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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Transportation in Japan


In 1872, passenger service began with a steam locomotive that linked Shimbashi station, in Tokyo, to the nearby city of Yokohama. This set the stage for a nationwide rail network. After 17 years, a railway system was established that linked the main cities along the old Tokaido (Eastern Sea Route) so that a person could travel from Tokyo to Osaka by train. Now, along with the development of automobile and air transportation, important railway services have gradually shifted to long-distance intercity transport, such as the Shinkansen and commuter lines. Commuter lines carry people from their homes in the suburbs back and forth to work.

Of the total 1,142,000 km of roads in Japan, 73% is paved. Construction of expressways (toll roads) began in the 1960's and has faced many challenges: the nature of the terrain, high concentration of factories and housing, high land prices along the routes, and added reinforcement needed to withstand earthquakes. Construction costs are the world's highest and therefore, the tolls are also high.


International and domestic airlines didn't get started in Japan until 1953. This was due to the fact that after World War II, the Japanese weren't allowed to have passenger airlines by order of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP).

Haneda, Tokyo International Airport, was Japan's first commercial airport and it first opened in 1931. Until the opening of the New Tokyo International Airport in 1978, it was both a domestic and international airport. With the opening of the New Tokyo International Airport, Narita Airport, it is about 65 km outside Tokyo. 38 countries, as of 1997, with a total of 50 airlines used the airport. It is Japan's largest airport and handles over 25 million passengers per year and a little over 1.5 million metric tons of air freight. These incredible numbers put it at sixth in the world for passengers and first in the world for freight.

Kansai International Airport, which opened in 1994 handles most of the domestic flights and all of the international flights to the Kansai regions. This airport, which replaced the Osaka International Airport, Itami Airport, is actually on an artificial island and operates 24 hours a day.

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