Before you hop on the Shinkansen, make sure you’ve got your ticket and a charged phone.

Japan is a country where old communications technology takes a long time to fade away. It wasn’t until fairly recently that pager service ended, and it’s not at all unusual for otherwise modern offices to still have a fax machine. But even in Japan, time marches on, and so Japan Railways has announced that it will be removing payphones from all Shinkansen trains.

Coin-operated public phones have been part of bullet train amenities almost since the very beginning, with the Tokaido Line Shinkansen getting its first in-train payphone in 1965, just one year after the high-speed rail network started carrying passengers. On Thursday though, JR East, West, Tokai, Kyushu, and Hokkaido, the five companies that collectively operate Japan’s multiple Shinkansen lines, said they’ll be removing the phones early this summer.

As for the reason why, just about every adult in Japan, including senior citizens, now has their own mobile phone, and with fewer and fewer people using the trains’ payphones, there’s not much point in going to the expense to maintain them. In addition, renovations completed in 2020 to a tunnel on the Yamagata Shinkansen line eliminated the last major dead zone of mobile phone signal reception along the Shinkansen routes, meaning that as long as passengers have battery life left on their phone, they’re never stuck in a communications blackout.

▼ Payphones will still be available at Shinkansen stations, however.

Japan Railways will begin removing Shinkansen payphones on individual trains on June 7, and expects them all to be gone by June 30. Meanwhile, a new policy for inbound travelers to Japan requiring the installation of location confirmation and contact tracing apps are also good reasons to keep your phone handy while in the country.

Source: Sankei Photo. @Press
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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