This weekend Japan’s iconic rail network launched the newest addition to its system ofshinkansen “bullet trains,” connecting Tokyo for the first time by high-speed rail with the northern island of Hokkaido. The new Hokkaido Shinkansen travels the 825 km (513 miles) from Tokyo to near Hakodate, Hokkaido’s southern port city, in just over four hours. It’s another approximately 20 minutes by a connector train into Hakodate proper.
This shaves almost an hour off the previous train travel time; trains ride at speeds up to about 260km per hour (160 miles per hour). Travel times would be shorter were it not for speed restrictions in the tunnel under the strait between Hokkaido and Honshu, Japan’s main island.
The futuristic, needle-nosed 10-car trains can seat up to 731 passengers in three classes of service. Interior design is inspired by Hokkaido’s natural beauty – snowflakes, bays, etc. – and the art of its native Ainu people.