The Tohoku Shinkansen connects Tokyo and Tohoku region, such as Shin-Aomori, Fukushima, Sendai, Morioka and Hachinohe. In March, 2016, this Shinkansen line extended to Hokkaido. This new segment is called the Hokkaido Shinkansen. Although these Shinkansen have different names, many trains operate as one line. And also the Yamagata Shinkansen and the Akita Shinkansen also have different names, but theae lines operate from Tokyo as an integral part of the Tohoku Shinkansen.
In this post, I will explain about the Tohoku, the Hokkaido, the Akita and the Yamagata Shinkansen lines.
Hokkaido Shinkansen will be opened on March 26, 2016 between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. This will be the newest Shinkansen (Bullet Train) line technically. However this line is connected with Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin-Aomori. Many of trains run through Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto from Tokyo. You will be able to get Hokkaido from Tokyo directly by this Shinkansen train.
However Hokkaido Shinkansen will be partial open. You can get southern Hokkaido only. You still need to transfer to get most of Hokkaido. such as Sapporo. And also Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station is not located in downtown of Hakodate. You need to transfer to get Hakodate.
I mentioned many negative things at the beginning. But it will be much more convenient and faster than current trains. There are a few things that you need to know before taking Hokkaido Shinkansen. I would like to show you the detail of Hokkaido Shinkansen and will also give you some tips to use this Shinkansen line in this post.
*Additional info JR Group has announced that Hokkaido Shinkansen is fully covered by Japan Rail Pass, a.k.a. JR pass.
***Twilight Express was discontinued in 12 March, 2015. There is no overnight train option between Osaka and Hokkaido any more.***
Twilight Express is very popular. Many tourists might think about taking this luxury overnight train. But you have a problem. Twilight Express cannot be reserved online. The only way to reserve it from outside of Japan is calling Odekake net 078-341-7903 in Japanese and you have to pick up your ticket in JR West, Shikoku or Kyushu stations. You cannot pick up it in other areas, like Tokyo. Otherwise You need to go to a reservation window at the station in Japan. Ticket is started to sell one month prior to the departure date. That means it may be sold out when you arrive in Japan. So you need to think about alternatives if you have a plan to take this train. I tell you several options for the case that you cannot make Twilight Express.
Tohoku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen share the track between Tokyo and Omiya. So some types of trains are used on both Tohoku and Joetsu. I show you several types of trains that are used on Tohoku or Joetsu Shinkansen. If you are looking for the general information about these Shinkansens, please read Tohoku Shinkansen or Joetsu Shinkansen.
*If you are looking for the images of Akita, Yamagata or Nagano, please refer the following posts:
E5 series was introduced for Tohoku Shinkansen in this past March. This is the first fleet that has Glan Class seat and it became very popular topic. This class is higher class than Green class. And it is still very hard to get the ticket. Finally I can you the images of all class and facility in this fleet.
If you are looking for the general informations about these Shinkansens, please read Tohoku Shinkansen or Joetsu Shinkansen. If you are looking for the images of other trains on Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen, please see the post, Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen image gallery. If you are looking for the images of Akita, Yamagata and Nagano Shinkansen, please refer the following posts:
Both Cassiopeia and Hokutosei very popular. Many tourists have a plan to take one of these trains. However these overnight trains cannot be reserved online. The only way to reserve it from outside of Japan is calling Odekake net 078-341-7903 in Japanese and you have to pick up your ticket in JR West, Shikoku or Kyushu stations. You cannot pick up it in other areas, like Tokyo. Otherwise You need to be the reservation window at the station in Japan. Ticket is started to sell one month prior to the departure date. That means it may be sold out when you arrive in Japan. So you must have a back up plan when you try to make a reservation after arrival.
Resort Shirakami (リゾートしらかみ) is a rapid train that is operated between Akita (秋田) and Aomori (青森). This train is named from UNESCO World Heritage site “Shirakami mountains (白神山地)”. This train runs on Gono line (五能線) along the shoreline of Sea of Japan. Gono line is known as one of the most scenic lines. The view is amazing.
This train is not an express train but this cruising train offers very comfortable interior. It is operated by specialized train and it does not have any non reserved seat. This train is operated on weekend, holidays and the peak periods only. If you use Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass), JR East Pass, JR-East South Hokkaido Rail Pass, you can take this train with no extra charge.
I show you some images of this train and tell you the details of this train in this post.
***This train scheduled service was discontinued on March, 2012 due to small demand. It is operated as a seasonal operation train. Please refer the most updated operation date at Seasonal Trains Schedule.***
Nihonkai (日本海) is one of JR Overnight Express trains. It connects Osaka (大阪) with Akita (秋田) and Aomori (青森). This train has only the berth. So if you will use Japan Rail Pass, Japan Rail Pass does not cover an accommodation charge and also limited express surcharge. Even though Japan Rail Pass cover a basic fare, Nihonkai is still considerable way to get Aomori from Osaka. Let’s see the types of accommodation and extra charge. Continue reading Overnight limited express train Nihonkai
JR East started to operate 2 round trips of Hayabusa after suspension by earthquake. It takes more than 4 hours between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori. Extra 1 hour is spent to get Aomori by Hayabusa. Because there is maximum speed restriction between Omiya and Morioka due to the damage by earthquake. I hope it will be restored with 100% soon.
*JR East lifted a speed limit in some area. Now it takes about 3 hours 30 minutes from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori. It is still 20 minutes more than the regular timetable.
Japan Railway did not announce that Japan Rail Pass user can take this class without the extra fare. The surcharge of this class 5,000 yen more than Green class. So the extra surcharge for Japan Rail Pass user will be expected.
On Feb 1, 2011, I confirmed that Japan Rail Pass can be used for Hayabusa. But if you take Gran Class, you need to pay the extra. Please refer this post to see the details.
Super Hakucho and Hakucho is no longer running after Hokkaido Shinkansen opened in March, 2016. Now Hokkaido Shinkansen connects Tokyo and Hokkaido directly. Please see the following link to see the details of this Shinkansen line.
Hakucho/Super Hakucho is operated between Shin-Aomori (新青森) and Hakodate (函館). These trains go through the longest tunnel in Japan, “Seikan Tunnel” and connect the main island in Japan, “Honshu” (本州) and Hokkaido (北海道). All these trains are scheduled to be connected with Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin- Aomori station and Limited Express “Hokuto” and “Super Hokuto” to Sapporo at Hakodate. These trains used to connect Hachinohe with Hakodate via Aomori. But Tohoku Shinkansen was extended to Shin-Aomori on December 4, 2010. Departure location had been changed to Shin-Aomori instead of Hachinohe.