The Tokaido, the Sanyo and the Kyushu Shinkansen (Bullet Train) train ride guide. Most popular train between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Hakata and Kagoshima.

Shinkansen is the high speed train service in Japan. It is known as Bullet Train too.
The Shinkansen is the high speed train service in Japan. It is known as Bullet Train too.

The Shinkansen is the high speed train and the speed of the Shinkansen save your trip time. There are many Shinkansen lines in Japan now. In this post, I will explain you the Tokaido Shinkansen which is the first Shinkansen line in Japan. And also I will explain you the Sanyo and the Kyushu Shinkansen too. Because these two Shinkansen lines are connected with the Tokaido Shinkansen.

Overview

The Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Kagoshima-Chuo is one train line but this line is divided by three different segments. Because three JR companies own this Shinkansen line and the name of the line is the different by the segment.

The first segment is called the Tokaido Shinkansen runs between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.

The Tokaido Shinkansen route map. “Chuo Shinkansen” is shown in the map too but this is not opened yet. This will be the maglev train which is expected to open in 2027 between Shinagawa and Nagoya. (C) Hisagi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFD], via Wikimedia Commons

It is the first ever Shinkansen line in Japan. And this is known as the busiest Shinkansen line and one of the busiest train line in all Japan railway lines. The Tokaido Shinkansen is owned by JR Central.

The Sanyo Shinkansen is operated between Shin-Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and Hakata (Fukuoka) which is owned by JR West.

The Sanyo Shinkansen operation route (C) Hisagi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

And the Kyushu Shinkansen runs between Hakata, Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chuo that is owned by JR Kyushu.

Click to enlarge the image of map (C) Hisagi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0) or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

But in the train operation, many trains cross the border and run on two segments.

Train operation

Shin-Osaka and Hakata are the border station but you may not be able to find the difference and the border. Please see the operation map below:

Click to view large size map

Many trains, such as Nozomi, Mizuho cross the border and run through two Shinkansen lines, such as Tokyo to Hakata by Nozomi, Shin-Osaka to Kagoshima-Chuo by Mizuho.

Types of train

There are six types of trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen, the Sanyo Shinkansen and the Kyushu Shinkansen.

Nozomi

Nozomi is the fastest train on the Tokaido Shinkansen and the Sanyo Shinkansen. Nozomi runs every 10 minutes during daytime between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, and run every 30 minutes between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima or Hakata.

All Nozomi stops at Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kokura and Hakata. Some Nozomi stops Nishi-Akashi, Himeji, Fukuyama, Tokuyama and Shin-Yamaguchi. Nozomi does not go further than Hakata. Mizuho and Sakura run between Shin-Osaka, Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chuo. I will explain about these trains later.

JR Pass does NOT valid for Nozomi. If you want to take Nozomi, you have to pay the full fare. There is no deals available to cover Nozomi between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Shin-Osaka other than the travel package by some travel agents.

Approximate travel time between the major stations by Nozomi

Tokyo
1 hour 40 minutes
Nagoya
35 minute
Kyoto
15 minute
Shin-Osaka
50 minute
Okayama
40 minutes
Hiroshima
1 hour 5 minutes
Hakata

*The trip tims may be varied by the train, the departure time and the season.

Nozomi train formation

12345678910111213141516
NRNRNRRRRRGGGRRRRRR

R – Ordinary class reserved seat
NR – Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G – Reserved Green class

Hikari

Hikari is the second fastest train on the Tokaido Shinkansen and the Sanyo Shinkansen. If you travel between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Shin-Osaka by JR Pass, Hikari is your choice because Nozomi is not covered as I explained above.

Most of Hikari runs between Tokyo, Shin-Osaka and Okayama. Hikari which goes to Hiroshima and Hakata is very few. Your choice for I will explain about other train, Sakura later which is covered by JR pass on the Sanyo and the Kyushu Shinkansen.

All Hikari stops at Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Himeji, Okayama, Fukuyama, Hiroshima, Shin-Shimonoseki, Kokura and Hakata. Many Hikari stop at Shizuoka, Hamamatsu, Gifu-Hashima, Maibara, Nishi-Akashi and Aioi. Some Hikari also stop at Odawara, Atami, Mishima and Toyohashi.

Approximate travel time between the major stations by Hikari

Tokyo
1 hour
Shizuoka
45 minute
Nagoya
40 minute
Kyoto
15 minute
Shin-Osaka
40 minute
Himeji
30 minutes
Okayama
40 minutes
Hiroshima

*The trip tims may be varied by the train, the departure time and the season.

Hikari train formation

Most Hikari are operated by the following 16 cars formation.

12345678910111213141516
NRNRNRNRNRRRGGGRRRRRR

R – Ordinary class reserved seat
NR – Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G – Reserved Green class

However very few Hikari which run between Shin-Osaka and Hakata are operated by the following 8 cars formation.

12345678
NRNRNRRRR /GRR
12345678
NRNRNRRRRRR
Find your hotels in 500 cities throughout Japan!!!

Hotels in Fukuoka
Hotels in Hiroshima
Hotels in Nagoya

Kodama

Kodama which runs on the Sanyo Shinkansen is operated by this 500 series.

Kodama is the slowest train and stops at all stations on the Tokaido Shinkansen and the Sanyo Shinkansen. At this point, only Kodama stops at the following stations:

  • Shin-Fuji
  • Kakegawa
  • Mikawa-Anjo
  • Asa

This is covered by JR Pass. But the trip time is significantly longer than Hikari and Sakura. If you need to access one of these above stations, you have to take Kodama. Otherwise try to take Hikari or Sakura to save your trip time.

Kodama runs all part of the Tokaido Shinkansen and the Sanyo Shinkansen. But there is no Kodama which goes through from Tokyo to Hakata. Kodama run between Tokyo and Nagoya, Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, Shin-Osaka and Hakata. But many Kodama run on the short distance, such as Tokyo to Mishima.

Kodama train formation

All Kodama on the Tokaido Shinkansen are operated by the following 16 cars formation.

12345678910111213141516
NRNRNRNRNRNRNRGGGRRNRNRNRR

R – Ordinary class reserved seat
NR – Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G – Reserved Green class

All Kodama which run between Shin-Osaka and Hakata are operated by the following 8 cars formation.

12345678
NRNRNRRRR /GNRNR
12345678
NRNRNRRRRNRNR

Platt Kodama, Tokyo-Nagoya-Kyoto-Osaka deal

Kodama is covered by JR Pass. But if you want to travel one way from Tokyo to Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka or versa, Platt Kodama is a good deal. Please refer the post below to find the detailed information:

Mizuho

Mizuho is the fastest train on the Sanyo Shinkansen and the Kyushu Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-Chuo. This train runs about 6 to 8 round trips a day. The number of trips are varied by the season.

All Mizuho stops at Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima and Kokura, Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chuo. Some Mizuho stops Himeji, Kurume and Sendai.

JR Pass does NOT valid for Mizuho. If you want to take Mizuho, you have to pay the full fare. But if you use JR West deals and JR Kyushu deals, such as Sanyo Sanin Area Pass, Kansai Wide Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass, Kyushu Rail Pass and some more deals, you can take Mizuho.

Approximate travel time between the major stations by Mizuho

Shin-Osaka
50 minute
Okayama
40 minutes
Hiroshima
1 hour 5 minutes
Hakata
35 minutes
Kumamoto
45 minutes
Kagoshima-Chuo

*The trip tims may be varied by the train, the departure time and the season.

Mizuho train formation

All Mizuho are operated by the following 8 cars formation.

12345678
NRNRNRRRR /GRR

R – Ordinary class reserved seat
NR – Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G – Reserved Green class

Nozomi and Hikari provide exactly same accommodation in both the reserved ordinary class and the non reserved ordinary class. But Mizuho and Sakura offers better seat in the reserved ordinary class. If you travel between Shin-Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and Hakata, Mizuho and Sakura are better choice than Nozomi and Hikari. I will show you the photos later in this post.

Sakura

N700 series will be used as Mizuho and Sakura.
Mizuho and Sakura are operated by N700-7000/8000 series.

Sakura is the second fastest train on the Sanyo Shinkansen and the Kyushu Shinkansen. If you travel between Shin-Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima, Hakata, Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chuo by JR Pass, Sakura is your choice because Nozomi and Mizuho is not covered as I explained above. You can take Hikari as well between Shin-Osaka and Hakata but Sakura has better seat in reserved ordinary class. I will show you the photos later in this post.

Most of Sakura runs between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-Chuo. All Sakura stops at Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Okayama, Fukuyama, Hiroshima, Kokura, Hakata, Shin-Tosu, Kurume, Kumamoto, Sendai and Kagoshima-Chuo. Many Sakura stops at Fukuyama, Shin-Yatsushiro, Shin-Minamata and Izumi. Some Sakura also stop at Himeji, Tokuyama, Shin-Yamaguchi, Shin-Shimonoseki, Chikugo-Funagoya, Shin-Omuta and Shin-Tamana.

Approximate travel time between the major stations by Sakura

Shin-Osaka
50 minute
Okayama
40 minutes
Hiroshima
1 hour 5 minutes
Hakata
40 minutes
Kumamoto
50 minutes
Kagoshima-Chuo

*The trip tims may be varied by the train, the departure time and the season.

Sakura train formation

Most Sakura are operated by the following 8 cars formation.

12345678
NRNRNRRRR /GRR

R – Ordinary class reserved seat
NR – Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G – Reserved Green class

A few Sakura are operated by the following 6 cars formation.

123456
NRNRNRRRR

Nozomi and Hikari provide exactly same accommodation in both the reserved ordinary class and the non reserved ordinary class. But Mizuho and Sakura offers better seat in the reserved ordinary class. If you travel between Shin-Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and Hakata, Mizuho and Sakura are better choice than Nozomi and Hikari. I will show you the photos later in this post.

Tsubame

Tsubame is the slowest train and stops at all stations on the Kyushu Shinkansen between Hakata and Kagoshima-Chuo. But in the day time, Tsubame mostly runs between Hakata and Kumamoto. Sakura covers the segment between Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chuo. This train is covered by JR Pass.

Tsubame train formation

All Tsubame are operated by the following 8 cars formation.

123456
NRNRNRRRR

A few Tsubame are operated by the following 8 cars formation.

12345678
NRNRNRRRR /GRR

R – Ordinary class reserved seat
NR – Ordinary class non-reserved seat
G – Reserved Green class

Timetable

You may find the timetables in JR Central and JR Kyushu official sites in the links below:

JR Central official site – The Tokaido and the Sanyo Shinkansen timetable

JR Kyushu official site – The route map and the timetable of JR Kyushu trains

Photo gallery

The accommodation is a bit different from the fleets. There are several kinds of the fleet to be used for the Shinkansen trains.

N700 and 700 series (Nozomi, Hikari, Kodama)

All Nozomi and most Hikari are operated by these train sets. And also these train sets are also used for Kodama 16 cars formation on the Tokaido Shinkansen. N700 and 700 almost same in these two train sets.

Green class seat

2+2 seat layout
The leg space is 1,160 mm. The footrest is equipped.
The power outlet is equipped at all Green seats.

Ordinary class seat (reserved and non reserved)

The interior is exactly same in both the reserved and non reserved ordinary class seats.

The seat layout is 2+3.
The leg space is 1,040 mm. The power outlet is available at the window side seat,s the very front row and the very back row seats only.

Sanitary facility

Some washrooms have the diaper changing table.

Smoking space

There are several smoking rooms available. Smoking is allowed in this room. But some trains still have smoking cars. Smoking is available in the designated cars.

N700-7000/8000 series (Mizuho, Sakura)

All Mizuho, most Sakura and very few Tsubame are operated by this fleet.

Green class seat

2+2 seat layout is the standard of the Shinkansen Green class seat.
The leg space is 1,160 mm. The legrest and the footrest are equipped.
The power outlet is equipped at all Green seats.

Reserved ordinary class seats

N700-7000 offers better accommodation in the reserved ordinary class seat. This is the reason why I recommend you to take Mizuho or Sakura more than Nozomi and Hikari.

This ordinary class seat provides same layout as Green class seat, 2+2. This is much better than other ordinary class standard seat, 2+3 seat layout.
The leg space is same as other ordinary class seat, 1,060 mm. The power outlet is available at the window side seat,s the very front row and the very back row seats only.

Non reserved ordinary class

Non reserved ordinary class is same accommodation as other ordinary class seat.

2+3 seat layout
The leg space is 1,040 mm.

Sanitary facility

Some washroom provide the diaper changing table.

Other facilities

On board sales is not available between Hakata and Kagoshima-Chuo. The vending machine helps you when it is not available.
Smoking is allowed in this room only.

500 series (Kodama on the Sanyo Shinkansen)

One of 500 series train sets is now operated as Hello Kitty Shinkansen. It was operated as EVA Type 500 before. (C) Rsa [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This fleet was used for Nozomi before. The style of this fleet is still very updated and cool. Now this fleet is used for Kodama on the Sanyo Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. This train set does not provide Green class seat. But the reserved ordinary seat is better than non reserved seat.

Reserved ordinary class seat

2+2 seat layout is more comfortable than the standard ordinary class seat.
The leg space is 1,040 mm which is same as the standard ordinary class seat. But some seat has much bigger leg space.

Non reserved ordinary class seat

2+3 seat layout is same type of the ordinary class seat as other Shinkansen train sets.
The leg space is 1,040 mm.

Other facilities

Washroom is available.
Smoking spaces are available.

800 series (Tsubame and a few Sakura)

This train set is used for Tsubame on the Kyushu Shinkansen between Hakata and Kagoshima-Chuo. It is also used for a few Sakura which runs in Kyushu only. This train set does not run on the Sanyo Shinkansen segment.

This train set provide only one class seat which is the ordinary class. There is no difference between reserved and non reserved. But this ordinary class is much wider than other ordinary class seat. And this is made of lots of wood material. The atmosphere is totally different from other Shinkansen fleets.

Ordinary class seat

2+2 seat layout is default of this train set. It is much nice than other ordinary class seat. And also the seat is made from lots of wood material and has Japanese atmosphere.
The leg space is 1,040 mm which is the ordinary class standard. The curtain is also made from the wood material.

Other facilities

Bathroom is available.
The “Noren” which are traditional Japanese fabric dividers are hung at the bathroom sink.

The coverage by the rail passes

There are many rail passes available. You may be confused which Shinkansen train and class are covered by the pass. Please see the table below:

Type of passCoverage
JR Pass GreenAll seats on all Shinkansen trains other than Nozomi and Mizuho
JR Pass OrdinaryBoth reserved and non reserved on all Shinkansen trains other than Nozomi and Mizuho
JR West
Kansai Area Pass
This pass does not cover any Shinkansen trains
JR West
Kansai Wide Area Pass
Only non reserved ordinary seat of all Shinkansen trains on the Sanyo Shinkansen trains between Shin-Osaka and Okayama
JR West
Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass
Only non reserved ordinary seat of all Shinkansen trains on the Sanyo Shinkansen trains between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima
JR West
Sanyo Sanin Area Pass
Both reserved and non reserved seats of all Shinkansen trains on the Sanyo Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hakata
JR West
Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass
Only non reserved ordinary seat of all Shinkansen trains on the Sanyo Shinkansen trains between Hiroshima and Hakata
JR West Hiroshima Okayama Yamaguchi Area PassOnly non reserved ordinary seat of all Shinkansen trains on the Sanyo Shinkansen trains between Okayama and Hakata
All Kyushu Rail PassBoth reserved and non reserved seats of all Shinkansen trains on the Kyushu Shinkansen between Hakata and Kagoshima-Chuo
Northern Kyushu Rail PassBoth reserved and non reserved seats of all Shinkansen trains on the Kyushu Shinkansen between Hakata and Kumamoto
Southern Kyushu Rail PassBoth reserved and non reserved seats of all Shinkansen trains on the Kyushu Shinkansen between Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chuo
Kyushu Rail Pass Fukuoka WideThis pass does not cover any Shinkansen trains.

The summary

If you take the Shinkansen by JR Pass, Hikari is the choice for your travel between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Shin-Osaka. But if you travel to the west from Shin-Osaka, Sakura has better interior as you saw. Sakura is more recommended.

If you use JR West passes, you can use any trains. But most JR West deals cover only non reserved seat. You cannot get a benefit of better seat in the reserved car.

If you travel in Kyushu by Kyushu Rail Pass, 800 series is very interesting train set. Tsubame is slow train but this is operated by this series. You may take this train too.

I hope this Shinkansen ride guide gives you many ideas. And I am glad if you use this guide to build your trip plan.

492 thoughts on “The Tokaido, the Sanyo and the Kyushu Shinkansen (Bullet Train) train ride guide. Most popular train between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Hakata and Kagoshima.”

  1. Hi Takeshi San,

    Thank you so much for posting information about Japan Shinkansen. I would like to ask how should i identify Non-reserved seat for Nozomi. I’m going to Japan next week.

    Hope you can help on this.

    Thanks

Before you leave your comment, please see the conditions below.
  • Your comment will not be shown until I approve. When you submit your comment, the page will be reloaded but nothing happens. Your comment will be shown when I approve. Please click submit only once and wait for my approval.
  • Please do not ask me to make your itinerary. Because I am not your personal travel agent. I am very happy to check your itinerary. But please try to make the plan by yourself. In this website, there are lots of resources to make your plan.
  • Please do not ask me about the access to your hotel. You can google your hotel and find it at hotel website or google map easily.
  • I cannot recommend any hotels other than which I have stayed. Basically I cannot talk about hotels in this site. The number of hotels are too many to talk about by my experience.
  • If you want to ask me which pass suits your plan, please tell me your detailed itinerary and location to stay. I cannot choose any deals without the detailed itinerary because I have to compare the total single fare and deals.
  • Please do not ask me to reply to your inquiry by email. In this website, I would like to share all information with any readers. I do not communicate with you directly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*