Modern Transportation and Communication in Japan

10.9a Technological changes in communication and transportation systems allow for instantaneous interconnections and new networks of exchange between people and places that have lessened the effects of time and distance. Grades 9-12 Page 26

Students will explore how information is accessed, exchanged, and controlled and how business is conducted in light of changing technology

Describe technological achievements related to transportation and communication in Japan with specific information since 1990.

2. Compare and contrast transportation systems and communication systems in Japan
and the United States

3. Analyze and discuss the importance of infrastructure in a modern economies

Have students in small groups brainstorm, discuss and list key developments in the history of transportation prior to 1990. (Canals–Suez Canal, Erie Canal, Panama Canal, Steamboat, Automobile, Transcontinental Railroad, Interstate Highway System, Autobahn…)

2. Have students in small groups brainstorm, discuss, and list key developments in the
history of communication prior to 1990. (Printing press, movable type, telegraph, radio
television, telephone, cellphone, smartphone…)

3. Engage students in a discussion of the most important developments in transportation
prior to 1990. Focus on having students having students rank and explain their choices

4. Explain to students that Japan is one of the most modern countries when it comes to
transportation and communication. Japan is a leader in developing safe and fast
railways that make travel within and between cities simple. Explain to students that Japan has
recently linked the northernmost island of Hokkaido with Honshu by completing the Seikan Tunnel,
one of the longest tunnels in the world. Explain that the tunnel links Hakodate, the second
largest city in Hokkaido, with Honshu. Ask students why tunnels are better for shinkansen. Tell
students that Sapporo, Japan’s 5th largest city, will eventually be linked by rail to Tokyo.

5. Give the students the article from the Japan Times below.

Mobile Services to be Available in Seikan Tunnel from March 2019

by Jiji Kyodo in Japan Times

July 3, 2018


Mobile communications services will be available next March aboard Hokkaido Shinkansen Line trains traveling through the undersea Seikan Tunnel, the communications ministry, JR Hokkaido Railway Co. and three major phone carriers have announced. Currently, passengers cannot use smartphones or other communication devices for roughly 25 minutes while the shinkansen passes through the tunnel.
Mobile access is only provided at two evacuation areas within the 53.85km tunnel, which runs under the seabed in the Tsugaru Strait between the northern prefectures of Aomori and Hokkaido.
Equipment to relay radio waves between mobile devices and carrier base stations will be installed at 1km intervals in the tunnel by the end of March next year, while fiber-optic cables will also be laid, the ministry and the companies said.
Considering the increase in foreign tourists, “mobile access is essential for collecting information and using translation apps.” Yoshiaki Takeuchi, director-general of the communication ministry’s Radio Department, told reporters in Sapporo. “We hop to make mobile access available in the shinkansen tunnels nationwide.”
JR Hokkaido will not have to shoulder costs as the ministry will apply a new system where railway companies posting operating losses for 10 years are exempt.

Questions to discuss:

1. How is the development of a nationwide shinkansen system in Japan similar to the development of a transcontinental railroad?
2. To what extent is the Seikan Tunnel similar to other major construction projects like the Erie Canal, Brooklyn Bridge or Panama Canal?
3. Who benefits from providing access to cellular communication inside the tunnel?
4. Why is it problematic to you if you cannot access the internet?

Exit Ticket:
Using Google Classroom’s Exit Ticket, answer the following question:
What evidence can you provide that a modern transportation and communication network is important to Japan?

Pictures of a shinkansen, a map of routes taken by the shinkansen, a map showing the length the Seikan Tunnel will enhance the lesson.
A Google slide presentation with pictures of the shinkansen could be used to start the lesson.

The lesson can be extended with pictures from the internet and videos about the construction of the Seikan Tunnel.

Jiji, Kyodod. “Mobile Services to Be Available in Seikan Tunnel from March 2019.” The Japan Times. July, 3 2018.

  • Martin Gilbert
  • Byram Hills High School
Grade Level
  • High School: 9, 10
Time Frame
  • One 45 minute period

If you have any questions about this lesson plan, or if you wish to contact the author, please email us at [email protected]