The Father of the Japanese Railways: Masaru Inoue

The last of our five-part series celebrating the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the 'Choshu Five' in the UK introduces Masaru Inoue, who came to be known as 'the Father of Japanese Railways'.

In 1863, Masaru Inoue stowed away on a vessel to the United Kingdom with four others of the Choshu clan. They came to be known as the 'Choshu Five'. These five were charged with learning about the western world, and in particular Inoue studied civil engineering and mining at University College London. He studied in the UK for several years, returning to Japan in 1868.

Inoue went on to work for the government supervising the mining industry. However, in 1871 he was appointed Director of the Railway Board, where he was instrumental in the planning and construction of Japan's railway system.

After retiring from the government, he continued to contribute to the development of domestic railways and founded Kisha Seizo Kaisha, the first locomotive manufacturer in Japan, and was its first president in 1896. In 1909 he was appointed President of the Imperial Railway Association, a post which he held until his untimely death in 1910.

Masaru Inoue

Japanese High-Speed Railway

The world's first ever high-speed railway, the Tokaido Shinkansen, opened on 1 October 1964 at the same time as the opening of the Tokyo Olympics. Plans for the Shinkansen (which means "new mainline") were put into motion in the 1950s, and those building the line overcame a variety of technical difficulties to create a train line capable of operating at speeds of 200km/h. Since then, there have been continuous extensions of Shinkansen lines and efforts to reach faster speeds.

Hayabusa, the fastest train on the Tohoku Shinkansen, began operation between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori on 5 March 2011. With a top operating speed of 300km/h at the time, it was then raised to Japan's highest train speed of 320km/h on 16 March 2013.

Shinkansen passes by Mount Fuji

Hayabusa - Japan's fastest train

The National Railway Museum in York runs a "Shinkansen talk" daily during term-time, giving a short introduction to the futuristic bullet train - the only such talk outside Japan. Please click here for more details. A leading car from a Shinkansen train built in 1976 and withdrawn from service in October 2000 can also be seen at the museum, having been donated by West Japan Railways.

A railway exhibition will be held at the Embassy of Japan from 11 to 21 October 2013. Information will be available on our website soon.