Japan's "Bullet Train" was developed by Dr. Hideo Shima (1901 - 1998). Dr. Shima began investigations in 1948 and in 1958 it was decided to go ahead with a new line which followed the Tokaido road between Osaka and Tokyo, a road made famous by artists depicting scenes along the way.
It was planned to be ready for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and it was, but nearly US$3.7 billion over budget. Dr. Shima and his superior resigned, but the railway was a resounding success and in the next few years Dr. Shima was honoured by British and American engineering societies.
The original Tokaido railway between the two cities had previously had a fairly fast service called "Kodama" (Dawn) but it was on narrow gauge track and speeds were limited by existing heavy traffic.
To accommodate the new fast trains an entirely new railway was built (Shinkansen -new railway) to a wider gauge.
"Ultimate Train" by Peter Herring, Dorling Kindersley, 2006 edition.