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The Shinkansen (新幹線) is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by Japan Railways. Since the initial Tōkaidō Shinkansen opened in 1964 running at 210 km/h (130 mph), the network (2,459 km or 1,528 miles) has expanded to link most major cities on the islands of Honshū and Kyūshū with running speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph), in an earthquake and typhoon prone environment. Test run speeds have been 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record of 581 km/h (361 mph) for maglev trainsets, in 2003.
Shinkansen literally means "New Trunk Line" and hence strictly speaking refers only to the tracks, while the trains themselves are officially referred to as "Super Express" (超特急 chō-tokkyū); however, this distinction is rarely made even in Japan. In contrast to older lines, Shinkansen are standard gauge, and use tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles, rather than around them >>