Hayabusa bullet train up and running

AOMORI (Kyodo) The Hayabusa bullet train debuted Saturday on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, thrilling rail fans and people living in northern Japan, following the route’s extension in December to Aomori.

The green and silver train is the first new model deployed by East Japan Railway Co. since December 1997. It can speed along at up to 300 kph and, at 15 meters, has the longest nose of any shinkansen.

It links Tokyo with Shin-Aomori Station in three hours and 10 minutes on its fastest run, 10 minutes less than the older Hayate. JR East says it aims to raise the top speed to 320 kph and shave the time to three hours and five minutes in spring 2013.

The first train departed snow-dusted Shin-Aomori Station at 6:10 a.m. following a ceremony jazzed up by local festival music. It arrived at Tokyo Station shortly after 9:20 a.m. to the cheers of some 1,500 rail fans who gathered at the station.

The Hayabusa, which means falcon, “was made by assembling the cream of the crop of our technologies,” JR East President Satoshi Seino said in the departing ceremony at Shin-Aomori.

The prefecture’s governor, Shingo Mimura, said it marks “the start of an era for Aomori.”

The first run out of Tokyo was marred by a halt between Iwate and Aomori when a passenger pressed an emergency button.

There was also a seven-minute delay at the start when a man tumbled onto the track amid the throng at Tokyo Station. He was not injured.

The first train arrived at Shin-Aomori three minutes late.

Scheduled to make two round trips between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori and one between Tokyo and Sendai Station every day, the Hayabusa, whose seats are all reserved, has 18 “Gran Class” seats, a new class likened to first class on airplanes.

Costing ¥26,360, passengers in the top-class seats are served light meals and drinks, while premium Green Car seats run ¥21,360 and ordinary seats cost ¥16,870.

Tickets on the first train departing Tokyo sold out in about 40 seconds after they went on advance sale Feb. 5, with Gran Class seats selling out in about 10 seconds.

It took 90 minutes for all of the tickets for the first train from Shin-Aomori to be snapped up, JR East said.