Japan has caught global attention with its high-speed rail since its implementation in 1964. Traveling up to 360 mph; the high-speed train puts Japan light years beyond any other place. Less than 20 years after Japan became the first non- western democracy at the end of WWII in 1945. initially being discussed in the 1930s. The Shinkansen name was first formally used in 1940 for a proposed standard gauge passenger and freight line between Tokyo and Shimonoseki that would have used steam and electric locomotives with a top speed of 200 km/h
New Pubic Place: Japans public life has always existed on the streets – unlike the western world there is no plaza or square. In 1968-1969 this became a noticeable issue. Students wished to protest the war in Vietnam but the question was where could one stage a protest big enough to make an impact if there were no squares. The answer was found in the stations- the nodal point of an intense network- it was the perfect place for a large gathering. (The shinjuku station was the venue of these protests).
A new kind of Urbanism emerged from these stations: At these new meeting places sprung busy centers. The stations are a catalyst for growth- both below and above ground. This phenomenon made Tokyo a successful polycentric city.
It is my intention to qualify these places. They are extremely important because they exist simultaneously as both architecture and urbanism
Tokyo is a world city; with a population of over 12 million- this city not only has a great impact on its country but on the world. It is a global city and the Shinkansen allows for its influence on a macro level, reaching some of the farthest points in Japan
Other Cities: Because Japanese residents can easily travel to these cities the cultural landmarks and historic places can maintain their use and identity.
There is a strategic relationship between city and region. The stations give quality places to meet and interact within the city. The placement and relationship of the stations are strategic both locally and regionally, connecting people from city to city. The quality of these places and trains keep ridership at a sustainable level.
Why Japan/ Tokyo?The future of travel exists in Japan and it has been there since 1964. Traveling at 360 mph in a train is something that is not a part of the American understanding. The US still uses and archaic, 18th century form of rail travel. Comparing the distances and times it takes on Amtrak to the same distances and significantly different times it takes to travel on the Shinkansen gives us an understanding of the drastic differences.
Los Angeles to San Francisco (380 miles) and takes 11 hours by Amtrak. The distance from Tokyo to Kyoto is 320 miles and it takes 140min (2hrs 18min) on the high-speed train.
If we analyze distance by perception and time, rather than length, the size of Japan shrinks.
the size of Japan based on ‘distance-time’ becomes significantly smaller, about three times smaller than its actual length. California gets much larger: two and a half times larger than its actual size.
The only way LA can become a sustainable mega city is for it to mimic Tokyo- place in need of studying!
If Japan is running at ‘Hyper-Speed’ how fast is the US going?
The future of travel exists in Japan and it has been there since 1964. Traveling at 360 mph in a train is something that is not a part of the American understanding. The US still uses and archaic, 18th century form of rail travel. Comparing the distances and times it takes on Amtrak to the same distances and significantly different times it takes to travel on the Shinkansen gives us an understanding of the drastic differences. The distance from Boston to DC is 400 miles and takes 8 hours by Amtrak a similar distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco (380 miles) and takes 11 hours by Amtrak. The distance from Tokyo to Kyoto is 320 miles and it takes 140min (2hrs 18min) on the high-speed train. There is a pressing transit problem in Los Angeles and other US cities. The purpose of this trip is to analyze Tokyo and other Japanese cities connected by Shinkansen; Japans high-speed train. Each city is uniquely different but connected by the same spatial understanding, one that exists at hyper-speed. With- in the cities, especially Tokyo, there are advanced networks of transit. The city networks not only connect the city to itself, but to the high-speed rails, allowing for quick travel to destinations with-in the city from other cities.
Perceiving Distance and Urbanism through High-Speed Trains:
If we analyze distance by perception and time, rather than length, the size of Japan shrinks. The physical size of Japan is 1000 miles, measuring from NE edge of Aomori to the SW edge of Kagoshima (excluding the Hokaido Prefecture which an island north of Aomori with a length of approximately 240 miles). The 1000 miles from Aomori to Kagoshima on the Shinkansen takes 11 hours. That is the same time it takes to get from LA to San Francisco on Amtrak, a distance of 380 miles. If we ignore what we understand based on satellite images and conventional mapping techniques, the size of Japan based on ‘distance-time’ becomes significantly smaller, about three times smaller than its actual length. Using that same reasoning the size of California gets much larger. From San Diego to Eureka is 700 miles and takes 19 hours on Amtrak increasing the ‘distance-time’ of California by two and a half times larger than its actual size.
Cities like Tokyo that have global influence can affect other cities along the high-speed rail on a macro scale. This hyper-connection allows for fast exchange of manpower and knowledge. The Shinkansen makes each cities influence far larger than its physical size. Imagine a young artist from Hiroshima having the ability to travel to Tokyo for the day to display their work, or someone in need of specialized medical care from Nagano quickly going to Tokyo to receive it. The high-speed rail gives Japanese residents endless opportunity and connections outside of normal grasp.
Public Transit : an Expression of Public Life:
With public transit a new kind of public life has spawned. There is a strategic relationship between city and region. The stations give quality places to meet and interact within the city. The placement and relationship of the stations are strategic both locally and regionally, connecting people from city to city. The quality of these places and trains keep ridership at a sustainable level.
Tokyo is the hub of the Japan Rail, and in itself has its own complex train network. The efficient network allows for connections and accessibility to districts, architecture and cultural amenities. Tokyo has a rich history and distinct levels of urban experience, each district having its own character. It is a global city and the Shinkansen allows for its influence on a macro level, reaching some of the farthest points in Japan.
Kyoto is an ancient city it was the first capitol city before Tokyo (Edo). As a city it has a significant train station, Kyoto Station. It is historically and contemporary significant in both architecture and culture.
Hiroshima was destroyed in 1945 by the atomic bomb, the city it underwent reconstruction in 1949. The post war influence in architecture and urbanism was significant in this city.
Kagoshima was a busy port city during the medieval and Edo periods. The Japanese industrial revolution started in this city, there for its urban development is significantly different than other Japanese cities. In 1914 volcanic explosion covered the city in ash.
Nagano is most famous for its 7th century Buddhist temple, one of the oldest known in Japan. In 1998 the city hosted the Winter Olympic games.
Aomori is home to ruins from 5000 BC. It was first connected to Tokyo by rail in 1891. WWII bombing in 1945 destroyed almost 90% of the city, like Hiroshima the cities redevelopment was influenced by post-war democratic architecture and urbanism.
In the past year I have begun to study the morphologies of cities. I am passionate about understanding the factors that make cities and the forces that shape the physical and tangible realm. Recently I conducted a study that compares the growth Los Angeles and Tokyo. The factors that I explored were a historical analysis of the growth of land and population. This research lead to understanding the differences in density and development between the two cities. I wish to continue my studies on Tokyo and Japan as a whole. The cities within Japan; especially Tokyo; not only have a historical and cultural significance, they are light-years ahead of most places in the contemporary world. The purpose of this research is to understand how the phenom¬¬¬enon of high speed travel effects cities on a macro and micro level. Currently I am working with Vinayak Bharne, a professor at the School of Architecture and the School of Planning, Policy and Development, on a book about Japan comprised mostly of his essays. He has offered to give me an essay in the book and is excited about my research ideas.
I have confidence that my research will influence USC continuing studies in Asian countries. I will produce both qualitative and quantitative work through maps, diagrams and visual documentation (photos, videos, sketches, etc.), and a 5,000-10,000-word paper fit for publishing.
Tokyo itself is a great example of how a polycentric megalopolis can work, it is a city that Los Angeles can learn a great deal from. Los Angeles at the moment is a sprawling megalopolis, with the promise of polycentricism that transit can bring. On a macro level Japan is a country that operates light-years beyond other places, understanding the functionality and opportunity of regional high-speed transit is beneficial to both the US as a whole and its cities.
I believe this research and travel will greatly influence me on a professional and educational level. It is important to travel to other cities and experience the similarities and differences; this gives designers a clearer understanding on how to design coherent and working places. Traveling will give me an understanding of other urban conditions and the future of cities on a global level. As a professional I wish to be at the forefront of urban analysis, in the development and research techniques that will provide a new understanding of the urban realm.