Japan’s newest bullet train line, now a year old, has led to a better-than-expected threefold increase in the number of rail passengers traveling between Tokyo and Hokuriku and lifted that region’s tourism industry.
Monday marked the first anniversary of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, which is jointly operated by East Japan Railway and West Japan Railway. It connects Tokyo with Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, in just under two and a half hours.
“It’s been a very smooth ride,” JR West President Seiji Manabe said on a visit to the region Monday.
Estimates had passenger traffic doubling in the first year compared with the preceding 12 months, but when the numbers were counted, it had tripled to nearly 9 million. A similar performance is expected in the second year, Manabe predicted.
Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen, one of the the country’s most famous gardens, saw a 60% year-on-year rise in visitors from last April to this past February. Visitors to nine major hot spring resort areas in the region increased by roughly a fifth to 3.21 million from April to December of last year. Located on the Sea of Japan coast, the region consists of Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures.
So far, the new train line does not seem to be having a “straw effect” — siphoning economic activity to the capital — on the region. The office vacancy rate in Kanazawa is expected to fall into the single digits in 2016 for the first time in 18 years, according to CBRE. So far in the second year, tourist reservations have been topping initial-year levels.