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.

Types of train, schedule and trip time

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.


Max Toki
Max Tanigawa
Tokyo (東京)xx
Ueno (上野)xx
Omiya (大宮)xx
Kumagaya (熊谷)*x
Honjo-Waseda (本庄早稲田)*x
Takasaki (高崎)xx
Jomo-Kogen (上毛高原)*x
Echigo-Yuzawa (越後湯沢)xx
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 fleets. 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)


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)


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)


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)


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.

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

  1. Hello Takeshi!
    I was just wondering where in Tokyo Station to pick up Joetsu shinkansen tickets if I have bought seats online. Is it at the “Travel Service Center (View Plaza) ”

    Thank you!

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    Me and my Fiance will be going to these areas this march (listed below), would like to ask if all of the areas specified are covered by the 7 days National JR Pass

    – Osaka
    – Tokyo
    – Kyoto
    – Nara
    – Odaiba
    – Gala Yuzawa

    Thank you

    1. Hi Jez,

      You cannot get Odaiba by JR pass. And also some places in Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo cannot be accessed by JR pass. Please see the links below to find more info:
      JR pass covers most part of your trip. But you need to add other deal or ticket in Fuji, Shirakawago, Kyoto and maybe in Tokyo. Please see the link below:


      Takeshi /

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    I’ll be going to places like tokyo disneyland, shibuya, tokyo tower, mount fuji and gala yuzawa snow resort from shinagawa or tokyo station. Which jr pass is most suitable?

    1. Hi Fara,

      Tokyo Wide Pass is recommended for Disney, Gala and Fuji.

      Use Tokyo subway ticket for sightseeing in Tokyo other than Disneyland.


      Takeshi /

  4. Hello!

    I’ve been reading this website avidly, since my family and I are planning our first trip to Japan for October 2017.

    Among many other things, we are interested in going from Tokyo to Takasaki and from Takasaki to Mount Haruna. We know the part from Takasaki to Mount Haruna is made by bus, so that’s not covered by the JR Pass. But, when I check Hyperdia to see how we’d get from Tokyo to Takasaki, I find two types of trains that I’m not sure are included in the JR Pass. Hyperdia says that I should take a Toki or Harutaka shinkansen from Tokyo to Takasaki.

    Are both of those shinkansen trains included in the JR Pass or those fall into the category of “not included”?

    I’d really appreciate it if you’d be so kind as to confirm me whether or not they are included in the JR Pass or not, so we can make our calculations of time and money accordingly. 🙂

    THANK YOU! For this wonderful website and all the information you provide, and for your kind help with my specific question. 🙂

    Best regards from Chile!

    1. Hi Andrea,

      Both Shinkansen trains are covered by JR Pass. When you go to Takasaki, there are some more trains running. But all trains on this segment are covered by JR pass.


      Takeshi /

  5. Hi,
    I have big difficulties to find trains from Joetsu (arriving by ferry from Sado Island around 13:00, April 25) to Takaoka or Kosugi stn, but along the coast (Itoigawa, Asahi, Uozu…) ? Is my JR pass available on such a way?

    1. Hi Frane,

      Your route is the following:

      Joetsu port (bus or taxi) Naoetsu (Echigo Tokimeki railway – Ainokaze Toyama railway local train) Kosugi or Takaoka. When you go to Takaoka, you may need to change trains at Toyama.

      This route goes along the coast. JR Pass does not cover this route. But when you go to Takaoka, only Toyama-Takaoka segment is covered by JR pass. Please use hyperdia to find the schedule and fare.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hi Takeshi,
        I am new here and wanted to ask what is the best rail line or ticket I need to buy for trip from Tokyo, Niigata, Akihabara. I am looking for 6 days pass to travel these routes and neighboring towns or routes. I am traveling with one 3 yr old, one 16 yr old student and 2 adults.

        1. Hi Daneh,

          I recommend you JR East Pass Nagano Niigata. It covers your trip plan and cheaper than regular fares.

          There is no student discount. Adult price applies to 16 year old. 3 years old is free of charge if one of you share the seat with this child. But if you want to have a seat for this child, you need to purchase child price pass.


          Takeshi /

  6. Hi,

    Im thinking of going to manza nishinkan for 2 nights in march. Arriving in Narita Airport at 11am. After 2 nights in Manza, im thinking of exploring Tokyo in another 4 nights. Is it advisable to buy the JR Pass East? Does this pass cover the train to Manza Kazawaguchi?

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