Given the size of the country and its geography, trains are the best form of transport between most points: only a traveler moving between the extreme ends of the country would save time taking a plane instead of a train. The Shinkansen lines which are still being built are based on technology which is fundamentally thirty years old; that is back in the days when computers filled up whole buildings rather than a corner of a desk. Refinements may be able to increase the speed by 30 or 45 miles per hour to as much as 215 mph, but that only saves the traveler minutes rather than hours. More recently developed trains in other nations, especially Europe, exceed the speed and efficiency of the Shinkansen significantly.
The next generation of train in Japan will be the mag-lev train or the magnetically levitated train. These trains are theoretically able to achieve the speeds of today’s commercial jet planes. They will use super-conductivity to power magnets which will lift the train into the air and then pull it forward. Since there will be no more friction that a jet would experience at low altitude, the speed of train and jet will be identical. The mag-lev train is now in the experimental stage and is running cars capable of carrying people over short distances. As the technology improves, so will the speeds and the carrying capacities. Then, it is only a matter of securing access to land on which the new train system can be built. This may be more difficult, and more expensive, in ‘narrow’ Japan than developing the technology itself.