Japan’s Shinkansen That Travels Under The Sea?

Japan is perhaps the most innovative country when it comes its public transportation network. Being that all of Japan are surrounded by water as it’s an island nation, it made traveling between certain prefectures and regions difficult. Enter the Shinkansen that travels under the sea. 

While this particular Shinkansen that can travel under the sea doesn’t travel throughout the every region of Japan, it doesn’t mean it’s not something worth exploring if you’re in the area where the train makes this incredible undersea trip.

The green E5 Series bullet train in Morioka station operated by JR East/Hokkaido for Tohoku/Hokkaido lines

What Is Shinkansen?

Shinkansen is the name for Japan’s high-speed rail system. It’s also commonly known as the bullet train system that runs across the prefectures of Japan. They are named as such because these trains can travel safely at high speeds. 

The Shinkansen system in Japan was built with a lot of care and has been a reliable transportation method for those living in and visiting Japan for more than fifty years. As of now, there are nine Shinkansen lines.

Shinkansen lines are available to travel between some major cities throughout Japan, spanning through most of the country.

Original Shinkansen Bullet Train 

The first-ever Shinkansen was the Tokaido Shinkansen, which was introduced to the world in 1964 on the cusp of the Tokyo Olympics. 

Which Shinkansen Travels Under The Sea?

The Hokkaido Shinkansen was ready for riders in 2016. Before this bullet train route was built, there wasn’t a fast way to get to Hokkaido island by train.

The train route stretches from the Aomori stop on Honshu’s mainland and runs all the way to Hakodate on Hokkaido island. 

The Seikan Tunnel

The Seikan Tunnel is where the Hokkaido Shinkansen runs through. It’s a railway tunnel that sits under the Tsugaru Strait and the track sits almost 800 feet under sea level. The Kaikyo train line also runs through one end of this tunnel.

This tunnel took years to make, as Harsh winter weather and safety measures were tough to navigate. Trains have been running between Honshu and Haikkado before the Shinkansen route was established, but it would take too long.

Therefore, before the Hokkaido Shinkansen, people would take either a ferry or a plane to get from one island to the other. 

How Long Is The Train Ride?

If you ride the current Hokkaido Shinkansen route in its entirety, from Aomori to Hakodate, the trip will take about four hours.

There are hopes to expand the route in the future to be able to reach more of Hokkaido. With there being so much to explore on the island, the move to make the train line even longer makes sense. 

Trains that were able to take you from Honshu to Hokkaido previously would take at least twice as long. 

Gran Class Seating Of The Hokkaido Shinkansen

What Are The Trains Like In Japan?

One of the most surprising things about Japan’s trains, when comparing them to trains around the world, is that they are quite punctual. You’ll be hard-pressed to be waiting for a late Shinkansen that doesn’t come when it’s scheduled to. 

The bullet trains in Japan can run anywhere between 90 mph to over 200 mph at the fastest. While it doesn’t necessarily feel like you are traveling at the speed of a bullet, you are traveling on one of the fastest trains you can imagine. 

Ekiben Lunch Bento In Hokkaido

When you arrive at your train station, you’ll notice that there are food stands in the station where you can purchase meals before boarding your train.

This food usually consists of ekiben box lunches. If you get hungry on the train and don’t purchase one of these bento boxes, there are snacks and drinks you can purchase on board during your voyage. 

Amenities On Shinkansen Trains

Accommodations available on the train will depend on the train that you choose. Some of them have Wi-Fi available, and there are hopes that this will be expanded to be available on all trains at some point. 

You are also able to bring your luggage on board, although they only allow for two suitcases per person most times. It’s a good way to travel if you’re moving throughout Japan on your trip and you don’t have excessive luggage. 

If you live in Japan, you can also bring your bicycle or your pet on board. Your pet has to be in some type of crate or a carrying cage, however. The trains are all accessible, and there are seating areas where you can comfortably ride the train if you are in a wheelchair. 


Hakodate is located towards the south of the island of Hokkaido. It is a beautiful city that offers beautiful views of the city and a myriad of fun activities to do.

With Hokkaido being more well-known or Sapporo, the ability to get into Hakodate through the Hokkaido Shinkansen offers visitors the opportunity to see much more sites than before. 

Hakodate city is the southernmost port city of Hokkaido

One recommendation when spending time in Hakodate is hiking the Hakodate Mountain, where you will get a uniquely breathtaking view of the city and the port surrounding it. 

Hakadote Official Travel Website

Furthermore, there is a morning Hakodate Market where you can stroll through and get some delicious food and other little souvenirs. The Kanemori District is also a modern oasis for fashion lovers who want to explore a unique facet of Japanese fashion. 

The people who live on the Hokkaido island are happy to have this bullet train grant easier access to their island. This is because it helps bring more tourists into the area, which in turn, supports the local economy.

It allows them to be able to access the mainland faster than they could previously done. 

What Are Some Things To Know Before Riding A Shinkansen?

One thing to know is that, if you plan on traveling on multiple train routes when you’re in Japan, you’re better off purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. You can buy one of these online or at the station.

Japan Rail Pass Guide

Otherwise, you can purchase a one-way or two-way ticket on the Hokkaido Shinkansen. 

You are able to reserve seats for no additional cost on the train, but it’s still recommended to get to the station a little bit early so you don’t have to fight through any crowds to get on the train.

Virtual Tour Shikansen To Hokkaido Via The Undersea Tunnel

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.