Japan Tests New 311 MPH Maglev Train

Japanese Maglev Train
Dom Pates, Flickr

A new maglev train purported to reach speeds of 311 mph was tested for the first time on the Yamanashi test track in Japan this week. When put into service in 2027, the high-speed, magnetically levitated train will connect Tokyo with Nagoya, reducing the travel time from the current hour and a half down to only 40 minutes.

While China currently holds the speed title for in-service commercial trains with its airport-to-city maglev in Shanghai, Japan has long been the global leader in high-speed rail. Its famous Shinkansen bullet train network debuted way back in 1964.

With this new train, the L0, Japan will almost certainly reclaim the “world’s fastest” title. However, the Chinese have claimed they have a train in development that will zip along at over 600 mph.

In any case, the L0 will carry up to 1,000 passengers at a time. And in just over 30 years, Japan will have extended the line to Osaka, 300 miles from Tokyo. The government plans to eventually expand the network around the entire country.

Floating trains zipping around the country at almost half the speed of sound; we, or at least the Japanese, are living in the future.

Photo Of The Day: Koyasan, Japan’s Temple Town

hktang, Flickr

Between the gentle peaks of the Kii moutain range, just south of Osaka, sit over 100 Buddhist temples in a beautifully dense forest. This seemingly hidden town of Koyasan, has possibly the densest concentration of temples anywhere in Japan, all of startlingly different architectural styles, from the simple to the ridiculous, none of which are any less than astounding. Xiaojun Deng beautifully shows the iconic vermilion color of Japanese temples in this photo of the Konpon Daito pagoda. Koyasan makes for an amazing and unique day trip from Osaka or Kyoto, showing Japan‘s often forgotten mountainous side.

If you have an amazing travel shot, share it with us in our Gadling Flickr Pool and it may be featured as a future Photo of the Day.

Five Scenes From A Spring Sojourn In Kyoto

Grant Martin, AOL

I’ve just returned to Japan to lead a tour of Kyoto and Shikoku for two and a half weeks. In my first 24 hours here, in Kyoto, I’ve tried to pay special attention to everything because I know that our first impressions in a place are always the freshest. After a day or two, the initially striking detail becomes commonplace. Three things have struck me tellingly in these first 24 hours. The first is the way every package in Japan – the toothbrush in my hotel room, the little cookie wrapped in plastic, the dried squid I bought in the convenience store – comes with a tiny triangular slit cut into one end, so that you never have to struggle to open it. The second thing is the ubiquity of vending machines. One of the first things I noticed after going through customs in Osaka airport was the bright blinking vending machines that offered both hot and cold drinks – actually, I’d forgotten about the hot drinks and only realized this with a start after I pushed what I imagined was a nice cool ice coffee and picked up a hand-burning hot coffee instead. Last night I passed literally a dozen vending machines in the two-block stroll I took from my hotel in Kyoto. And the third thing is this: this morning, my first morning in Kyoto, I took the elevator from the 14th floor to the second-floor dining room for the breakfast buffet. On my way back to my room, I shared the elevator with three neatly coiffed and coutured middle-aged women. They were going to the 10th floor, and when the elevator reached their floor and the door opened, the women all bowed to me and said, “O-saki-ni, shitsureishimasu.” Translated, this means: “Excuse me for leaving before you.” For me, these three things symbolize Japan’s pervading thoughtfulness, dedication to service and consideration of others. It’s wonderful to be back!

***

I learned a new word today: sakura-hubuki. Literally this means “a rainfall of cherry blossoms.” My tour group experienced this pink-petaled rainfall as we walked along the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto past a sparkling stream. Cherry trees line the path and at one point the breeze swelled and suddenly we were surrounded in swirling soft-scented petals, landing gently on our shoulders and gathering in our hair like snowflakes. Magic!

***

When it rains on a spring day in the back streets of Kyoto, a different world emerges: the grays and blacks and whites of the cobbled streets shine, the fallen cherry blossom petals glisten in pink relief against the wet stone, the branches of the trees seem drenched in bright spring green, umbrellas blossom and the tittering Japanese tourists in their brilliant rented kimonos seem to have sprung from a woodblock scene.

***

I have just spent an out-of-time hour at a traditional tea ceremony. The gracious and elegant hostess explained the intricate choreography of the ceremony, where each minute gesture – stepping into the tea room, wiping a bamboo spoon, whisking the tea, turning the bowl toward the guest – is carefully thought out and requires weeks or even months to master. She said that “wa-ke-se-jaku” is at the heart of the tea ceremony; “wa” is harmony; “ke” is respect; “se” is purity; and “jaku” is tranquility. After an hour I emerged feeling entirely refreshed but even more, transported – as if I’d been taken to a different plane entirely. And then I realized that I had – I’d been transported to the plane of wa-ke-se-jaku.

***

In the cobbled, winding-lane neighborhood of Kyoto I’ve adopted as my home, I’ve just discovered a tatami-matted teahouse with its own private garden, where koi lazily swim, water plonks from a bamboo spout, and moss patches the pocks in ancient-looking rocks. I am sitting on tatami sipping matcha, thick green tea, and nibbling on a rice paste and red bean sweet and scribbling in my journal. I love the neighborhood temples of Kyoto, the perfectly tended pocket parks, the museum-like shops that sell grainy bowls and shiny lacquerware – but I feel like I could stay in this tranquil tatami-matted space for a day and a night and never feel the need to leave. I need look no further; Kyoto is here.

What’s the Best Country In Asia For Eating?

From the 17th to 19th century, Grand Tourists (usually from England) would set out on a journey of discovery. This excursion had a near-cemented itinerary, a list of places a young man (it was almost always a man) would have to visit to have a well-rounded education. Paris, Geneva, Venice, Bologna Rome, Vienna were all must-sees. The travelers weren’t really traveling to eat or try new foods but we could guess they probably ate well.

If there was a grand tour of eating in the 21st century and we had to corner it to one continent only, it probably wouldn’t be Europe. It would most likely be Asia, which has a tremendous diversity of flavors and ingredients and seems more and more clear that 21st-century eating habits are adopting Asian cuisine as its own.

There was no better place to explore this idea than at the annual Lucky Rice Festival. At the Grand Feast, housed in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City, I asked a slew of well-known chefs what the best country in Asia is for eating.

Here’s what they had to say:DANIELLE CHANG
Founder and organizer of the Lucky Rice Festival
Taipei. There are so many great places to go. I’ve actually had better Japanese food in Taipei than in Japan. Just as I’ve had better Szechuan food there than in China.

CHRIS CHEUNG
Chef at Cherrywood Kitchen, New York City
Taishan, China. It’s where the first wave of immigrants in New York came from. There’s a fish and pork sausage there that is really great. My grandma made it especially well.

BRAD FARMERIE
Chef at Public, New York City
Singapore or Vietnam. I’ve been to both places and they’re both the highlights of any trip to Asia, in terms of eating. Singapore does all Asian cuisine very well. Vietnam is especially great for freshness and seaside deliciousness.

HUNG HUYNH
Chef at Catch and The General, New York City
Vietnam. Specifically, Saigon. We have the finest and freshest flavors there. It’s not too sour, not too sweet. Just right.

SUSUR LEE
Chef at Lee, Toronto
Chengdu. I ate so well there. The food is robust. The people are robust. The best thing I ate there was this hot and sour glass noodle dish. The balance of sweet and sour was so good. I just couldn’t stop eating it. I also ate an entire rack of lamb. It was six years ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

JEHANGIR MEHTA
Chef at Mehtaphor, New York City
Bombay. I know it well because I grew up there. But also have to say Tokyo is great, too. My sister worked there for a long time and I would often visit and eat everything I saw.

MASAHARU MORIMOTO
Chef at Morimoto, New York City and Philadelphia
I don’t know.

HONG THAIMEE
Chef at Ngam, New York City
Chiang Mai. It’s my heart and soul. I often crave kanom jeen from the Warorot Market at night. It’s a fermented rice noodle with gravy on top. The sauces are variations on curry.

DORON WONG
Chef at Toy, New York City
Singapore. It’s so diverse. You’ve got Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Indian. Plus, the local cuisine. And the weather is so great there, too.

CEDRIC VONGERICHTEN
Chef at Perry St., New York City
Tokyo. I was there four years ago and was blown away by the high quality of everything I ate. The flavor combinations of the food are amazing there. If I get the chance, I really want to go to Singapore, as well.

ANDY YANG
Chef at Rhong-Tiam, New York City
Hong Kong. I really love the Asian flavors blended with a French and English influence. There are such exotic ingredients there. I’d specifically eat a lot of street food there.

80-Year-Old Climbers Vie For Record Of Oldest To Summit Everest

Min Bahadur Serchan looks to remain the oldest to summit Everest.Two octogenarians are preparing to go head-to-head to determine who will hold the record for the oldest to summit Mt. Everest; 81-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan of Nepal and his 80-year-old rival Yuichiro Miura of Japan are both currently in Everest Base Camp on the South Side of the mountain. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, the two climbers will set out for the 29,029-foot summit as they both look to fulfill a dream of climbing Everest in their eighth decade. Setting a new mark for the oldest person to accomplish that feat would simply be icing on the cake.

Sherchan is the current record holder, having previously climbed Everest in 2008 at the age of 76. He managed to reach the top of the world’s tallest peak exactly one day before his Japanese counterpart, who was 75 at the time. That was Miura’s second successful summit as he also climbed the mountain in 2003 at the age of 70.

Unsurprisingly, the rivalry between these two climbers is a bit one-sided. Sherchan says that he hasn’t returned to Everest in an effort to keep his record but instead he simply wants to attempt to climb the mountain in his 80s. Miura on the other hand is quoted as saying, “records are meant to be broken.” Clearly he would relish the opportunity to claim this crown for himself. In order to do that, however, he must first reach the summit and then hope that Serchan does not.

The two men will soon get the opportunity to prove that they still have the strength and skill to pull off this difficult climb despite their advancing age. If everything goes as planned, the Sherpa team charged with fixing the ropes up the mountain will complete their work tomorrow. That will clear the way for the commercial climbing squads to begin their ascents once they get a clear weather window that will provide access to the summit. The forecast calls for high winds over the next few days, but things should start to improve early next week. After that, the two men will have their duel on the slopes.

[Photo Credit: Yuichiro Miura]