Carlos Ghosn reportedly began his escape from Japan on a bullet train. Here’s the history of the country’s iconic high-speed railway.

The iconic image of majestic bullet train blasting past the snowcapped peaks of Mount Fuji has become a symbol of Japan’s growth into an economic and technological juggernaut.

Over the past half-century, the Bullet Train has become inextricably linked with the nation and the people it has served. Since its debut in 1964, the Shinkansen has grown from a single line connecting Tokyo and Osaka to lines linking all parts of the country. These days, the BBC reports that one bullet train leaves Tokyo for Osaka every 3 minutes.

But as of late, the bullet train has recently landed on the news for a totally different reason – ousted Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn reportedly fled Japan using the train, which he snuck on.

Read more: Ousted Nissan exec Carlos Ghosn just fled to Lebanon while awaiting trial in Japan

Here’s a history of Japan’s bullet train:

Benjamin Zhang wrote an earlier version of this story.

The first bullet train trip left Tokyo for Osaka at 6:00 AM on the morning of October 1, 1964…

On its way to Osaka, the train zoomed past Mount Fuji. Four and a half hours later, the Shinkansen arrived at its destination.

Today, the newest bullet trains can make the trip in just two and a half hours…

Getty/Kyodo News / Contributor

…and the extensive Shinkansen network — operated by Japan Railways — has reached the far corners of the country.

Central Japan Railway

The Shinkansen’s record for reliability and safety is impeccable, and accidents are an extreme rarity.

One of the secrets to the Shinkansen’s success is its innovative propulsion design.

Instead of having a locomotive pull or push the train along engineers placed electric drive motors in each of the train’s cars.

This allowed for more uniform performance characteristics.

Over the years, the Bullet Train has been popular with celebrities and dignitaries. Everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger…


…to the King and Queen of Sweden have hopped on the Shinkansen.

Swedish King Carl XVI. Gustaf and Queen Silvia get into a Shinkansen bullet train at Tokyo station.
REUTERS/Masaharu Hatano

German Chancellor Angela Merkel went for a ride.

Tom Cruise traveled by bullet train during a press tour for the “Mission Impossible” series.

Naturally, he got mobbed by fans.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and daughter Amy rode with the conductor.

While the late Senator Ted Kennedy…

…and astronaut/former Senator John Glenn chose to ride in the passenger compartment.

The original and most iconic of the bullet trains was the ‘0 Series.’


Incredibly, the 0 Series remained in service from 1964 until 2008.

Getty/ Kyodo News / Contributor

The cockpit of the original bullet train was simple but effective.

The oldest bullet trains had a top speed of 130 mph…

…today’s fastest bullet train, called the ‘Hayabusa,’ has a maximum operating speed of 199 mph.

REUTERS/Kyodo Kyodo

After the 0 Series came the 100 Series in the 1980s.

Getty/Kyodo News/Contributor

Other highlights include the menacing 300 Series…

Wikimedia/toshinori baba

…the sleek 400 Series…


…the fighter-jet-like 500 Series…

Getty/Manabu Takahashi/Contributor

…the duck-bill 700 Series…

…and the N700 Series.

Getty/Manabu Takahashi/Contributor

Japanese Shinkansen technology has been a popular export in recent years.

Modern high-speed trains in China like this CRH2…


…and Taiwan’s 700T are based on bullet train technology.