Points of light shine bright, and sometimes disappear, in this fascinating look at the last century and a half.

It’s hard to imagine Japan without trains. Whether it’s the Shinkansen zooming past Mt. Fuji or a Yamanote Line commuter train packed with office workers, railways are connected to some of the most iconic images of the country.

And yet, you don’t have to go all that far back, historically speaking, to get to a time when Japan didn’t have any trains at all. It was in 1872 that the very first train line opened in Japan, when Tokyo’s Shimbashi Station was connected what is now Sakuragicho Station in Yokohama, meaning that there’s been a rapid rail-ification of Japan in the time since, and to illustrate how it happened, Japanese Twitter user @ShinagawaJP has created a fascinating time-lapse-style video showing markers for every station in the country.

With each station represented by a point of light, Japan starts with just two. It’s not long before more appear, though, with the area around Osaka and western Hokkaido being the next illuminated.

▼ 1882

The pace really picks up after the Meiji restoration in 1888, when Japan ended centuries of feudal rule by the shogunate and modernization could take place. A year later, Tokyo and other Kanto region cities are connected with Kyoto, Osaka, and the other major communities of Kansai. Before the turn of the century, Western Japan’s Chugoku region and the Hokuriku area, on the north side of Japan’s main island of Honshu, get their first stations, as do the islands of Shikoku and Kyushu.

▼ 1895

In 1925, pretty much the entire country is outlined in stations, and the area in between starts getting more and more filled in, and the concentration of stations seems to hit its peak in the 1960s.

▼ 1925

▼ 1960

While the areas around Japan’s largest cities maintain their station density, in some other regions you can see lights going out as stations end their rail service. The phenomenon is especially noticeable in Hokkaido, @ShinagawaJP explains, as coal mines began shutting and as people moved away from the most remote, mountainous parts of the prefecture. Increases in personal car ownership as Japan enjoyed an economic boom in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s likely played a part too, as Hokkaido’s size and low population density make it a part of Japan where driving is often more convenient than taking the train.

▼ Time-lapse for Hokkaido

In the video focused on west Japan, we can see Kyushu go through a Hokkaido-like contraction, once again, @ShinagawaJP says, as a result of mining shutdowns.

In Tohoku, trains first looped along the seashore before connections to the more mountainous interior sprouted.

And last, the Kanto-to-Kansai span is where you’ll find the most populous cities in Japan, and so the areas around Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka all just get brighter and brighter.

“I wish I had a time machine so I could see what’s coming next for these maps,” @ShinagawaJP says. We’ll just have to wait and see, but at least while we wait for the next 150 years of train history in Japan we can search for those 150 hidden train station Pokémon.

Source: Twitter/@ShinagawaJP via IT Media
Images: Twitter/@ShinagawaJP
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