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What is Shinkansen (bullet train)? Most convenient and the fastest train service throughout Japan.


Tokaido Shinkansen

Tokaido Shinkansen

Shinkansen (新幹線) is known as Bullet train. It is one of the fastest train in the world and the high speed railway network throughout Japan. When you plan your trip in Japan, try to use Shinkansen train service as much as possible. This train service gives you a benefit to save your travel time. Most of other express train services are connected at the major station in right transfer time. You can transfer the trains very smoothly.

But Shinkansen is completely different railway from Zairaisen (在来線=regular track of JR lines). Shinkasen does not share the track with other local lines, even the express train either. Because Shinkansen’s rail gauge (1435mm) is wider than other JR line (1067mm). So Shinkansen cannot go in the local railway network. That means you need to change the platform in the station. You have to expect to transfer the trains at least 5 minutes and sometimes need more in the mega station, like Tokyo, Nagoya, Ueno. And also Shinkansen have fewer stations than regular lines because this is a long distance intercity train service,

Now we have six Shinkansen lines. There are several trains in service on each Shinkansen lines. These following trains are from left to right, from the fastest to the slowest. If you need more information, please click the link to get each Shinkansen’s page.

  • Tokaido Shinkansen (東海道新幹線) Nozomi, Hikari, Kodama
    It runs between Tokyo (東京) and Shin-Osaka (新大阪). It is connected with Sanyo Shinkansen at Shin-Osaka. Nozomi cannot be used by Japan Rail Pass.
  • Sanyo Shinkansen (山陽新幹線) Nozomi, Hikari, Kodama
    It runs between Shin-Osaka (新大阪) and Hakata (博多). Since many trains go through from Tokaido Shinkansen, we call Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen. Sanyo Shinkansen is connected with Kyushu Shinkansen at Hakata. Many direct train services are operated to Kagoshima-Chuo on Kyushu Shinkansen. Nozomi cannot be used by Japan Rail Pass.
  • Kyushu Shinkansen (九州新幹線) Mizuho, Sakura, Tsubasa
    It runs between Hakata (博多) and Kagoshima-Chuo (鹿児島中央). All Mizuho and most of Sakura are operated between Shin-Osaka (新大阪) and Kagoshima-Chuo. But JR do not operate any direct train in service from Tokyo (東京). Mizuho cannot be used by Japan Rail Pass.
  • Tohoku Shinkansen (東北新幹線) Hayabusa, Hayate, Yamabiko/Max Yamabiko, Nasuno/Max Nasuno
    It runs between Tokyo (東京) and Shin-Aomori (新青森). This Shinkansen line will be extended to Hakodate by 2015. Tohoku Shinkansen do not connect with Tokaido Shinkansen at Tokyo (東京). You have to transfer the train. The train name that has “Max” is operated by “Max” double decker train.
  • Joetsu Shinkansen (上越新幹線) Toki/Max Toki, Tanigawa/Max Tanigawa
    It runs between Tokyo (東京) and Niigata (新潟). This Shinkansen share the track with Tohoku Shinkansen between Tokyo (東京) and Omiya. The train name that has “Max” is operated by “Max” double decker train.
  • Nagano Shinkansen (長野新幹線)
    It runs between Tokyo (東京) and Nagano (長野). This Shinkansen share the track with Joetsu Shinkansen between Tokyo (東京) and Takasaki. This Shinkansen line is officially called Hokuriku Shinkansen. Because this line will be extended to Kanazawa in Hokuriku area by 2014.
Double decker train that is called "MAX". It runs on Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen.

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

And also we have two more lines. These lines are sometimes called Mini Shinkansen. Because these lines are upgraded from the exist lines. So these Shinkansen trains share with the local train in upgraded section.

  • Yamagata Shinkansen (山形新幹線)
    It runs between Tokyo (東京) and Shinjo (新庄) via Yamagata (山形). This Shinkansen trains are jointed with Yamabiko on Tohoku Shinkansen between Tokyo and Fukushima (福島). And it runs on the upgraded regular track with the local trains from Fukushima to Shinjo.
  • Akita Shinkansen (秋田新幹線)
    It runs between Tokyo (東京) and Akita (秋田). This Shinkansen trains are jointed with Hayate on Tohoku Shinkansen between Tokyo and Morioka (盛岡). And it runs on the upgraded regular track with the local trains from Morioka to Akita.

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4 Comments to “What is Shinkansen (bullet train)? Most convenient and the fastest train service throughout Japan.”

  1. Elisa yu says:

    Hi JPrail. I will be in fukouka this sept 10 to 13. What is the best way to go to Osaka from Fukuoka? By plane or by bullet train? Thank you for your help!

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Elisa,

      I think Shinkansen is better. In travel time, flight is much shorter than Shinkansen. But you will spend the time to get airport and check in. Total spending time for taking flight is almost same as Shinkansen trip time. Shinkansen can connect both downtown core of Osaka and Fukuoka. Taking Shinkansen makes you more convenient and less stress.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. jj says:

    Hi JPRail,

    I wonder what is the luggage size permitted to carry in japan train?
    I am thinking to bring a 28 inch suitcase.

    Regard,s
    Joane

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Joane,
      They don’t have any restriction. You can carry any size of baggage. But most of trains do not have any luggage space except Narita Express, Haruka (Kansai airport express) and some of resort trains. So basically you can keep your baggage at your seat. I recommend you to minimize your luggage. Otherwise you have to leave your baggage at the entrance deck.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

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