Railway extends service beyond Tokyo

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TOKYO -- Japan Rail extended its service in an effort to better accommodate business and leisure travelers to Tokyo.

Tohuko Shinkansen, the bullet train that runs from Tokyo to northern Honshu Island, extended its service last month from Morioka Station in Iwate prefecture, 289 miles northeast of Tokyo, to the Hachinohe Station in Aomori prefecture.

The new train, called Hayate, or "swift wind," travels to the Pacific coast, almost 60 miles farther.

The new, $4 billion Morioka-Hachinohe section means travelers can avoid switching trains at Morioka for the final leg of the 348-mile journey.

Travel time also is reduced. For instance, the journey from Tokyo to Hachinohe has been cut to under three hours.

Foreigners traveling to Tokyo will find these railway routes most accessible with a Japan Rail Pass, which must be purchased before arriving in the country.

It allows for unlimited travel on all Japan Rail trains throughout Japan for seven, 14 or 21 days. Prices start at $230.

Travel agents must purchase passes from authorized Japan Rail sales agents in the U.S. For a list of firms, contact the Japan National Tourist Organization at (212) 757-5641.

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