Joetsu Shinkansen, access to Niiagata, Nagaoka and Echigo Yuzawa

Hayate by E2 series on Tohoku Shinkansen
E2 series is main train set on Joetsu Shinkansen.

Joetsu Shinkansen is the third oldest Shinkasen (a.k.a. Bullet Train) line and it is operated between Tokyo and Niigata via Ueno, Omiya, Takasaki and Nagaoka. Joetsu is the old name of area where is between Niigata and Gunma. Echigo-Yuzawa is one of well known hot springs town in this area. It also has nice ski slope. JR East that owns Joetsu Shinkansen also owns Gala Yuzawa ski slope. You can access this ski slope directly from Gala Yuzawa station. In winter season, many Joetsu Shinkansen trains run directly to Gala Yuzawa station.

In this post, I will show you the details of Joetsu Shinkansen.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

Types of train, schedule and time required

Two types of trains are operated. These trains are all non smoking. You can take any trains on Joetsu Shinkasen by Japan Rail Pass.

Toki / Max Toki

“Toki” means Japanese Crested Ibis in Japanese. This train is operated between Tokyo and Niigata and is faster than “Tanigawa”. Toki stop at Ueno, Omiya, Takasaki, Echigo-Yuzawa, Nagaoka and Tsubamesanjo mostly. But some of Toki stop at many stations, like Tanigawa. The fastest Toki takes you to Niigata directly from Tokyo in 1 hours 40 minutes. But it takes about 2 hours to get Niigata from Tokyo mostly. Toki is operated twice an hour and depart Tokyo station at :12 and :32 past the hour between 6:00 and 22:00. Some of Toki that have “Max” at the beginning of the name is operated by Double decker cars.

Tanigawa / Max Tanigawa

“Tanigawa” is named from one of the popular mountain for climbing in Japan, “Mt. Tanigawa”. This train service is operated between Tokyo and Takasaki or Echigo-Yuzawa and stop at all stations. Tanigawa is operated once an hour and depart from Tokyo at 52 past the hour. And this train service is extended to Gala-Yuzawa station during ski season. Gala-Yuzawa is open for ski season only and a few km away from Echigo-Yuzawa. This station is located just in front of the ski hill and gives you direct access to ski hill. Some of Tanigawa are operated by Double decker train too. These types of trains have “Max” at the beginning of the name as well as Toki.

Stations

Station Toki
Max Toki
Tanigawa
Max Tanigawa
Tokyo (東京) x x
Ueno (上野) x x
Omiya (大宮) x x
Kumagaya (熊谷) * x
Honjo-Waseda (本庄早稲田) * x
Takasaki (高崎) x x
Jomo-Kogen (上毛高原) * x
Echigo-Yuzawa (越後湯沢) x x
Urasa (浦佐) *
Nagaoka (長岡) x
Tsubamesanjo (燕三条) *
Niigawa (新潟) x

x:All train stop *:some train stop


View Joetsu Shikansen (Bullet Train) in a larger map

Accommodations and train formation

Double decker train that is called "MAX". It runs on Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen.
Double decker train that is called “MAX”. It runs on Joetsu Shinkansen.

Toki and Tanigawa are operated by same types of trains. E2 series and E4 series are used on this route.
*If you are looking for the images of these train’s interior, please refer Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen image gallery.

Train formation

Train formation that is operated by E2 series for Toki (images)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
NR NR NR NR NR R R R G R

R:Ordinary class reserved seat NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat G:Reserved Green class (First class seat)

Train formation that is operated by E2 series for Tanigawa (images)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
NR NR NR NR NR NR NR R G R

R:Ordinary class reserved seat NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat G:Reserved Green class (First class seat)

Train formation that is operated by E4 series, “Max” double decker train for Toki (images)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
NR NR NR NR R R G G
NR NR NR NR R R R R

R:Ordinary class reserved seat NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat G:Reserved Green class (First class seat)
*Some Max Toki is operated by 2 x 8 Double-Decker cars formation.

Train formation that is operated by E4 series, “Max” double decker train for Tanigawa (images)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
NR NR NR NR NR R G G
NR NR NR NR NR R R R

R:Ordinary class reserved seat NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat G:Reserved Green class (First class seat)
*Some Max Tanigawa is operated by 2 x 8 Double-Decker cars formation.

16 thoughts on “Joetsu Shinkansen, access to Niiagata, Nagaoka and Echigo Yuzawa”

  1. Hi There,

    We are travelling from Tokyo Station to Echigo Yuzawa on 20th Dec 2015. Where can we find the train schedules and ticket prices online?

    Thank you!

    Peter Chiu

  2. Hi there,

    we will be going to Naeba Prince Hotel for ski holiday from Tokyo. I am quite confused with the JR rail passes. I want to be sure that we can buy the JR ticket at Haneda airport for Joetsu Shinkansen to Echigo Yuzawa? We will be staying at Toyko first for 2 days then travel to Yuzawa. Is it alright to buy the JR ticket at the airport for Yuzawa trip? By the way, is the ticket for 1 way/2 ways…unlimited usage? I read that JR rail pass can be used in Tokyo as well? Appreciate if you could reply and thanks!

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    I will be travelling to Gala Yuzawa for some ski fun with my family. Thing is, I am quite confused on the names of the various shinkansens like the Joetsu and tohoku shinkansen (first time to Jpana here! 😉 ), amongst many others. Is there any way to NOT to be confused , one way or another when travelling around in Japan?

    I remember reading up on another page of your website, or maybe not, that in order to get to Gala Yuzawa ( Echigo-Yuzawa Station in Niigata prefecture), we can take from Tokyo station on the Joetsu Shinkansen Line, using the MAX TOKI, TOKI , TANIGAWA and MAX TANIGAWA shinkansen, as seen above? Or am i missing out on something, like the need to transfer trains ?

    Other than that, I will be planning to get the 7 Days National JR Pass, due to ease of use and cost purposes, as my planning would require me to travel from Osaka –> Tokyo, round trip for Tokyo Gala Yuzawa, and perhaps some other cities as well, seeing that various trips in and out of Tokyo has already busted the 28300 yen limit. 😉

    Can you advise if that particular area in Niigata has started snowing already, and if its possible to actually hit the ski slopes?

    Thanks a bunch for helping!

    Shawn

    1. Hi Shawn,

      Gala Yuzawa station is just one station away from Echigo-Yuzawa. It’s very very close but Gala-Yuzawa is connected ski slope directly.
      Tanigawa and Max Tanigawa go to Gala Yuzawa diretly. Usually Toki and Max Toki do not go to Gala Yuzawa. Some of these trains stop at Echigo-Yuzawa only. There are lots of signage at the stations and trains. You will find that you choose the right train.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/travel-tips/signage-and-announcement-in-the-station-and-train.html

      Gala-Yuzawa is usually open in late December. In the last season, it was open on 20th Dec.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi,

    We’re going to Osaka in Dec from Narita and was wondering if Shinkansen will be the most convenient way to take. I see the cost is about 14,000+yen/pax/way. Is there any cheaper way to get it apart from the JR 7Day pass?

    Also, from Osaka we’re going to Honjo Waseda station. How do we actually get there? Appreciate if you can also provide me the fare cost.

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Jackie,

      Shinkansen is the best way by JR pass. You also can take Narita Express from Narita to Tokyo or Shinagawa. JR pass 7 days is way cheaper than the fare from Narita to Osaka and Osaka to Honjo-Waseda.

      You need to go back to Tokyo from Osaka and then take another Shinkansen that is Joestu Shinkansen to Honjo-Waseda.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi JPRail,
    I am quite lost. I’ll need some guidance: does the JR Kanto Pass covers JR Joetsu Line, JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Shinkasen Toki, and Shinkansen Asama?
    I am planning to make a trip from Shinjuku – Minakami – Takasaki – Minakami – Tokyo (within 3days) and I’m looking at buying the JR Kanto Pass as it seems to be quite a saver.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Sherry,
      JR Pass cover Max Toki. JR Pass does not cover Nozomi on Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen and Mizuho on Sanyo-Kyushu Shinkansen only. All other trains can be used by JR Pass.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

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