Last year, a tour and lecture were held on 14 December 2022 at the Railway Museum and JR East Research and Development Center in Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan. 19 people were hosted by the IEEE Tokyo Section Life Member Affinity Group and co-sponsored by the Tokyo Section TPC.
As 2022 marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the railway, a commemorative exhibition titled “150 Years of Travel in Japan Created by Railways” was held. Participants learned about the history from the steam locomotives to the Shinkansen (IEEE Milestone, 13 July 2000) and the future railways’ vision.
Japan’s railways are closely linked to social life and have reflected the times. When it first opened in 1872, it was just a means of transportation, but as the times progressed, its use expanded beyond tourism to include cargo transportation, commuting to work and school, and inbound tourism. Participants visited exhibits like historical limited express trains, night sleeper trains, blue trains, and ferries connecting remote islands (“Seikan-Renrakusen” Ferry). Japan’s railways were split and privatized in 1987 and have continued to this day. By encountering photographs and exhibits from decades ago, not only did we feel nostalgic about those days, but we were also able to understand how advances in railway technology have significantly changed our daily lives and the enjoyment of traveling.
At the JR East Research and Development Center, the participants toured various testing facilities for safety and security. Furthermore, Railway operations, smart maintenance for labor-saving, disaster prevention measures based on the early prediction of earthquakes (ocean bottom seismograph), tornado detection by Doppler radar, environmental initiatives such as the JR East Group’s long-term environmental objectives: “Zero Carbon Challenge 2050” and hydrogen hybrid trains were introduced. Finally, the “Shinkansen security, maintenance and operation system (COSMOS),” the latest initiative in transportation systems, was introduced. Through the tour and discussion, we got the impression that research and development are being carried out considering the SDGs and the environment, in addition to aiming for safe and accurate railway operation.