San’yô Shinkansen       山陽新幹線

Shin Ôsaka station with JR Kyûshû set 781-8002 (left) and JR West Japan set 781-7013 (right). The train on the left has arrived from Kagoshima Chûô via Hakata, the train on the right is about to leave for Kagoshima Chûô via Hakata. (2017)

"San'yô" stands for the "sunny," i.e. southern side of the Western Japanese mountain range along the Inland Sea (Setonaikai), in contrast to the "San'in", the northern side along the Japan Sea coast. The San'yô Shinkansen is the high-speed line linking the city of Ôsaka (Shin Ôsaka station) with the city of Fukuoka (Hakata station); it is operated by JR West. The total length of the line is 516, 5 km. Some trains operate as local services to the servicing point at Hakata Minami (8, 5 km; for details see JR Kyûshû).

The San'yô Shinkansen is electrified with AC 25 kV / 60 Hz, the gauge is 1435mm. East of Himeji speeds of 300 km/h are reached. The section from Shin Ôsaka to Okayama was opened in 1972, the rest to Hakata in 1975. 50, 7 % of the line is in tunnels; the number of tunnels (N) and the length of the longest tunnels (L) are as follows:

Shin Ôsaka – Nishi Akashi
Himeji – Aioi
Aioi – Okayama
Okayama – Shin Kurashiki
Shin Kurashiki – Fukuyama
Fukuyama – Mihara
Mihara – Hiroshima
Hiroshima – Shin Iwakuni
Shin Iwakuni – Tokuyama
Tokuyama – Shin Yamaguchi
Shin Yamaguchi – Shin Shimonoseki
The "New Kanmon Tunnel" between Honshû and Kyûshû
Kokura – Hakata

N5    L 7970m, 3264 m
N9    L 1070m
N16  L 7588m, 3988m, 2146m
N7    L 3317m, 2863m
N9    L 3303m, 2712m, 2680m
N7    L 8900m, 5305m, 4235m, 3800m
N16  L 13'030m, 5305m, 4120m, 3683m 3523m
N7    L 6585m, 5960m, 5389m, 4875m
N19  L 6822m, 3065m
N15  L 6640m, 5543m
N21  L 3409m, 2898m
L 18'713m

N9    L 11'747m, 8488m

Thanks to the higher speeds possible today journey time between Shin Ôsaka and Hakata has been reduced from around 3 hours and 40 minutes in 1975 to 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Long 16-car "Nozomi" trains operate through from Tôkyô to Hakata (1069, 1 km) in just over 5 hours, while 16-car "Hikari" trains operate through from Tôkyô to Okayama in a little over 4 hours with more intermediate stops, which are usually relatively long to let "Nozomi" trains overtake. 16-car trains are both JR Tôkai as well as JR West Japan sets. The San'yô Shinkansen also sees 8-car trains, namely "Hikari Railstar" accelerated trains and "Kodama" services that stop at all stations between Shin Ôsaka and Hakata. These trains are all worked by JR West Japan sets and partly go on as local services to Hakata Minami.

"Sakura" as well as a small number of faster "Mizuho" trains (both 8-car sets) connect Shin Ôsaka and Hakata via the San'yô Shinkansen and then go on to Kagoshima Chûô in southern Kyûshû (Hakata – Kagoshima Chûô is a distance of 256,8 km; through working was introduced in 2011). These trains are operated either by JR West Japan or JR Kyûshû sets. The "Sakura" trains take about 4 hours and 20 minutes from end to end, "Mizuho" trains about 3 hours and 50 minutes.

At peak hours there are additional trains, and some services are seasonal. Looking at the timetable between 15:00 and 16:02 we see the following services leaving Shin Ôsaka: 15:02 "Hikari" from Tôkyô to Okayama, 15:05 "Nozomi" from Tôkyô to Hakata, 15:08 "Sakura" from Shin Ôsaka to Kagoshima Chûô, 15:15 "Nozomi" from Tôykô to Hakata (seasonal), 15:25 "Nozomi" from Tôkyô to Hiroshima, 15:42 "Nozomi" from Tôkyô to Hakata, 15:52 "Sakura" from Shin Ôsaka to Kagoshima Chûô; the next "Kodama" stopping service would be 16:29 ; some more "Kodama" trains operate between Okayama and Hakata.

Train sets in operation (2019) include:

Owned by JR Tôkai:

Class 700 16-car trains, built 1997-2004 (Sets C46-C60; only very few left); numbered 710s/720s+two and three digit numbers

Class N700 16-car trains, built 2007 -2012 (Sets Z), now all modernised as Class N700A

Class N700A 16-car trains, transformed out of Class N700 in 2013-2018 (Sets
X1-X80, plus X0 prototype not in normal operation), numbered 770s/780s+2000

Class N700A 16-car trains, built 2012-2018 (Sets G1-39), numbered 770s/780s+1000

Class N700S 16-car train, prototype built in 2018 (Set J0), numbered 730s/740s+9000

Owned by JR West Japan:

Class 700 16-car trains, built 2001-2006 (Sets B1-15 and C11/14/15); a few have
been withdrawn, numbered 710s/720s+2 or 3 digit numbers (former JR Tôkyi trains),
and 710s/720s+3000

Class 700 8-car trains ("Hikari Railstar"), built 1999-2006 (Sets E1-E16), numbered 720s+7000

Class N700 16-car trains, built 2007-2010 (Sets N), now all modernised as Class N700A

Class N700A, transformed out of Class N700 in 2013-2016 (Sets K1-K16), numbered  770s/780s+5000

Class N700A 16-car trains, built 2013-2016 (Sets F1-F8), numbered 770s/780s+4000

Class N700 8-car-trains for through-running onto JR Kyûshû, built 2010-2012 (prototype 2008),
(Sets S1-S19), numbered 780s+7000

Class 500: Originally 16-car trains built 1996/97 (prototype 1992),
in 2008 reorganised as 8-car trains (Sets V2-V9). These trains were taken off fast services Hakata-Shin Ôsaka-Tôkyô because of various non-standard features, particularly also a non-standard seating arrangement, wich could cause problems with the seat reservation system.

Owned by JR Kyûshû:

Class N700 8-car trains for through-running onto JR West Japan, built 2010-2012 (Sets R1-R11), numbered 780s+8000

A class 700-7000 8-car train "Hikari Railstar" (set 723-7016) at Shin Ôsaka.

From the Shinkansen at Shin Ôsaka. (2017)

From the San'yô Shinkansen in Nishi Akashi. (2017)

From the San'yô Shinkansen near Nishi Akashi. (2018)

Near Nishi Akashi, with a view towards the island of Awajishima. (2018)

Between Himeji and Nishi Akashi the train offers a view over the industrial site of Takasago. In the foreground the tracks of the San'yô Dentetsu railway can be seen. (2018)

End car 784-2021 of JR Tôkai waiting at Aioi. (2017)

A track maintenance vehicle at Aioi. (2017)

Between Aioi and Okayama the San'yô Shinkansen passes through the Bizen mountains, here near Imbe and close to the Akô-sen. The train is one of the original Type 0 sets. (1978)

Okayama station with set 781-7007 from Kagoshima Chûô. (2017)

Leaving Okayama westward the train passes the yards of the San'yô Honsen. We see several class 115 and 105 trains, and in the background an EF210 freight locomotive. In the foreground is a Shinkansen maintenance vehicle MC-9125. (2017)

Seen from a Hakubi-sen train north of Kurashiki, a San'yô Shinkansen passes overhead on the bridge over the Takahashi-gawa (Takahashi River). (2017)

In the hills around Higashi Hiroshima. (2018)

The pillars for the Shinkansen track have been reinforced in the face of serious earthquake danger. Here at Yaga just outside Hiroshima. (2018)

Tokuyama station, looking out onto the Inland Sea. Waiting at the platform is a class 100 4-car train (no. 122-5053). (2005)

From a train entering Tokuyama from Shin Yamaguchi. (2018)

Tokuyama, view from the Shinkansen of parts of the port and the industrial area. (2018)

Between Tokuyama and Shin Yamaguchi, west of Hôfu. (2018)

A 16-car train pulling out of Shin Yamaguchi, headed for Tôkyô. (2015)

Shin Yamaguchi station (until 2003 Ogôri station), with a class 300 enterning (set 323-3009). (2009)

Class 500 (set 521-7005) entering Shin Yamaguchi station. (2015)

Sunrise at Shin Yamaguchi station, with a class 700-7000 ("Hikari Railstar") 8-car train enterning from the west. A number of trains of class 105 of the Ube-sen and for local services on the San'yô Honsen west of Shin Yamaguchi can be seen below. (2015)

From the train west of Asa. (2018)

Sunset at Kokura, with a class 500 leaving for Hakata. (2010)

Hakata station, with set 521-7005 (coach 528-7010). (2013)