Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shanghai's Maglev

Imagine if you will that you have put your ear to a seashell and are listening to the sounds it makes, that is kind of what the Maglev from Pudong airport to Shanghai proper sounds like at full speed. Maglev stands for Magnetic Levitation. Cars and tracks are designed to levitate the cars and for propulsion through magnitics. Some people refer to these trains as a linear motor car, but I don't think that is correct as linear motor car refers to the mode of propulsion (propulsion coils) rather than to the tracks and cars. Then again we call one train a steam engine and another a diesel even though they may run on the same track, so as you like.
The one in Shanghai is currently the most famous although there are other famous maglev trains such as those in Germany and Japan. The top speed ever recorded for a maglev train was in Japan at 581 kilometers per hour which in miles is something like 360.
This particular one transports people 30 km (18.6 miles) to the airport in just 7 minutes 20 seconds, achieving a top speed of 431 km/h (268 mph), averaging 250 km/h (160 mph). It is the fastest commercial train currently in use. I have to say that at the moments during which the train achieved top speed it didn't feel like it. It was suprisingly smooth.
We took the train both in and out of Shanghai, it was not so expensive, about 50 rmb which comes out to a little less than 10 dollars a ticket. I suppose if you had the time you would take a normal subway into the city, but we wanted to ride the special train. We thought it would be fun and it was.
The reason for being in Shanghai was to visit a school to see if I could get a job there and I did, so next year I can ride the maglev quite often if I like. I am sure with the number of people that said they would visit we will be riding it a few times at least. I am hoping the ride, in Shanghai next year, will be suprisingly smooth.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Last weekend before heading off for China Aya, her parents, and I went to a concert for a group called Kodo. This group is very interesting for a number of reasons. First is that the name Kodo can interestingly have two meanings that both fit the group very well. The first meaning is "heartbeat" which is easy enough to see fits a drumming group and the second means "children of the drum" which is even more obvious. Second, the group is based on an island in the Sea of Japan/East Sea called Sado. Sado is about a 1 hour ferry ride from the mainland and if you go back to a post I wrote in September you will see that I have visited Sado. It is interesting that the group is based there because there is not a whole lot of anything on Sado, which makes it easy for them to live a secluded and spartan lifestyle. Also very interesting is that apprentices who hope to be players spend two years living together communally in what was once an abandoned schoolhouse. After this period, apprentices who have been selected to become junior members spend one more year training and practicing in the hope that at the end of the year they will be chosen to become part of the Kodo organization. Members are very dedicated! The most visually interesting thing is the players endurance. Members will at times strip down to fundoshi, which is like underwear, and play. When this happens you can see the physical strength it takes in the contours of the players well muscled bodies.

The performance was beautiful and I was very glad to have seen it. There were songs that sounded like falling rain, traditional songs, and some that were very intense. The endurance of the players was quite impressive! It made me miss Japan even though I still have another 2 months here. If I ever get a chance to see Kodo again I will leap at the opportunity. If you would like to learn more about Kodo or hear some of their music you can visit their website here.