With the success of Abenomics making orders from Tokyo a bit more affordable, and with yours truly having successfully escaped the snowbelt for a bit of a pay raise and an inexpensive Sharpstown crash pad, I thought I might pick up the recently re-released 383 series in N gauge. (Some people start fights, some people smoke rocks, I collect Japanese trains.)
So I punch in Osaka to Nagano (the 383′s home turf) in Google, and it sends me through… Tokyo.
What in blazes?
Sure, Shinkansen is fast. But the 383 is no slouch – it cruises at a hare above 80, and tilts into curves. The closest US analogue is Amtrak Cascades between Portland and Seattle. Surely there must be something up. Especially since Google’s second choice routes us over… Kintetsu?
Right. Not all Shinano services operate the Osaka-Nagoya segment. So let’s stack the deck in favor of the 383. What can we get? A perusal of multiple departure times and settings suggests there’s no way to get Google to route you over the Osaka-Nagoya segment via the 383. You’re on Kintetsu or you’re on the Nozomi, period.
With a 6:00pm departure, you can swing a 7-minute transfer at Nagoya, which is in the realm of “shit you’d be an idiot to try in the US, but since it’s Japan you’re probably okay.” That gets you some decent Shinano seat time:
Except, glance at the itinerary, and right there below the 383 is… via Tokyo.
That routing nearly doubles your distance, from 280 miles to 470. And all it costs is… a half hour. Even with the best-possible timing, the most you can hope to gain riding state of the art trains on a direct route over the conventional rail network is… a half hour.
How indirect is the Tokyo routing? Put it this way. It’s like going from Houston to Dallas… via Seguin.
That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what you can do with a high speed rail network. You can route Austin to Houston via Temple and BCS. You can route Dallas to Houston via Fort Worth and Temple. You can do all sorts of crazy. And you’ll still end up with times that are faster than driving, or 80mph trains on Union Pacific trackage that you’ve upgraded at great expense.