Want to Be Among the First Few to Ride Japan’s Newest Bullet Train? Here’s How!

  • Did you know that Japanese bullet trains (Shinkansen) go on trial runs before becoming fully operational? Usually, it takes a lot of time to develop a bullet train and there are a lot of demonstrations that include quality checks, speed tests, and more. What if someone gave you an opportunity to participate in a maglev Shinkansen trial run and enjoy the ride before everyone else? Read on to find out!

    The New Maglev Shinkansen

    The Shinkansen itself is already super fast, so imagine a levitating train that can easily reach a speed of 500 km/h! That means that with this technology, you can get to your destination really fast, at more than half the speed of an airplane. A typical passenger aircraft usually has a cruise speed limit of 500 knots, which is around 926 km/h.

    Maglev trains are nothing new and they can reach extremely high speeds because of the levitation above ground. One famous maglev train is the Shanghai Transrapid that levitates up to 1 cm above the ground and can reach a speed of 430 km/h. Despite the Japanese being hell-bent on beating the record with their new maglev train in time for the 2020 Olympics, it won’t be released to the public until 2027.

    Tests and demonstrations for this new Shinkansen have been going on for quite some time now. One test actually showed that it could exceed everyone’s expectations to become the world’s most advanced maglev train yet, by reaching an unimaginable speed of 590 km/h. However, that’s just a record, and the speed might be reduced after becoming fully operational, to stay humble in a way.


    The most obvious advantage of the new Shinkansen is its top speed, however, there are other advantages as well. For example, the superconducting magnetic levitation technology it uses is rare and allows any object to move much faster. The chiefs at the Japanese transport ministry said that the new maglev Shinkansen that is going to run between Tokyo and Nagoya in its initial phase could levitate up to 10 cm. This is more than that of the Shanghai Transrapid, and one of the major advantages as a result of that is passenger safety during earthquakes. As you might have already known, small tremors are quite often in Japan, and higher levitation limits could prevent dangerous mishaps.

    Of course, there are some minor disadvantages as well. For example, trains with higher speeds will require longer tracks and tunnels which take more time and money to make.

    When and How to Book

    The train, which is said to be named the “Chuo Shinkansen,” will operate under JR Central (JR Tokai), a major rail company in Central Japan. It is slated to start operating in 2027, however, there could be some changes.

    As for the train’s trial run, JR Central is currently accepting applications from those who are interested to participate via this page (Japanese only). You can apply until February 16, 2018, for any of the possible eight trial runs scheduled on the last week of March and the first week of April 2018. On each day of the trial, six trains will hit the test tracks specially laid from the Yamanashi Research Center between 10:15 AM and 4:15 PM.

    As there is a huge demand, it is advised to book soon by choosing up to three different time slots at your convenience, however, the final decision is up to the company. The costs vary depending on the number of people in a group, and it ranges from 4,320 yen for two seats to 8,640 yen for four seats.

    This particular train ride is for marketing and test purposes only so some train facilities may not be fully operational yet. Also, be prepared to be photographed or videotaped during the ride as part of the media promotion. Make sure to check the requirements before applying for a slot, and keep up with the updates/announcements regarding the event in case of delays or difficulties. Enjoy the ride!

    Chuo Shinkansen Website *Japanese only