Over two months have passed since the new bullet train line, the Hokuriku Shinkansen, began service in Toyama Prefecture. From Toyama Station, it now takes as little as 2 hours 8 minutes to arrive in Tokyo, and the amount of available seats has increased by almost 3-fold. The increased convenience of travel has been widely hailed as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to increase business and tourism in Toyama, and bring renewed energy to the area.
While long-term effects of the Shinkansen’s arrival remain to be seen, there have certainly been many visible changes to Toyama already: namely, the recently completed new train stations. Both Shin-Takaoka Station and Kurobe-Unazukionsen Station opened on March 14th, the same day that Shinkansen service began. Shin-Takaoka Station is serviced by Hakutaka trains, linking the area to Tokyo in roughly 2 hours 40 minutes to 3 hours, as well as the Tsurugi shuttle service which runs between Toyama and Kanazawa. A regular ticket between Shin-Takaoka and Tokyo will cost 13,060 yen. The station is located a few miles to the south of the Takaoka Station, and offers convenient access to Aeon Mall, one of the area’s main shopping centers, as well as Takaoka’s National Treasure, Zuiryuji Temple.
Kurobe-Unazukionsen Station features the Hakutaka, with service to and from Tokyo (11,340 yen) in as little as 2 hours 15 minutes. As the name implies, this station is perfect for those interested in bathing in the hot springs at Unazuki Onsen. Both Shin-Takaoka and Kurobe Unazukionsen are spotless, modern stations with gift shops featuring local food products, sake, traditional crafts and more. They have brought a feeling of excitement to their respective regions, with hopes that increased travel to the area will invigorate local business.
Toyama Station continues as a central junction of transportation in the prefecture; local lines are now run by Toyama Ainokaze Railway, with Japan Railways managing the Shinkansen. Kagayaki is the limited express which brings passengers to and from Tokyo in a little over 2 hours (12,730 yen), and the Hakutaka takes a little bit longer but is 500 yen cheaper. Toyama’s new station was also unveiled on March 14th, coinciding with the opening and renewal of several stores. The brand new marketplace Toyamarché and several other restaurants and souvenir shops are located right in the new station building. Another convenient aspect of the new station is that Toyama’s streetcars now pull directly into the station, making for easy transfer. Although the new station is open and operating, construction is not over; the north exit will continue to undergo renovations, eventually connecting streetcars on the north and south sides of the station.
Click here for a fairly comprehensive English language explanation of the Hokuriku Shinkansen. While the regular prices listed for the Hokuriku Shinkansen may seem a bit on the expensive side, it is worth noting that the Japan Rail Pass allows visitors to Japan to use the Shinkansen at no additional cost. With 1, 2 or 3 week passes available, this is by far the cheapest and easiest way for visitors to travel in Japan.