During regular operation, Shinkansen, or bullet trains, can reach speeds of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour. There are plans to raise this limit to around 330 kph to 350 kph (205 mph to 217 mph) in the near future. The Shinkansen was inaugurated in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympic Games. It operated for 515 kilometers (320 miles) between Tokyo and Osaka via Nagoya. In 1975 the line was extended southwest to Fukuoka, Kyushu, more than doubling the total length to 1,069 kilometers (663 miles). In 2016, the line linked Kagoshima, in southern Japan, to Hokkaido, in northern Japan.
Two new lines were introduced in 1982: a 497-kilometer (308-mile) route from Tokyo to Morioka (extended to Hachinohe in 2002 and to Aomori in December 2010.) in the northeast, and a 301-kilometer (187-mile) stretch from Tokyo to northwestern Niigata along the Sea of Japan coast. In 1992 the northeastern route gained a new link between Fukushima and Yamagata (extended to Shinjo in 1999) and in 1997 another link between Morioka and Akita.
The Hokuriku Shinkansen originally began as the Nagano Shinkansen in 1997, linking Tokyo and Nagano. It was expanded to Kanazawa in March 2015, running the new E7 series of Shinkansen bullet trains that offer the shortest travel time of 2 hours and 28 minutes between Tokyo and Kanazawa.
In March 2004 the Kyushu Shinkansen began operating on a 127.6-kilometer (79-mile) route between Kagoshima-Chuo Station and Shin-Yatsushiro Station. The route was expanded from Shin-Yatsushiro to Hakata in March 2011, enabling a direct connection to Sanyo Shinkansen line.
The Shinkansen was designed to provide a high-speed means of transporting large numbers of people over long distances. They proved popular not only among business workers but also tourists.
In recent years, a growing number of people have begun using the Shinkansen to commute to work. To meet the demands for more seats, "double-decker" cars have been introduced.
Bullet trains are operated with the most advanced technology available to guarantee efficiency and safety. There are systems to automatically and centrally control the trains' speed and the distance between trains, and the trains can be stopped or slowed in emergencies. In 2012, a new model, N700A, made its debut, equipped with an automatic operating mechanism and a new type of brakes.
|The trains of the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen are designated "Nozomi," "Hikari," and "Kodama" according to their speed, from fastest to slowest.
|The colors and logos of the Tohoku-Yamagata Shinkansen trains were updated in 2014.