Photographing the Shinkansen: Maibara

During media interviews a couple of times I have asked where my favourite place is on the shinkansen network. The answer is Maibara (米原). Thanks to there being a bend just before the station (if approaching from Tokyo/Nagoya) and also a slope down into the station, it’s one of the few sections of the shinkansen network where you can really get a sensation of speed. This was particularly the case one time when I was travelling on a delayed shinkansen (yes, it does happen) – a story for another post.

These days Maibara station is in the city of Maibara – but this wasn’t always the case, as it used to be Maihara (town), as I have written about in my books Shinkansen and Japan: The Basics.

In terms of getting photographs, you can get some good shots of trains passing the station from the platform itself (all Kodama and some Hikari services stop here – but the Nozomi (which make up the majority of services pass by)).

However, if you exit the station on the west side and then follow the roads running parallel to the shinkansen line itself, you can get some great shots of trains passing from there. You can also get pictures of the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) in the background. Although the building looks quite unspectacular from the outside, inside it has one the quietest wind tunnels in the world, as I discussed in my book Shinkansen (as you are passing on a shinkansen you can also see some old experimental trains – including the 300X which set a speed record on the stretch of shinkansen line to the south of Maibara which is particularly flat – some photographs of these can be found here).

While on the subject of Maibara, it’s also worth mentioning that as well as being able to change trains to get to the Hokuriku region, it’s also a convenient place to get out and change trains to get to Sekigahara. Also in the area is Mount Ibuki – although not one of Japan’s tallest mountains, I do like to be able to see it as I go by. Even from the trains you can see the ski lift and slopes, and, as well as its links to the Hokuriku region, the snow in the area was another reason why one of the few shinkansen stations that opened in 1964 was at Maibara (see also my post about Gifu-Hashima).

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