Tokyo is getting closer. People in Aomori Prefecture had long waited when the existing bullet train line was extended to Aomori City on December 4, 2010. Previously, they needed to ride the limited express train to Hachinohe and get on the bullet train there, taking four hours in total to get to Tokyo. Now the two cities are connected without transfer, taking only three hours and twenty minutes, which is thirty-nine minutes faster than before. In the near future, it will be even faster; three hours and five minutes!
In March, another new bullet train line will be completed in Kagoshima Prefecture, the southernmost prefecture except Okinawa. In 2015, Aomori and Hokkaido will be connected by a bullet train line. That will make it possible to travel all the way from the northernmost prefecture through Kagoshima on bullet trains.
The new bullet train does not only travel to Tokyo faster, but it brings lots of tourists from other areas. It's expected to help improve the local economy. For the last few years, Aomori Prefecture has made special efforts in advertising its attractions as a travel destination. Nebuta festival was demonstrated in Tokyo. TV commercials featuring a popular actor were broadcasted and volunteer guides are trained too. Aomori is all ready to offer pleasant experiences to tourists.
As the bullet train line was extended, two stations were newly built: Shin-Aomori Station and Shichinohe Towada Station. Shin-Aomori Station is located about 6km west from JR Aomori Station. It is criticized that there is virtually nothing around there, but the station of course provides nice restaurants and souvenir shops in itself. Shichinohe-Towada Station is built in Shichinohe Town, twenty-minute drive from Misawa. It has made Oirase Gorge, Towada Lake, and other spots in Hakkoda Mountains more accessible for people from other prefectures. The station is conveniently located near the “roadside station (michinoeki)” of Shichinohe Town. It attracts people hunting for fresh vegetables at its farmer's market. In the same complex, there is also a nice small museum that is always hosting a special exhibit of high-quality pieces. It includes a collection of paintings all depicting camellias by different artists with diverse styles. A new AEON shopping mall will be open in the spring near the vicinity. There is also a new gelato shop within a five-minute drive from the station. My favorite flavors are blueberry and caramel. They also have vanilla, chocolate, coffee, green tea, strawberry, cheese, pumpkin, and much more. Their gelato’s refreshing taste and its beautiful location will make you their fan favorite. The shop is located on a farm that recently went out of business. It's off Route 394 toward Misawa.
How to Ride
Now people in Misawa have two choices to get on a bullet train, either from Hachinohe Station as you used to do, or from Shichinohe-Towada Station. It takes about forty minutes to drive to both stations. They both offer free parking for bullet train passengers. If you want to leave your car in Misawa, take a regular train from Misawa and transfer at Hachinohe Station. A bullet-train ride costs 15,560 yen from Shichinohe-Towada to Tokyo, and 15,350 yen from Hachinohe to Tokyo. That is a coach seat or “futsu-seki.” About 500 yen will be added to both tickets after March 5th. Business class, or “green-sha,” costs about 5,000 yen more, and first class, or “grand class,” costs about 10,000 yen more.
First-class service is just like the one on airplanes. The comfortable leather seats can be reclined in a 45 degree angle. A nice meal is also served, whereas other passengers opt to buy a boxed food from an attendant going back and forth down the aisle. How about a first-class experience for your wedding anniversary?
Tickets can be reserved and purchased online at a Japanese website and of course at Japan Railway (JR) stations. But please note that you cannot buy a bullet train ticket at Misawa Station anymore, because the station is now operated by a different company. The nearest JR stations are located at the Hachinohe Station and Shichinohe-Towada Station.
New Shinkansen Body
The present bullet train running in this prefecture is called “Hayate” meaning “gale.” It will be alternated by a brand-new train in March 5, 2011. The name of the emerald green train is “Hayabusa,” meaning “falcon." Its new design with a 15m-long “nose” efficiently minimizes the wind resistance to enable the speed of 300km per hour, the fastest in Japan, making Shin-Aomori-Tokyo travel even shorter; three hours and ten minutes. In two years, the speed will be 320km per hour and the travel will be three hours and five minutes. Japan has exported a bullet train to Taiwan, and now it is aiming to sell this new type of train to the U.S. connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.
When you have a chance to go to Tokyo next time, why don't you take the new bullet train? It will be a nice and comfortable experience.
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