Modeling Japan - Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few of the Frequently Asked Questions we get all the time about modeling Japanese railroads.
Japan all about bullet trains?
And a whole lot more! Japans Shinkansen (bullet) trains have just
celebrated their 40th anniversary and are still going strong. The busiest
route has 300 train runs a day at speeds up to 270 kms/hour. Each day
360,000 passengers ride this line - one that has never had a derailment
or serious accident.
for inventing high speed rail, Japan also has the worlds most dense
collection of more conventional rail services. From circle lines, which
ring several major cities, to modern long distance overnight services,
Japan has it all. Monorails, street cars and suburban LRVs are also there,
as well as regional, airport-to-city and long distance services. Big cities
are full of multi-track mainlines, with 90-second spacing between trains
and often right-of-ways of competing rail companies only a few feet apart
(just like the U.S. had in days gone by). Single track rural and mountain
lines also cover the country, some closely hugging Japans long scenic
these routes have their own very distinctive-looking equipment. Look over
our exhibition layout and spot the dark blue futuristic nose of the Rapi:t
which takes passengers from downtown Osaka to its international airport.
Check out the brightly-painted Doromon train set running in
the north of Japan or the Dr. Yellow duck-bill front train used to monitor
the mechanical condition of the Shinkansen. Ride the trains in Japan and
youll know exactly what the Wizard of Ozs Dorothy meant when
she said Toto, Were not in Kansas anymore.
does the geography of Japan have to do with how the Japanese build layouts?
A lot, actually. Much of Japan is mountain covered. So the countrys
large population is packed into cities on the relatively few pieces of
flat land along the coasts. Crowded cities mean real estate is expensive
and most Japanese homes are much smaller than those of comparable families
in the US. So space for trains is limited, which is why most modelers
use N-gauge track. Space for a dedicated train room is rare, so most modelers
use track they can snap together, and take apart quickly when its
time to turn the train room into the bedroom. Thats why Kato invented
unitrack and its plug-and-play wiring, and why many Japanese trains come
in book shelf-style carry cases.
Japans terrain affect the prototype operations also?
does. Densely populated cities create great demand for commuter services;
multiple railroads fight with each other for this business. Interstate-style
highways are crowded and have high tolls, driving more customers to the
most factories are along Japans coast, ships are favored over freight
trains for hauling goods around the country. As a result, most Japanese
freight trains are shorter than those in America. Frequent passenger services
also force many freights to run only at night, making them less convenient
for industries. And Japans narrow gauge lines, many with tunnels
with tight clearances, make it difficult to transport standard ocean-going
containers by rail. Most of these travel by truck. Compare the container
trains on our layout with what may be running on yours: shorter trains,
land availability also forced the builders of Japans bullet train
network to put many of these grade-crossing free straight arrow-like routes
in tunnels and on viaducts - sometimes built directly over pre-existing
Japanese N-gauge the same as N-scale?
the track size is the same - 9 mm between the rails. But some Japanese
models are made to 1/150 scale, others to 1/160 (what we usually think
of as N-scale). Why? Japans bullet train prototypes run on standard
gauge, but most other Japanese trains run on narrow gauge track. Japanese
model makers wanted their customers to be able to use the same size track
for both, thus the slight shift of scale depending on the type of equipment.
Look closely at our layout and see if you notice a difference between
the bullet trains running on the viaduct level and the conventional ones
I have to like sushi and sake to enjoy Japanese trains?
Not at all. Remember the old ads for Hebrew National hot dogs - you dont
have to be Jewish to love em. Same thing applies. Sure some American
modelers are also fans of Japanese comics and movies, or food and art.
A few have even studied a little Japanese (all the better to read Japans
many train magazines). But these are extras. And the train magazines are
usually full of great photos that dont need translation.
can I get information - in English - about Japanese trains and advice
from other modelers?
There are two e-mail lists at yahoo groups open to all comers. To learn more about Japanese prototypes, take a look at: jtrains. For discussion and questions-answered about modeling:
This forum is for discussion of topics on modeling Japanese trains. Check their archives and files and join them. They are chock full of useful background information
Japanese Modelling & Japan Rail Enthusiasts Forum
This is a new forum for topics of prototypical Japanese rail or modeling Japanese rail.
Tomix/EasyTrolly Modelers' Group
Rich Kerr has been promoting the use of Tomix track for use in trolly modeling.
This forum is for discussion of japanese prototype trains (not modeling). There are many members that are very knowledgeable about Japanese trains.
There are many more links for more information on Japanese trains and modeling on our link list.
Are there other clubs that do Japanese trains outside of Japan?
Yes there are several other Japanese model railroad clubs that have popped up all over the world!
Asian Train Enthusiasts (ATE)
A group based in the greater SF bay/Sacrmento California area that has a modular layout thye display at shows
Australian Japanese Model Railroad Group (AJMRG)
A group based in Melbourne (Formerly known as the Suzuran) that has a modulear layout they display at train shows and japanese festivals.
A group based in germany that gathers at various locations in Germany to create japanese laouts at meetings and train shows.
Yamanouchi Oshika - A British Club Layout Goes Japanese
A UK club changes one of its layouts from British to Japanese!
Here is a group in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area working on a grand Japanese rail modeling project based on Tokyo.
like more information or want to join us, just contact us.
the best way to buy Japanese model trains?
Ask any of us for a list where we get ours. There are plenty of options
that dont require you flying to Tokyo and shipping can be reasonable from Japan. There are several Japanese hobby shops that have online stores in english and several that have Ebay store fronts.
do Japanese trains and models compare to what Im used to in the
To the extent the words in the left column typify whats in the U.S.,
the right column describes Japan:
gauge (except for bullet trains)
trains are extras
RRs own the tracks
RRs own the tracks
N-gauge (1:150 scale)