Japan's bullet train is one of the country's most prominent icons.
Locally called the Shinkansen, the bullet train has recently landed on the news for a totally different reason — ousted Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn reportedly fled Japan using the train, which he snuck onto while hidden.
The iconic image of majestic bullet train blasting past the snowcapped peaks of Mount Fuji has become a symbol of Japan's growth into an economic and technological juggernaut.
Over the past half-century, the Bullet Train has become inextricably linked with the nation and the people it has served. Since its debut in 1964, the Shinkansen has grown from a single line connecting Tokyo and Osaka to lines linking all parts of the country. These days, the BBC reports that one bullet train leaves Tokyo for Osaka every 3 minutes.
Here's a history of Japan's bullet train:
Benjamin Zhang wrote an earlier version of this story.
The first bullet train trip left Tokyo for Osaka at 6:00 AM on the morning of October 1, 1964...
APOn its way to Osaka, the train zoomed past Mount Fuji. Four and a half hours later, the Shinkansen arrived at its destination.
APToday, the newest bullet trains can make the trip in just two and a half hours...
Getty/Kyodo News / Contributor...and the extensive Shinkansen network — operated by Japan Railways — has reached the far corners of the country.
Central Japan RailwayThe Shinkansen's record for reliability and safety is impeccable, and accidents are an extreme rarity.
APOne of the secrets to the Shinkansen's success is its innovative propulsion design.
APInstead of having a locomotive pull or push the train along engineers placed electric drive motors in each of the train's cars.
APThis allowed for more uniform performance characteristics.
APOver the years, the Bullet Train has been popular with celebrities and dignitaries. Everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger...
Reuters...to the King and Queen of Sweden have hopped on the Shinkansen.
REUTERS/Masaharu HatanoGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel went for a ride.
APTom Cruise traveled by bullet train during a press tour for the "Mission Impossible" series.
APNaturally, he got mobbed by fans.
APFormer First Lady Rosalynn Carter and daughter Amy rode with the conductor.
APWhile the late Senator Ted Kennedy...
AP...and astronaut/former Senator John Glenn chose to ride in the passenger compartment.
APThe original and most iconic of the bullet trains was the '0 Series.'
Getty/AFP/STR/ContributorIncredibly, the 0 Series remained in service from 1964 until 2008.
Getty/ Kyodo News / ContributorThe cockpit of the original bullet train was simple but effective.
APThe oldest bullet trains had a top speed of 130 mph...
AP...today's fastest bullet train, called the 'Hayabusa,' has a maximum operating speed of 199 mph.
REUTERS/Kyodo KyodoAfter the 0 Series came the 100 Series in the 1980s.
Getty/Kyodo News/ContributorOther highlights include the menacing 300 Series...
Wikimedia/toshinori baba...the sleek 400 Series...
Wikimedia/Sui-setz...the fighter-jet-like 500 Series...
Getty/Manabu Takahashi/Contributor...the duck-bill 700 Series...
AP...and the N700 Series.
Getty/Manabu Takahashi/ContributorJapanese Shinkansen technology has been a popular export in recent years.
APModern high-speed trains in China like this CRH2...
Getty/AFP/MARK RALSTON...and Taiwan's 700T are based on bullet train technology.
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