Shinkansen extensions to arrive sooner than expected

JAPAN’S extensions to its bullet train network, or Shinkansen, which consist of two new stretches spanning areas relatively nascent in terms of international tourism, will be opening at a earlier date than expected.

The extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen from the popular tourist destination of Kanazawa to the city of Tsuruga was initially scheduled to open in 2025, but that project is now being brought forward by three years.

The Hokuriku region covers four prefectures on the Sea of Japan/East Sea coast and the new track will greatly reduce the time required for visitors to reach the historic city of Fukui, which is 97km north-east of Kyoto and 115km north-west of Nagoya.

The second bullet train extension, connecting Sapporo on Hokkaido with Shin-Hakodatehokuto was due to be ready for operation in early 2036. However, its completion is now being advanced by five years.

Hokkaido, Japan’s most northern main island, is keen to develop its winter sports industry and has been mooted as a destination for the Winter Olympic Games in the future.

The travel industry welcomes the announcement and is already making plans to promote tourism in the areas that will benefit from the extended routes.

“Demand for domestic travel is rising every year,” said Tstsuki Miura of the corporate planning department at HIS.

“HIS will set up a special web page featuring the Hokuriku bullet train from January 30, and we will prepare tours for Japanese as well as foreign travellers to this region,” he said.

The Japanese government estimates that the construction work will cost US$4.5 billion and is looking into raising the necessary investment funds from financial institutions.

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