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Shinkansen Bullet Trains

Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains are the pinnacle of Japan rail travel. Renown worldwide for their sleek look, high speeds and ultra-smooth rides, the Shinkansen network is a comfortable and speedy means of traveling about Japan.

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Although Shinkansen bullet trains can reach speeds of up to 300km/hour, they boast an impeccable safety record. In fact, in over 40 years of operation, there has never been a single major accident or fatality involving a bullet train!

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Shinkansen Lines

There are eight Shinkansen lines that stretch across Honshu (Japan’s main island) and Kyushu, and the trains that run on each line are uniquely named:

bullet4 Shinkansen Bullet TrainsTokaido Shinkansen & Sanyo Shinkansen (*Nozomi, Hikari, Kodama)
The Tokaido Line, which connects Tokyo and Osaka, was the very first Shinkansen line. The Sanyo Line is an extension of the Tokaido Line that stretches to Hiroshima and Fukuoka.

The JR Rail Pass can be used on both lines (excluding Nozomi trains). The JR West Sanyo Area Pass can be used on the Sanyo Shinkansen.

bullet4 Shinkansen Bullet TrainsTohoku Shinkansen (Hayate, Yamabiko, Nasuno)
As its name suggests, the Tohoku Shinkansen operates in the Tohoku (northeast) region of Japan, and serves the cities of Sendai and Morioka. The line presently extends to Hachinohe, but eventually will stretch to Aomori at the northernmost tip of Honshu.

Along with the Japan Rail Pass, JR East passes can also be used on this line.

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bullet4 Shinkansen Bullet TrainsAkita Shinkansen (Komachi)
The Akita Shinkansen branches from the Tohoku Shinkansen to link Morioka with the Japan Sea coastal city of Akita. Stops in between include the picturesque Lake Tazawa and the samurai village of Kakunodate.

This line accepts both the Japan Rail Pass and JR East passes.

bullet4 Shinkansen Bullet TrainsYamagata Shinkansen (Tsubasa)
The Yamagata Shinkansen originates from the Tohoku line at Fukushima to connect the cities of Yamagata and Shinjo.

This line also accepts both the Japan Rail Pass and JR East passes.

bullet4 Shinkansen Bullet TrainsJoetsu Shinkansen (Toki, Tanigawa)
The Joetsu Shinkansen connects Tokyo with Niigata located near the Japan Sea. Many ski resorts can be accessed from this line.

The Japan Rail Pass and JR East passes may be used on this line.

bullet4 Shinkansen Bullet TrainsNagano Shinkansen (Asama)
The Nagano Shinkansen was built to connect Tokyo with Nagano for the 1998 Olympic Games. Nagano another popular destination for camping and ski resorts.

The Japan Rail Pass and JR East passes may be used on this line.

bullet4 Shinkansen Bullet TrainsKyushu Shinkansen (Tsubame)
The Kyushu Shinkansen, the network’s newest line, serves Japan’s island of Kyushu. The line presently connects Shin-Yatsushiro with Kagoshima, but will extend up to the city of Fukuoka upon completion.

Hotel Reservation in Fukuoka

*Note that the JR Rail Pass may not be used on Nozomi trains, but can be used on all other Shinkansen.

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Shinkansen Tickets

Shinkansen offers three types of tickets: reserved seat (shitei-seki), non-reserved seat (jiyuu-seki), and first-class Green Car seats. Shinkansen tickets can be purchased either using a ticket machine at the departing station, JR ticket reservation offices, or JR travel service centers.

Used in combination with the Japan Rail Pass and regional JR rail passes, Shinkansen bullet trains offer a powerful and inexpensive means of traveling throughout the main island of Honshu and Kyushu.

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