of traveling halfway across a country to catch a flight, sufice it to say that some bad planning on my part was involved.

If airline travel were actually as civilized as the Shikanasen perhaps some of the enjoyment I felt at going from point A to point B on an airplane as a child would have remained... Eliminate to roar of gaint turbines and their associated compressors, eliminate 5% relative humidity, eliminate breathing thin stale recycled air, eliminate upper atmospheric turbulence, looking out postage stamp sized windows (why do planes have windows at all at this point?) being packed in with your fellow sufferers without enough room to move with disturbing them, all of those things gone...

Just a few observations on Shikanasen travel.

Unless you're traveling during the high travel seasons, don't bother with reserved seats... Just show up at the train-station buy a non-reserved ticket and catch the first train headed in the right direction.

A JR700 Nozomi between Tokyo and parts south is 11 cars in length, seats about 8000 people 5 across and is about 330 meters in length... My timetable lists something like 115 Tokyo-Osaka departures each direction per day, that's not counting the Hikari and Kodama trains which are slower and make more stops.

Externally the lines of these trains are flat-out sexy in a functional is beautiful way. airplanes and cars have a lot to aspire to in terms of something that's as visually slippery as a JR700.

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