KANAZAWA, ISHIKAWA PREF. – The number of passengers using a new shinkansen service linking Tokyo with the Hokuriku region on the Sea of Japan coast has topped 10 million since it opened in March last year, West Japan Railway Co. said Wednesday.
The Hokuriku Shinkansen Line links Tokyo and Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. It was inaugurated when a 228-km section reaching Kanazawa was added to a pre-existing route between Tokyo and Nagano that opened in October 1997.
The number of passengers for the section has tripled from the days of a conventional limited express train service, with tourism spots along the bullet train line booming. JR West counted the passengers between Jyoetsu-Myoko and Itoigawa stations, which are part of the extended Nagano-Kanazawa section.
Operated by JR West and East Japan Railway Co., the bullet trains can travel at up to 260 kph, cutting the travel time between Tokyo and Kanazawa by more than an hour to about 2½ hours. Before the service started, travelers had to switch trains or fly.
Before the opening of the new route, aviation had a greater market share than rail between the Tokyo metropolitan area and Kanazawa, known for its castle, gardens, traditional food and craft works. The old city is also famous for Kenrokuen — one of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan.
Since shinkansen trains began operations between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964, the nation’s bullet train network has expanded gradually across the country.
But existing lines have mainly been developed to link major cities along the Pacific coast, with construction to cities on the Sea of Japan coast deferred.