The Yamagata Shinkansen is a branch line of the Tōhoku Shinkansen. It is the only Shinkansen that goes to Yamagata Prefecture. Services start at Tokyo Station and follow the Tōhoku Shinkansen route to Fukushima Station, before branching off towards Yamagata. The line ends at Shinjō Station in the north of Yamagata Prefecture.

Two of the most famous products from Yamagata Prefecture are cherries and beef — both of which are stupendously delicious. The prefecture is quite mountainous, and has lots of hot-spring towns. In winter, this makes it a good ski destination. However, like much of the Tōhoku region, it isn’t well-known among international tourists — which is a shame.

ginzan onsen in yamagata
The famous Ginzan Onsen — on the map thanks to Spirited Away. | Photo by iStock.com/Jason_YU

Highlights along the Yamagata Shinkansen route

  • 1. Visit the Zaō Snow Monsters and experience a different kind of winter wonderland.
  • 2. While you’re at it, hit the slopes at Zaō Onsen Ski Resort.
  • 3. Tuck into the Beef Festival in Yonezawa.
  • 4. Enjoy the view from the mountain temple of Yamadera.
  • 5. Soak away your aches and pains in the hot-spring town of Ginzan Onsen.

Services on the Yamagata Shinkansen

Because the Yamagata Shinkansen route is a branch line, there is only one service — the Tsubasa. Usually, it stops at most stations, but sometimes it skips Takahata, Akayu, and Kaminoyama Onsen stations.

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ServiceStart stationEnd stationStopsFrequency of departures
TsubasaTokyoYamagata/ShinjōAll/most stations1–2 per hour

Tsubasa services have one Green Car carriage — the rest are regular carriages. It is reserved seating only.

Sometimes, Tsubasa service trains are coupled with Yamabiko service trains on the Tōhoku Shinkansen between Tokyo and Fukushima stations. After decoupling at Fukushima Station, Tsubasa services continue on the Yamagata Shinkansen to either Yamagata or Shinjō.

Yamagata Shinkansen tickets and seat reservations

JR East operates the Yamagata Shinkansen. Depending on your travel plans, you can buy a single-journey ticket or a rail pass. You can buy single-journey tickets at JR ticket offices or from the Shinkansen ticket machines at major JR East train stations.

Alternatively, you can buy them online from Eki-net. Both Japanese and English versions of the website exist, but they are slightly different. On the Japanese version of the site, you can buy tokudane discounted tickets. You can buy JR passes on the English website.

Find out how to score deals on JR East tickets — including special promotions — and book package tours via Eki-net in our guide to getting discounted JR East tickets.

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

Luggage restrictions on the Yamagata Shinkansen

Luckily, the Shinkansen luggage rules implemented in May 2020 did not impact the Yamagata Shinkansen service. Bag space is available on the trains. That said, luggage storage space may be limited during peak travel times, so you might want to have your stuff sent ahead.

What rail passes are good for the Yamagata Shinkansen?

The Yamagata Shinkansen Line is covered by the countrywide JR Pass. In addition, the following JR East rail passes cover travel on the Yamagata Shinkansen:

  • Tōhoku Area Pass: Covers the Yamagata Shinkansen branch line from Tokyo Station to Shinjō Station. Additionally, it also covers the entire Tōhoku Shinkansen, the Akita Shinkansen branch line, and other rail travel around Kantō.
  • East–South Hokkaidō Pass: Covers travel on the Yamagata branch line from Tokyo Station to Shinjō Station. It also covers the entire Tōhoku Shinkansen route from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori Station, and onwards to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station on the Hokkaidō Shinkansen. Finally, it also covers the Akita branch line and other rail travel around Kantō.

See our guide to JR East rail passes for more information.

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

Stations of interest on the Yamagata 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 a meltdown at a nuclear power plant in the prefecture. 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. Otherwise, Fukushima City is known for its natural attractions, especially its cherry blossoms and fall foliage. It’s a stunningly beautiful part of Japan.

Fukushima Station itself is centrally located and quite large. It’s the main train station in the city and services not only the 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 the main Tōhoku Shinkansen.

Zao Fox VIllage
Zaō Fox Village.

Where can I go near Fukushima Station?

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 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 for a few extra stops, to Shiroishi Zaō Station, you can head to Zaō Fox Village. Want more ideas? Check out our guide to historic samurai sites in Fukushima.

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Yonezawa Station

Yonezawa Station is in Yonezawa City in Yamagata Prefecture. During the Warring States period (1467 – 1615), Yonezawa was a castle town. Today, the castle ruins lie in the center of the city and have been transformed into a park. In spring, the park is a popular spot for cherry-blossom viewing. The city is also famous for its high-grade wagyū (Japanese beef), and hosts an annual Beef Festival in August.

Yonezawa Station is located in the center of Yonezawa City, and acts as its main train station. It services not only the Yamagata Shinkansen but also two local JR East lines. If you’re hungry, look for their famous gyūkakuni bentō, a lunch shaped like a cow’s face that’s filled with premium beef.

Ramen noodles from Akayu. | Photo by Getty Images

Where can I go near Yonezawa Station?

Matsugasaki Park, where the old castle ruins are, is a short bus ride from Yonezawa Station. There are also several museums, such as the Yonezawa City Uesugi Museum and the Toko Sake Museum, that can be reached by bus.

Akayu Station

Akayu Station is in the town of Nan’yō, a popular onsen town. The name akayu means “red water”, which flows through the town. Some sources claim this comes from hundreds of years ago when soldiers washed their wounds in the hot-spring water and their blood turned it red. But these days the place is better known for its red wine and ramen. And, of course, the hot springs.

Akayu Station itself is fairly small. It’s the main station in the town, but isn’t particularly central. It services the Yamagata Shinkansen, a local JR line, and a private train line.

Where can I go near Akayu Station?

The hot-spring part of town is about a 20 to 30-minute walk from the station. Once you’re there, you can enjoy one of the many onsen, or continue to explore the nearby Eboshiyama Park on foot. Alternatively, you could go for a ride on a private train line, the Yamagata Railway Flower Nagai line. It’s a beautiful scenic route that takes you through rural Japan. The journey is about one hour one way.

Yamagata Station

Yamagata Station is in Yamagata City, the capital of Yamagata Prefecture. During the Warring States period (1467 – 1615), it was a center of power. Today, the castle grounds have been converted into a park. Parts of the castle still remain, and the whole area is a popular cherry-blossom viewing spot. The city also boasts some impressive nightlife, with lots of izakaya (Japanese-style bars) to choose from.

Yamagata Station is the main train station in Yamagata City and is centrally located. It services the Shinkansen and three local JR East lines.

The view from Yamadera. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Where can I go near Yamagata Station?

Kajo Park — the old castle grounds — is about five minutes on foot from Yamagata Station. Nearby, you’ll also find the Yamagata Prefectural Museum and the Yamagata Museum of Art. Yamadera is approximately 17 minutes by train.

Shinjō Station

Shinjō Station is in Shinjō City. While it is the final stop on the Yamagata Shinkansen, it’s not a big tourist drawcard. However, it is known for its Shinjō Festival — which is one of the largest festivals in northern Japan. It happens every year from August 24 to 26 and has been going for over 200 years. The festival features floats, parades, and music.

Shinjō Station also services three local JR East lines. It is the city’s main station and is fairly central.

Where can I go near Shinjō Station?

To be honest, most people coming this far are probably locals. There aren’t many attractions near the station, or in the city in general. You could go for a 10-minute walk to Higashiyama Park — which does have lots of pretty hydrangeas in summer — but besides that, there isn’t much to see in the area.

Yamagata Shinkansen FAQs

Can you use the JR Pass on the Yamagata Shinkansen?

Yes, you can use your JR Pass on the Yamagata Shinkansen. Just don’t forget that all seats are reserved seating, so you’ll need to reserve your seats before boarding.

How long is the trip from Tokyo to Yamagata?

Around two and a half hours, with trains departing from Tokyo every hour.

How much is a one-way ticket from Tokyo Station to Yamagata Station?

Around ¥11,000, depending on the time of year.

What is the difference between the Tōhoku Shinkansen and Yamagata Shinkansen?

The Yamagata Shinkansen is a branch line of the Tōhoku Shinkansen. It starts at Tokyo Station and follows the Tōhoku Shinkansen route to Fukushima Station, before branching off. From there, the Yamagata Shinkansen travels to Yonezawa, Yamagata and Shinjō stations.

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

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