Japan has had a reputation in the United States of being a copycat country, especially during the 1980’s when consumer cars and electronics were among the major imports that made their way into the United States. But the country has one innovation that many Americans are envious of – the high speed, or bullet, train. The island nation is just 145,894 square miles, slightly smaller than the entire state of California and mostly mountainous, making train travel a far more practical form of transportation. The Shinkansen model train is considered the highest form of transportation in Japan.
Another iconic part of Japanese culture is the Hello Kitty cat. Hello Kitty is an anthropomorphic (gender neutral) cat that can be found on everything from toasters to maternity hospital gowns. No smirk or sassy face from Hello Kitty, though. Not only is it gender neutral, it is expression free. The cat has been seen in the culture for more than 50 years.
Hello Kitty and the bullet train have finally been paired together, with the first Japanese Hello Kitty high speed train being prepared for operation in the summer of 2018. Currently the only sneak peek available is in the form of concept art, but you can be sure it will have the iconic pink color and bow tie prominently displayed. The train is being built by the West Japan (JR West) Railway Company, which uses the Shinkansen model and has a top operating speed 177 miles per hour.
The interior of the train is expected to have the same Hello Kitty pink color and bow theme decorating its interior. There will be at least one unique feature of the train: there will be no passenger seats in the first car because it will be devoted to the sale of local specialty foods and merchandise. No official word on whether these will be Hello Kitty themed, but you should expect it.
The new train will be replacing the current Neon Genesis Evangelion-themed bullet train, which will be ending it service in May of this year. The Hello Kitty train will run between Osaka and Fukuoka in Western Japan on the Sanyo line. You can keep up to date on the progress of the Hello Kitty model here.
West Japan Railway Company is advertising the project by a simple, minimally worded, 90 second video that can be found here:
The Japanese can be said to be fanatical about the punctuality of their train transportation system. Their on time efficiency for arrivals and departures is less than one minute. Americans may have fast cars, but they have to deal with everything from road construction to accidents delaying their trip. (It’s hard to understand how highways with no stop signs or stop lights can find traffic coming to a crawl or even a complete halt.) Of course, the downside is that Japanese workers come up empty on excuses for being late to work.
Whether the United States will ever see a bullet train become a reality is up for debate. A bullet train operating at a maximum speed of 177 miles per hour would take about 26 hours to go non-stop from San Francisco to New York. The average non-stop flight time is about 6 hours, not counting checking in and delays. America is not Japan, but then they have their national icon Hello Kitty on their privately owned transportation and we get flying ads.