MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — A recent change to the local train system has left Misawa residents facing increased fares, fewer trains and inconvenient transfer times when traveling to and from Tokyo.

The changes were the result of the extension of the Tohoku bullet train route, linking Tokyo to northern Japan. Until earlier this month, the northernmost station on the route was Hachinohe city, near Misawa Air Base.

But earlier this month, Japan Railway officially opened the extended route, meaning the train now continues past Hachinohe, stops in Shichinohe city and continues about 50 miles northwest of the base to Aomori city.

When Japan Railways extended the route, they turned management of the local train line between Misawa city and Hachinohe – the main form of transportation for base residents to get to the bullet train station – to Aoimori Railway, which promptly raised the one-way fare between the two cities by 150 yen – about $1.85 – and made several changes to the existing schedule.

Because of the change, there are no trains running early enough from Misawa to Hachinohe for travelers to catch the first bullet train to Tokyo. And there are no local trains to Misawa if travelers arrive at Hachinohe on the last two trains of the night, at 10 p.m. and 11:10 p.m.

Aoimori Railway officials said they’re well aware that local residents aren’t happy with the changes and have heard complaints.

“We are looking into whether to change the timetable when we revise” the schedule in March, said Aoimori spokesman Yuichi Nagabuchi.

Nagabuchi said the current schedule was set to place priority on commuters, adding that his company doesn’t have as many trains as the Japan Railway.

The issue was addressed during a monthly “commander’s call” radio program in which Misawa residents can ask base leaders questions about areas of concern.

Col. David Wiegand, commander of the 35th Mission Support Group, compared the situation to Misawa Air Base being “Route 66,” and the “interstate has bypassed us a little bit.”

He stressed that those traveling on the bullet train take the time to review the new schedules, which have been posted on the 35th Force Support Squadron’s website:

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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