Shinkansen is Japan’s high-speed rail system. It is the world’s first commercially operational high-speed rail system, with the running speed of 240 to 320 m/h (149 to 198 m/h).
Shinkansen trains, known as high-speed trains (bullet trains) or super express in Japan, are famous for their fast speed, punctuality, comfort and safety. Unlike regular trains, all shinkansen lines are built to standard gauge.
The first shinkansen line, Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, started operating since 1964. After years of expansion, at present, there are 9 shinkansen lines in service, connecting most of major cities in Japan. There are 7 high-speed shinkansen lines and 2 mini-shinkansen lines, which refer to lines that share tracks with regular trains. Mini-shinkansen trains have a top speed of 130 km/h (81 m/h).
Opened in 1964, Tokaido Shinkansen is the first high-speed rail line in Japan, as well as the oldest high-speed rail system in the world. After the Japanese National Railways privatized in 1987, Tokaido Shinkansen has been operated by Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central).
There are three categories of bullet trains running on Tokkaido Shinkansen, Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama. The fastest train is Nozomi, operating at a top speed of 285 km/h (177 m/h), with the travel time of 2 hours 22 minutes between Tokyo and Osaka.
Nozomi trains have the fastest speed and only stops at major stations. But a Japan Rail Pass cannot be used for Nozomi service. Hikari trains have more stops than Nozomi and is the second fastest trains on Tokaido Shinkansen. Kodama trains stop at all stations along the rail line and are the slowest among three categories.
Tokaido Shinkansen is one of the most important high-speed rail lines in Japan, as it connects three metropolitan areas, namely, Tokyo Metropolitan Area, Nagoya Metropolitan Area and Osaka Metropolitan Area, and promotes the development of the Tokaido City Group on Japan's Pacific Coast. Tokaido Shinkansen connects to Tohoku Shinkansen, Joetsu Shinkanse and Hokuriku Shinkansen at Tokyo and Sanyo Shinkansen at Osaka.
Sanyo Shinkansen was opened in 1972. It connects Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka and Hakata Station in Fukuoka, with the travel time of around 2 hours 30 minutes.
Sanyo Shinkansen goes further to the east to Tokyo with the connection to Tokaido Shinkansen; and goes south to Kagoshima with the link to Kyushu Shinkansen.
Trains running on Sanyo Shinkansen line are Nozomi, Hikari, Kodama, Mizuho and Sakura.
Tohoku Shinkansen was opened in 1982. It is the longest shinkansen line connecting Tokyo to Aomori. The shortest travel time between Tokyo Station and Shin-Aomori Station is 2 hours 59 minutes, with the top speed of 320 km/h (198 m/h).
Tohoku Shinkansen connects to Tokaido Shinkansen at Tokyo and Hokkaido Shinkansen at Aomori. It also connects to two mini shinkansen lines, Yamagata Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen.
Trains running on Tohoku Shinkansen are Hayabusa, Hayate, Yamabiko and Nasuno.
The fastest shinkansen train takes 1 hours 20 minutes to finish the ride from Hakata Station to Kagoshima Station. Train services of Mizuho and Sakura operate on this rail line.
Opened in 1982, Joetsu Shinkansen was built to connect Pacific Ocean in Honshu region with the Sea of Japan. It shares a rail line with Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Omiya. The fastest train takes 1 hour 37 minutes between Tokyo and Niigata.
Trains serve for Joetsu Shinkansen are Tanigawa and Toki.
Hokuriku Shinkansen connects Tokyo with Kanazawa in the Hokuriku region. The section between Takasaki and Kanazawa opened in 2005. Takasaki is linked to Tokyo Joetsu Shinkansen.
Hokkaido Shinkansen is a high-speed rail line connecting Honshu and Hokkaido. It starts from Shin-Aomori, the terminus of Tohoku Shinkansen, and ends at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto in Hokkaido. The extension of this line to Sapporo is under construction and will be competed in 2031.
The fastest train between Aomori to Hakodate takes 1 hour. The travel time from Tokyo to Hakodate is around 4 hours.
Akita Shinkansen is one of the two min-shinkansen lines in Japan. It uses the updated conventional rail tracks, with the top speed of 130 km/h (81 m/h). Akita Shinkansen links Akita in Akita Prefecture with Tokyo through Tohoku Shinkansen.
Yamagata Shinkansen is a mini-shinkansen connects prefectures of Fukushima and Yamagata. It takes 2 hours 30 minutes from Tokyo to Yamagata by the fastest train, 3 hours 15 minutes from Tokyo to Shinjo.
Tokyo Station is one of the largest and busiest train stations in Japan. Over 3,000 trains stop at this station per day.
Trains in Japan offer three classes of seat: ordinary seat, green car seat and gran class seat.