Tokyo-Aomori bullet train debuts

Tohoku Shinkansen Line starts runs following 38-year effort to reach northern tip of Honshu

Kyodo

The Tohoku Shinkansen Line between Tokyo and Aomori began full services Saturday on the extended section between Hachinohe and Shin-Aomori stations in Aomori Prefecture.

The extension enables people to travel the 675 km between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori stations in about three hours and 20 minutes, about 40 minutes less than before.

The full service came 38 years after the government decided on basic plans for extending the bullet train line beyond Morioka, Iwate Prefecture.

The first Tokyo-bound train left Shin-Aomori Station at 6:31 a.m. following a ceremony attended by Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura.

“The full opening was our earnest desire for 38 years,” Mimura said. “I want to share the joy of the start of a new journey.”

One of the first passengers was Akio Nishino, a 61-year-old carpenter from Shichinohe, Aomori Prefecture, who used to travel to Tokyo in a sleeper train around 40 years ago.

“I couldn’t imagine such a (fast-traveling) time would come,” he said before boarding the train with around 30 friends.

The first train, however, had trouble connecting with an Akita Shinkansen train at Morioka Station, causing a 13-minute delay. Services were also temporarily suspended later in the day due to strong winds, causing more delays.

At Tokyo Station, meanwhile, some 500 people were present to see off the first Shin-Aomori-bound train early Saturday morning.

“The Tohoku Shinkansen line has been extended northward step by step for the past 30 years or so,” East Japan Railway Co. Chairman Mutsutake Otsuka told them. “I expect many people to use it and visit Aomori.”

A 45-year-old man from Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, said he wanted the train to go further.

“I hope the Shinkansen line will reach my home prefecture Hokkaido,” he said.

Shin-Aomori Station, which opened the same day, houses 19 shops and restaurants inside its 1,085-sq.-meter building.