What is the Tokaido Shinkansen?
There’s a good chance that you’ve heard about the term Tokaido, when reading about the Japan Rail Pass, browsing our forum or maybe the term Tokaido is completely new to you. Either way, we are here to explain into detail what to Tokaido Shinkansen is.
Brief history of the Tokaido
The Tokaido (東海道) has its origin in old feudal Japan, where it was the most important trade route connecting Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. The Tokaido follows the coast line and this is also where the name comes from, roughly translating to Eastern sea route. There used to be 53 stations or stops along the route, where travellers could reset for the night, fill up on supplies and trade. Among its travellers was legendary ukiyo-e master Hiroshige who made a painting of each Tokaido station, one of them is the now famous big wave with Fuji in the background.
In 1964, the Tokaido Shinkansen line was opened, just in time for the 1964 Summer Olympics. It was the first bullet train line in the world connecting Tokyo to Osaka at 210 km/h (130 mph). Current day, bullet trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen line reach up to 300 km/h (186 mph), connecting Tokyo to Kyoto in just 139 minutes and osaka in 160 minutes, with even faster speeds planned for in the future.
Train services on the Tokaido Shinkansen
There are three train services on the Tokaido Shinkansen. These are:
The fastest service on the Tokaido Shinkansen, the Nozomi services only stops at the most important stations like Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. Note that the JR Pass does not include the Shinkansen
The Hikari is the same train as the Nozomi but make a few more stops along the route. Only stopping at major and most important stations. The time difference with the Nozomi is often minimal. In addition to the the Nozomi stops, the Hikari stops at stations like Odawara (for Hakone), Atami and Shizuoka.
Kodama services stop at each station along the Tokaido Shinkansen, often used as a shuttle service between smaller and larger stations.
Can I use the JR Pass on the Tokaido Shinkansen?
The JR Pass is valid on the entire Tokaido Shinkansen and can be used on both the Hikari and Kodama train services. The Hikari takes about 159 minutes to travel between Tokyo – Kyoto, just 19 minutes more than the Nozomi.
Green Class on the Tokaido Shinkansen
Green class (or 1st Class) carriages are available on all Tokaido Shinkansen trains. Trains operate a 2×2 seating plan in Green Class, while ordinary cars operate a 3×2 seating plan. Green seats come with extra comfort, reclining and space. It is also a lot quieter and a good way to escape from the travelling crowds on busy days.
Green Car seating on the Tokaido Shinkansen
Tokaido Shinkansen map
Map with the main stations on the Tokaido Shinkansen
Future of the Tokaido Shinkansen:
The future of the Tokaido Shinkansen looks bright, as ridership is growing and expected to reach over half a million passengers on a daily basis by 2020. To cope with the demand, JR-Central is introducing a new Shinkansen. Called the N700S class Shinkansen, being able to travel at higher speeds and better conform, the N700S will make travelling on the Tokaido even better than it already is.
WiFi on the Tokaido Shinkansen
JR Central is introducing free WiFi on the Tokaido Shinkansen, so passengers who travel between Tokyo and Osaka. The full roll-out is expected to be completed before the Olympics in 2020 and will be available across the entire JR Central Shinkansen fleet, spanning 2,096 cars on all the 131 trains in service.