Tokaido Shinkansen: Japan’s First High Speed Rail Between Tokyo And Osaka

With Japan’s penchant for the best in technology, it’s no surprise they’ve been able to make the bullet train possible. The Tokaido Shinkansen was the first of its kind, helping people travel between Tokyo and Osaka in record time. 

The Shinkansen has greatly expanded since the original Tokaido was finished, and more bullet train routes are sure to be added in the near future. It’s worth seeking out a bullet train if you are traveling along one of its routes. 

The History Of Tokaido Shinkansen 

Japan’s transportation system had the concept of a bullet train since the 1930s before the war sidetracked its development plans.

The original railway line that brought passengers between Tokyo and Osaka took a very long time, and the government wanted to find a way to improve the line for faster transportation between the two major metropolitan cities

The name Tokaido came from the previous public transit line that traveled from Tokyo to Osaka. This previous transit route would make many more stops than the current Shinkansen, and it would also take a lot longer to get from one end to the other. 

The Tokyo Olympics And The Tokaido Shinkansen

In 1964, the Tokaido Shinkansen was finally completed. The timing couldn’t have been better, since Tokyo was hosting the Olympics in the same year.

Original Shinkansen

Over the next couple of decades, vast improvements were made to other areas of Japan’s transit system before the Shinkansen stops were expanded. 

This made history, as it was the first train of its kind to exist in the world. The train line is currently run by the Central Japan Railway Company. This company is often referred to as JR Central or JR Tokai. 

The Setup Of The Shinkansen 

There are two “classes” of seating on the bullet train that can be purchased, each with its own perks and its own price point. There’s more legroom and less seating available, making it a more roomy experience. 

In regular class, there are seats that can be reserved and seats that are available for passengers who haven’t been able to reserve spots. The seats are still comfortable, but there are a few more seats in the area than in the Green class. 

Shinkansen Green Car

The Tokaido Shinkansen Route

This bullet train route has been immensely popular since it was completed, as it travels between three major areas in Japan. You can travel between Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo. 

There are several stops on the way from one area to the next. There are three separate train lines that run on this route. 

Nozomi

The Nozomi train line that runs on the Tokaido Shinkansen route will take you from Osaka to Tokyo in under three hours.

It can travel all this way in such a quick amount of time because it doesn’t stop at each station. The four stops on the Nozomi line include Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. 

This fast train runs often, and you cannot use your JR Pass when riding this line. If you can, you want to try and reserve seats if you’re traveling this route. All trains run up and down this route. 

Hikari 

The Hikari train line runs from Osaka to Tokyo as well, but it does take a little bit longer to get between the two cities.

This train also goes back and forth between the two, so you can catch it when traveling to Tokyo from Osaka and vice versa. 

Not all trains run along the route, so it’s best to check the schedule before heading to your closest station. The Hikari line stops at the same major stops that the Nozomi does, but also includes Atami, Shizuoka, and Odawara. 

Kodama 

The Kodama line will stop at each stop along the Tokaido route. Thus, it’ll take about four hours to make it from one end of the bullet train line to the next. This train line runs a little less often than the other two. 

Depending on where you’re trying to travel to, one trick often utilized to speed up travel is to take one of the faster lines to one of the main stops serviced and catch the Kodama train afterward to arrive at your final destination. 

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

The bullet train started off traveling quite quickly from stop to stop at 210 kilometers per hour. The technology has been improved since then to be able to travel up to 300 kilometers per hour. 

Shinkansen Amenities

Shinkansen amenities vary in some areas depending on which class you sit in. For example, in the Green class, the chairs recline and you get some extra space for your feet. With this class servicing fewer people, it also tends to be a lot quieter than the standard class. 

Shinkansen Standard Car Seating

The Tokaido Shinkansen also offers free Wi-Fi, so you can happily scroll through your phone or get some work done on your laptop during your commute. Trains are also equipped with washrooms and areas to store your luggage. 

That being said, some trains will have limits for how much luggage you can bring on board, so be sure to check that before purchasing your ticket

Dining On The Shinkansen

Most train stations will have station shops where you can purchase some snacks or a meal for your train ride, as well as drinks.

Most of these shops will have eki-ben, or bento boxes that are commonly enjoyed during commutes. 

These boxes tend to consist of items grown locally in the area of the station, and will usually include a protein such as fish or meat, some rice, and a variety of vegetables. 

There are also convenience stores located in many stations to grab a snack and a drink if you’re riding the train for a short trip. You are allowed to eat the food you purchase at any of these retailers on the train. 

The JR Pass

The Japan Rail Pass can be a good purchase if you know you’re going to be riding public transit often while in Japan. It can be used on most subways and train lines. You can purchase one of these at pretty much any train station. 

Reserving Seats

There are several cars that make up each bullet train, and each has either a mixture of reservable and non-reservable seats, as well as either one or the other. Green class seats must be reserved.

You can reserve seats online and pick up your tickets at the train station, so you can plan your trip in advance without having to worry about missing out on your preferred seating option. 

Green car or First Class car of Tokaido Shinkansen

The Shinkansen Safety

Despite how fast the Tokaido Shinkansen can travel, you’ll be pleased to know that their safety record is impeccable. There have been no major accidents or issues with fatalities due to faulty trains or because the train was traveling too fast or mechanical failure. 

The Ease Of Travel Thanks To Tokaido Shinkansen

If you’re planning on being in Japan for some time or want to get the most out of your trip, it’s worth taking a closer look at the Tokaido Shinkansen line and its schedule when you’re in Japan. 

Tokaido Shinkansen Schedule

The distance that the bullet train can travel in such a quick amount of time gives you the opportunity to see much more of Japan in a much more accessible way.

Tokaido Shinkansen Virtual Ride

MT Lee
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.