Tag Archives: E5 shinkansen

MAX Series Shinkansen to Retire in 2016

Earlier this year, JR East announced that they would be retiring the MAX Series Shinkansen, which currently serves the Joetsu, Tohoku, and Nagano Shinkansen lines.

E4 Series Shinkansen

E1 Series Shinkansen

The phase-out is slated to begin in July 2012, with a complete withdraw by 2016.

The E1 and E4 Series Shinkansen are 8 to 16-car double-decker trains. Between the E4 and it’s double-deckered cousin, the slightly older E1, they run under the service name MAX, which stands for Multi-Amenity eXpress.

brother and sister

Despite the name, it doesn’t provide any additional services outside of other Shinkansen running throughout Japan, but it does have the capacity to hold a lot of people. For example, a 16-car E4 train has seats for 1,634 passengers, which currently holds the record for the highest-capacity high-speed rail trainset in the world, and has held that title ever since the train went into service in 1997. In comparison, the E1 is a 12-car trainset which has a seat capacity of 1,235 and entered service in 1994.

12-car E1 Series - Fun Fact: You could fit the population of Vatican City into this one train. There's even enough room for the Pope to have his own car.

Soon after it’s upcoming retirement was announced, I was curious to why the MAX Series was slated to go into retirement in the first place.

However, after a little digging, it became apparent that it’s retirement was unavoidable. Here’s why:

  1. Shinkansen Technology

At first sight, the E1 and E4 don’t appear to be that aged nor worn out…and that’s because they’re not. Both have been in service for no more than 17 years, and when you look at the E4, it still has a very modern design to it. It’s a look that has been inherited by the newer E5 and E6 Shinkansen Series and will probably used for future trains beyond those. And when you compare the age of the E1/E4 with the 0 Series Shinkansen, the granddaddy of them all which was in service for 44 years, they’re still babies.

0 Series Shinkansen

However, within the last couple years, there has been a lot of development with newer technology, and there has been a much greater focus on…

2.  Speed

The E1 and E4 both have a maximum speed of 240 km/h (150mph). The E5 current runs along the Tohoku Shinkansen line at 300 km/h (186mph) and is slated to run at 320 km/h (200mph) from 2013. Because of their size, the E1 and E4 simply don’t have the ability to operate at that speed.

‘’But wouldn’t replacing a double-decker train with a single-leveled train reduce the overall number of seats available?” I thought to myself. However, replacing the MAX Series with faster trains would allow additional trains to enter the timetable, offsetting the reduction in seats.

Since JR East hasn’t released a formal press release as to why they’re going to retire these trains, the above reasons are purely speculations that I’ve gathered from a number of sites.

However, in my personal opinion, there is a third reason that should be looked at.

3.  Comfort

Because the double-decker trains sit slightly higher than single-level trains, it allows great views of the scenery along the way…IF you sit in the upper deck.

View from the upper level

When sitting in the lower deck, you either have a view of people’s feet, a wall, or nothing at all because someone decided to pull the shade down over the window due to the lack of scenery in the first place.

This video does a good job at explaining what I mean:


Enjoy this view of the platform because that will change to nothing in a few moments...

I think for those reasons, the lower deck is usually the preferred seat for most businessmen using the Shinkansen for commuting to and from work because it’s not as crowded as the upper deck, and they don’t give a hoot about what’s out the window since they’re usually focused on their canned coffee (or canned beer if leaving work) and Mainichi newspaper.

Also, the seat configuration is different depending on which deck you sit in. The seats in the lower deck have a 2+3 (2 on one side, 3 on the other) configuration and all seats have the ability to recline. The seats in the upper deck are in a 3+3 configuration and none of them recline.  This inconsistency in seating arrangement can be confusing to some, and in some cases, cause some decks to be completely empty while the other one is full. Perhaps another reason to retire the bi-leveled trains is to simply create consistency in one train since it better accommodates passengers, and also reduces the difficulty of having to design different arrangements for different parts of the train.

The retirement of the MAX Series also raises another question:

What will they be replaced with?

Nothing has been formally announced yet, but early signs point to them being replaced with the E5 Series.

On September 15th, the E5 was spotted at Echigo-Yuzawa Station in Niigata Prefecture during a test run. It was the first time the E5 was seen running along the Joetsu Shinkansen line.

i see what you're up to.

Since then, the E5 has been spotted on various days throughout the area.

Could this be the future of the Joetsu Shinkansen line? No one is expecting an E7 Series anytime soon, so this could become the norm for not only the Joetsu Line, but also the soon-to-be-extended Hokuriku Shinkansen Line (currently called the Nagano Shinkansen Line) to Toyama, which is slated to open from 2014.

Although I am excited at the possibility of riding new trains around where I live, I’ll miss the MAX Series, the E4 in particular.

you think this distracts the driver?

The E4 was one of the very first high-speed rail trains I’ve ever ridden after coming to Japan, and it was the train I always relied on to take me back and forth to Tokyo. From my old apartment, I was able to see the shinkansen track from my balcony and there were countless times where I’d wait there to see the massive machines speed by. I guess I could say that the E4 is partially to blame for my deep fascination (obsession, maybe?) with trains. Heck, even my birthday cake a few years back was a MAX!

next stop: my mouth

However, the opening of new lines and the operation of new trains mean that there will be new places to explore. With all the new development within the railway industry that is happening throughout the country, it only leads me to believe that my train journeys in Japan is just getting started.


Quick note about the pictures:

Some of them are mine, others are gathered around the web. The ones which ARE NOT mine, have been hyperlinked and will direct you to the source from which they are from. Although a majority of them are from Japanese blogs and other sites, they’re still worth looking at as some of the pictures are down-right gorgeous, whether you’re into trains or not. Just thought you should know.

Link It Up

A few updates to the site.

First, I’ve started the process of adding a couple links here and there. You can see them on the right. Over there. Look. They’re sites that have been helpful to me, so hopefully it can benefit others as well.

As nerdy as that site sounds, it’s actually a really good message board thread that’s well over 5 years old, yet is continuously updated on a near daily basis. Seems more of a place to share pictures of different trains throughout Japan, but also includes some good travelogues by both visitors and residents of Japan. A few posters also translate Japanese news articles pertaining to trains, into English. (Check out the recent post about the new Shinkansen station set to open soon. They allowed the public to take a peek around the yet-to-be-opened station as well as walk around the tracks.)

Both are really good Japanese timetables. They both also support easy access from Japanese cell phones, including the iPhone and other smart phones. Almost impossible to live with if traveling throughout Tokyo. The differences? Jorudan is good for quick searches. Few options, but gives you the information you need fast. Hyperdia does the same, but it’s also good for planning other routes if you like options. Also, it gives timetable information about each line, so it’s like carrying around one of those giant JTB or JR timetable books, without the weight and bulkiness of actually having to lug one around.

JR offers a lot of different rail passes to travel throughout Japan. But if time isn’t a worry, using the Seishun 18 Kippu is one of the best. It allows 5 days of travel throughout all local rail lines in the JR system, but only for specific dates 3 times a year. I’ll go into more detail about this in a future post, as I’ll most likely be using it soon. Anyways, this site has the most comprehensive information I can find about this pass (in English).

Finally, the About page has been updated. I’m not sure if anyone is reading this blog yet, but if you want to recommend other useful sites, let me know. I’ll throw it up.

As for future posts, I have a couple ideas down the pipe. Some include talking about the stamp system in Japan, other useful passes, and I’ll be starting my series of posts covering the train lines of Niigata Prefecture. Gotta start somewhere!


E5 and E6 Hook Up at Tokyo Station. Sexy.

Interesting video today out of Tokyo Station, thanks to the Sankei Newspaper:

For the first time, a coupled E5 and E6 arrived in Tokyo Station. It’s been a while since new stock has been introduced within the JR East system, so it’s an exciting time for the Tohoku Shinkansen.

If you’ve been to any JR Station within the last couple of months, you’ve undoubtably seen (the almost heart-warming and nostalgic) promotional pictures for the ”My First Aomori” campaign, which marks the extension and completion of the Tohoku Shinkansen. With the completion of this line, JR East will introduce 2 new models to the Shinkansen family, if you will. The first, beginning commercial service in March 2011 is the E5 Model Shinkansen, running under the service name Hayabusa.


You beautiful beast.

The second, beginning commercial service in March 2013 (still a ways off) is the E6 Model Shinkansen, which will eventually replace the older E3 trains running on the Tohoku and Akita Shinkansen Line.

It is without a doubt that the E6 is the most impressive looking Shinkansen in Japan. With each new model rolled out, they continue to look sleeker and sleeker. As much as I like the E5, I think the designers have really nailed it with the new color scheme for the E6. It’s begging to be looked at.


Hot damn.

So, from here begins the testing that has to be done before being formally brought into service, which was seen in the video above. But if you live anywhere along the Tohoku Shinkansen line, or commute anywhere around it, keep your eyes open. Traveling at 320 km/h, it’ll be easy to miss.

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