Japan's new bullet train makes spring debut

TOKYO - As the spring revisions to train timetables went into effect Saturday, the Akita Shinkansen Super Komachi E6 Series train made its debut and the Tokyu Toyoko and Fukutoshin lines were connected at Tokyo's Shibuya Station, further expanding the train network in the busy metropolitan area.

Many railway aficionados flocked to JR Tokyo Station to get a glimpse of the first Super Komachi, snapping away as the train left the station just before 7 a.m. Saturday.

Susumu Yabe, a 65-year-old part-time worker from Inzai, Chiba Prefecture, said: "The bright red color is original and looks so beautiful on the body. I hope this new train becomes a reason for many people to visit the earthquake-hit area."

The new E6 Series runs at a maximum speed of 300 kph, 25 kph faster than the E3 Komachi Series currently in operation, linking Tokyo and Akita stations in as fast as three hours and 45 minutes.

A snow-melting heater was installed under the new Shinkansen along with a device to reduce vibrations, resulting in a comfortable ride.

Hayabusa hits 320kph record

Meanwhile, the Hayabusa E5 Series on the Tohoku Shinkansen began operating at 320 kph Saturday, as the maximum operating speed of the series was raised.

The Hayabusa broke the previous domestic speed record of 300 kph, recorded by the Nozomi 500 Series on the Sanyo Shinkansen in 1997, and has tied the world record of France's TGV.

With its new speed, the Hayabusa Shinkansen has cut the ride between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori stations by 11 minutes to as little as two hours and 59 minutes.

A 38-year-old man on the Hayabusa Shinkansen said, "The view from the train window was moving faster than usual, but I didn't find the ride shaky at all."

The Super Komachi is also expected to reach 320 kph as early as next spring.

Toyoko, Fukutoshin link opens

Railway enthusiasts and others flocked to Shibuya Station early Saturday morning as the connection between the Tokyu Toyoko Line and Tokyo Metro's Fukutoshin Line opened.

As the Toyoko Line was already linked to the Minato-Mirai Line operated by Yokohama Minatomirai Railway Co., and the Fukutoshin Line with the Seibu Ikebukuro, Yurakucho and Tobu Tojo lines, the new connection enables passengers to travel between Yokohama and Saitama Prefecture without changing trains.

A 23-year-old university student who commutes via Shinjuku from Yokohama to Tama, western Tokyo, welcomed the connection, saying "It makes my commute easier, as I can go to Shinjuku without transferring."

However, some people were confused by the changes caused by the railway connection. The Toyoko Line at Shibuya Station, previously on the second floor, is now on the fifth basement floor.

"It will take some time before I get used to [the changes]," a 27-year-old part-time worker from Yokohama said.

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