Compass

Dec. 30, 1927: First section of Ginza Line, Asia’s first subway, completed in Tokyo

One of the original Eidan 1000 series trains the Ginza Line used starting in 1927 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Most rail projects are government-sponsored, but Asia’s first subway line was the product of one businessman’s imagination. In 1914, Noritsugu Hayakawa visited London and fell in love with that city’s famous Underground. Within a few years, his Tokyo Underground Railway company had started digging for the new line.

The first finished portion, which went from Ueno to Asakusa, was immediately popular: Passengers waited up to two hours to take the five-minute ride when it first opened. The company added more track through the 1930s and later merged with other rail and subway lines to form what is now known as Tokyo Metro (now owned under a partnership between local and national government).

The Ginza Line is still one of Tokyo's most crowded subway lines, typically operating above intended capacity — a situation not unusual in this bustling city.