Asama (train)

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N11 Asama 514 Tokyo 20020601.jpg
E2 series Asama at Tokyo Station, June 2002
Service type Shinkansen
Status Operational
Locale Japan
First service 1 March 1961 (Semi-express)
1 October 1997 (Shinkansen)
Current operator(s) JR East
Former operator(s) JNR
Start Tokyo
End Nagano
Line used Nagano Shinkansen
On-board services
Class(es) Standard + Green + Gran Class (E7 series)
Catering facilities Trolley service
Rolling stock E2 series, E7 series
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrification 25 kV AC 50/60 Hz overhead
Operating speed 260 km/h (160 mph)

The Asama (あさま?) is a high-speed Shinkansen train service operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) on the Nagano Shinkansen in Japan.[1] The shinkansen service was introduced in October 1997, but the name was first used for a semi-express service operated by Japanese National Railways (JNR) in 1961.[2] "Asama" is the name of an active volcano (Mount Asama) near Karuizawa, on the boundary between Gunma and Nagano Prefecture.


Asama services operate between Tokyo and Karuizawa or Nagano using a dedicated fleet of fourteen 8-car E2 series "N" sets and 12-car E7 series "F" sets all based at Nagano Shinkansen Depot.[3] These were designed to maintain speeds of 260 km/h (160 mph) on the 30 km continuous gradient of 30 between Takasaki and Karuizawa. The fastest journey time is 1 hour 23 minutes between Tokyo and Nagano for Asama 518, with one stop, at Ōmiya, only.[1]

Train formations[edit]

Asama services are operated by 8-car E2 series and 12-car E7 series trainsets formed as shown below, with car 1 at the Tokyo end.[3]

E2 series[edit]

In E2 series sets, car 7 is a "Green" (first class) car.[4] All cars are no-smoking.[4]

Car No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Class Non-reserved Non-reserved Non-reserved Non-reserved Reserved Reserved Green Reserved
Facilities Toilet   Toilet Phone Toilet   Toilet, wheelchair space Wheelchair space, phone

E7 series[edit]

In E7 series sets, car 11 is a "Green" car, and car 12 is a "Gran Class" car with 2+1 seating. Unlike on Tohoku Shinkansen Hayabusa services, however, a dedicated attendant service is not provided in Gran Class cars on Asama services.[4] All cars are no-smoking.[4]

Car No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Class Non-reserved Non-reserved Non-reserved Non-reserved Non-reserved Reserved Reserved Reserved Reserved Reserved Green Gran Class
Facilities Toilets   Toilets, phone   Toilets   Wheelchair space, accessible toilet, phone   Toilets   Wheelchair space, accessible toilet Toilets

Rolling stock[edit]

An E7 series set on an Asama service, May 2014
  • E2 series 8-car N sets (since October 1997)
  • E7 series 12-car F sets (since 15 March 2014)

New E7 series 12-car sets were introduced on Asama services from the start of the revised timetable on 15 March 2014.[5] These trains include "Gran Class" seating arranged 2+1 abreast. E7 series trainsets are initially used on seven return services daily, with a further four return workings scheduled to be added from 19 April 2014.[5]

Previously used[edit]

Specially modified 200 series set F80 on a Nagano Shinkansen Asama service, February 1998


189 series Asama service at Ōmiya Station, 1991


Semi-express Asama[edit]

The name Asama was first introduced on 1 March 1961 for semi-express (準急 junkyū?) services operating between Nagano and Niigata. This service operated until 30 November 1962, after which the train was renamed Akakura (赤倉?). From 1 December 1962, the name was used for the semi-express services operating between Ueno in Tokyo and Nagano on the Shinetsu Line. This service continued until 30 September 1963, after which the train was renamed Maruike (丸池?).[2]

Limited express Asama[edit]

189 series in Asama livery on the Shinetsu Main Line, August 1997

After a gap of three years, the name Asama was re-introduced from 1 October 1966 on the Limited express services operating between Ueno and Nagano or Naoetsu. By the late 1990s, there were 29 workings daily in each direction, formed of 9- or 11-car 189 series EMU formations. During the busy summer periods, a second Green car was sometimes added to increase formations to 12 cars.[2]

The typical 11-car 189 series formation in 1995 was as shown below, with car 1 at the Ueno end.[2]

Car No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Numbering KuHa 189 MoHa 188 MoHa 189 MoHa 188 MoHa 189 SaRo 189 MoHa 188 MoHa 189 MoHa 188 MoHa 189 KuHa 189
Accommodation No Smoking.svg Reserved No Smoking.svg Reserved Smoking pictogram (black).svg Reserved Smoking pictogram (black).svg Reserved Smoking pictogram (black).svg Reserved No Smoking.svg Green Smoking pictogram (black).svg Reserved Smoking pictogram (black).svg Non-reserved Smoking pictogram (black).svg Non-reserved No Smoking.svg Non-reserved No Smoking.svg Non-reserved

Shinkansen Asama[edit]

E2 series set J6 on an Asama service, February 1998

From 1 October 1997, the name Asama was used for the services on the newly opened Nagano Shinkansen, operating between Tokyo and Nagano.[1]

During the 1998 Winter Olympics in February 1998, additional services were provided using one specially modified 200 series train (set F80), limited to a maximum speed of 210 km/h.[6] Four E4 series double-decker "Max" trains (sets P51/52 and P81/82) were also specially built for seasonal use on the Nagano Shinkansen as Max Asama services, but only two (sets P81 and P82) are capable of travelling as far as Nagano because the line west of Karuizawa runs on a 60 Hz power supply, unlike the rest of the line that runs on a 50 Hz power supply.

From the start of the revised timetable on 10 December 2005, Asama services were made entirely no-smoking.[3]

From the start of the revised timetable on 15 March 2014, new E7 series 12-car trainsets were introduced on Asama services.[5] Initially used on seven return services daily, this number is scheduled to be increased to eleven return services daily from 19 April 2014.[5]

Future developments[edit]

Following the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension beyond Nagano to Kanazawa in 2015, the Asama name will continue to be used for those services operating between Tokyo and Nagano.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c JR新幹線&特急列車ファイル [JR Shinkansen & Limited Express Train File]. Japan: Kōtsū Shimbun. 2008. p. 20. ISBN 978-4-330-00608-6. 
  2. ^ a b c d 列車名鑑1995 [Train Name Directory 1995]. Japan: Railway Journal. August 1995. 
  3. ^ a b c JR電車編成表 2012夏 [JR EMU Formations - Summer 2012]. Japan: JRR. May 2012. p. 13. ISBN 978-4-330-28612-9. 
  4. ^ a b c d JR Timetable. Japan: Kotsu Shimbunsha. March 2014. p. 970. ISBN 4910053110341. 
  5. ^ a b c d "3月15日ダイヤ改正と各地の話題 " [15 March timetable revision and topics from around the regions]. Tetsudō Daiya Jōhō Magazine (in Japanese) (Japan: Kōtsū Shimbun) 43 (361): p.12. May 2014. 
  6. ^ "200系F80編成" [200 series set F80]. Japan Railfan Magazine (Japan: Koyusha Co., Ltd.) 38 (444): p.64–65. April 1998. 
  7. ^ "北陸新幹線の列車名の決定について" [Hokuriku Shinkansen train names decided] (pdf). News release (in Japanese). Japan: JR East & JR West. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 

External links[edit]