19 Nov 2020
Transport enhancements accelerated by the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964 brought many innovations, having an indelible effect on commuting, tourism and the international image of Japan.
One of the most famous developments was the completion of the Shinkansen high-speed train line between Tokyo and Osaka which opened nine days before the Opening Ceremony. The beginning of the Olympic Games had been set as a strict deadline for the project, which had been announced in 1957 – two years before Tokyo was awarded the Games. The line’s development enabled people to travel between the two cities in half the time of a standard train journey, enhancing the country’s social cohesion and receiving much media coverage globally.
Nicknamed “the bullet train” in the western world, it was touted at the time as being the world’s fastest train, and a photo of the Shinkansen passing by the foot of Mount Fuji soon became an iconic picture of Japan, contributing to the country’s burgeoning image as a technological hub. The Shinkansen was later expanded to link Tokyo and Osaka to other parts of the country, and such excellent transport infrastructure was a key component of Tokyo’s successful candidature to host the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
In addition, the Tokyo Monorail – which opened three weeks before the start of Tokyo 1964 – became the world’s first large-scale commercial application of the monorail concept as a means of mass urban transport. Since 1964, it has been further enlarged and, as of 2019, the monorail covered 17.8 kilometres, carrying nearly 300,000 passengers each weekday.
Tokyo 1964 also accelerated the expansion of Tokyo’s underground rail system, and stimulated the completion of the Metropolitan Expressway, a gigantic road network built to alleviate traffic congestion and improve connectivity in and around Tokyo. While its construction enabled the city to cope with the transport demands of the Games, in the long term it was key in supporting Tokyo’s continued population and economic growth. However, it became controversial as the construction plans showed that the highway would run over the Nihonbashi Bridge landmark. Following Tokyo 2020, the section of the highway above the famous bridge is planned to be relocated underground.