2002 7.The Impact of Shinkansen Construction on Regional Development /EAROPH 18th World Congress in KL

The Impact of Shinkansen Construction on 

Regional Development

EAROPH 18th World Planning Congress

7-10 October, 2002 in Kuala Lumpur

Kuem Kung Ja 

Graduate Student of Toyo University


Hirohide Konami 


Graduate School of Regional Development Studies

Toyo University


     Joh-Etsu-Shinkansen was constructed between Tokyo and Niigata City, about 334 km north of Tokyo, connecting the both cities by 1 hour and 40 minutes at the top speed of 275 km/h. The operation between Niigata and Ohmiya started in 1982, Ohmiya and Ueno in 1985 and Ueno and Tokyo in 1991. In addition, Nagano-Shinkansen between Takasaki and Nagano was completed in 1997.

   This study was intended to introduce                the increase of long distance commuters     in this region and analyze the impact of                   the shinkansen construction.     

   According to the national population census (1)            of 1990 and 1995, the number of commuters from            Gunma Prefecture to Tokyo was increased by 35%           during these five years and that of from Maebashi            City to Ohmiya City increased by 72%. Maebashi City is just 10 kilometers northeast of Takasaki. The distance between Gunma and Tokyo is about 105 km and that of Maebashi and Ohmiya about 85 km. It was normally understood that such long distance would be outside of commuting distance. But the increase of 35% or 72% within 5 years means that such distance is not outside anymore. 

     In general, the impact of shinkansen construction on regional development would be the increase of population and visitors, and the promotion of regional interchange of culture, products, human resource and information.

1. Introduction

     Japanese Shinkansen transport started on the first day of October in 1964 when the Tokaido Shinkansen started its commercial operation just 9 days before the Tokyo Olympiad. The Shinkansen Construction Law was introduced in 1970 intending the construction of nation wide shinkansen network of about 7,000 km long as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig.1 Japanese Shinkansen Scheme in 1970 (Author Created) 

     This scheme is already beyond the sight because of long lasting economic recess. Even though, four lines have been completed and three lines are under construction. Those are shown in table 1.

Table 1 Completed and under construction lines (2)

Completed (year)Name of LineLength (km)
① (1964-75)Tokaido & Sanyo1,069
② (1982-91)Tohoku496
③ (1982)Johetsu269
④ (1997)Hokuriku (Nagano)117
Under Construction  

Fig.2  Present Stage of Shinkansen Construction (2002)

             (From http://www.mlit.go.jp/tetudo/index.html)

2. The regional impact of shinkansen operation

     The benefits of shinkansen operation is considered as follows:

(1) Benefits for passengers such as decrease of travel time, improvement of safety and comfortableness, and increased reliability.

(2) Benefits for railway companies such as the increase of passengers, and image-up of railway companies. 

(3) Benefits for regional economy such as the increase of visitors, increase of new investment, and regional image-up.

(4) Other benefits such as save energy caused by the modal shift from airplane to shinkansen.

     In general, the shinkansen operation causes not only benefit but also disbenefit such as straw effect, which means that some of the urban functions may be pulled out to adjacent big cities because of the convenient shinkansen service.

     Fig. 3 is showing the increase of Shinkansen Commuters and almost 40 thousand in 1999. This implies that the distance of 100 km is already commuting distance and that the 100 km region, in other words the one hour commuting distance by shinkansen, will be affected in both ways, beneficial and disbeneficial. 

          Fig.3  Increase of Shinkansen Commuters (2)

3. The case study in Gunma Prefecture

     Shibukawa region in Gunma Prefecture is located about 40 km north of Takasaki-city and served by Johmo-Kohgen Station of Johetsu Shinkansen. The number of visited tourists increased from 4.25 million in1995 to 5.56 million in 1998. This is showing the increase of 28% during these three years. 

     The number of commuters from Gunma Prefecture to Tokyo 23 special wards increased from 9,458 in1990 to 12,811 in 1995 and to Saitama Prefecture from 18,384 in 1990 to 22,265 in 1995. These are showing the increase of 35% and 21% respectively. And that of from Maebashi City to Ohmiya City increased by 72%. Maebashi City is just 10 kilometers northeast of Takasaki. The distance between Gunma and Tokyo is about 105 km and that of Maebashi and Ohmiya about 85 km. 

     If we compare with the average increase of total Gunma Prefecture of 2.6% in the same duration, it can be said that the number of commuters to the direction of shinkansen service is much greater than the prefectural total growth.

     It was normally understood that such long distance would be outside of commuting distance. But the increase of 35%, 21% or 72% within 5 years means that such distance is not outside anymore. 

     The case of An-naka city, about 18 km west of Takasaki-city, is appraisable. They say the benefit of shinkansen operation would be multiplied by the well preparation in advance such as the establishment of communication center, the improvement of access to sight spots and facilities, and the development of research parks and shopping centers. An-naka city can be considered to be a successful case. The result is appeared on the increase of the city population shown in Table 2, despite of the disadvantage of the geographical location in the mountainous area.

Table 2  The change of the population of An-naka City (1)


4. Conclusion

     The character of shinkansen would be;

・high speed up to 300 km/h, 

・frequent service in busy time such as every 4 minutes,

・big capacity up to about 20 thousand passengers to one direction in

  one hour, 

・high reliability and punctuality if compared with airplane, 

・direct access to downtown, 

・safety that no fatal accident happened through 38 years operation

  starting 84 thousand daily passengers in 1965 and 766 thousand daily

  passengers in 2000, 

・easy ride as a normal train without reservation,

・reasonable charge for passengers almost same as normal or

  discounted air ticket,

・well maintained environmental impact, and etc.

     It is obvious that the effect of shinkansen construction could be explained by above mentioned characters and concluded as follows.

(1)   Shinkansen will realize the wider population distribution, and even in the cities with disadvantageous location, city population may increase if the well prepared development in advance could be carried out. 

(2)   Shinkansen will promote the more active regional interchange of culture, products, human resource and information, and contribute to the regional development along the route.

(3)   Shinkansen will promote the modal shift from airplane to shinkansen and contribute to the save energy, for example, half and half at the distance of about 700 km and shinkansen will get almost 100% within the distance of 350 km.


(1) “National Population Census”, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000

(2) “Pocket Data Book of Railways”, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and

   Transport, 2001 (Japanese Edition)


Kuem Kung Ja (Miss)

    Born in Taejeon, Korea and graduated from Korea Open University and also the Faculty of Regional Development Studies, Toyo University in Japan. During the study in Open University, worked for the kindergarten as a teacher. 

    Major topic of study in Graduate School of Regional Development Studies, Toyo University, is the impact of Shinkansen construction on regional development.

Hirohide Konami (Ph.D)

Born in 1942 in Tokyo and graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1966. While working for the Ministry of Construction from 1966 to 1996, studied at Harvard University, Master in City Planning Course of Graduate School of Design from 1971 to 1972. Appointed as a Visiting Professor by The University of the Philippines, Graduate School of Urban and Regional Planning and The Asian Institute of Tourism in 1996 for one year. Then got the professorial position of Toyo University in Tokyo, Faculty of Regional Development Studies, in 1997. 

Major study fields are urban transportation, sustainable development and land readjustment. 

Council and lifetime member of EAROPH, Fellow member of Japan Society of Civil Engineers, Vice President of Japan Academic Society of Hospitality Management, Executive member of Japan Society of Urban and Regional Planners, Council member of the City Planning Institute of Japan, President of City Planning Board of Kawasaki City, President of Land Planning Board of Gunma Prefecture, and etc.

(Mail: hiro@konamike.net     Web: http://konamike.net/hiro/ )