Japan’s world-class rail system reaches a milestone once again as it opens yet another line to add to its already extensive network. On March 26, 2016, Japan’s shinkansen bullet train opened a direct line from Tokyo to Hokkaido. Tickets sold out within 30 seconds.
The historic moment of the first Shinkansen bullet train – called Hayabusa train 10 – departed directly to Tokyo from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido at 6:35 in the morning of March 26 was celebrated by a ceremony inside the train station.
The ceremony was attended by Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport & Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii, JR Hokkaido President Osamu Shimada, and the Governor of Hokkaido Harumi Takahashi, as well as around 2500 Honshu citizens. In Tokyo, on the other hand, the northbound Hayabusa 1 was dispatched by JR East President Tetsuro Tomita amidst crowds of well-wishers.
From Tokyo station, the Hokkaido Shinkansen will travel 825 km or 513 miles to reach Hokkaido’s southern port city. For a regular train ride, the distance will take a long time to travel. However, with the Hokkaido Shinkansen, the passengers will arrive in just over four hours plus another 20 minutes by a connector train into Hakodate. That’s almost an hour off the previous train travel time!
Japan definitely went all out with the new line of shinkansen trains in terms of design, comfort, and safety. In fact, the construction cost of the whole project was said to be JPY 550 billion, which is around $4.85 billion. It is well worth it if you account the amount of detail the engineers had to consider in order to build a rail line that could be shared by both shinkansen trains and ordinary freight and passenger trains.
The Hokkaido shinkansen also does not lack beauty as the design of the car trains incorporate the heart of Hokkaido. In fact, the interior design is inspired by the art of Hokkaido’s native Ainu people and littered by snowflakes and bays to symbolise Hokkaido’s natural charm as a colder region.
JR East President Tetsuro Tomita said in the inaugural runs of the Hokkaido Shinkansen that they once dreamed of seeing a shinkansen train pass through the Seikan Tunnel. Now, the dream has been realized. Hopefully, it doesn’t stop there. Next stop? All of Japan!