Shinkansen (新幹線) are Japan's high speed rail system that stretches out across the country. Depending on where you live, they are probably the quickest form of travel to large cities such as Sendai and Tokyo.
You can buy Shinkansen tickets at most stations, JTB or online. At stations, go to the counter or the green ticket machines (shinkansen stations only, English available). You can pay in cash or by credit card. At JTB you can also pay by Furikomi.
Shinkansen tickets come in twos: the “travel ticket” and the “reservation ticket”, which is usually compulsory for Shinkansen journeys. You put both into the ticket barrier machines simultaneously when accessing the Shinkansen platform.
The standard cost from Akita to Tokyo is about 17,000 yen, a discount ticket (kaisuuken 回数券) costs 13,400 yen and if you book online it can cost 12,000 - 16,500 yen depending on the discount available.
Discount tickets (kaisuuken 回数券) can be bought from ticket offices (kinken-ya 金券屋) in advance. In Akita, you can get them at Nihonkai Ticket (日本海チケット) in Akita City, Omagari and Yokote. Click here to see locations. Note that the discount ticket is not a valid travel ticket, and must be taken to a JR station ticket window to make a seat reservation on a specific train and exchange the voucher for a valid travel ticket. Discount vouchers cannot be used to book trains during the New Year period. The current price (June 2016) of a discount ticket Akita <-> Tokyo is ¥14,900.
Booking online requires registration, a credit card and is all in Japanese. With all online bookings there is a slight discount off the standard price and there may be limited special discounts (tokudane トクだ値) of up to 40% off. You get your physical ticket by taking your reservation number to the counter or green ticket machine.
Akita Shinkansen (Komachi)
The Shinkansen that runs from Tokyo to Akita is called the Komachi, named after Ono no Komachi (小野 小町) a famous Japanese beauty. There are 15 trains per day that depart roughly every hour. The trip takes about 4 hours each way.
A quick word of caution; even though the Komachi normally has plenty of vacant seating you should always buy your tickets in advance during holidays (New Year, Golden Week). Many Japanese people make it a habit to visit their families out in the boondocks (i.e. Akita) during the holidays, so without a reserved ticket you could end up stranded for a day or two until the traffic lets up.
The Komachi makes several stops on its way down to Tokyo They are:
Note that when traveling intercity on Shinkansens, your ticket is valid for 1 journey within the destination city limits on subways and trains. You can get anywhere in the greater Tokyo region from Akita on one ticket.
If you need to drive to the shinkansen you will need somewhere to park your car.
- Akita City
- If you have a return ticket you can avail of a carpark by the station. You must take your return tickets to a special room within the JR Ticket Office (みどりの窓口; Midori-no-madoguchi). There you can ask for a ticket to enter the carpark. You will be asked for your name and phone number. The car park is free for 1 day, then ¥500 per day. You pay with cash when leaving the carpark. Location
- There is a free long term car park by this station. No ticket or permission is required to use. Location
Yamagata Shinkansen (Tsubasa)
The Yamagata Shinkansen (山形新幹線) is a Mini-shinkansen route in Japan, operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East). It provides service between Tokyo and Shinjō in Yamagata Prefecture over the tracks of the Tōhoku Shinkansen and the Ōu Main Line.
A great option for those living in South Block as it is alittle cheaper than the Akita Shinkansen and has a large free parking area.
Total travel time: 3:30 hr (Shinjo to Tokyo Station)
Tohoku Shinkansen (Hayabusa / Hayate / Yamabiko )
The Tohoku Shinkansen (東北新幹線) runs between Shin-Aomori and Tokyo. Hayabusa trains are coupled with the Komachi Shinkansen between Tokyo and Morioka, after which the train splits to head to Akita or Aomori.
From Shin-Aomori, construction is underway to continue the line to Shin-Hakodate in Hokkaido (148.9 km, due to open by March 2016 under the name Hokkaido Shinkansen), passing through the world's longest undersea railway tunnel, the Seikan Tunnel, and a further 211.3 km to Sapporo by 2035.
- JR East (for route maps, fares and timetables)
- Hyperdia (check fares and times)
- Eki-Net (Japanese-only site for advance reservations for residents)
- JR East Shinkansen Reservation (Official English site for advance reservations for JR Rail Pass holders)
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