🄫Kyushu Railway Company
Just as the star-studded Bullet Train film gets ready to crashland into cinemas in August 2022, Japan prepares to celebrate 150 years of train travel in September (not to mention 30 years of the Nozomi bullet train, shuttling passengers all the from Tokyo through Kyoto to Fukuoka). However, Japan is also extending its highly developed train connections by investing in new routes and some of its fastest bullet trains yet, like the L0 Series maglev which can reach speeds of up to 374 mph!
Passengers can travel even more safely now on a bullet train during earthquakes, and there are currently tests underway for even more efficient ALFA-X bullet trains on top of - wait for it - driverless bullet trains! Alongside the impressive progress in train technology, come leaps and bounds in the connectivity of Japan's rail routes, which will be taking us deeper into the country in the very near future. Let’s take a look at four new upcoming routes and what exciting things we can do around them starting with the newest one set to open in autumn 2022.
West Kyushu Shinkansen to Nagasaki, 2022
🄫Don Design Associates
Japan’s newest train line was named Nishi Kyushu and the train's unique interior decorations have been recently revealed to the public. The trains will be known as ‘kamome’ meaning seagull which was the name of the limited express train running between Hakata and Nagasaki for years. The 41 mile journey between Takeo Onsen and Nagasaki is set to open in September 2022.
Takeo Onsen is a famous hot spring town widely recognised for its vermillion gate constructed in 1915, and designated an Important Cultural Property. The waters here are known to make your skin silky smooth due to their alkaline properties and you can make your choice from a wide array of public and private bathing experiences! Spend some time in the local ceramic sauna resting on the local pride, Arita porcelain.
Nagasaki is a quaint port city which many will associate with the legacy of the atomic bombings. The local Peace Park reminds everyone of those dreadful events. Nevertheless, there is a lot more to Nagasaki than it meets the eye. Historically it was a point of contact with Korea and China which has led to the creation of a beautiful Chinatown and infrastructure influenced by architectural styles from the main continent. Later on Nagasaki’s Dejima wharf was inhabited by Portuguese and Dutch traders and missionaries which made the cityscape even more international. Its unspoiled beaches and island getaways like the Goto Islands are a must-visit for all outdoor activities enthusiasts.
Hokuriku Shinkansen extension (Kanazawa - Fukui - Tsuruga), 2024
This line was opened in 1997 between Tokyo and Nagano, and then in 2015 it was extended to the historic Kanazawa. In 2024 the new extension is scheduled to head up to Tsuruga in Fukui prefecture through 5 stations! There have been some delays due to structural issues and the current opening isn’t set in stone but we can’t wait to head in this direction! Moreover, there are further plans to extend this line through Obama to Kyoto and Shin-Osaka station in 2046 - an alternative route from Tokyo!
Kanazawa was one of the most important cultural centres during the Edo period (1603-1867) and to this day it celebrates Japan’s traditional crafts such as gold leaf decorated lacquerware. All visits to Kanazawa won’t be complete without visiting the castle and the incredible Kenrokuen Garden which is well-known for being one of Japan’s three most famous gardens.
The line will be heading through two beautiful onsen resorts, Awara Onsen and Kaga Onsen. Awara Onsen is famous for ‘Yukemuri Yokocho’ which means ‘hot spring steam alley’. Located next to some public foot baths, it’s an alley filled with mouth watering local cuisine. Kaga Onsen is a 1300 years old resort consisting of four onsen villages. It’s also known as the birthplace of the kutani ceramics, a style adored for its distinct patterns and vivid colours. Alternatively, head all the way to Fukui for the ultimate Zen training experience at the Hakujukan facility, near the Eihei-ji Temple complex.
Tokyo - Shin Hakodate Station - Sapporo, 2030
The biggest train opening of 2016 was the connection from Aomori to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station in Hokkaido which meant that people could reach Japan’s northernmost prefecture directly by train from Tokyo! However, from there you currently have to take a local express train to reach Sapporo. This will change in 2030 when the bullet train line extending to Sapporo is scheduled to open, allowing visitors to reach it in 5 hours from Tokyo! Not only will it grant direct access to Hokkaido's foodie capital by train, but it will also stop at Kutchan, the station with access to the internationally renowned Niseko ski resort, bringing the snowy slopes one step closer.
Hokkaido is filled with natural beauty which you can enjoy on its stunning flower fields or magnificent mountain peaks. Home to the fascinating Ainu culture, it’s the best place in Japan to learn more about those indigenous people who have been inhabiting northern parts of Japan for centuries. Visiting in winter, you can’t miss out on the local snow festivals such as the internationally renowned Sapporo Snow Festival.
Chuo Line Tokyo - Nagoya, 2027 (kind of...)
This line will be something unexpected because it won’t be operated by our good old bullet trains but a maglev which uses magnetic levitation to reach higher speeds!
The first part of the journey between Shinagawa station and Nagoya was scheduled to open in 2027 but it has been announced that it will be delayed. The full opening is scheduled for 2037 and it will allow people to travel from Tokyo to Osaka in just 67 minutes! The maximum speed on the line will be 311mph which is an exciting thing for all train enthusiasts and will cut the journey length in half!
In 2027 the train will be gliding through 7 different prefectures with one stop in all but Shizuoka prefecture, including the quaint village of Nakatsugawa, also known as one of the trailheads for the very hikable Nakasendo trail! The final station in Nagoya is the perfect base for exploring this part of the country steeped in samurai history. Kiyosu Castle, home to the powerful warlord Oda Nobunaga who was Japan’s first great unifier, is located in the area. Nagoya is one of the gateways to the Three-Star Road which connects places like Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, famous for their traditional charm and architecture.
The plans scheduled above still might change but we can’t wait for the first new line to open next year!
In the meantime, check out our guide to the destinations featured along the iconic Tokaido trainline in the blockbuster movie Bullet Train here.