Photographing the Shinkansen: Takasaki

I have already done a few posts about taking photos of the shinkansen and my previous post was about Urasa on the Joetsu Shinkansen. This post is about photographing the shinkansen at another station on the Joetsu Shinkansen, Takasaki (高崎) – together with discussion about why I have been to Takasaki so many times over the years.

As I mentioned in my previous post on Urasa, normally photographs at stations aren’t the most interesting, but you can actually get some good shots at Takasaki and a car park next to the station due to being able to see so far and as some trains (especially ‘dead-heading’ ones) pass through at speed. To get to the car park (West Park 1000), exit the west side of the station and then turn right. The car park is recognisable due to its spiral shape (see the picture on the left side of the map below). You can take the lift to the top floor. I suspect you are not supposed to take pictures there, but I have never been stopped.

Here is a view from the car park…

A 200 series renewal approaches Takasaki

But you can get some great shots from the platform too…

One of the good things about Takasaki is that it’s easily accessible from Tokyo and due to it being on both the Joetsu Shinkansen and Hokuriku Shinkansen, there is quite a bit of traffic (by JR East standards) – still not as busy as the Tokaido Shinkansen, together with some variability in series types.

Takasaki was the home city of Yasuhiro Nakasone, who I have studied in a variety of different ways since 1994. Takasaki and the shinkansen were discussed in my article ‘From polling station to political station? Politics and the shinkansen‘. In 2001, when I was passing through Takasaki, there was even a banner on a hotel supporting Nakasone’s idea of a directly elected PM…

I had also been to Takasaki to get a photograph for my book Shinkansen

An E2-series shinkansen passing an E4-series shinkansen at Takasaki station

From 2007, I began researching the JL123 crash and Takasaki became a convenient place to go to on my way to Ueno-mura. Although I drove from Tokyo the first time (and on a couple of other occasions), most other times I took the shinkansen to Takasaki and got a rent-a-car from there to then go on to Ueno-mura, and sometimes Fujioka, Maebashi and other local places. This provided a great opportunity to get additional photographs at Takasaki station.

Takasaki also became a place where I did some research rather than as a place to pass through. In 2009 I had dinner with the author Hideo Yokoyama (see this post). Linked to that I also changed trains at Takasaki in order to get to Doai station and to visit Mount Tanigawa.

I had also continued my research about the shinkansen and its impact, particularly in relation to depopulation, and Takasaki was discussed in both my article ‘The Shinkansen’s Local Impact‘ in Social Science Japan Journal and my chapter contribution ‘Contrasting Experiences of Growth and Decline in Regional Japan‘, in Japan’s Shrinking Regions in the 21st Century: Contemporary Responses to Depopulation and Socioeconomic Decline by Peter Matanle and Anthony Rausch.

By this time, I had also started working on my first novel, Hijacking Japan, the first part of which is largely based on the Joetsu Shinkansen, so some of my trips along the line were to aid with that. In the end, although in the book the shinkansen is operated by a fictional company rather than JR East, I decided to get a photograph of an E4-series shinkansen for the front cover. Knowing that Takasaki station would be the best place to do this, I went back and got the following shot.

But I can’t finish this post without including my possibly my favourite shinkansen photograph ever, which I took at Takasaki. I had been at the station to get pictures of E4 shinkansen for the cover of Hijacking Japan and knew that one would be passing Takasaki without stopping. This I thought would be perfect. What I couldn’t know was that East-i (a train that travels at full speed, like ‘Doctor Yellow’ on the Tokaido/San’yo Shinkansen, checking that there are no problems with the line) would be passing through. Just before the E4 passed through, there was a warning of a passing train in the other direction. I was worried that this train – whatever it was going to be – would get in the way of my shot of the E4. In the end, I was swivelling left to right to get pictures of both passing the station… but also got this shot of them passing each other, together with ones with some lovely reflection of East-i on the E4.

Click here to see other posts about taking pictures of the shinkansen.

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