For travel within Japan, railways are the most convenient form of transportation. And when you visit Japan, be sure to try out the Shinkansen high-speed rail network, which incorporates Japan’s leading-edge railroad technology. Right now there are eight Shinkansen lines in Japan, which link all of the country’s major cities.
One of those lines, the Tohoku Shinkansen, was extended to its final point on December 4. Up to now, the trip to Aomori Station from Tokyo Station took approximately four hours, but with the line extended all the way to Shin-Aomori Station, the fastest trains takes only three hours and 20 minutes to that destination. Travel times are expected to be even shorter soon, when new rolling stock comes into service in April 2011.
Aomori Prefecture is the northernmost area of Honshu, Japan’s main island. It’s renowned for tuna and other seafood, and local cuisine featuring the bounty of nature is a major attraction. Aomori also abounds in beautiful seashores and mountainous scenery. In winter, Mount Hakkoda in the middle of the prefecture is famous for a seven-kilometer-long forest of frosted trees, an unusual sight that adds enjoyment to the snowy landscape. Board the Resort Shirakami train to view the Shirakami Mountains, a World Heritage Site, or travel by JR bus to Lake Towada, for fireworks and illuminated views of the lake at night (February 4 to 27, 2011). And to celebrate the extension of the Shinkansen line to Aomori, the city will be holding a number of events up to February next year, including a commemorative ceremony, sales of specialty regional products, and so forth.
The Japan Rail Pass is an economical way of getting around Japan, allowing users unlimited travel on all JR lines, including the Shinkansen, JR buses and other modes of transportation (with some exceptions), at great prices compared to regular fares. The Japan Rail Pass cannot be purchased once you are in Japan, so don’t forget to buy it before you leave home. If you’re traveling only in eastern Japan, a JR East Pass is also a great bargain. Check here for economical rail passes.