Japan Tests New 311 MPH Maglev Train

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.

An unforgettable ride on Japan’s bullet train

I don’t know who’s behind the recent glut of Japan-centric videos that’s been floating around web. Then again, it doesn’t matter, does it? All that matters is the creators behind these short movies are some seriously creative individuals. The video above comes to us courtesy of daihei shibata, a Tokyo resident who decided to film his recent train ride on Japan’s Shinkansen (bullet train) between Shinosaka and Tokyo.

Not only did Daihei film his entire warp-speed ride on the fast-moving trains using his digital camera, he’s also applied a unique editing treatment to the end product. You’ll notice there doesn’t seem to be a bottom half to the video – it’s simply a reflection of the image at the top. The end product is half home movie, half kaleidoscope – a trippy visual treat that both delights and amazes the viewer. Combined with the energetic song “So High” by rockers Van She and you’ve got the makings of some seriously great eye candy. Whether you’ve been to Japan or not, here’s your chance to take a wild journey through the unique eyes of one Japanese local. Enjoy.

China plans 236 mph rail link between Shanghai and Beijing

The Chinese rail Ministry has announced plans to link the nations capital with its financial capital. Beijing and Shanghai are a little over 650 miles apart, and the current rail link takes over 10 hours.

The Chinese claim to have mastered the technology required to build their own high speed trains, and plan to operate them on the new line at speeds up to 236mph (380 km/h) which should cut the current journey time in half.

Previous high speed rail projects in China include one of the first commercial Maglev links which operates between Shanghai and the airport. In 2005 a regular high speed link between Beijing and Tianjin was opened and is based on the highly successful German ICE rolling stock.

High speed rail links have changed the landscape in Europe, and dedicated high speed lines already link the UK with France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.

Being able to commute from city center to city center in under 5 hours will prove to be a very efficient solution in China, and will most certainly eat away at the airline market. The line is scheduled to be completed in 2012, a mere 4 years from now.

“No Reservations” season 4, episode 16: Tokyo

Location: it’s Tokyo time! Bourdain finally makes his pilgrimage to every food host’s favorite culinary destination, the capital of Japan and one of the world’s largest cities.

Episode Rating: Three bloody meat cleavers out of five. Bourdain made a concerted effort not to do the traditional “this is Japan” food show. It made for interesting subject matter, but the episode also seemed a bit disjointed as well.

Summary: In Anthony Bourdain’s mind, Japan is all about the relentless pursuit of perfection. No matter if it’s food, art or sport, the Japanese are almost religious in their attention to quality and detail. It is through this lens that Bourdain takes us on a tour of Tokyo, one of the most famous but also most confusing places to visit on earth (after visiting earlier this year, I would have to agree). After an earlier No Reservations visit to Osaka, where Tony proclaimed he was not going to “do the traditional” Japan visit to Tokyo, it was interesting to get an entirely different Bourdain perspective on the country, one which was noticeably more subdued than his previous visit.
There’s no better insight into Japanese culinary culture than noodles, and Tony starts his visit by meeting up with famous Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto for some soba. Made mostly from buckwheat, soba noodles are “one of the most fundamental foods” in Japanese cooking. The noodle shop they visit has been perfecting the art of making the perfect noodle since 1789. Each noodle is cut to the exact width of 1.6mm to ensure proper cooking time and consistency. It was clear Tony was loving his noodles, and the camera work here confirms this – we see some serious “noodle porn” with plenty of close-ups and slow-mo effects for good measure.

Not to be outdone by Japanese noodle-making is the Japanese fanaticism for quality cocktails. To better experience the phenomenon, Tony visits Bar IshinoHana, world-famous for its exquisitely-crafted cocktails. According to Tony, the bartender spends an “agonizingly” long time making Tony’s drink – relax man, it’s going to be one-of-a-kind! In the pursuit of his hypothesis that the Japanese are obsessed with perfection, Tony asks the bartender what inspired him to become a bartender. Amusingly enough, the bartender answers his idol is Tom Cruise in Cocktail. How’s that for an odd source of inspiration?

In order to work off his designer-cocktail hangover the next day, Tony visits a sports complex to learn more about Kendo. The sport, involving the ancient martial arts techniques of sword fighting, is as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one. Participants use their shinai, or bamboo sword, to try and outmaneuver and out-think their opponent, aiming to strike body hits.

Back in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, Tony reunites with chef Morimoto after-hours at his restaurant, XEX. Morimoto prepares Bourdain a surprisingly delicious multi-course dinner using a whole Monkfish. Not a single organ is wasted – Tony gets to sample the liver (tastes like foie gras), fried monkfish with seaweed and bamboo shoots, and a “Nabe” (NAH-bay) made with Monkfish cartilage and skin. All unexpectedly prepared and unexpectedly delicious.

Tony seems to be tired of Tokyo, so he hops on a Shinkansen bullet train to take in some of the other nearby sites. I think Bourdain must be getting up there in years, because the next 5-10 minutes of the show take an unexpected turn into HGTV territory while Tony learns about the art of Ikebana, or Japanese flower arrangement. Really? Look, I don’t doubt that it’s a cool art form, but it really did seem out of place in your typical No Reservations episode that centers on gluttony, shooting firearms and killing animals. Perhaps Tony is becoming more mellow as he ages?

All the arts and crafts have made Tony hungry, so he heads to a famous Yakitori joint known for their top-notch chicken skewers. Let me tell you – there is not a single fingernail of that chicken which Tony did not eat in this scene, where he devours rare chicken breast, spleen, chicken sashimi, the chicken tissue connecting the liver and heart, chicken skin, and chicken tataki. I swear, I will not make any “tastes like chicken” jokes here. Tony makes a point of commenting on the raw chicken, which he finds surprisingly delicious. Apparently illness is not an issue, as the chicken is killed immediately before preparation.

Tony ends his adventure outside Tokyo with a visit to a knife-making shop in Sakai City, and with a traditional Kaiseki meal with chef Morimoto, prepared using fresh seasonal, regional ingredients. Tony samples some Cod sperm during his meal, but this kind of weird food indulgence almost seems routine at this point.

Appropriately, Bourdain ends his Tokyo visit with a trip to one of the city’s most famous sushi establishments. The sushi is simply made, amazingly fresh and accompanied by perfectly-made rice. Tony can’t help but hide his glee, proclaiming it the best sushi he’s ever had. Another reminder that when it comes to anything in Japan, the “devil is in the details.” Anthony Bourdain’s Japan is much of the same – an idealized vision of perfectly crafted foods, supreme attention to the little things and an overarching philosophy of minimalism. In modern Japan, that’s perhaps only half the picture – there are plenty of elements of Japanese culture, technology and bizarreness that Tony intentionally leaves out here. But for a show with a singular focus on food and spinning us a pretty narrative, it makes for a nicely packaged hour of television.