JR News: Tohoku Shinkansen celebrates 40th anniversary
On 23 June 1982, the Tohoku Shinkansen (東北新幹線 Tо̄hoku Shinkansen) began operations between Omiya Station and Morioka Station, and this year, it celebrates it 40th anniversary. The Tohoku Shinkansen is the oldest shinkansen line operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East), and since its initial opening in 1982, it has been further extended to Hachinohe Station in 2002, and Shin-Aomori Station in 2010.
The eye-catching E5 series train. (Image credit: photoAC)
Nowadays, the Tohoku Shinkansen is synonymous with the eye-catching blue-green E5 series trains. Did you know? The fastest trains on the Tohoku Shinkansen are the Hayabusa services, which can travel up to 320km/h. These trains get their name from “Hayabusa” (はやぶさ), the Japanese word for “peregrine falcon”—the world’s fastest bird—a bird that can reach speeds of 320km/h! On Hayabusa services, a trip from Tokyo to Sendai takes just 90 minutes, and a trip from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori takes just under 3 hours.
200-series train. (Image credit: photoAC)
Of course, trains on the Tohoku Shinkansen were not always this speedy. Initially, the top speeds on the Tohoku Shinkansen were 210km/h when the line first opened. With the upgrading of train vehicles, the speed has now advanced to 320km/h, and in the future, trains will be able to go even faster.
When the Tohoku Shinkansen first started operations, there were white and green 200-series trains that ran along the line, stopping at every station between Omiya and Sendai. This service was known as “Aoba” (あおば), which also happens to be the name of a street and festival in Sendai. The Aoba ended services in 1997 after it was replaced with the Nasuno and Yamabiko services, and 200-series trains were retired in 2013, as they had gradually been replaced with E5 series trains.
Although the Aoba has retired, many people still miss it, and what better way to celebrate the Tohoku Shinkansen's 40th anniversary than by bringing the Aoba back and letting people relive their fond memories?
200-series colour shinkansen
Special “200-series colour train”, an E2 series train decorated in the likeness of the Aoba. (Image credit: photoAC)
Though not exactly the Aoba, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Tohoku Shinkansen, an E2 series train was painted to replicate the design and colours of the 200-series train, and a special trip was held on 25 June, where the train departed Sendai Station and headed to Ueno Station. Along the way, at Tohoku Shinkansen stations like Shiroishi-Zao Station, Fukushima Station, Koriyama Station, and Shin-Shirakawa, station staff and railway enthusiasts gathered to welcome this nostalgic sight.
If you missed this commemorative event, don't worry, you still have chances to ride and see this specially decorated train. Called the “200-series colour shinkansen” (200系カラー新幹線 200-kei karā shinkansen), since 9 June the train has been making regular trips between Tokyo Station and Sendai Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen, or between Tokyo Station and Niigata Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen.
In order to prevent overcrowding, the schedule for the train is only released at 10pm the previous day, making it an elusive train to catch. The operation schedule for the 200-series colour shinkansen can be viewed on the SHINKANSEN YEAR 2022 website here (Japanese only), so check it out if you’re interested in hopping aboard or getting a glimpse of this special train.
Let’s celebrate SHINKANSEN YEAR 2022
Anniversaries in SHINKANSEN YEAR 2022. (Image credit: JR East)
This year, JR East celebrates SHINKANSEN YEAR 2022 (新幹線イヤー2022). Did you know? JR East operates five different shinkansen lines from Tokyo, and all of them are celebrating opening anniversaries this year. The Akita Shinkansen celebrated its 25th anniversary in March, and the Yamagata Shinkansen celebrates its 30th anniversary in July. Stay tuned for more updates later in the year, when the Hokuriku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen will celebrate their opening anniversaries.
SHINKANSEN YEAR 2022 decorations at Sendai Station. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)
The SHINKANSEN YEAR 2022 campaign is currently running until 31 December 2022, and at various stations within the JR East area, keep an eye out for decorations like adorable shinkansen wrappings on the ticket gates, large digital signages that express the future of shinkansen, and large banners and posters with the SHINKANSEN YEAR 2022 imagery.
SHINKANSEN YEAR 2022 concept movie. (Video credit: JR East)
A brand-new CG (computer graphic) concept video, which expresses JR East’s various shinkansen advancing forward with the times, will also be played at stations and on some trains.
For the latest updates on SHINKANSEN YEAR 2022’s celebratory activities, check out JR East’s dedicated SHINKANSEN YEAR 2022 website here.
Header image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh