Tōhoku Shinkansen

Construction work on the 674 km Tōhoku Shinkansen, connecting Tokyo with Aomori on the northern end of Honshū, commenced in November 1971, and the line opened in stages from June 1982. The line runs through a more sparsely populated region of Japan's main island and reached Aomori in December 2010. An extension of the line passing through the Seikan Tunnel should reach ShinHakodate, on the northern island of Hokkaidō in March 2016 and Sapporo by 2035. 

Branch lines running off the Tōhoku Shinkansen, the Yamagata Shinkansen (Fukushima – Shinjō) and Akita Shinkansen (Morioka – Akita) are labelled mini-shinkansen routes. 

Services on both lines run on the Tōhoku Shinkansen line from Tokyo, then branch onto lines where the original narrow gauge has been upgraded. Since these are not purpose built Shinkansen lines, the maximum speed is limited to130 km/h, but travel time is reduced since passengers no longer need to change trains at Fukushima and Morioka.

Planning for the Jōetsu Shinkansen connecting Tokyo and Niigata was initiated in 1971 by Niigata-born Prime Minister Tanaka, and services began on 15 November 1982, branching off the existing Tōhoku Shinkansen at Ōmiya.

Completed in time to be used by participants and spectators in the 1998 Winter Olympics, the Nagano Shinkansen branches off the Jōetsu and Tōhoku lines at Takasaki. It forms the first section of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, with an extension from Nagano to Kanazawa that opened in March 2015. From there, the line should proceed on to Tsuruga and will eventually loop back to Osaka.

Route details and maps:

© Ian Hughes 2017