A REALLY Low Tunnel

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This is probably the lowest car tunnel I’ve ever seen! It is north of Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station and it goes under all the train tracks (lots!) that lead out of the station. The lowest part of the tunnel (most of it!) is just 1.5 metres high. It’s also quite narrow so it is a one-way road plus a small path for pedestrians. The roof is so low that some taxi companies had to change the symbol on top of their taxis because it was too high and wouldn’t fit through the lowest part of the tunnel. Nothing higher that a normal car would have any chance of getting through. There are scrape marks on the beam where the tunnel goes low to show that some vehicles get stuck.
Something interesting is that I think it is too low for Japanese police cars to go through (they have a funny built up red light on the top of the roof) – so it would make a great getaway tunnel!!
Some people say the tunnel is haunted, though there were lots of people walking and cycling through it when I was there and I didn’t see anything strange at all. But there are said to have been accidents because of the tunnel being so low, for example people say that a motor cyclist actually died because he went into the tunnel too fast and because the lowest part of the tunnel is further in he didn’t see it till it was too late and he hit the edge where the lower part of the tunnel goes down. They even say that the force of hitting the beam made his head actually came off (pretty yucky!). It may just be a silly story of course…!

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A Special Parking Place

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This is a vertical multi-story truck trailer parking lot in the harbour area of Shinagawa district in Tokyo. It is here because lots of trucks carrying cargo containers come and go constantly in this harbour area. Once the trucks have unloaded the containers they will come to this trailer parking place and leave their trailers here before going on to another job. Once they have parked their trailers the trailers get taken up to a parking space like a fairground ride or Ferris wheel! I think this is an amazing construction which saves a lot of space.

The Doctor of Trains!

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One of the rarest things in Japan is this bright yellow shinkansen train (shinkansen is the Japanese name for Bullet Trains, and literally means ‘new main line’). This train is called Doctor Yellow – because it looks after the health of the tracks and it’s yellow! It’s the track test train for the high speed lines to make sure the tracks are in good, safe condition. Doctor Yellow is only 7 carriages long (a normal passenger shinkansen has 16 carriages) but each carriage weighs exactly the same as a normal shinkansen carriage so it can test the tracks and the pantograph wires as if it really were a proper shinkansen. Doctor Yellow carries lots of equipment to measure every aspect of the rails and tracks. The Doctor Yellow trains test the Tokaido (Tokyo to Osaka) tracks about 3 or 4 times a month. The schedule is top secret, so that it why it is such a rare sight. This was the first time I have ever seen it so it was very exciting!

PS: you can read more about Dr. Yellow here and here.

Tasty Trains

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These rice and seaweed shinkansen trains (and seaweed tracks) are from a small café in Akihabara, Tokyo which only sells train themed food and drink! The waiters in this café wear locomotive train driver hats as well. They also have a small model railway with cameras on the front of the trains and a video screen so you can see what it is like to be driving the model railway train. The café’s walls are decorated with old train tickets and pictures and there are train driver hats which you can wear when eating your train food and drink!

World’s Fastest Train

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The current fastest train in the world is the Maglev bullet train (the Japanese call it ‘Linear’) which was invented in Japan. It uses magnetic technology so it levitates above the track without touching it. Of course when it starts it’s on wheels, and then as it picks up speed the wheels fold up (like an aeroplane) and the magnets kick in, so that it hovers. The Maglev can travel at around 505 km/hr. That is why the Maglev in this photo is missing its nose – when we took this picture it was doing a full speed test run!
We saw the Maglev at the test line in Yamanashi Prefecture. There’s a visitor centre that’s worth going to see (although it’s not easy to get to without a car). The Maglev is scheduled to be opened to the public between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 (I want to be the first to ride on it!).