Joetsu Shinkansen

The Joetsu Shinkansen train guide: The Shinkansen train connects Tokyo, Niiagata and Echigo Yuzawa

Joetsu Shinkansen
E4 series is only by-level Shinkansen fleet on all Shinkansen lines.

The Joetsu Shinkansen is the third oldest Shinkansen (aka Shinkansen) and runs between Tokyo and Niigata. Joetsu is the name of the region from southern Niigata prefecture to northern Gunma prefecture.

In this post, I will explain about the Joetsu Shinkansen.

Route, schedule and trip time

The Joetsu Shinkansen runs between Tokyo and Niigata via Ueno, Omiya, Takasaki and Nagaoka. The Joetsu Shinkansen shares the route between Tokyo and Omiya with the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen, and between Omiya and Takasaki with the Hokuriku Shinkansen. When you take the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo, these other Shinkansen trains will depart from the same platform, so be sure to check your destination before boarding.

Click to view large.

The fastest train on the Joetsu Shinkansen runs between Tokyo and Echigo Yuzawa in 1 hour and 10 minutes, and between Tokyo and Niigata in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Echigo Yuzawa is a popular hot spring town in this area, and due to the large amount of snowfall, it is known as a ski resort that is easily accessible from Tokyo. JR East, which operates the Joetsu Shinkansen, also owns the Gala Yuzawa ski area, and is known as a ski area directly connected to the Shinkansen station. Many trains run directly between Tokyo and Gala Yuzawa during the winter ski season.

Types of train

Joetsu Shinkansen
E4 sereis (front) and E7 series (back)

There are two types of trains on the Hokuriku Shinkansen: Toki and Tanigawa. Both trains are covered by Japan Rail Pass and JR East Pass Nagano Niigata. And these following passes covers this Shinkansen route between Tokyo and Gala Yuzawa:

And Hokuriku Arch Pass covers the entire Hokuriku Shinkansen, so Hokuriku Arch Pass will also be covered between Tokyo and Takasaki, which is the shared section with the Hokuriku Shinkansen.

Both Toki and Tanigawa are operated by three types of fleets, E2 series, E4 series and E7 series.

Toki

“Toki” means Japanese Crested Ibis in Japanese. This bird is very familiar in this region.

“Toki” is a train that connects Tokyo and Niigata. Depending on the train, “Toki” stops at different stations, and the trip time varies greatly. The fastest train only stops at Omiya, which connects Tokyo and Niigata in about 1 hour and 40 minutes. However, most trains stop at Ueno, Omiya, Takasaki, Echigoyuzawa, Nagaoka, and Tsubamesanjo, and it takes about 2 hours.

Train fromation

E7 series

123456789101112
NRNRNRNRNRRRRRRGGC
R:Ordinary class reserved seat
NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G:Green class
GC: Gran class

E2 series

12345678910
NRNRNRNRNRRRRGR
R:Ordinary class reserved seat
NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G:Green class

Max Toki

Joetsu Shinkansen
2 of E4 train sets are combined.

The Joetsu Shinkansen has a double-decker fleet called the E4 series, and the Toki operated by this is called Max Toki. Some of Toki are operated by 2 x 8 car Max train sets.

Train fromation

12345678
NRNRNRNRRRGG
NRNRNRNRRRRR
R:Ordinary class reserved seat
NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G:Green class
12345678910111213141516
NRNRNRRRRGGNRNRNRRRRGG
NRNRNRRRRRRNRNRNRRRRRR
R:Ordinary class reserved seat
NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G:Green class

Tanigawa

The train name of Tanigawa comes from Mt. Tanigawa, which is popular for mountaineering.

Tanigawa basically operates between Tokyo and Echigo Yuzawa, mainly in the morning and evening, and stops at all stations on the way.

In winter, Tanigawa is extended to operate for Gala Yuzawa station. Gala Yuzawa ski area is directly connected to the Shinkansen station, making it a popular ski area with easy access. Gala Yuzawa ski resort is open as a mountain resort in summer season, but Gala Yuzawa station is only open during the ski season. In summer, you cannot go to Gala Yuzawa station by the Shinkansen.

Train fromation

E7 series

123456789101112
NRNRNRNRNRRRRRRGGC
R:Ordinary class reserved seat
NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G:Green class
GC: Gran class

E2 series

12345678910
NRNRNRNRNRNRNRRGR
R:Ordinary class reserved seat
NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G:Green class

Max Tanigawa

The Joetsu Shinkansen has a double-decker fleet called the E4 series, and the Tanigawa operated by this is called Max Tanigawa.

Train fromation

12345678
NRNRNRNRNRRGG
NRNRNRNRNRRRR
R:Ordinary class reserved seat
NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G:Green class
12345678910111213141516
NRNRNRNRNRRGGNRNRNRNRNRRGG
NRNRNRNRNRRRRNRNRNRNRNRRRR
R:Ordinary class reserved seat
NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G:Green class

Genbi Shinkansen

This train operates between Echigo-Yuzawa and Niigata as a seasonally operated train. It is operated by the refurbished E3 series and most part of the passenger’s cabin is an art gallery.

Please find more information about this train in the article below:

Photo gallery

There are three types of the fleet running on the Joetsu Shinkansen.

E7 series

Joetsu Shinkansen
E7 sereis (front) and E4 series (back)

E7 is the newest fleet. Only this train set has Gran class which is the highest seat in all JR trains.

Gran class

Gran class seat is the highest category in all JR trains. This class is available on only JR East Shinkansen lines such as the Tohoku-Hokkaido, the Hokuriku and the Joetsu Shinkansen lines.

The seat is leather and the leg space is 1,300 mm (4′ 3″) with 2+1 seat layout. The Gran class includes a light meal and a beverage on the Tohoku-Hokkaido and the Hokuriku Shinkansen lins. But these are not included on the Joetsu Shinkansen trains. The differences are only interior and seat itself.

A power outlet and many amenities are offered in this class.

Interior of Gran class seats (C) 黄金のひばりたち (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Interior of Gran class seats (C) 黄金のひばりたち (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The seat of Gran class (C) Asacyan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The seat of Gran class (C) Asacyan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Entrance deck of Gran class (C) Meitetu1380 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Entrance deck of Gran class (C) Meitetu1380 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Green class

Green class is the highest class in most of express trains. The leg space is 1,160 mm (3′ 10″) with 2+2 seat layout. All seats equip a power outlet.

Interior of Green class (C) 黄金のひばりたち (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Interior of Green class (C) 黄金のひばりたち (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Green class seat (C) Jonathan Ayre
Green class seat (C) Jonathan Ayre

Ordinary class

It is very typical Shinkansen ordinary class layout. It gives you 1,040 mm seat pitch with 2+3 seat configuration. All seats have the power outlet. Actually this is the first Shinkansen train that the power outlet is equipped at all seats in the ordinary seat car.

Ordinary class interior (C) 黄金のひばりたち (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ordinary class interior (C) 黄金のひばりたち (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ordinary class seat (C) Jonathan Ayre
Ordinary class seat (C) Jonathan Ayre
Ordinary class seat (C) Jonathan Ayre
Ordinary class seat (C) Jonathan Ayre

Other facilities

Entrance deck(C) Jonathan Ayre
Entrance deck(C) Jonathan Ayre
Entrance deck(C) Jonathan Ayre
Entrance deck(C) Jonathan Ayre
Lavatory (C) Jonathan Ayre
Lavatory (C) Jonathan Ayre
Lavatory (C) Jonathan Ayre
Lavatory (C) Jonathan Ayre
Lavatory (C) Jonathan Ayre
Lavatory (C) Jonathan Ayre

E2 series

Joetsu Shinkansen
E2 series were a primary train fleet on the Joetsu Shinkansen.

Originally the E2 series was the main model of the Tohoku Shinkansen, but what became surplus fleets due to the introduction of the new E5 series is used in the Joetsu Shinkansen. There are two types of seats for green cars and standard cars, but there is no Gran class.

Green seat

The leg space is 1,160 mm (3′ 10″) with 2+2 seat layout. Most seats equip a power outlet. But some older fleets do not have a power outlet at a seat.

Ordinary seat

The leg space is 980 mm (3′ 3″) with 2+3 seat layout. A leg space is a little bit smaller than E7 series ordinary seat.Most seats at the window side equip a power outlet. But some older fleets do not have a power outlet at a seat.

Other facilities

Bathroom sink compartment
Luggage space

E4 series (MAX double decker fleet)

Double decker train that is called "MAX". It runs on Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen.
A double-decker fleet that is called “MAX”. This type of the Shinkansen fleet runs on the Joetsu Shinkansen only.

The E4 series is the only double-decker train on all Shinkansen trains. Normally, 8 cars are 1 train set, but 2 sets of 16 cars sometimes operate, especially in a morning rush hour. Similar to other Shinkansen trains, it has two types of seats, Green car and Ordinary car, but there are two types of standard car seats in this model.

Green car

All green cars are on the upper floor, seating arrangement is 2+2, seat pitch is 1,160mm (3′ 10″). E4 series does not have a power outlet equipment at any seats.

Green car seats are located on the upper floor of cars 7 and 8. When operating with 16 cars, the second floor of cars 15 and 16 are also Green cars.

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UpperGG
Lower
The seat equips a leg rest but it does not have a foot rest.

Ordinary car (3+2 seat layout)

I said that there are two types of ordinary cars, but the first is here, the seat arrangement is 3 + 2, the seat pitch is 980 mm. The basic specifications are almost the same as other Shinkansen vehicles.
Seats of this type are found in the following cars:

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Upper3+23+23+2
Lower3+23+23+23+23+23+23+23+2

Normally, this type of seat is used as a reserved seat for regular cars.

At the end of cars 2, 4, and 6, there is an area that is not a two-story structure and that part also has this type of seating. It is recommended for elderly people as you can go to the seat without going up and down the stairs.

Ordinary car lower cabin (3+2 seat arrangement)
Ordinary car lower cabin (3+2 seat arrangement)
Ordinary car upper cabin (3+2 seat arrangement)
Ordinary car upper cabin (3+2 seat arrangement)

Ordinary car (3+3 seat layout)

Another type of regular car seat is a 3+3 seat arrangement, the worst of all Shinkansen trains’ seats. There is no armrest in the seat, so there is no separation from the next seat. Also, this seat does not recline at all. However, because the view is better than the seats on the lower cabin, it is not rare for seats to fill up from the this floor earlier than better seat on the lower cabin.

This type of seat is found in the following cars:

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Upper3+33+33+3
Lower

This normal type of seat is used as a free seat in a standard car.

Other facilities

Bathroom
Jamp seats are equippued by the passengers’ door.

Additional charge to take Gran class seat

As I mentioned above, the highest seat, “Gran class” is not covered by any rail pass. If you want to take a seat in Gran class, you have to pay a full fare of Gran class seat. For example, the fares for Tokyo to Niigata are the following:

Base fare5,720 yen
Gran class seat fee11,850 yen
Green class seat fee8,700 yen
Reserved ordinary class seat fee5,040 yen

Even if you use JR Pass Green, you have to pay 11,850 yen to get a seat on Gran class. The additional fee is NOT the difference (3,150 yen = 11,850 – 8,700) between Gran class seat fee and Green class seat fee. If you use JR Pass Ordinary or other rail pass, such as JR East Pass Nagano Niigata, the additional fee is same. In this case, only base fare 5,720 yen is covered by any type of the rail passes.

Summary

On Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, the fastest train, “Nozomi” is not covered. But on the Joetsu Shinkansen, there is no restirictions to use the pass. You can get to Niigata, Gala Yuzawa or Echigo-Yuzawa by this Shinkansen trains fully.

36 thoughts on “The Joetsu Shinkansen train guide: The Shinkansen train connects Tokyo, Niiagata 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!
    Julianna

  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:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  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.
      jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/tokyo-wide-pass-is-newer-version-of-kanto-area-pass-nikko-fuji-gala-yuzawa-and-odaiba-are-covered-by-this-pass.html

      Use Tokyo subway ticket for sightseeing in Tokyo other than Disneyland.
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  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.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  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.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      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.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/jr-east-pass-niigata-and-nagano-flex-5-days-pass-in-14-days-period-to-cover-kanto-region-nagano-and-niigata.html

          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.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  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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