An unofficial spokesman at the office of East Japan Railway Company in New York says that contrary to press reports, no bullet trains have been lost, although service is still shut down. The original stories apparently confused commuter-rail lines with bullet trains. He confirmed the tsunami swept away three, possibly four of the four-car commuter units, as I noted from looking at Google photos of the disaster, although casualties are unclear.
Japan’s high density, central planning, mass transit, demographic uniformity, and a culture of mutual dependence allow millions to live humanely and successfully in quite crowded conditions (in areas of Tokyo at 6,000 persons and more per square kilometer). And compared to other Asian and African cities (Mumbai or Lagos) even Tokyo is relatively not so dense, though far more successful. Yet such urban societies are extremely vulnerable to the effects of earthquakes, tsunamis, “man-caused disasters” and other assorted catastrophes, analogous in nature perhaps to tightly knit bee colonies that have lost their queens.
I don’t know quite why many of our environmentalists and urban planners wish to emulate such patterns of settlement (OK, I do know), since for us in America it would be a matter of choice, rather than, as in a highly congested Japan, one of necessity.
As they say, read the whole thing.