The Asahi shinkansen services ran approximately hourly, with two down services (Asahi 1 and 3) permitted to operate at 275 km/h in the tunnel section between Jōmō-Kōgen and Urasa using specially modified 200 series (F90) sets, completing the journey in 1 hour 40 minutes (compared to the fastest journey time of 1 hour 37 minutes in 2008 for Toki services operating at a maximum speed of 240 km/h).
The name Asahi, meaning "morning sun" in Japanese, was first introduced on 1 November 1960 for semi-express (準急,junkyū?) services operating between Niigata and Sendai. This service was renamed Benibana from 1 July 1982.
From the start of services on the newly opened Jōetsu Shinkansen on 15 November 1982, Asahi was the name used for the limited-stop shinkansen services operating initially between Ōmiya and Niigata, later between Ueno and Niigata, and eventually between Tokyo and Niigata. At the start of Jōetsu Shinkansen operations in 1982, 11 Asahi services operated in each direction daily. With the start of shinkansen operations from Ueno on 14 March 1985, the number of Asahi services was increased to 34 in each direction daily. From 10 March 1990, two down services (nicknamed Super Asahi) were timed to operate at a maximum speed of 275 km/h in the tunnel section between Jōmō-Kōgen and Urasa. New E1 series "Max" 12-car sets were introduced on Max Asahi services from 15 July 1994, with two workings in each direction daily between Tokyo and Niigata. The number of Max Asahi services was increased to five in each direction daily from 3 December 1994.E4 series "Max" trains built in 1997 were first assigned to Max Asahi services on 7 May 2001.
The Asahi name was discontinued from 1 December 2002 when the Toki name was re-introduced for all Tokyo to Niigata trains.