TOKYO: ASIA'S NEON MEGALOPOLIS brims with some of the most efficient, safe, and fast public transit on Earth. This new video captures the capital’s trains, taxis, and streets in motion at night, and feels like a futuristic roller coaster ride straight out of Tron.
Justin Tierney is a US- and Japan-based videographer who specializes in time-lapse filmmaking. He released “Tokyo Aglow” on Vimeo earlier this week. Transit day passes in hand, he suction-cupped a Canon 5D Mark III to the windshield of a train and the windows of cabs, giving us a blurry, breakneck front seat to the gorgeous streets of the planet’s biggest urban centre.
“I come from a line of rail workers and train buffs in New England,” Tierney says, but he had “no interest whatsoever” in transportation. “That changed after I visited Japan.”
The greater Tokyo area, home to some 35m people, very much depends on its reliable, far-reaching transit system rail (Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station holds the Guinness World Record for the busiest subway station in the world.) Plus, Tokyo, like all of Japan’s major cities, is serviced by Shinkansen, the nation’s famed bullet train. It was the first high-speed train on the planet when it opened back in 1963, and is world renowned for its sterling record of zero accident-related passenger injuries or fatalities and its average delay of only six seconds.
The train featured in Tierney’s video is Yurikamome, Tokyo’s monorail: it connects the mainland to the artificial island of Odaiba and snakes around the city’s iconic Rainbow Bridge. The taxi scenes were shot from the rear seat while driving from the Sumida to Chiyoda districts, passing through Ueno and Akihabara.
The film shows people getting from point A to point B on foot, too: Specifically, Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo’s equivalent to Piccadilly Circus or Times Square.
“All things being equal, for transportation, I think people choose the path of least resistance,” Tierney says. Taking Japan’s famous trains makes mobility easy: “You can board and disembark in the center of the city. The fare is reasonable. There is no security rigmarole. It’s spotless and safe. And besides, it’s fun to travel at grounds speeds approaching 200 miles per hour.”
Next, Japan is working to roll out its new “maglev” train that hits over 600kmh (372mph) at home and abroad. It uses magnets instead of wheels to eliminate friction completely: Electromagnetic forces pull the train along the tracks for a nearly silent ride, and one of the world's fastest. Last year, it broke the train speed world record in a test run that reached 603kmh.
The Yurikamome monorail doesn’t hit those numbers — though Tierney’s work makes it feel like it’s travelling at warp speed. We’ll have to wait and see if a camera can be suction-cupped to the outside of a maglev.
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