Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Awaji Island, center span, island of Kyushu, Nippon Airways
Japanese depend heavily on rail transport. In 1996 Japanese train passengers traveled 403 billion km (250 billion mi) compared to 22 billion km (14 billion mi) for U.S. passengers. Railroad track in 1997 totaled 20,175 km (12,536 mi), of which about 71 percent was electrified. In the late 1950s Japan began constructing the Shinkansen, a high-speed rail network linking major cities. The Shinkansen runs sleek trains known as bullet trains. The first branch, linking Tokyo and Osaka, began operating in 1964. By the late 1990s the Shinkansen extended from Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu in the south to Morioka in the north and Nagano and Niigata in the west.
Japan has 1,162,000 km (722,000 mi) of roads, of which 5,054 km (3,140 mi) are expressways. In 1998 Japan had 395 cars for every 1,000 people. Bridges or tunnels link all of Japan’s main islands. In 1998 Japan completed construction of the world’s longest suspension bridge, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. Linking Kobe and Awaji Island over the Akashi Strait, the bridge has a center span of 1,990 m (6,529 ft).
Japan has one of the world’s largest merchant fleets, with 7,924 vessels totaling 14.6 million gross registered tons in 2001. Japan Air Lines, established in 1951, provides international air service, while All Nippon Airways, primarily a domestic service, has expanded its international operations in recent years. Tokyo is the nation’s major hub for both domestic and international flights. Osaka is the second largest center for air travel, and important airports are also located in Nagoya, Sapporo, and Fukuoka.
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