Shinkansen Service reaches Hokkaido

Japan’s shinkansen high-speed rail network marked a significant milestone today with the official opening of the first stage of the Hokkaido Shinkansen, directly linking the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu with the promise of faster travel times and comfortable, sleek new trains. The first scheduled service, Hayate 91, left Shin-Aomori station at 0632 hrs for the Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto terminal via the undersea Seikan Tunnel, while the Hayabusa 10 service departed southern Hokkaido at 0635 hrs bound for Tokyo, where it arrived shortly after 1100 hrs.


Taking just 4 hours and 2 minutes, the new shinkansen line cuts the shortest travel time between Hakodate and Tokyo by 53 minutes, including a commute on the Hakodate Liner local train to JR Hakodate station. Joining with the existing Tohoku Shinkansen line, Shin-Aomori is now a 61-minute ride, while Sendai can be reached in 2 hours 30 minutes. Other major stops include Morioka and Omiya stations.


JR Hokkaido will use its new H5 rolling stock on the line. Based on the E5 series of affiliate JR East, the trains wear a distinctive green and purple-stripe livery and are set-up with 10-cars offering 3 classes of seating including ordinary, Green Car and GranClass. Passengers enjoy the same high levels of comfort, as well as added design elements unique to the Hokkaido Shinkansen, including floors accented with snowflake motifs and cabin blinds inspired by Jomon period pottery patterns and Ainu patterns.


First mooted in 1973, the Hokkaido Shinkansen is expected to see demand from domestic and international travellers looking to reach Hokkaido without the hassle of air travel. An extension to Sapporo is being planned, which will connect the island’s 2 major cities in an hour compared to the current 3 hours 30 minutes using conventional limited express trains.


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