Jul 4, 2018

Thoughts on shinkansen safety

I read one of the news articles on City-Cost this morning, about JR East planning to implement security cameras on shinkansens. This is happening in the wake of the recent knife attack committed by a passenger that ended up taking another passenger's life. 

It's something that has been weighing on me since the incident was reported in the media, in fact. My family and I travel on the shinkansen quite a bit. We're fortunate that we have a shinkansen stop right in our small town, which heads to Tokyo in one direction and Niigata City the other way - so it's our lifeline for getting things done in the city, visiting family and friends, and so forth. 

Thoughts on shinkansen safety photo

The part that scares me is that it's so easy to get on board a shinkansen that has several hundred other people on it, without any checks about what you're carrying on you. And sure, I might be making a mountain out of a molehill - in Japan the actual occurrences of violent acts happening on the shinkansen are thankfully rare. In my mind though, I consider the "what if's" and the fact that if someone did have bad intentions, it would be frighteningly easy for them to get aboard.

I think about airports, and how frustratingly draining some of the security procedures can be, from x-ray scanning your bags to worrying about the amount of liquids you've got packed in your carry on - but I get that the purpose is to keep people safe, and understand the necessity behind it. If I'm up in the air with 300 other people, I want to know that I'm going to get from A to B safely, even if that does mean waiting in extra lines to get stuff scanned. I'm surprised that there aren't more checks for the shinkansen, too - sure, we're not thousands of miles up in the air, but does that minor detail really matter if we're commuting with hundreds of other people at a time?

I don't know how feasible the implementing of airport-like security for the shinkansen would be - the costs, the logistics and such. Some reports I've read have suggested that at Tokyo Station alone, the number of commuters an hour is around 15,000 - 20,000, and those sources stated that as a result there's limits on security measures that can be provided. To me, those commuter numbers should be the exact reason why more security checks should be put in place.



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!