JENESYS 2018: Shinkansen – Behind the scenes (Part 1)

“Sendai is a city located in the Miyagi Prefecture of Japan. It is the capital and largest city of that prefecture and it is the largest city in Japan’s Tohoku Region”.

And Sendai is where the Japan Railway East, also known as JR East, has its largest rolling stock maintenance center.  We start our Day 3 of JENESYS 2018 here.

Sendai Rolling Stock Maintenance Center

We took a 40-minute ride from our hotel, the Premium Green to the rolling stock center and we were greeted by Osamu Onodera San – he is the deputy director of Shinkansen Rolling Stock Maintenance Center.

A perfection. Our hands-out/materials were laid in an orderly manner on the table.

The session started with a talk on the rolling stock maintenance center where Osamu San explained the role of JR East and overviews of their daily operations. Here are some facts summarised from Osamu San’s presentation:

  • JR East is responsible for train system (Shinkansen and convention lines) in the east of Japan
  • Main objective is to provide safe, reliable, comfort and environmentally friendly railway services
  • It has 10 rolling stock centers in the eastern region of Japan with Sendai being the largest
  • Sendai center undertakes all type of inspection, modification, development tests and technological support for the rolling stock in operation while the other 9 centers only support daily inspection
  • It has 1,300 employees of which only 10 of them are female workers

We were then brought to the outdoor site (also known as a depot) to see the line-up of the Shinkansens which are ready to be utilised according to its schedule. This area is not accessible to the public.

The line-up of the Shinkansen railways



Since its inception in 1987, JR East operates 3 types of Shinkansens namely high speed (E2 Series and E5 Series), large capacity (E1 Series and E4 Series) and through service (E3 Series and E6 Series) of which most of the networks have coupling functions.

Every series has its own special name depending on the cars’ destinations for example Shinkansen Komachi which will bring you between Tokyo and Akita. Below is the list of train line-up according to its destinations:

E6 Series

Komachi: Tokyo – Akita
Hayate: Tokyo – Morioka
Yamabiko: Tokyo – Sendai
Nasuno: Tokyo – Nasushiobara

E5 Series

Hayabusa: Tokyo – Shin-Aomori
Hayate: Tokyo – Morioka / Shin-Aomori
Yamabiko: Tokyo – Sendai
Nasuno: Tokyo – Koriyama

E2 Series

Hayate: Tokyo – Morioka / Shin-Aomori
Yamabiko: Tokyo – Sendai / Morioka
Nasuno: Tokyo – Koriyama

This is the halve of a Hayabusa (E5 series) when it is not connected to the Komachi (E6 series)

Picture from Google: This is how the Hayabusa and Komachi look like on the actual rail

Soon after that, we went to the maintenance facility to find out more about train cars’ general overhaul. These cars are disassembled into parts and subject to detailed inspection and repair. Then they are reassembles and subject to integrated inspection. Test run undertaken and they are finally sent out for regular service.

We also witnessed the process of several inspections of major partsincluding wheel installation, bogie assembling, pantograph maintenance process and even sewing cushion department. But we couldn’t provide pictures in the facility center as we were not allowed to take pictures.

Here is a picture taken from the brochure of JR East company’s profile on the types of inspection

Although they are using state of the art technologies, they are still very much depending on human power to complete the inspection processes. JR East practices in-house on-the-job training by experienced employees and the cycle goes on for the next recruitment.

On the other note, JR East also contributes to the people in the local communities as well as their customers. They have been conducting community programmes annual public tours.

Group photo of the delegates from Malaysia at the Shinkansen Rolling Stock Maintenance Center in Sendai

Tohoku University Global Site

Our next visit was the Tohoku University Global Site and this time we were given a full presentation about the Tohoku region. The talk was given by Oomizu Noaki San from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism where he shared on technical information how the Tohoku Shinkansen and Conventional Lineshave positively contributed to the region’s tourism industry.


Oomizu San also highlighted of their commitments to the development of local communities and regions via the rail stations and railway businesses such as creating attractive towns and job opportunities.

Oomizu Noaki San of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism

What we learn from Day 3

The Japanese had started importing HSR from other countries in the early years.  Since then, it had developed its own bullet train to cater to its natural environment and also its people’s needs.

What is interesting is that it takes it a step further, with the advancement of technology as reflective in its Shinkansen system, its people and the surrounding communities also progress in tandem.

Only the Japanese has the foresight to plan both the extrinsic and intrinsic development which not only benefit the country in terms of good transport system but also its people with the systematic planning of the development of communities along the HSR lines.

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