The Shinkansen network
Which name for which Shinkansen?
Here is an overview of the Shinkansen network in Japan - accessible with a Japan Rail Pass.
From North to South
The Shinkansen is Japan's high-speed train network, and the most practical way to travel across the country! There are eight main Shinkansen lines, each of which has a number of services in operation. These services can be categorized as follows:
- Express trains only stop at major stations and are the fastest Shinkansen trains
- Semi-express trains stop at more stations; they are slower than Express trains but faster than Local trains
- Local trains stop at every station on the route, and therefore are the slowest.
Due to their oftentimes poetic names, it can be difficult to determine which service you should take for your trip. Here's a rundown of all Shinkansen lines and their services!
With the exception of the Nozomi and Mizuho train services, they are all covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
The Hokuriku Shinkansen has four different types of services. The Asama runs between Tokyo and Nagano, the Kagayaki and Hakutaka between Tokyo and Kanazawa, and the Tsurugi between Toyama and Kanazawa. With the Kagayaki, you can travel to Kanazawa in just 2h30!
The Joetsu Shinkansen has two services in operation: the Toki is the fastest between Tokyo and Niigata (about 2h). Some Toki trains use 2-story train sets and are known as Max Toki. The Tanigawa serves all stations between Tokyo Station and Echigo-Yuzawa Station. During the winter, some trains stop at Gala Yukawa Station (change here for access to the Gala Yukawa Skow Resort).
The Yamagata Shinkansen only has one service: the Tsubasa, running between Tokyo and Shin-jo in 3h30. The Torei-yu Tsubasa in a very unique train running mainly on weekends between Fukushima and Shinjo.
The Akita Shinkansen has a single service called Komachi. All carriages on these trains are Reserved Seat, meaning access to this train requires an advance reservation.
The Tohoku Shinkansen has two different services: the Yamabiko is the fastest running as far north as Morioka, although some terminate at Sendai. The Nasuno is the slowest one and serves all the station between Tokyo and Koriyama.
The Hokkaido Shinkansen has two services, as well: the Hayabusa reaches Shin-Hakodate and Hokkaido in 4h02 with the fastest train. Note that all seats for this train must be reserved in advance. The Hayate operates one return service per day between Morioka and Shin Hakodate and one return service between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate.
Going to the south
The Tokaido Shinkansen has three types of services. The Nozomi is the fastest service, connecting Tokyo to Kyoto in 2h40 (only stopping at Shinagawa, Shin Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto and Shin Osaka).
Along Sanyo Shinkansen Nozomi connects Hakata and Hiroshima.
The Hikari is the second fastest service, taking about three hours from Tokyo to Shin Osaka. One 16 car Hikari train from Tokyo continues along the Sanyo Shinkansen Line as far as Okayama each hour. The Kodama is the slowest train, as it stopped at every stations between Tokyo and Shin Osaka.
To reach the island of Kyushu, you may need to connect with the Kyushu Shinkansen, which has three types of Shinkansen.
The Mizuho is the fastest train service, stopping at Hakata, Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chuo. It provides through services to the Sanyo Shinkansen starting from Shin-Osaka.
The two other one are called Sakura and Tsubame, the latter stopping at all stations.