Jul 12, 2018
What do Tokyo (pop. 9.2M), Osaka (2.7M), Nagoya (2.3M), Kobe (1.5M), and Minamiuonuma (58K) all have in common? They all have Shinkansen stations within the city limits.
Yes, Minamiuonuma, which only has 0.6% the total population of Tokyo, has its own Shinkansen station. But hey, I’m not complaining. One of the great things about living in Minamiuonuma is that we have the Joetsu Shinkansen here that gives us ready access to travel anywhere in Japan.
An interesting feature of having a Shinkansen station in such a small city is that it is probably the quietest Bullet train stop in all of Japan.
Here’s the foyer...
and the stairs leading to the ticket area…
And the ticket area…
And this was during morning “rush hour.”
Okay, so this begs the question: why? Why would such a sleepy town have a Shinkansen stop?
Well, you’ve probably heard of the term: “bridge to nowhere”—well, some might call this a Shinkansen to nowhere.
The thing is, this is Niigata, so if you want to know why there are some of Japan’s best roads, tunnels, trains, and other infrastructure, you need to look to one man: former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka.
The king of Pork. Japan’s most notoriously corrupt and yet strangely beloved politician in the postwar period. This is a guy who once said, “I never stole money, but it was I who spent it!”
Tanaka championed infrastructure projects as a means of connecting rural and urban Japan, and naturally, he prioritized his home prefecture of Niigata. This led to the construction of major expressways, and eventually, the Joetsu Shinkansen line.
Is it excessive? Tanaka argued it wasn’t, because it opened up a prefecture that was locked away by mountains and snow. After all, he would ask, why should any prefecture in Japan be isolated?
So yes, it may seem a bit excessive, but not to me, and not to the other residents around here who use that Shinkansen as a lifeline to Niigata city, Tokyo and other major urban centers.
To us, our quiet Shinkansen is a blessing, which is probably why there is a statue of Kakuei Tanaka right in front of it:
Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.
Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).