These recordings I did purely because I was there, for example the Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo takes approximately three hours so of course I am going to record some of the trip… But I did a couple of other train recordings too, since Japan has one of the best train systems on the entire planet! As a simple comparison: New Zealand and Japan have almost the same land mass, but compare the populations: Japan 127 million vs New Zealand 4 million. But an even more interesting comparison, Shinjuku station in Tokyo is the busiest station in all of Japan, and back in 2007 every day an average of 3.64 million people passed through it, so that is almost the entire population of NZ passing through just one of the many stations in Tokyo, let alone the rest of Japan!
Along with being an incredibly well organised and efficient means of transport throughout Japan, the train system is also responsible for a lot of very interesting sounds. As I said, I wasn’t in Japan to record trains but I just couldn’t help myself – as I had purchased a 7 day JR Rail pass (only available to tourists and must be purchased before arriving in Japan) it meant for 7 days I could travel anywhere at no additional cost…. So here are three recordings I made, for nostalgia/virtual tourism if nothing else!
The subway is the primary means of transport within Tokyo and Osaka, and as soon as you learn the system, accessing the city becomes easier. And it was Osaka that I ventured amongst first. I got off a train at Higobashi Station and was about to walk upstairs and out the exit when the subway train gave a blast on its horn as it left the station & I felt compelled to stop and record it. Of course I only had to wait 5 minutes for the next train to arrive and after turning my levels down enough to not overload the recording I managed to cleanly capture the arrival, the horn and the departure.
After my time in Osaka I next relocated to Tokyo using the Shinkansen aka bullet train, which travels at 240-300kmph using magnetic levitation – basically like flying very close to the ground!
The last train recording I did was on the main Tokyo subway, the Yamanote line, which runs in a loop around Tokyo intersecting at each station with all the other Tokyo train lines.
The first few times I came to Japan I paid for subway trips the old school way, ie by calculating the fare for each trip & buying a single ticket. But I soon wised up – in Osaka there is the ICOCA card and in Tokyo the SUICA card – both act as debit cards that you load with some cash and then swipe past a sensor as you pass through a subway gate before getting on a train. And then similarly swipe at the gate again when exiting and the fare is automatically deducted from the credit on your card. This makes life so much easier – none of the stress of miscalculating your fare and then having to do a fare adjustment before exiting etc… As soon as you arrive in either city I would strongly reccomend getting the appropriate card! And if you are a tourist the JR Rail Pass can be a great way to affordably see a lot of Japan – its available as a 7, 14 or 21 day pass and can be used on most (but not all, you have to be vigilant) subway and Shinkansen lines…