My Favourite Shinkansen: The 200-Series Shinkansen

The next in my series about my favourite shinkansen is the 200 series. For those who are not familiar with this shinkansen, there are two things to note about it. First, it was used on the lines north of Tokyo, so had to contend with the snow conditions. Second, there were actually two variants of the 200 series; the main 200 series was based on the original 0-series shinkansen, and then the 200-2000 series which was based on the 100-series shinkansen.

Being on the northern route, rather than the blue stripe used on the lines west of Tokyo, it had a green stripe. Other colour variations also appeared over the years.

I featured a few photographs of the 200 series in my book Shinkansen: From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan

A 200-series shinkansen during the campaign promoting Tokyo Disneyland
A 200-2000-series shinkansen, which was based on the 100-series design rather than the 0-series design as used for the 200-series
A 200-series-renewal shinkansen passing typical Tokyo landscape – a commuter train, an expressway with its high noise-reducing walls, interesting as well as bland architecture, and a golf-driving-range with its enormous nets

Here are some photos that I took of the 200-series since the publication of the book…

At Takasaki station

I travelled on the 200-series quite a few times. My strongest memory being after a visit to Morioka and Akita when I hired a car and then drove in snow that was falling so hard that I could hardly see out of the window and had to rely on the Sat-Nav to negotiate corners. When I got back to Morioka, there were large bits of ice hanging off the door mirror. But my camera was also suffering from the cold, and I spent most of the journey on the shinkansen trying to thaw it out and get it working again.

My other strong memory of the 200-series relates to when it was retired. A friend (who has no, or very limited interest in trains) tagged me in a post about the story – he was seemingly not impressed when I then did a post about the story and when this started to lead to further discussion about the train online. I don’t think he’s tagged me in another train-related post since.

Of course, the 200-series also got mentioned in my book Shinkansen: From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan due to it being involved in an accident which, to date, has been the only passenger-service shinkansen to derail. The event happened just as I was finishing the text of the book (and actually took place after the planned cut off date (1 October 2004 – the 40th anniversary of the opening of the shinkansen) for any new material for the book, but the event was significant enough that I felt it had to be included. The derailment occurred as it was travelling close to the epicentre of an earthquake. The train derailed, but there were no serious injuries or fatalities. I also discussed this in a recent podcast (subject of another post).

Although the 200-series is low in my list, I do have some memorabilia – a model that I bought while in Japan during one of my trips.

So what’s wrong with the 200-series (given it’s second to bottom in my list of shinkansen)? Nothing. As I said before, I basically like all of the shinkansen designs – but although I do like the 200-2000 series, it’s just not quite as special, or doesn’t hold as special memories, as other shinkansen for me.

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