Japan’s Shinkansen “bullet train” network is the world’s oldest and most used high-speed railway in the world. The map above charts its growth from 1964 until the present day and beyond.
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka was the first line to open in 1964, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics.
That year, there were just 11 million journeys on the network. Yet, over the course of the next 50 years, 11 billion journeys have been made on Shinkansen trains, making it the most used system in the world by cumulative journeys.
Current annual ridership, on the other hand, is relatively stagnant at a little over 300 million journeys, making it the second most used network on an annual basis. First place China recoded over 440 million journeys in 2013 and this number is increasing rapidly.
The current Shinkansen network has 6 main lines (total length: 2,615.7 km/1,625.3 mi) and 2 Mini-shinkansen lines (total length: 283.5 km/176.2 mi), which puts Britain’s 108 km (67 mi) High Speed 1 to shame.
They 6 main lines in order of opening are:
- Tōkaidō Shinkansen: Opened in 1964 it runs between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka (515.4 km/320.3 mi), operated by JR Central, annual ridership of 143 million people.
- Sanyō Shinkansen – Opened between 1972 and 1975 it runs between Shin-Osaka and Hakata (553.7 km/344.1 mi), operated by JR West, annual ridership of 64 million people.
- Tōhoku Shinkansen – Opened between 1982 and 2010 it runs between Tokyo to Shin-Aomori (674.9 km/419.4 mi), operated by JR East, annual ridership of 76 million people.
- Jōetsu Shinkansen – Opened in 1982 it runs between Ōmiya and Niigata (269.5 km/167.5 mi), operated by JR East, annual ridership of 35 million people.
- Hokuriku Shinkansen – Opened between 1997 and 2015 it runs between Takasaki and Kanazawa (345.4 km/214.6 mi), operated by JR East and JR West, annual ridership of 9 million people.
- Kyushu Shinkansen – Opened between 2004 and 2011 it runs between Hakata and Kagoshima-Chūō (256.8 km/159.6 mi), operated by JR Kyushu, annual ridership 12 million people.
The two mini-lines are:
- Yamagata Shinkansen – Opened in 1992 it runs between Fukushima and Shinjō (148.6 km/92.3 mi), operated by JR East.
- Akita Shinkansen – Opened in 1997 it runs between Morioka and Akita (127.3 km/79.1 mi), operated by JR East.
Future lines in order of expected opening date are:
- Hokkaido Shinkansen: Will run from Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto starting in 2016, with a further extension to Sapporo to open in 2030.
- Hokuriku Shinkansen: extension from Kanazawa to Tsuruga to be opened in 2023.
- Kyushu Shinkansen: branch line from Shin-Tosu to Nagasaki construction began in 2008.
- Chuo Shinkansen: is a planned maglev line from Tokyo to Osaka via Nagoya. Tokyo to Nagoya to open in 2027 and Nagoya to Osaka in 2045. Construction started in 2014.
And if the growth and expansion of the network were not impressive enough, Japan has cancelled and/or shelved more plans than the UK is ever likely to build.
Some of these cancelled lines include:
- The Narita Shinkansen – Narita to Tokyo
- Hokkaido Shinkansen (northward extension) – Sapporo to Asahikawa
- Hokkaido South Loop Shinkansen – Oshamanbe to Muroran to Sapporo
- Uetsu Shinkansen – Toyama to Niigata to Aomori
- Hokuriku-Chūkyō Shinkansen – Nagoya to Tsuruga
- Sanin Shinkansen – Osaka to Tottori to Matsue to Shimonoseki
- Trans-Chūgoku Shinkansen – Okayama to Matsue
- Shikoku Shinkansen – Osaka to Tokushima to Takamatsu to Matsuyama to Ōita
- Trans-Shikoku Shinkansen – Okayama to Kōchi to Matsuyama
- East Kyushu Shinkansen – Fukuoka to Ōita to Miyazaki to Kagoshima
- Trans-Kyushu Shinkansen – Ōita to Kumamoto
Want to get a better look at how the Shinkansen network looks today? Well here’s the map for you:
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