Hokuriku Shinkansen

The Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) is a high-speed shinkansen railway line jointly operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and West Japan Railway Company (JR West), connecting Tokyo with Kanazawa in the Hokuriku region of Japan. The first section, between Takasaki and Nagano in Nagano Prefecture, opened on 1 October 1997, originally called the Nagano Shinkansen (長野新幹線) (Takasaki is linked to Tokyo by the Jōetsu Shinkansen). The extension to Toyama in Toyama Prefecture and Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture opened on 14 March 2015.[1] Construction of a further section onward to Fukui and Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture commenced in 2012, with scheduled opening in fiscal 2022. The route of the final section to Shin-Osaka was decided on 20 December 2016 as the Obama - Kyoto route,[2] with construction expected to begin in 2030 and take 15 years.

Hokuriku Shinkansen
A JR West W7 series train on the Hokuriku Shinkansen
Native name北陸新幹線
LocaleTokyo; Saitama, Gunma, Nagano, Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui Prefectures
Opened1 October 1997
Operator(s) JR East, JR West
Depot(s)Nagano, Hakusan
Rolling stockE7 series, W7 series
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Minimum radius4,000 m
Electrification25 kV AC, 50/60 Hz, overhead catenary
Operating speed260 km/h (160 mph)
Route map

Train names and service patterns

Since March 2015, services on the line are split into four types, with train names as listed below.[3] Trains operate over the Joetsu and Tohoku Shinkansen tracks between Tokyo and Takasaki.

  •      Kagayaki: Tokyo - Kanazawa, limited-stop service, since 14 March 2015
  •      Hakutaka: Tokyo - Kanazawa, mostly all-stations service, since 14 March 2015
  •      Tsurugi: Toyama - Kanazawa, all-stations shuttle service, since 14 March 2015
  •      Asama: Tokyo - Nagano, mostly all-stations service, corresponding to existing Nagano Shinkansen service introduced in 1997

The original Nagano Shinkansen Asama services, introduced in 1997, replaced the conventional Shin'etsu Main Line limited express services, also named Asama, which previously took 2 hours 50 minutes from Tokyo (Ueno Station) to Nagano. Following the opening of the Shinkansen, part of the conventional line was abandoned between Yokokawa and Karuizawa. This section included the steeply-graded Usui Pass which required the use of bank engines on all trains.


Station name Japanese Distance from Takasaki (km) Transfers Location
Tohoku Shinkansen
Tokyo 東京-108.6 ChiyodaTokyo
Ueno 上野-105 Taitō
Ōmiya 大宮-77.3
Ōmiya-ku, SaitamaSaitama
Joetsu Shinkansen
Ōmiya大宮Ōmiya-ku, SaitamaSaitama
Kumagaya 熊谷-40.7 Kumagaya
Honjō-Waseda 本庄早稲田-19.6Honjō
Takasaki 高崎0.0 TakasakiGunma
Hokuriku Shinkansen
Annaka-Haruna 安中榛名18.5Annaka
Karuizawa 軽井沢41.8 Shinano Railway LineKaruizawa, KitasakuNagano
Sakudaira 佐久平59.4 Koumi LineSaku
Ueda 上田84.2 Ueda
Nagano 長野117.4 Nagano
Iiyama 飯山 147.3 Iiyama Line Iiyama
Jōetsumyōkō 上越妙高 176.9 ETR Myōkō Haneuma Line Jōetsu Niigata
Itoigawa 糸魚川 213.9 Itoigawa
Kurobe-Unazukionsen 黒部宇奈月温泉 253.1 Toyama Chihō Railway Main Line Kurobe Toyama
Toyama 富山 286.9 Toyama
Shin-Takaoka 新高岡 305.8 Jōhana Line Takaoka
Kanazawa 金沢 345.4 Kanazawa Ishikawa
Under construction; scheduled to open in fiscal 2022
Komatsu 小松 372.6 Hokuriku Main Line Komatsu Ishikawa
Kagaonsen 加賀温泉 387.2 Hokuriku Main Line Kaga
Awaraonsen 芦原温泉 403.4 Hokuriku Main Line Awara Fukui
Fukui 福井 421.4 Fukui
Nanetsu[Note 1] 南越 440.4   Echizen
Tsuruga 敦賀 466.1 Tsuruga
Environmental impact assessment is underway.[4]
Near Obama City[Note 1] 小浜市附近[Note 1] (TBD) Fukui
Kyoto 京都
Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto Kyoto
Near Kyotanabe City[Note 1] 京田辺市附近[Note 1] (TBD)
Shin-Ōsaka 新大阪 Kita-ku, Osaka Osaka
  1. Although the official terminus of the Ryōmō Line is at Shin-Maebashi and that of the Agatsuma Line is at Shibukawa, trains on both lines run through to Takasaki.
  2. Although the official terminus of the Iiyama Line is at Toyono, trains on the line run through to Nagano.


  1. Tentative name.

Rolling stock

With the start of Nagano Shinkansen services, trains were operated by a new fleet of JR East E2 series 8-car sets. A fleet of 17 new E7 series 12-car trainsets were phased in from March 2014, and these were augmented by a fleet of 10 JR West W7 series 12-car sets introduced from March 2015. The fleet of W7 series was purchased at a cost of ¥32.8 billion.[6] The remaining E2 series trainsets were withdrawn from Hokuriku Shinkansen services on 31 March 2017.[7]

In 2019, ten trains, eight from JR East with a book value of ¥11.8 billion and two from JR West, were damaged when a train yard in Nagano was flooded as the Chikuma River overflowed during typhoon Hagibis.[6][8] As a result, JR West suffered a loss of ¥3 billion.[8]

Former rolling stock

The original E2 series 8-car "J" sets, primarily used on Tohoku Shinkansen services were also used on some Asama services until they were subsequently lengthened to 10 cars. One specially-modified 200 series set, numbered F80, was used on additional Asama services in February 1998 during the 1998 Winter Olympics held in Nagano. The train was modified to operate on both 25 kV AC 50 Hz and 60 Hz overhead power supplies, incorporated weight-saving measures to comply with the 16 tonne axle load restriction, and included additional control equipment to cope with the 30 gradient of the Nagano Shinkansen.[9] Its maximum speed was limited to 210 km/h (130 mph).[9] The last services operated using eight-car E2 series trainsets ran on 31 March 2017, from which date all Asama services were formed of E7 and W7 series trainsets.[10]


Nagano Shinkansen

The initial section between Takasaki and Nagano opened on 1 October 1997, in time for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

Between May 2012 and March 2014, station platforms on the Nagano Shinkansen had their platform roofs extended to handle the E7 series 12-car trains which entered service in March 2014 ahead of the March 2015 opening of the extension beyond Nagano.[11] The Hokuriku Shinkansen extension from Nagano to Kanazawa opened in March 2015.[11] The 113-km extension from Kanazawa to Tsuruga was approved for construction in June 2012.[12]

From the start of the revised timetable on 15 March 2014, E7 series trainsets were introduced on Asama services.[5] Initially used on seven return services daily, this number was increased to eleven return services daily from 19 April 2014.[5]


The line's legal name has always been Hokuriku Shinkansen. However just before Nagano section opening JR East has decided using this name in passenger service is to be avoided: since March 22, 1997 until the extension of Hokuriku Shinkansen to Kanazawa, the primary route for Hokuriku customers (from Tokyo area) is to use Joetsu Shinkansen to Echigo-Yuzawa then transfer to Hakutaka via Hokuetsu Express, rendering using Hokuriku Shinkansen (Takasaki-Nagano section) meaningless for them. Therefore, JR East sought other names.[13]

On the other hand, local governments in Hokuriku, fearning construction west of Nagano may be halted, petitioned name "Hokuriku" remaining in the operations. [14]

JR East announced the following solution at July 25, 1997:[15]

  • Voice announcements using "Nagano Shinkansen"
  • Tokyo area stations using depictions with "Nagano-bound Shinkansen".
  • Stations between Annaka-Haruna and Nagano depicting "Shinkansen" only.

Soon "Nagano-bound Shinkansen" fell out of use and timetables by various publishers use "Nagano Shinkansen" only.[16] Construction to Kanazawa was officially decided, reducing the opposition to the name.

Extension beyond Nagano

Construction of the extension from Nagano to Kanazawa was completed on 24 May 2014.[17] When services commenced in March 2015, the travel time from Tokyo to Toyama was reduced to about 2 hours, with Kanazawa an additional 30 minutes away.[17] Final permission to start construction to Fukui was granted in December 2011, with modification works to Fukui Station already in progress for several years in anticipation of the extension.[18] The extension to Tsuruga was approved for construction on 30 June 2012,[19] and is scheduled to open in fiscal 2022.[20] Beyond Jōetsumyōkō Station, the line is operated by West Japan Railway Company (JR West) instead of East Japan Railway Company (JR East).[21]

Naming issue rises again

Many people speculated about and discussed what the line's operational name should be after Nagano-Kanazawa section is completed.

Nagano economic associations argued a sudden change in name will confuse customers, propose "Nagano-Hokuriku Shinkansen" to be used.[22] In contrast government officials and economic associations in Hokuriku region defended the legal name, including statements such as "a just result should come after 3 prefectures striving for 40 years".[23][24][25]

Section west of Jōetsumyōkō belongs to JR West, which did not state an opinion and used "Hokuriku Shinkansen" only.[26]

On Oct 2 2013 JR East announced formal line name will be Hokuriku Shinkansen (consistent with National Shinkansen Railway Development Act) and depicted as Hokuriku Shinkansen (via Nagano), resolving the naming issue.


Test-running on the JR East section of the line between Nagano and Kurobe-Unazukionsen commenced on 1 December 2013, initially at low speeds using the "East i" test train.[27] From 6 December, test-running commenced using 10-car E2 series trainsets, with running speeds gradually increased to the full line speed of 260 km/h (160 mph).[27] Test-running continued until the end of March 2014.[27] Test-running on the entire line between Nagano and Kanazawa (Hakusan Depot) started on 1 August 2014, using the "East i" test train.[28] Test-running using W7 series trains commenced on 5 August 2014, initially at low speed, on the JR West section between Kanazawa and Jōetsumyōkō.[29]

Future plans

The route of the final section from Tsuruga to Osaka was finalized on 20 December 2016 as the 'Obama-Kyoto route.[2] The following four options were under consideration,[20] with a fifth unofficial option suggested by a local politician.[30]

  1. Maibara Route (米原ルート): This involved building a full standard shinkansen track to Maibara Station. It was one third of the length of the Obama Route, and provided good access to both Kyoto and Nagoya. It would have resulted in longer travel time to Osaka than the other options, and trains would have had to use the existing, already near-capacity Tokaido Shinkansen tracks between Maibara and Shin-Osaka.
  2. Kosei Route (湖西ルート): This involved no new track construction; instead, this proposal would have upgraded the Kosei Line to Kyoto, either by regauging or dual-gauging the line to support Mini-Shinkansen, or alternatively utilising Gauge Change Train (GCT) operations. This was the cheapest option, but meant train speeds would likely be limited to a maximum of 160 km/h (100 mph) and hence travel times would have been longer than the other options.
  3. Obama Route (小浜ルート): First proposed in 1973,[20] this route involved building a full standard shinkansen track via Obama and Kameoka. It was the shortest route to Osaka, but also the most expensive (approximately 1 trillion yen), and would have bypassed Kyoto.
  4. Obama-Kyoto Route (小浜・京都ルート): This, the now selected route, was first made public in August 2015, and involves following the proposed Obama Route west as far as Obama and then building shinkansen track southward to link with the Tokaido Shinkansen at Kyoto. Including Kyoto on the route is seen as important to increase tourism.[20]
  5. Maizuru Route (舞鶴ルート): Kyoto politician, Shoji Nishida's proposal from Tsuruga, via Obama, to Maizuru then south-east to Kyoto, eastern Osaka and Kansai Airport.[30] This option was uncosted but would have been the most expensive due to the scale of the proposal. Its case was to provide development to the Maizuru region as per the Japanese national government's policy, with the Maizuru Maritime Self-Defence Force Base and several nuclear power stations put forward as reasonable traffic generators. The option to extend the line south of Kyoto to a new Osaka station (located to the south east of Osaka) and onwards to Kansai International Airport was seen as a means to avoid the congestion of the Tokaido line. It may have served as an alternative route or terminus to Shin-Osaka station for Tokaido line trains, reducing Tokaido line congestion.

A government committee deliberating the proposals decided in April 2016 to narrow the proposed route to three alignments between Tsuruga and Kyoto and two alignments between Kyoto and Shin-Osaka (a northern route through Minoh and a southern route through the Kansai Science City). On 6 March 2017 the government committee announced the chosen route from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka is to be via Kyotanabe, with a station at Matsuiyamate on the Katamachi Line.[31][32] There had previously been discussion of routing the line to Tennoji, a major terminal in southeast Osaka, which would allow an extension of the line to Kansai Airport.[33][34]

Interim plans

In order to extend the benefits of the Hokuriku Shinkansen to stations west of Tsuruga before the line to Osaka is completed, JR West is working in partnership with Talgo on the development of a Gauge Change Train (CGT), which will be capable of operating under both the 25 kV AC electrification used on the Shinkansen and the 1.5 kV DC system employed on conventional lines. The six-car train is due to start trials on the Hokuriku Shinkansen and the 1067 mm-gauge Hokuriku and Kosei lines in 2017. As part of the project JR West has already begun trials with a purpose-built 180 m-long gauge-changer at Tsuruga.[35]

Conventional lines running parallel to the Hokuriku Shinkansen

With the opening of the initial Nagano Shinkansen section in October 1997, the section of the conventional (narrow gauge) Shinetsu Main Line running along approximately the same route between Karuizawa and Shinonoi was transferred from the control of JR East to a newly established third-sector railway operating company, Shinano Railway, becoming the Shinano Railway Line.

With the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension north of Nagano on 14 March 2015, the conventional lines running along approximately the same route were transferred from the control of their respective JR owning companies to newly established third-sector railway operating companies funded primarily by the prefectural and municipal governments through which the lines pass. A total of 252.2 km (156.7 mi) of route between Nagano and Kanazawa was transferred to four separate operating companies, including 75.0 km (46.6 mi) of the Shinetsu Main Line between Nagano and Naoetsu, and 177.2 km (110.1 mi) of the Hokuriku Main Line between Naoetsu and Kanazawa.[36] Details of the four third-sector operating companies and their respective lines are as shown below.[36]

SectionLength (km)Former line nameFormer operating companyDate transferredNew line nameOperating company
Karuizawa - Shinonoi65.1Shinetsu Main LineJR East1 October 1997Shinano Railway LineShinano Railway
Nagano - Jōetsumyōkō37.314 March 2015Shinano Railway Kita-Shinano Line
Jōetsumyōkō - Naoetsu37.7Myōkō Haneuma LineEchigo Tokimeki Railway
Naoetsu - Ichiburi59.3Hokuriku Main LineJR WestNihonkai Hisui Line
Ichiburi - Kurikara100.1Ainokaze Toyama Railway LineAinokaze Toyama Railway
Kurikara - Kanazawa17.8IR Ishikawa Railway LineIR Ishikawa Railway


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