Thunderbird (train)

The Thunderbird (サンダーバード, Sandābādo) is a limited express train service operated by the West Japan Railway Company (JR West) between Osaka and Kanazawa or Wakuraonsen in Japan, using portions of the Tokaido Main Line, Kosei Line, Hokuriku Main Line, IR Ishikawa Railway Line, and Nanao Line.

Service typeLimited express
First service1995
Current operator(s)JR West
Line(s) usedTokaido Line (JR Kyoto Line), Kosei Line, Hokuriku Line, IR Ishikawa Railway Line, Nanao Line
Rolling stock681 series, 683 series
Track gauge1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)

Station stopsEdit

Stations in parentheses are not served by all services.


Osaka – Kanazawa: Osaka - Shin-Osaka - (Takatsuki) - Kyoto - (Katata) - (Omi-Imazu) - (Tsuruga) - (Takefu) - (Sabae) - Fukui - (Awaraonsen) - (Kagaonsen) - (Komatsu) - (Matto) - Kanazawa

Kanazawa – Wakuraonsen: Kanazawa - (Tsubata) - (Unoke) - (Takamatsu) - Hakui - (Yoshikawa) - Nanao - Wakuraonsen

Business ThunderbirdEdit

(an extra train which runs from Osaka to Kanazawa in the morning on weekdays after holidays)

Osaka → Shin-Osaka → Kyoto → Tsuruga → Takefu → Fukui → Awaraonsen → Komatsu → Kanazawa

Rolling stockEdit

681 series EMU on a Thunderbird service, May 2006


  • Green: Green car (first class)
  • White: Standard class car
  • R: Reserved seats
  • NR: Non-reserved seats


Car No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Accommodation Green Reserved Reserved Reserved Non-reserved Non-reserved Non-reserved Reserved Reserved
Car No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Accommodation Green Reserved Reserved Reserved Non-reserved Non-reserved Non-reserved Reserved Reserved Reserved Reserved Reserved

Business ThunderbirdEdit

Car No. 1 2 3
Accommodation Non-reserved Reserved Reserved


From the start of the 20 April 1995 timetable revision, new 681 series EMUs were introduced on Osaka to Toyama services, named Super Raichō (Thunderbird).[1] These became simply Thunderbird from March 1997.

The last remaining Raichō service was discontinued from the start of the 12 March 2011 timetable revision, with all trains subsequently using the Thunderbird name.[2]

With the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen in March 2015, the Thunderbird timetable was revised, and services were truncated to operate between Osaka, Kanazawa and Wakura-Onsen.[3]

2006 rape incidentEdit

On 3 August 2006, a woman was raped by a 36-year-old man in a train toilet while travelling on the Thunderbird 50 service (just after Fukui Station), despite the car being occupied by approximately 40 other passengers.[4] As a result, JR West introduced a "women-only" section in the reserved-seating cars of Raichō and Thunderbird trains from October 2007, and JR East added prominent "SOS" stickers inside all of its trains in June 2007.[5] On 17 January 2008, the district court in Otsu sentenced the man to 18 years in prison.[6]

Future developmentsEdit

A refurbished 683-4000 series set on a Thunderbird service in December 2015

All of the 681 and 683 series trainsets used on Thunderbird limited express services are scheduled to undergo a programme of refurbishment from autumn 2015 until the end of fiscal 2018.[7]

See alsoEdit

  • Shirasagi: Limited-express service between Nagoya and the Hokuriku region, using identical rolling stock with slightly different livery


  1. ^ 列車名鑑1995 [Train Name Directory 1995]. Japan: Railway Journal. August 1995.
  2. ^ 特急「雷鳥」、来年3月で引退=「サンダーバード」に統一―JR西 ["Raichō" Limited express to be retired next March and standardized with "Thunderbird" - JR West] (in Japanese). Yahoo Japan Corporation. 17 December 2010. Archived from the original on 20 December 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  3. ^ 北陸新幹線長野〜金沢駅間開業時の特急・快速列車について (PDF) (Press release). West Japan Railway Company. 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  4. ^ "Train rapist took advantage of passengers' apathy, fear in night of terror". Japan Today. Japan. 2 May 2007. Archived from the original on 16 May 2007.
  5. ^ "'SOS' stickers going up in every JR East car". The Japan Times. Japan: The Japan Times Ltd. 24 May 2007. Archived from the original on 9 April 2016. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  6. ^ "Train rapist who cowed passengers gets 18 years". The Japan Times. Japan: The Japan Times Ltd. 18 January 2008. Archived from the original on 29 January 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  7. ^ より快適に!北陸~近畿を結ぶ特急「サンダーバード」、車両リニューアルへ [Rolling stock to be refurbished for Thunderbird limited express trains linking Hokuriku and Kinki] (in Japanese). Japan: Tetsudo Shimbun. 28 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.

External linksEdit