The Tohoku Shinkansen (東北) gets its name from the Tohoku region, literally meaning “North East” and encompasses the entire area north of Tokyo on the mainland of Japan. The Tohoku Shinkansen line is the fastest and most modern in Japan and fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
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A bit of background on the Tohoku Shinkansen
The Tohoku Shinkansen is the high-speed Shinkansen rail line between Tokyo with Aomori, covering a distance of nearly 675 km (420 miles), and is operated by JR-East. The Tohoku Shinkansen connects with the Hokkaido Shinkansen in the north and also has two mini-Shinkansen branch lines, the Yamagata Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen. Major stops along the route include Sendai, Morioka and Hachinohe.
Trains on the Tohoku Shinkansen
The Hayabusa Shinkansen service is the fastest Shinkansen on the Tohoku Shinkansen and the fastest Shinkansen service in Japan, reaching speeds up to 320km/h (scheduled to be upped to 360km/h by 2022). The Hayabusa only stops at the most important stations on the route, such as Sendai and Morioka. The Hayabusa continues service after Shin-Aomori on the Hokkaido Shinkansen line to Hakodate. The Hayabusa Shinkansen is free with the Japan Rail Pass but you do need to make a complimentary seat reservation in advance.
Only slightly slower than the Hayabusa Shinkansen, the Hayate Shinkansen stops at all major stations between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori. A small amount of Hayate services also continue to Hakodate.
This train service runs between Tokyo and Morioka on the Tohoku Shinkansen and stops at most stations.
The Nasuno Shinkansen train service runs between Tokyo and Koriyama and stops at all stations on the route.
The Komachi is a high speed service connecting Tokyo to Akita, often coupled to the Hayabusa Shinkansen to Morioka from where the Komachi splits off and continues to Akita station.
The Tsubasa Shinkansen runs on the Tohoku Shinkansen line until Fukushima, from where it runs on the Yamagata Shinkansen line to Shinjo.
Can I use the JR Pass on the Tohoku Shinkansen?
Yes, the entire Tohoku Shinkansen and all train services on the Tohoku Shinkansen are included in the Japan Rail Pass. Even the mighty fast Hayabusa Shinkansen train service is included.
Regional Passes on the Tohoku Shinkansen
In addition to the JR Pass, the JR East Tohoku pass and JR East – south Hokkaido Passes are valid on the entire Tohoku Shinkansen.
Map of the Tohoku Shinkansen
Map with most important stations on the Tohoku Shinkansen
For a full JR Map see our JR map page.
Gran Class and Green Class on the Tohoku Shinkansen
In addition to ordinary class (2nd class), the Tohoku Shinkansen has Green seat (1st class) carriage and Gran Class carriages. The Green seats are operated on a 2×2 seat layout with extra reclining and space. On some train services on the Tohoku Shinkansen, free coffee, tea and water is served in Green Class, plus you get the free “oshibori” free hand towel service.
Gran Class is the most luxurious way of travel on the Shinkansen and is only available on the Tohoku and Hokuriku Shinkansen lines. Gran Class comes with its own dedicated Gran Class Attendant, bento box, snacks, drinks and even cocktails! Now that is travelling in style. We are working on an in depth article on Gran Class, so keep an eye out on the blog.
WiFi on the Tohoku Shinkansen
JR-East has begun to roll out free WiFi on the Tohoku Shinkansen since 2018, a gradual process that is set to be completed by 2020, in time for the Japan Olympics. We recommend using a Pocket WiFi if you want your personal high-speed hotspot.