Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy on a test ride on Japan’s super-fast magnetic train on Saturday, showcasing the magnetic levitation technology Tokyo hopes to sell to its ally.
“I hope ambassador Kennedy will enjoy the full package of Japan — the blizzard of cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji and the state-of-the-art technology,” a relaxed-looking Abe said ahead of the ride.
As the distinctive white and pink petals of the blossom swirled in the breeze, the pair boarded at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line near Mount Fuji.
The smiling Japanese prime minister showed off the SCMaglev system with ease, with the train hitting speeds of 505kph at some points during the journey.
Magnetic levitation, or maglev, uses magnets in place of traditional wheels and axles to propel a vehicle forward and is a contender for US President Barack Obama’s multibillion-dollar US national high-speed rail project.
Japan’s Nikkei Shimbun on Saturday reported that SCMaglev operator Central Japan Railway does not plan to charge licensing fees in the US for its super-speedy train, providing a strong incentive for Washington to select the system for a proposed high-speed rail line linking Washington to Baltimore.
The proposed 60km link would be the first phase in the US government’s plan to connect the capital to Boston, Massachusetts.
To help alleviate the franchise’s estimated ￥1 trillion (US$9.75 billion) pricetag, Japan intends to finance half of the cost through the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the Nikkei said.
Japan is battling Canada, France, Germany and others as it seeks to sell its Shinkansen bullet and magnetic train systems overseas.
After Saturday’s ride, Abe said: “Since I was able to share this experience with ambassador Kennedy today, I hope she would share her story with the White House as well.”
Kennedy said she thought the technology was “something that will bring great benefits to Japan and hopefully to the United States.”
The magnetic train hovers 10cm above the tracks and reached a world record speed of 581kph in 2003, according to the operator.
Central Japan Railway hopes to launch the service billed as faster, smoother and quieter than conventional trains between Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027.
By 2045, it is expected to link Tokyo with Osaka in just 67 minutes, compared with the current time of more than two hours.
The diplomatic date shared by Abe and Kennedy, the daughter of assassinated US president John F. Kennedy, was their second over the past three days.
The pair chatted on Thursday evening via video-link with Koichi Wakata, the Japanese commander of the International Space Station, as he circled the Earth hundreds of kilometers up in the atmosphere.