Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, October 14, 2016


An article in the obscure newspaper The Siberian Times caught the attention of the world this week. It detailed new plans between Japan and Russia. The two nations plan to overhaul the existing lines of famed Trans-Siberian Railway. The goal is to triple current speeds.  However, what really blew our minds are the ambitious  plans to extend service to Japan! This will be accomplished by using a series of bridges and tunnels over the Sea of Oktosh. Wow! Imagine taking a train from London to Tokyo!

Currently, 5,800-mile Trans-Siberian is the longest in the world…both in distance and in travel times. It takes seven days to traverse the world’s largest nation. It costs $800 / $1200 (Second / First Class), which also includes food. Unfortunately, the ride ends in Vladivostok, a dismal city on the Southern tip of Siberia’s frozen Pacific Coast. Yuck! Thankfully, the new route will bypass this industrial port altogether. It will instead head north and cross a 4-mile bridge to Sakhalin Island. After crossing the 600-mile long island, a 26 mile tunnel will link Siberia to Hokkaido.

Wait a second! Aren't Japan and Russia angry at each other? You Bet! In fact, they are still at war. Neither nation ever signed peace agreements with each other after World War II. See, both nations claim sovereignty over the Kuril Islands. In fact, for sixty years, the militaries of both states have postured back and forth, with Air Force jets constantly patrolling the disputed islands.

Why the sudden change of heart? Because...in the year 2016...economic interests trump old political grudges. And both nations can cash in on the new railway line. See, it won’t just be trains traversing the new bridges and tunnels. Russia will also be sending much-needed energy to technology-crazed Japan. In return, crowded Japan will have a vast new playground in Siberia....which is suddenly just a couple of hours away.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this story is the timing of the announcement. First, Putin and Japanese PM Abe meeting in December. (Let’s hope this tops their ‘To-do’ list.) Also, this year just so happens to be the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Trans-Siberian Railway. And…boy…does it need a face lift. It is sooo old it was actually constructed by the Romanov Czars…not the Soviets. Imagine the possibilities! Ski resorts in Siberia and luxury cruises on Lake Baikal could be coming soon.

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