This week’s featured article


There were calls for security checks to be instituted on users of bullet trains nationwide after a self-immolation on Tuesday left the perpetrator and one other passenger dead, and two people seriously injured. Japan does not currently inspect baggage taken aboard shinkansen, which move huge numbers of people with timings that do not allow for any delays.

Despite the convenience that affords, antiterrorism measures are being urged before the nation hosts the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Tuesday’s incident saw a 71-year-old man pour a flammable liquid over his head and set himself alight aboard the front-most car of the Nozomi 225 bullet train as it sped from Tokyo Station to Shin-Osaka Station. The Railway Operation Act prohibits taking flammable liquids such as petrol aboard trains, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. But security screening for dangerous goods has never been introduced. Meanwhile, transport ministry officials have said that fire prevention measures may have helped contain the blaze. Two fire extinguishers were installed in the passenger compartment of the No. 1 car, where the fire occurred, and two more devices were in the driver’s compartment in the same car, the ministry said. Conducting baggage inspections “was discussed in the past, but it’s difficult,” given the personnel, space and speed needed at a crowded station, an official of the transport ministry said. JR Tokai reports that around 424,000 passengers use the service every day.

“It’s hard to conduct security checks one by one like at the airport if we consider the convenience,” a JR Tokai official said, adding that the railway company reinforces safety with security guards and cameras. But some acknowledged a need for action. “We may be required to take further steps,” a West Japan Railway Co. spokesman said.

First published in The Japan Times on July 1.

Warm up

One minute chat about the shinkansen (bullet train).


Collect words related to train travel; e.g., trip, station, commute etc.

New words

1) institute: to set up; e.g., “They instituted the new learning program.”

2) perpetrator: a person who commits a crime; e.g., “The perpetrator was finally caught.”

3) urge: to strongly suggest; e.g., “I would urge against doing that.”

4) reinforce: to strengthen; e.g., “The measure will be reinforced under the new campaign.”

5) acknowledge: to admit; e.g., “She acknowledges the truth.”

Guess the headline

Japan’s crowded, punctual rail network faces dilemma over se _ _ _ _ _ _ c _ _ _ _ s


1) How does JR currently keep its trains safe?

2) What were installed in the train to prevent fire?

3) Why doesn’t JR introduce inspections of baggage?

Let’s discuss the article

1) How often do you use shinkansen?

2) Do you think shinkansen need to introduce security checks?

3) What do you think is important to keep a train safe?


陸続きの離れた地へ移動する手段を考えるとき、移動時間そのものだけを見れば飛行機の速さはやはり圧倒的です。しかし飛行機は国内移動だとしても空港についてすぐに飛行機に飛び乗る、というわけにはいかず、チェックインの時間などを考えると新幹線のほうが早いというケースも多々あるでしょう。 しかし、チケットさえ買えば飛び乗ることができるという利点が、逆に人々の不安を掻き立てる事件が起きてしまいました。このような事件を防ぐための一番有効な対策がわかっていながらも、それが新幹線ならではの強みを消してしまうためセキュリティーチェックの導入は現実的ではないようです。 2020年が迫るにあたり、あらゆる場での安全の確立がますます叫ばれています。利便性を維持したままで安全を守ることのできる有効な策はいったい何なのでしょうか。


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