The company Yamashita Kogyosho in Kudamatsu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, has been hammering out aerodynamic designs for the face of the Shinkansen bullet trains since 1963.
Yamashita Kogyosho, is recognised as the pioneer of Shinkansen face production by “Uchidashi,” and is a Special Prize recipient of the Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Award. This hand-hammering craftsmanship has contributed greatly to the production of an elegant streamline “face” of the Shinkansen.
Crafting the face of the Shinkansen is artisan’s work. Sheets of aluminum ranging from 1 to 6 millimeters in thickness are beaten by hand countless times to produce curved panels, which are then welded together to form the train’s sleek exterior.
Given the large size and relatively low production numbers of these trains, as well as the need for flexibility to make sudden changes, this form of manufacturing is ill-suited to mass production.
Rather, attention to detail is paramount: Not only is it challenging enough to achieve the elegant, computer-designed shape, expert welding is crucial to avoiding pinholes or cracks that might compromise the safety of a train that may operate as fast as 320 kilometers per hour.
Simply developing the necessary skill to hammer out sheet metal requires approximately 10 years of practice, though training is never truly finished.