AOMORI, Japan (Kyodo)
The new Hayabusa bullet train debuted Saturday on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line following the route's extension in December to Aomori, the northernmost prefectural capital on Japan's Honshu main island.
The train is the first new model deployed by the service's operator, East Japan Railway Co., since December 1997. It can travel at speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour and it has the longest nose of any shinkansen at 15 meters.
It links Tokyo with Shin-Aomori Station in three hours and 10 minutes on its fastest run, taking 10 minutes less than the conventional Hayate train. JR East says it aims to raise the speed to up to 320 kph and shorten the time to three hours and five minutes in the spring of 2013.
Scheduled to make two round trips between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori and one between Tokyo and Sendai Station in the Miyagi prefectural capital every day, the 10-car trains began service after departure ceremonies at both Tokyo and Shin-Aomori stations.
The Hayabusa, whose seats are all reserved, has 18 "Gran Class" seats, a new class likened to first class in airplanes, costing 26,360 yen. Ordinary and premium Green Car seats are priced at 16,870 yen and 21,360 yen, respectively.
Tickets on the first train departing from Tokyo were sold out within about 40 seconds after being put up for advance sale on Feb. 5, with Gran Class seats selling out in about 10 seconds. It took 90 minutes for all the tickets for the first train from Shin-Aomori to be snapped up, according to JR East.