Tokaido Shinkansen

The Tokaido Shinkansen (Japanese: 東海道新幹線, Hepburn: Tōkaidō Shinkansen, lit.'East Sea Route New Trunk Line') is a Japanese high-speed rail line that is part of the nationwide Shinkansen network. Along with the Sanyo Shinkansen, it forms a continuous high-speed railway through the Taiheiyō Belt, also known as the Tokaido corridor. Upon its opening in 1964 between Tokyo and Shin-Ōsaka, it was heralded as the first high-speed rail line in the world.[1] Since 1987 it has been operated by the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), prior to that by Japanese National Railways (JNR). Besides being the oldest HSR line, it is also one of the most heavily used.[2][3]

Tokaido Shinkansen
A JR West N700 series train passing Maibara Station, January 2011
Native name東海道新幹線
Owner JR Central
LocaleTokyo, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Aichi, Gifu, Shiga, Kyoto, and Osaka Prefectures
Operator(s) JR Central
Depot(s)Tokyo, Mishima, Nagoya, Osaka
Rolling stockN700A series
N700S series
OpenedOctober 1, 1964
Line length515.4 km (320.3 mi)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Electrification25 kV AC, 60 Hz, overhead catenary
Operating speed285 km/h (177 mph)
Route map

( Tōhoku Shinkansen)
0:00 Tokyo
0:07 Shinagawa
Tama River
0:18 Shin-Yokohama
Sagami River
0:35 Odawara
0:44 Atami
0:54 Mishima
1:08 Shin-Fuji
Fuji River
1:08 Shizuoka
Abe River
Ooi River
1:39 Kakegawa
Tenryū River
1:34 Hamamatsu
Lake Hamana
1:24 Toyohashi
1:30 Mikawa-Anjō
1:35 Nagoya
1:59 Gifu-Hashima
2:18 Maibara
2:09 Kyōto
2:24 Shin-Ōsaka
( San'yō Shinkansen)

Times shown are fastest timetabled journey from Tokyo (HH:MM).

There are three types of services on the line: from fastest to slowest, they are the limited-stop Nozomi, the semi-fast Hikari, and the all-stop Kodama. Many Nozomi and Hikari trains continue onward to the San'yō Shinkansen, going as far as Fukuoka's Hakata Station.

The line was named a joint Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark and IEEE Milestone by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2000.[4][5]


The predecessor for the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines was originally conceived at the end of the 1930s as a standard-gauge dangan ressha (bullet train) between Tokyo and Shimonoseki, which would have taken nine hours to cover the nearly 1,000 kilometer distance between the two cities. This project was planned as the first part of an East Asian rail network serving Japan's overseas territories. The beginning of World War II stalled the project in its early planning stages, although three tunnels were dug that were later used in the Shinkansen route.[6]

By 1955, the original Tokaido line between Tokyo and Osaka was congested. Even after its electrification the next year, the line was still the busiest in Japan's railway network by a long margin, with demand being around double the current capacity.[7] In 1957, a public forum was organized to discuss “The Possibility of a Three-hour Rail Trip Between Tokyo and Osaka.”[6] After substantial debate, the Japanese National Railways (JNR) decided to build a new standard gauge line alongside the original narrow gauge one to supplement it.[8] The president of JNR at the time, Shinji Sogō, started attempting to persuade politicians to back the project. Realizing the high expenses of the project early on due to the use of new, unfamiliar technologies and the high concentration of tunnels and viaducts, Sogō settled for less government funding than what was needed.[6][9]

The Diet approved the plan in December 1958, agreeing to fund ¥194.8 billion out of the ¥300 billion required over a five-year construction period. Then-finance minister Eisaku Satō recommended that the rest of the funds should be taken from non-governmental sources so that political changes would not cause funding issues.[9] Construction of the line began on 20 April 1959 under Sogō and chief engineer Hideo Shima. In 1960, Shima and Sogō were sent to the United States to borrow money from the World Bank. Although the original request was for US$200 million, they came back with only $80 million, enough to fund 15% of the project, and could not use the loan for "experimental technology".[6][10] Severe cost overruns during construction forced both of them to resign.[11] The opening was timed to coincide with the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which had already brought international attention to the country. Originally, the line was called the New Tokaido Line in English. Just like the original railway line, it is named after the Tokaido road that has been used for centuries.

Initially, there were two services: the faster Hikari (also called the Super Express) made the journey between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka in four hours, while the slower Kodama (or the limited express) made more stops and took five hours to travel the same route.[12] A test run was conducted August 25, 1964, simulating a Hikari service. The run, which was deemed "very successful" by then-JNR president Reisuke Ishida, was also broadcast on television by NHK.[13] On October 1 that same year, the line was officially opened, with the first train, Hikari 1, traveling from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka with a top speed of 210 km/h (130 mph).[14] In November 1965, both services were sped up by an hour to achieve their current times of 3 hours for the Hikari and 4 hours for the Kodama.[15]

In 1988, one year after the privatization of JNR, the new operating company, JR Central, initiated a project to increase operating speeds through infrastructure improvement and a new train design. This resulted in the debut of the 300 Series and the Nozomi, the line's fastest service which took two and a half hours to traverse the route with a top speed of 270 km/h (170 mph), on March 14, 1992.[16][17][18]

A new Shinkansen stop at Shinagawa Station opened in October 2003, accompanied by a major timetable change which increased the number of daily Nozomi services.[19] Initially, certain Nozomi and Hikari services did not stop at the station, with some skipping either Shinagawa or Shin-Yokohama, and the plurality of services stopping at both. From March 2008 onward, all services stop at both stations.[20][21] Another station was planned to open in 2012 to serve Rittō, a city between Maibara and Kyoto. Construction started in May 2006, but the project was cancelled the next year due to political opposition from the government of the surrounding Shiga Prefecture and the Supreme Court of Japan ruling the ¥4.35 billion bond that the city had issued to fund construction was illegal and had to be cancelled.[22]

The next speedup, which raised the top speed to its current 285 km/h (177 mph) through the use of improved braking technology, was announced in 2014 and introduced on March 14, 2015, the 23rd anniversary of the last speed raise.[23][24] Initially, just one service per hour would run at this new speed.[25] After the replacement of the older, slower 700 series with the N700 series in March 2020, a new timetable taking advantage of the speed increase with more services was planned.[26][27] However, the COVID-19 pandemic further delayed these plans as service was temporarily cut.[28]

Stations and service patterns

Map of Tokaidō Shinkansen
N700 Series Shinkansen arriving at Kyoto Station
Mt. Ibuki and the Tokaido Shinkansen


All trains stop
All trains pass
Some trains stop
Station Distance (km) Service Transfers Location
English Japanese Nozomi Hikari Kodama
Tokyo 東京 0.0
  • Tōhoku Shinkansen
  • Jōetsu Shinkansen
  • Hokuriku Shinkansen
  • JY Yamanote Line (JY01)
  • JC Chūō Main Line (JC01)
  • JK Keihin–Tōhoku Line (JK26)
  • JT Tōkaidō Main Line (JT01)
  • JU Tōhoku Main Line (JU01)
  • JU Takasaki Line (JU01)
  • JJ Jōban Line (JU01)
  • JE Keiyō Line (JE01)
  • JO Yokosuka Line (JO19)
  • JO Sōbu Main Line (JO19)
  • M Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line (M-17)
Chiyoda Tokyo
Shinagawa 品川 6.8
  • JY Yamanote Line (JY25)
  • JK Keihin-Tōhoku Line (JK20)
  • JT Tōkaidō Main Line (JT03)
  • JO Yokosuka Line (JO17)
  • Keikyū Main Line (KK01)
Shin-Yokohama 新横浜 25.5
  • JH Yokohama Line (JH16)
  • Yokohama Municipal Subway Blue Line (B25)
Kōhoku-ku, Yokohama Kanagawa Prefecture
Odawara 小田原 76.7
  • JT Tōkaidō Main Line (JT16)
  • Odakyū Odawara Line (OH47)
  • Izuhakone Railway Daiyūzan Line (ID01)
  • Hakone Tozan Line (OH47)
Atami 熱海 95.4
  • JT Tōkaidō Main Line (JT21,CA00)
  • JT Itō Line (JT21)
Atami Shizuoka Prefecture
Mishima 三島 111.3
  • Tōkaidō Main Line (CA02)
  • Izuhakone Railway Sunzu Line (IS01)
Shin-Fuji 新富士 135.0   Fuji
Shizuoka 静岡 167.4
  • Tōkaidō Main Line (CA17)
  •  S  Shizuoka Railway Shizuoka–Shimizu Line (Shin-Shizuoka Station,S01)
Aoi-ku, Shizuoka
Kakegawa 掛川 211.3
  • Tōkaidō Main Line (CA27)
  • Tenryū Hamanako Line
Hamamatsu 浜松 238.9
  • Tōkaidō Main Line (CA34)
  • Enshū Railway Line (Shin-Hamamatsu Station,1)
Naka-ku, Hamamatsu
Toyohashi 豊橋 274.2
  • Tōkaidō Main Line (CA42)
  • Iida Line (CD00)
  •  NH  Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line (NH01)
  • Toyohashi Railroad Atsumi Line (Shin-Toyohashi Station,1)
  • Toyohashi Railroad Azumada Main Line (Ekimae Station,1)
Toyohashi Aichi Prefecture
Mikawa-Anjō 三河安城 312.8 Tōkaidō Main Line (CA55) Anjō
Nagoya 名古屋 342.0
  • Tōkaidō Main Line (CA68)
  • Chūō Main Line (CF00)
  • Kansai Main Line (CJ00)
  • Nagoya Municipal Subway Higashiyama Line (H08)
  • Nagoya Municipal Subway Sakura-dōri Line (S02)
  •  NH  Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line (Meitetsu Nagoya Station,NH36)
  •  E  Kintetsu Nagoya Line (Kintetsu Nagoya Station,E01)
  • Aonami Line (AN01)
Nakamura-ku, Nagoya
Gifu-Hashima 岐阜羽島 367.1  TH  Meitetsu Hashima Line (Shin-Hashima Station,TH09) Hashima Gifu Prefecture
Maibara 米原 408.2
  • Tōkaidō Main Line (CA83,JR-A12)
  • Hokuriku Main Line (JR-A12)
  • Ohmi Railway Main Line
Maibara Shiga Prefecture
Kyōto 京都 476.3
  • Tōkaidō Main Line (JR-A31)
  • Kosei Line (JR-B31)
  • Nara Line (JR-D01)
  • San'in Main Line (JR-E01)
  •  B  Kintetsu Kyoto Line (B01)
  • Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line (K11)
Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto Kyoto Prefecture
Shin-Ōsaka 新大阪 515.4
  • San'yō Shinkansen (through service)
  • Tōkaidō Main Line (JR-A46)
  • Osaka Higashi Line (JR-F02)
  • Osaka Metro Midōsuji Line (M13)
Yodogawa-ku, Osaka Osaka Prefecture
Through service to Hakata on the Sanyo Shinkansen

Rolling stock

  • N700A series 16-car sets, since 1 July 2007 (owned by JR Central and JR West, modified from original N700 series sets)
  • N700A series 16-car sets, since 8 February 2013 (owned by JR Central and JR West)
  • N700S series 16-car sets, since 1 July 2020 (owned by JR Central) [29]

The last services operated by 700 series sets took place on March 1, 2020, after which all Tokaido Shinkansen services are scheduled to be operated by N700A series or N700A series sets.[30] N700S series sets were then introduced on Tokaido Shinkansen services from July 1, 2020.

Former rolling stock

  • 0 series 12/16-car sets, October 1, 1964 to September 18, 1999 (owned by JR Central and JR West)
  • 100 series 16-car sets, October 1, 1985 to September 2003 (owned by JR Central and JR West)
  • 300 series 16-car sets, March 1992 to March 16, 2012 (owned by JR Central and JR West)
  • 500 series 16-car sets, November 1997 to February 2010 (owned by JR West)
  • 700 series 16-car sets, March 1999 to March 2020 (owned by JR Central and JR West)

Non-revenue-earning types

  • 923 (Set T4)


0 series
100 series
300 series
500 series
700 series
N700/N700A series
N700A series
N700S series
Rolling stock transitions

Classes and Onboard Services

All Tokaido Shinkansen trains feature two classes. Green Cars (First Class) offer comfortable 2+2 configured seating in all reserved carriages. Ordinary Car features 2+3 configured seating in both reserved and unreserved carriages. Note that a reservation is required for large luggage on Tokaido Shinkansen trains. On all Shinkansen services vending machines with a limited offering of snacks and drinks are available in certain carriages and a trolley service, offering a more extensive but still limited selection, passes through each car a number of times on each journey. It is common practice in Japan to purchase food prior to boarding trains. Almost all stations sell Bento Boxes (complete meals conveniently boxed) for consumption onboard trains.[31]

Note that as of 2019, reservations are required to take large pieces of luggage on Tokaido Shinkansen trains.[32]

Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass is a popular option for foreign visitors to Japan, offering an "all you can eat" train travel experience. Japan Rail Passes are valid on all the three services, except Nozomi trains. Hikari trains are identical to Nozomi services other than for their stopping patterns (both operate at the same speed on the mainline - Hikari trains stop at additional stations en-route extending journey times).[33]


From 1964 to 2012, the Tokaido Shinkansen line alone carried some 5.3 billion passengers.[3] Ridership increased from 61,000 per day in 1964[34] to 391,000 per day in 2012.[3] By 2016, the route was carrying 452,000 passengers per day on 365 daily services making it one of the busiest high speed lines in the world.[35]

Tokaido Line Cumulative Ridership figures (millions of passengers)
Year196719762004Mar 2007Nov 20102012
Ridership (Cumulative) 100 1,000 4,160[36] 4,500[37] 4,900[2] 5,300[3]
Tokaido Line Ridership figures (per year, millions of passengers)
Year1967April 1987April 2007April 2008April 2009April 2010April 2011April 2012
Ridership 22[34] 102[34] 151[34] 149[34] 138[34] 141[34] 149[34] 143[3]

Future developments

It was announced in June 2010 that a new shinkansen station in Samukawa, Kanagawa Prefecture was under consideration by JR Central. If constructed, the station would open after the new maglev service begins operations.[38]

Shizuoka Prefecture has long lobbied JR Central for the construction of a station at Shizuoka Airport, which the line passes directly beneath. The railway has so far refused, citing the close distance to the neighbouring Shin-Fuji and Shizuoka stations. If constructed, travel time from the center of Tokyo to the airport would be comparable to that for Tokyo Narita Airport, enabling it to act as a third hub airport for the capital.[39] As the station would be built underneath an active airport, it is expected to open after the new maglev line.[40]


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