Which Is The Fastest Shinkansen?


The Japanese Shinkansen was the world’s first high-speed train, and continues to be a model for the rest of the world to emulate. However, although all are fast, one Shinkansen is quicker than the rest.

So, which is the fastest Shinkansen? The Fastest Shinkansen is the Nozomi. The Nozomi Shinkansen service operates on the Tokaido/ San’yo lines between Tokyo and Hakata, with various intermediary stops. Nozomi is Japanese for “wish” or desire”.

The Nozomi Shinkansen is surprisingly fast, as it is a viable competitor with other modes of transportation, such as air travel. The Nozomi Shinkansen was introduced in 1992, and shuffles commuters between Tokyo and Hakata in various trips every hour.

Brief History of Shinkansen Operations

Operation of the Shinkansen commenced in 1964, with the opening of the Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka, a distance of around 500 kilometers (310 miles). The Shinkansen came in a time where the rest of the world was focusing on air travel, and investing heavily into their roadways, as conventional rail travel was seen as outdated.

However, with the commencment of the Shinkansen, the railway was once again brought into the spotlight, with trains traveling between Tokyo and Osaka at speeds of up to 130 mph (209 kp/h). The Shinkansen became a worldwide phenomenon, and encouraged other countries, such as France, to construct their own high-speed rail network.

The 300 Series Shinkansen, introduced in 1992, was the first set to be utilized on the Nozomi service. Its top speed of 170 mph (270 kp/h), provided a comfortable and swift trip for Nozomi passengers.

The service was extremely popular, as by 1976, just twelve years after its commencement in 1964, the Shinkansen carried an astounding one billion passengers. Although the Shinkansen has been whisking passengers around the country since 1964, the Nozomi had not come to fruition for nearly thirty years later, as the premier service was not introduced until 1992.

The Nozomi operates over two railways, JR Central, which controls the Tokaido line, and JR West, which controls the San’yo line. Prior to 1987, Shinkansen services were operated under the state run Japan Railways (JR), however, fell into privatization after various financial pitfalls in the late eighties.

Operations of the Nozomi Shinkansen

Upon its introduction in 1992, the Nozomi Shinkansen became JR Central’s premier train, operating over the Tokaido Shinkansen line. The train service was extended to Hakata in 1993, utilizing the San’yo line, which is controlled by JR West. Between these two operators, the train covers the over 1,000 kilometer journey between Tokyo and Hakata in just 5 hours 15 minutes. Because the Nozomi was the railway’s premier Shinkansen, newly delivered rolling stock was oftentimes implemented on the service, displacing older sets to the slower Hikari and Kodama services.

On JR Central, the Nozomi Shinkansen travels between Tokyo and Osaka in 2 hours 35 minutes, a journey of over 500 kilometers, which is quicker than its Hikari and Kodama counterparts, as the Hikari takes 2 hours 53 minutes, and the Kodama, slightly over three hours.

The history of the Nozomi Shinkansen dates to 1992, when the service first commenced. The Nozomi service operates over various Shinkansen lines, such as the Tokaido Shinkansen, the first line opened in 1964, and the San’yo Shinkansen, opened eight years later in 1972.

The Nozomi Shinkansen operates at ten minute intervals leaving Tokyo, and 15-20 minute intervals leaving Hakata. The Nozomi trains are able to run at such increased intervals because of the grade separation allowing the Shinkansen to be separated from slower trains. These circumstances allow the Nozomi service to operate 200 times daily.

Introduced in 1999, the 700 Series soon replaced the 500 Series on the Nozomi. The 700 Series has a top speed of 177 mph (285 kp/h), and traveled in 16 car sets.

The Nozomi Shinkansen traverses between two railways, both JR West, and JR Central. The service travels from Tokyo-Osaka on JR Central, and from Osaka-Hakata on JR West. The advantage of taking the Nozomi as opposed to a slower service such as the Hikari or Kodama is the directness of the service. Passengers who utilize the Hikari or Kodama services must change trains at Osaka, however, passengers utilizing the Nozomi service remain on the same train for the entirety of the trip.

The Nozomi Shinkansen is one of the most popular services on the network, as it makes fewer stops than other services on the same route, such as the Hikari, which operates as a semi-express, and the Kodama Shinkansen, which operates as a local.

Interestingly, not all Nozomi trains make the same intermediate stops, such as Himeji, Fukuyama, Tokuyama, and Shin-Yamaguchi Station, however, all these stations receive regular service from the Nozomi because of the frequency of service. Furthermore, not all Nozomi services begin in Tokyo, and not all traverse the entire route to Hakata, many terminate at the Shin-Osaka station. Although the service is frequent, the Nozomi service is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

Cost of the Nazomi varies, as from Tokyo-Hakata, the fare for an unreserved seat is 13,080 yen ( $120.32, £91.42), and 13, 910 ($128.14, £97.54) for a reserved seat. The return trip back to Tokyo is significantly less, as there are discounts pertaining to the amount of mileage being traveled, usually over 601 km (373 miles).

All Nozomi services include the “Green Car”, which is first class, and is significantly more expensive than standard reserved seats.

According to Japan Visitor, the Green Car is configured in a 2×2 configuration, as opposed to the standard class seat arrangement of 3×2. The Green Car has amenities exclusive to first class passengers, such as more spacious seats with increased legroom. Additionally, Green Car passengers receive amenities similar to that of an airline ticket of similar caliber, such as slippers, television access, and AC outlets to charge personal items.

The N700 Series is the latest Shinkansen to be operated on the Nozomi. Introduced in 2007, the N700 began an upgrade program in 2013, converting the series into N700A for “advanced”. The modifications allowed for higher speeds, especially in curves. The series also received upgraded brakes as part of the upgrade program. The N700A Series is set to be replaced in the near future with the N700S.

Equipment Utilized

The equipment utilized on the various Shinkansen lines are some of the most striking trains in the world. The nose of the train extends from the drivers cab, creating an aerodynamically friendly design. The nose of Shinkansen trains are shaped in this manner to account for the noise pollution to the various dense communities the train passes. Thus, the air must flow easily over the train, creating as little noise as possible.

Throughout the life of the Nozomi service, there have been four different types of high-speed train sets utilized, each faster and more efficient than the former. As a new set was placed into service, the travel time was reduced due to the increase in speed capable of the new equipment.

The equipment utilized on the Nozomi Shinkansen has changed throughout the years. Upon the service’s commencement in 1992, the new 300 Series were assigned to the service, in 1997, the 500 Series sets, in 1999, the 700 Series, and in 2007-present, N700 series are operated on the Nozomi services.

Beginning in 2013 JR Central and JR West began converting the N700 Series trains sets to N700A, for “advanced”. The conversion allowed the sets to traverse curves at higher speeds, and increased the operating speed of the Nozomi to 285 kp/h (177 mph), decreasing its time between Tokyo and Osaka by 8 minutes, bringing the trip duration to 2 hours 22 minutes.

The 300 Series has a top speed of 170 mph (270 kp/h), the 500 Series 186 mph (300 kp/h), 700 Series 177 mph (285 kp/h), and the N700 Series, 186 mph (300 kp/h). As each new set was introduced, the updated technology allowed for faster speeds and quicker travel times.

According to Japan Times, upon the introduction of the 300 Series, the Nozomi could travel between Toyko and Osaka in two and a half hours. When the 500 series was introduced in 1997, the time was cut down even further, and was considered to be the world’s fastest train during the time.

TypeDate of ConstructionBuildersNumber Built Time on Nozomi ShinkansenHorsepower
300 Series1992-1998Hitachi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kinki Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo1,104 (69 sets)1992-199716,000 horsepower
500 Series1995-1998Hitachi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kinki Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo144 (9 sets)1997-199924,460 horsepower
700 Series1997-2006Hitachi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kinki Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo1,328 (91 sets)1999-200717,700 (16 car set)
8,900 (8 car set)
N700 Series2007-PresentHitachi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kinki Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo2,784 (189 sets)2007-Present22,900 horsepower

Related Questions

Which is the fastest, Hikari or Kodama? Hikari. The Hikari makes fewer station stops than the Kodama, and reaches Osaka from Tokyo in just 2 hours 53 minutes. The Kodama makes more station stops than Hikari, and takes over three hours to complete its journey. 

What is the Shinkansen fastest speed? 200 mph. The fastest a Shinkansen in revenue service travels is 200 mph (320 kp/h), usually achieved on the Tohuku Shinkansen line. 

In 1996, a test run of the Shinkansen allowed the train to reach 275 mph (443 kp/h), reached by the experimental Class 955 300X train set on the Tokaido Shinkansen. 

Josef

Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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