The Tōhoku Shinkansen runs from Tokyo to Aomori, at the northern tip of Honshū (Japan’s main island). It takes you through the scenic Tōhoku region, which is famous for its beautiful landscapes, traditional festivals, and sake. The Tōhoku Shinkansen shares tracks with the Hokkaidō Shinkansen, which continues past Aomori through the Seikan Tunnel and on to Hokkaidō.

The Tōhoku region is made up of six prefectures:

On the Tōhoku Shinkansen, you travel along a mostly inland route through four of them — Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, and Aomori. The terminal station is Shin-Aomori, which is just outside Aomori City, in Aomori Prefecture.

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Pro tip: Planning to travel along the Tōhoku Shinkansen? Save money with the JR Pass (available only to short-term visitors) or Tōhoku Area Pass (available to foreign residents too).

5 Highlights along the Tōhoku Shinkansen

Tōhoku Shinkansen route.

Wondering what there is to do in Tōhoku? Here are our top recommendations.

Hirosaki Castle with cherry blossoms
Hirosaki Castle looks mighty pretty when the cherry blossoms bloom | Photo by iStock.com/coward_lion

Tōhoku Shinkansen branch lines

The Tōhoku Shinkansen has two branch lines — the Akita and Yamagata Lines. Both lines start at Tokyo Station and follow the main Tōhoku Shinkansen route for a while before splitting off.

Akita Shinkansen

The Akita Shinkansen runs between Tokyo and Morioka. After Morioka Station, the Akita Shinkansen goes on to Akita (the capital city of the prefecture).

Yamagata Shinkansen

The Yamagata Shinkansen runs between Tokyo and Fukushima. After Fukushima, the Yamagata Shinkansen travels to Shinjō Station in Yamagata Prefecture.

Services on the Tōhoku Shinkansen

The Tōhoku Shinkansen has several services (or types of trains) that differ in terms of where they start and stop, frequency, and speed. This tables shows the main differences, while below you can find more details.

ServiceStart stationEnd stationStopsFrequency of departures
HayabusaTokyoShin-AomoriMajor stops only~2–3 per hour
YamabikoTokyoSendai or MoriokaAll/most stations between Tokyo and Fukushima, then Sendai & Morioka (select trains)~2–3 per hour
NasunoTokyoKōriyamaAll stations between Tokyo & Kōriyama (in Fukushima prefecture)1 per 1–2 hours
HayateMorioka or Shin-AomoriShin-Hakodate-Hokuto*All stations2 per day

*The Hayate service between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto is part of the Hokkaidō Shinkansen. It may not be covered by the same JR passes as the rest of the Tōhoku Shinkansen.

Hayabusa

Hayabusa is the fastest service on the Tōhoku Shinkansen. It only stops at major stations like Ueno (in Tokyo), Sendai, and Morioka. However, some services end at Morioka, and these trains tend to stop at all stations between Sendai and Morioka. Often, Hayabusa services between Tokyo and Morioka are coupled with the Komachi services of the Akita Shinkansen. At Morioka station they de-couple, and the Hayabusa continues on to Shin-Aomori.

Hayabusa services are reserved seating only. However, if all seats are reserved you may be able to purchase standing tickets. In addition to regular cars, there is one Green Car and one GranClass car on Hayabusa trains.

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Yamabiko

Yamabiko is the second fastest service on the Tōhoku Shinkansen; however it does not run along the full route. It usually stops at all or most stations between Tokyo and Fukushima, before continuing nonstop to Sendai. Generally, services in the middle of the day alternate between ending at Sendai and ending at Morioka. In the morning and evening, more services end at Sendai than Morioka. A small number of Yamabiko services start at Sendai and terminate at Morioka, stopping at every station in between.

Some Yamabiko services are also coupled with Tsubasa services on the Yamagata Shinkansen between Tokyo and Fukushima stations.

Yamabiko services have both reserved and non-reserved seating, and one Green Car.

tokyo to sendai bullet train
The iconic Hayabusa. | Photo by Carey Finn

Nasuno

Nasuno is a slower service primarily aimed at workers commuting to and from Tokyo. It stops at all stations between Tokyo and Kōriyama (in Fukushima). There are more services in the morning from Kōriyama to Tokyo, while in the evening it’s the opposite with more services from Tokyo to Kōriyama. Nasuno services have one Green Car, and some services have no reserved seating.

Hayate

Usually, the Hayate service runs only twice per day. It starts at either Morioka or Shin-Aomori, and goes through the undersea tunnel to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station. The route between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuta stations is actually part of the Hokkaidō Shinkansen. Hayate services have one Green Car. They are reserved seating only.

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Buying Tōhoku Shinkansen tickets and making reservations

The Tōhoku Shinkansen is operated by JR East. Depending on your travel plans, you can buy either a single ticket or a rail pass, like the Tōhoku Area Pass (more about rail passes below).

You can buy single tickets from JR ticket offices, or from the Shinkansen ticket machines found in major JR East train stations.

Alternatively, you can buy them online from Eki-net. There are separate Japanese and English versions of the website, and they are different. Through the Japanese version of the site you can buy certain discounted tickets, while the English website has JR passes.

Note: Don’t forget that Hayabusa and Hayate (as well as Komachi and Tsubasa services on the Akita and Yamagata branch lines) require seat reservations. When you buy your ticket you can make a seat reservation at the same time.

More information on buying Shinkansen tickets and making seat reservations can be found in our Ultimate Shinkansen Guide.

Luggage restrictions

Luckily, none of the Tōhoku Shinkansen services were impacted by the new Shinkansen luggage rules implemented in 2020. That being said, we recommend against traveling with large suitcases during peak periods, as there may not be a lot of baggage space left on board.

Rail passes and other discounts on the Tōhoku Shinkansen

You can save money by purchasing a rail pass, for unlimited rides, or seeking out discounts and promotions on single-use tickets.

What rail passes are good for the Tōhoku Shinkansen?

A hand holds up the JR East Tōhoku Area Pass and seat reservation ticket in front of the departures board at Tokyo Station
A JR East Tōhoku Area Pass in the wild. | Photo by Maria Danuco

The entire Tōhoku Shinkansen and its trains are covered by the countrywide JR Pass. In addition, the following JR East rail passes also cover travel on all, or part of, the Tōhoku Shinkansen:

  • Tōhoku Area Pass: Covers travel on the entire route from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori Station. It can also be used for the Akita and Yamagata branch lines, and other rail travel around Kantō.
  • East–South Hokkaidō Pass: Covers travel on the entire route from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori Station, and onwards to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station on the Hokkaidō Shinkansen. It also covers the Akita and Yamagata branch lines and other rail travel around Kantō.
  • Tōhoku–South Hokkaidō Pass: Covers travel from Shin-Shirakawa Station in Fukushima Prefecture to Shin-Aomori Station, and onwards to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station on the Hokkaidō Shinkansen.

For more information, see our guide to JR East rail passes.

Good to know: The Tōhoku Area Pass is one of the regional rail passes available to foreign residents of Japan.

Discounts and promotions

Besides rail passes, there several ways to save money on Shinkansen travel. Here are a few options, which aren’t restricted by visa status:

  • Eki-net: If you register for the Japanese version of JR’s online ticket service “Eki-net”, you may be able to snag tokudane tickets. Tokudane tickets have discounts ranging from 5% to 50% off, but dates and numbers are limited. Even if you can’t get tokudane tickets, booking an e-ticket or a round trip will get you a small discount. The only thing with Eki-net is that it can be tricky to use, even for Japanese speakers!
  • Otona no Kyūjitsu Club: If you’re over 50, you can join JR East’s Otona no Kyūjitsu Club. Membership gives you 5% to 30% off tickets for journeys over 201 km.
  • Student discounts: Students (from junior-high school to university level) can get 20% off Shinkansen tickets for journeys over 101 km. You need to get a student passenger fare discount certificate (学生・生徒旅客運賃割引証 or gakusei seitoryokakuunchinwaribikishō) from your school and take it to a JR ticket office to buy your tickets.

Check out our guide to discount JR East Shinkansen tickets for more detailed info on these, and other discounts.

Shinkansen and hotel packages

A few different websites offer discount packages that include Shinkansen tickets and accommodation. However, the value of the packages varies a lot, and often the websites are only available in Japanese.

Where does the Tōhoku Shinkansen go?

The Tōhoku Shinkansen serves the following stations: Ueno (in Tokyo), Ōmiya, Oyama, Utsunomiya, Nasu Shiobara, Shin-Shirakawa, Kōriyama, Fukushima, Sendai, Furukawa, Kurikoma Kōgen, Ichinoseki, Mizusawa-Esashi, Kitakami, Shin-Hanamaki, Morioka, Iwate-Numakunai, Ninohe, Hachinohe, Shichinohe-Towada, and Shin-Aomori.

Major stations at a glance

StationServiceTravel time from TokyoUnreserved seat fareReserved seat fare
FukushimaYamabiko (+ Tsubasa services on the Yamagata branch line)90 mins¥8,580¥8,910
SendaiYamabiko, Hayabusa (+ Komachi services on the Akita branch line)90 min to 2 hrs¥10,560¥11,210
MoriokaHayabusa, Yamabiko (+ Komachi services on the Akita branch line)2 hrs 10 min to 3 hrs 20 min¥13,960¥14,810
HachinoheSome Hayabusa90 mins to 2.5 hrsN/A¥16,390
Shin-AomoriHayabusa90 mins to 2.5 hrsN/A¥17,470

Prices were correct as of September 2023, and are based on regular season travel. Children aged 6 to 11 ride for half price.

Stations of interest on the Tōhoku Shinkansen

Fukushima Station

Fukushima Station is in Fukushima City, the capital of Fukushima Prefecture. You may know of Fukushima due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which caused meltdowns at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

Fukushima City is in the middle of the prefecture, and a reasonable distance from the coast, where the power plant — and the exclusion zone around it — is located. The prefecture is making huge efforts to recover and welcome visitors. Fukushima City is especially well known for its natural attractions, especially its cherry blossoms and fall foliage.

As for Fukushima Station itself, it is centrally located and quite large. It’s the main train station in the city and services not only Shinkansen, but also local JR lines. A separate ticket gate gives access to two private train lines, and there are bus stops for both local and highway buses. This is also where the Yamagata Shinkansen branch line splits from main Tōhoku Shinkansen line.

Where can I go near Fukushima Station?

Zao Fox Village
Get to know the locals. | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

From Fukushima Station there are buses and trains that will get you to various attractions. By bus you can get to Mt. Shinobu Park, a nature park in the center of the city that offers hiking and stunning views. If you visit during spring, there is also a bus that will take you to Hanamiyama Park, which is famous for its cherry blossoms.

A short train ride will get you to the Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art. On the other hand, if you stay on the Shinkansen a few extra stops to Shiroishizao Station you can head to Zaō Fox Village. Want more ideas? Check out our guide to historic samurai sites in Fukushima.

Sendai Station

View over the Yamagata countryside from Yamadera. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Sendai Station in located in Sendai, the largest city in the entire Tōhoku region and the capital of Miyagi Prefecture. It is home to the Sendai Dai Kannon, a statue of the Buddhist deity of compassion, Kannon. At 100m tall, the statue is reportedly the sixth tallest in the world, and the tallest statue of a goddess in Japan. In addition to Kannon, Sendai also has a number of other shrines and temples, as well as museums.

Sendai Station is not only a Shinkansen stop, but also the main station in Sendai. It serves as a stop for local JR lines, an airport transit line, and two subway lines, as well as local buses.

Where can I go near Sendai Station?

The ruins of Aoba Castle, along with a museum documenting its history, are just a short bus or subway ride from Sendai Station. Similarly, other popular sites like Rinnō Temple, Sendai Tōshō-gū Shrine and the Miyagi Museum of Art are all located close to local train stations. The aforementioned Dai Kannon, however, is only accessible by bus or car.

Sendai is also a convenient jumping-off point for visiting the mountain temple Yamadera, in neighboring Yamagata Prefecture, as well as the coastal area of Matsushima.

Morioka Station

Mt. Iwate, Morioka
View of Mount Iwate from Morioka. | Photo by iStock.com/PixHound

Morioka Station is in Morioka City, the capital city of Iwate Prefecture. Lots of rivers run through the city, and it’s surrounded by mountains, making it very picturesque. In particular, the 400-year-old rock-splitting cherry blossom tree — ishiwarizakura — is a popular attraction.

Morioka Station is also the main train station in the city. In addition to the Shinkansen, it services local train lines and a private train line. It also has bus stops for both local and highway buses. This is also where the Akita Shinkansen branch line splits from the main Tōhoku Shinkansen line.

Where can I go near Morioka Station?

The rock-splitting cherry blossom we mentioned earlier is only a 20-minute walk, or 10-minute bus ride from Morioka Station. Similarly, there are other sites like the Morioka Castle Ruins or the Iwate Museum of Art that aren’t too far from the station, as Morioka is pretty compact.

Shin-Aomori Station

The exterior of Shin-Aomori Station | Photo by Maria Danuco

Shin-Aomori Station is located in Aomori City, the capital city of Aomori Prefecture. However, Shin-Aomori Station is not the main train station in Aomori City. It mainly serves the Tōhoku and Hokkaidō Shinkansen, as well as one local train line.

The local train line with get you to Aomori Station, the main train station (with a lot more local connections). Because of this, the area around Shin-Aomori Station doesn’t have much in the way of attractions, but does have a good tourist information centre.

Where can I go near Shin-Aomori Station?

Most visitors pass through Shin-Aomori Station on their way to Aomori City or continue on the Hokkaidō Shinkansen. Those who head to Aomori City, can visit the Nebuta Museum WA RASSE or, if they time it right, the Nebuta Festival itself. Hirosaki, home to Hirosaki Castle, is also just a short train ride away from Aomori Station.

From the port in Aomori City, ferries depart for Hokkaidō; this used to be the main way of getting from the Honshū main island to Hokkaidō; however, now flying or taking the Shinkansen are more popular options.

Also read: Mini Guide to Exploring Tōhoku from Tokyo

Tōhoku Shinkansen FAQs

What trains run on the Tōhoku Shinkansen?

There are three types of train that run on the Tōhoku Shinkansen route. They are the E6 7-car series, the E5 10-car series, and the E2 10-car series. All three have Green Car class carriages, and the E5 has a Granclass carriage.

Is there a cart service on the Tōhoku Shinkansen?

The Hayabusa, Hayate, and Nasuno trains have cart services (try Shinkansen coffee—it’s strong!), but the Yamabiko doesn’t.

How fast does the Tōhoku Shinkansen travel?

At the moment the Tōhoku Shinkansen can reach speeds of 320km/hour. JR East is researching ways to increase this to 360km/hour.

When did the Tōhoku Shinkansen open?

The first section of the Tōhoku Shinkansen between Ōmiya and Morioka opened in 1982. Then in 2010, the full line opened.

Are any extensions planned?

At the moment there are no plans to extend the Tōhoku Shinkansen.

Also read:

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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