Japan punctuality lets duo go the Guinness 24-hour train distance


With some help from Mother Nature and Japan’s famously punctual train system, two Americans this week unofficially broke the Guinness world record for the longest distance traveled by train in a 24-hour period.

“It feels good,” said 24-year-old Corey Pedersen, a Montana native now living in Seoul, after he stepped off the Limited Express Relay Tsubame that delivered him and his traveling partner, 23-year-old Mike Kim from California, to Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, at exactly 9:27 p.m. Tuesday.

By that time the two had traveled for 23 hours and 55 minutes, covering a total distance of 2,901.4 km and bettering the existing record, which was set in 1992, by 58.9 km.

Guinness World Records regulations do not allow backtracking, and all trains used must be open to the public.

Pedersen and Kim’s journey started in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Monday evening, when they boarded the 9:32 p.m. Limited Express Nihonkai for an overnight ride north to Aomori. From there they rode an express to Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, then connected to a shinkansen for Tokyo.

After a 20-minute layover in the capital, where Kim stocked up on bottled water, they boarded another bullet train for Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, and the connection to the Tsubame train.

For most of the trains they were able to use JR Rail Passes, meaning their total outlay on train tickets was limited to ¥65,000.

“Every train departed exactly on time and arrived on time. I’d heard Japanese trains were so punctual you could set your watch to them. That’s why I chose to attempt the record here,” said Pedersen, who had wanted to break a world record for about three years and had the train mark in his sights for around a year.

Still, breaking the record proved more difficult than expected. A similar attempt last month was frustrated when torrential rain near Nagoya caused the train they were riding on to stop for about 1 1/2 hours.

“This time there were just a few drops of rain. We were much more relaxed,” Pedersen said.

While the record attempt has been approved by Guinness World Records, it will take another six to eight weeks for their “evidence package” — which includes sworn witness statements, copies of used train tickets, photos and video — to be officially checked.

“I’ll be more relaxed when the record is made official,” Pedersen said. “We’ve done everything at our end. Now we just have to wait for Guinness’ judgment.”

But before that, it was time for a proper meal. “We bought one ‘bento’ lunchbox in Hakata, but we were too nervous and didn’t really have time to eat it,” Pedersen said. “I’m looking forward to our first meal in 24 hours.”

A spokesman for East Japan Railway Co., which operates some of the trains used in the record, said the carrier does not generally receive reports of such records and they were not aware of this particular attempt.