Unlike other Asian countries, Japan has a substantial number of privately owned railroads, mostly for industrial or suburban commuter services. The Japan Railways Group (JNR) was formed from the dissolution of the government-owned and debt-ridden Japanese National Railways (JNR) in 1987.
JNR operates the major part of the country s rail network. Its passenger lines were distributed geographically among six companies: three on Honshu island (JR East, JR Central, and JR West); and one each on the islands of Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu. In 1991, the assets of the high-speed Shinkansen lines, known as bullet trains, were distributed among the three main island companies operating them. A seventh group member, Japan Railway Freight Company, operates its own locomotives, freight cars, and terminals and leases track access from the six passenger companies
Japanes rail system is highly oriented toward passenger service, with over 80 percent of revenues coming from passenger operations and a major part of that from the Shinkansen lines.
The Shinkansen lines represent the single most important development in Japanese railway history and encouraged the development of similar systems in Europe. Japan pioneered the modern high-speed passenger railway with the opening of the Tokaido Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964. These highly successful high-speed services have an excellent safety record and continue to be extended and developed. Shinkansen lines now operate at speeds of 300 km/h (190 mph)
In addition to the JR Group of companies, there are over 125 private and joint private-government financed railways in Japan. These railways range from major private interurban and suburban systems to individual rural and tourist lines. Japan produces its own rail equipment and exports rail, cars, and locomotives.