The Bullet Train To Hokkaido!

March 26 might just seem like a regular day for the uninitiated or the casual traveler. But, for those who live to ride the rails, March 26 is a historic day indeed. Once again, Japan is about to achieve a milestone in its rich history of leading the world in transportation and technology. This month the long-awaited "final link" will be complete. The link making it possible to travel the entire length of Japan from Kagoshima to Hokkaido via Shinkansen (Bullet Train).
Some other trains have exceeded the speed of Japan's famous Shinkansen trains. But JR East continues to lead the charge in refining the passenger experience and expansion of service. March 2015 saw the launch of the Hokuriku Shinkansen. It extends the Nagano Shinkansen line, built for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, to Kanazawa on Japan's west coast.

Shin-Aomori station from Flickr cc by Yuichi Shiraishi
The Hokkaido Shinkansen will launch with service from Shin-Aomori, the terminus of the Tohoku Shinkansen. This will bring the total number of Japanese high-speed rail lines to nine. The ultimate plan will be to bring the service all the way to Sapporo. But the initial service will go as far as the Hakodate area, serving Hokkaido's third largest city from Shin-Hakodate Hokuto. A connecting service will bring travelers to central Hakodate via the new Hakodate Liner.
Initially, three stations on the new line will come into service. Okutsugaru-Imabetsu will become the northernmost Shinkansen station on the island of Honshu. Then the new line plunges deep beneath the sea into the Seikan Tunnel, the world's longest and deepest railway tunnel. Once the trains emerge, they will stop at Kikonai Station, before arriving at the Shin-Hakodate Terminal.

Bullet train (shinkansen) from Flickr cc by 威翰 陳
Service from Tokyo Station will include 10 round trips per day. A select number of the Hayabusa trains will stop only four times, at major stations (Omiya, Sendai, Morioka, and Shin-Aomori) between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate Hokuto. Closely timed connecting trains will available for passengers traveling through to Sapporo. Or onward to other destinations throughout the island.

Next-generation Shinkansen (Bullet Train) from Flickr cc by Yuichi Shiraishi
The new line will feature completely new H5 series carriages with a specially themed paint scheme and decor. Interiors were chosen to reflect the beauty of the northern island. The ordinary cars will include snowflake patterns on the floor. Woodgrain will be incorporated into the walls and ceiling. The window shades will also include designs inspired by the indigenous Ainu people and Jomon period pottery.

Grand class cabin next-generation shinkansen (Bullet Train) series E5 from Flickr cc by Yuichi Shiraishi
First-class or Green Cars will include carpet patterns depicting umiake. Umiake is the period of spring when the sea ice leaves from the East coast of Hokkaido. Here, too, a snowflake pattern adorns the window shades. A great convenience for all passengers is the availability of AC power for charging phones and computers at every seat. The new trains also include full barrier-free services. These include electric wheelchair accessible toilets with ostomy support and multipurpose rooms for changing diapers and for breastfeeding mothers. The ultimate in comfort, Gran Class Service will set you back ¥38,280 from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate Hokuto. The car has only 18 seats and includes an attendant and some light meal and beverage service. For more info check the Hokkaido Shinkansen website. We've also got lots of related information here!

We leave you with this final video celebration of the countdown to the 3/26 launch from the Sapporo Snow Festival 2016:

Are you a fan of trains and the Shinkansen? Then check out this rails themed trip in Odigo or create your own!

Josh Fields