March 2008 brings a timetable revision by the Japan Railways Group (JR) as well as a few other railway related news. Some of the major changes are summarized below:

Online Shinkansen Seat Reservation Website Re-opening
On March 25, 2008, JR East will re-open an English online reservation website for making seat reservations for shinkansen and other express trains in Eastern Japan from outside of Japan.

It will be possible to make online seat reservations for all the shinkansen lines operated by JR East, including the Tohoku, Joetsu, Nagano, Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen as well as several other express trains in the JR East service area, including the Narita Express, Hitachi, Azusa, Kaiji and Odoriko.

However, unlike its predecessor, which closed in December 2005, the new website will not allow users to make reservations for the most popular Tokaido Shinkansen (Tokyo - Nagoya - Kyoto - Osaka).

A credit card is required to make online seat reservations. All major credit cards are accepted. The web address is as follows:


Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen Timetable Revision
From March 15, a revised timetable for the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen will come into effect. Most changes are minor and involve the further addition of new N700 train sets on nozomi services.

Other changes involve the stopping pattern of trains along the Tokaido Shinkansen. Namely, all trains will be stopping at both Shinagawa and Shin-Yokohama Stations from March 15, including all hikari and nozomi trains. So far, many trains have been skipping one of the two stations.

Furthermore, the stopping pattern of the two hourly hikari trains between Tokyo and Okayama will be changed as illustrated below:

More night trains to be discontinued
The dying of overnight trains is continuing due to competition by cheaper highway buses and low domestic airfares. The latest victims are the Naha limited express between Kyoto and Kumamoto, the Akatsuki limited express between Kyoto and Nagasaki and the Ginga express between Tokyo and Osaka.

Furthermore, the number of Hokutosei (Tokyo - Sapporo) and Nihonkai (Osaka - Aomori) night trains will each be reduced from two to one per night.

JR Osaka Higashi Line opens
As the first section of the "Osaka Outer Loop Line" project, the Osaka Higashi Line will start service between Kyohoji and Hanaten Stations on March 15. The extension from Hanaten to Shin-Osaka Station is planned for spring 2012.

JR Shikoku turns smoke free
All trains on the JR Shikoku network will be turned smoke free as of March 15, 2008. This will further reduce the already small number of trains in Japan, on which smoking remains permitted.

Toica Card becomes compatible with Suica and Icoca
From March 1, 2008, the usage area of Toica, the IC prepaid card of JR Tokai (JR Central), will be expanded to include large parts of Shizuoka Prefecture.

From March 29, Toica will become compatible with JR East's Suica Card (Greater Tokyo, Sendai and Niigata) and JR West's Icoca Card (Greater Osaka, Okayama and Hiroshima). As a result, it will become possible to use JR trains in the Greater Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka areas with just one prepaid card.

From autumn 2008, JR Hokkaido will introduce Kitaca, a IC prepaid card for the Greater Sapporo area. Kitaca is scheduled to become compatible with Suica in spring 2009.

Also in spring 2009, JR Kyushu plans to introduce Sugoca, a IC prepaid card for the Greater Fukuoka area. It is scheduled to become compatible with Suica in spring 2010.

Mobile Suica to be used on shinkansen
From March 15, Mobile Suica can be used to purchase express supplements for shinkansen trains in the JR East service area and from March 29 for the Tokaido Shinkansen. It will then become possible to pass shinkansen gates with nothing but your mobile phone.

Yokohama's Green Line opens
On March 30, Yokohama gets a new subway line: the Green Line will connect Nakayama Station on the JR Yokohama Line with Hiyoshi Station on the Tokyu Toyoko Line, meeting the Blue Line at Center Minami and Center Kita Stations. It is the first section of an eventual future "Yokohama Loop Line".