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The 445-kilometer Tôkaidôsen, from Tokyo to Maibara, is Japan's most important intercity rail line, after the Shinkansen. The segment from Shinbashi to Yokohama was Japan's first rail service ever, built during the 1870's with the help of engineers from England.

The line was extended all the way to the Osaka region by 1889, roughly following the route of the ancient Tokaido road along the southern coast of Honshu. Soon, it became nightmarishly busy with passengers and freight traveling between the Kanto and Kansai regions. Back then, of course, the trip was in a steam train averaging 80 km/h: things began to speed up in 1956, when the Tokaido Line was electrified.

The advent of Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, and other domestic air carriers during the 1950's slightly alleviated the Tokaido line's traffic, but the aircraft were still small and the airfares were still high. It wasn't until the Shinkansen opened in the mid-1960's that the traffic along the Tokaido line began to slow down.

When Japan National Railways was privatized in 1987, the Tokaido Line west of Maibara ended up in the hands of the West Japan Railway, and became what is now known as the Biwako Line and Kyoto Line.

Nowadays, there are very few trains that run the entire length of the Tokaido line. Most of them are sleeper expresses, such as the Moonlight Nagara, which offer a slightly cheaper alternative to airplanes and the Shinkansen. During the daytime, you can get from Tokyo to Maibara in about seven hours, provided that you stick to rapid service trains: this is generally most useful if you have something along the lines of the Seishun 18 Ticket. Unlike the much slower Chuo Line, virtually all stretches of the Tokaido Line are busy: trains will pass by every 15 minutes on a slow day, and can run as little as two minutes apart during rush hours in Tokyo and Nagoya.

From Tokyo to Atami, the Tokaido line is run by the East Japan Railway. The Central Japan Railway takes over from there. Maibara Station is run by the West Japan Railway, but JR West doesn't run any Tokaido Line trains.

After Odawara, the line runs for about 20 km on a hillside along the coast: this is definitely the coolest part of the trip, and a refreshing change from the urban scenery that characterizes most of the line.

The stations on the Tokaido Line are:

Station           Distance  Transfers                                       
Tokyo Station               Marunouchi Line, Shinkansen, Yamanote Line, 
                            Keihin Tohoku Line, Chuo Line, Yokosuka Line,
                            Sobu Line, Keiyo Line
Shinbashi           1.9     Ginza Line, Asakusa Line, Yurikamome,
                            Yamanote Line, Keihin Tohoku Line, Yokosuka Line
Shinagawa           6.8     Keikyu, Shinkansen, Yamanote Line,
                            Keihin Tohoku Line, Yokosuka Line

Yokohama           28.8     Yokohama City Subway, Tokyu, Keikyu, Sotetsu,
                            Keihin Tohoku Line, Negishi Line, Yokosuka Line,
                            Shonan Shinjuku Line
Hodogaya           31.8     Yokosuka Line
Higashi-Totsuka    36.7     Yokosuka Line
Totsuka            40.9     Yokohama City Subway, Yokosuka Line
Ofuna              46.5     Shonan Monorail, Negishi Line, Yokosuka Line,
                            Shonan Shinjuku Line
Fujisawa           51.1     Odakyu, Enoshima Railway
Tsujido            54.8
Chigasaki          58.6     Sagami Line
Hiratsuka          63.8
Oiso               67.8
Ninomiya           73.1
Kozu               77.7     Gotemba Line
Kamonomiya         80.8
Odawara            83.9     Odakyu, Izu-Hakone Railway, Shinkansen
Hayakawa           86.0
Nebukawa           90.4
Manazuru           95.8
Yugawara           99.1
Atami             104.6     Ito Line

Kannami           114.5
Mishima           120.7     Izu-Hakone Railway, Shinkansen   
Numazu            126.2     Gotemba Line
Katahama          130.3
Hara              132.8
Higashi-tagonoura 137.4
Yoshiwara         141.3     Gakunan Railway
Fuji              146.2     Minobu Line
Fujikawa          149.7
Shin-kambara      152.5
Kambara           154.9
Yui               158.4
Okitsu            164.3
Shimizu           169.0
Kusanagi          174.2     Shizuoka Railway
Higashi-shizuoka  177.7
Shizuoka          180.2     Shinkansen
Abekawa           184.5
Mochimune         186.6
Yaizu             193.7
Nishi-yaizu       197.0
Fujieda           200.3
Rokugo            204.9
Shimada           207.8
Kanaya            212.9     Oigawa Railway
Kikugawa          222.2
Kakegawa          229.3     Tenryu Hamanako Railway, Shinkansen   
Aino              234.6
Fukuroi           238.1
Iwata             245.9
Toyodacho         248.8
Tenryugawa        252.7
Hamamatsu         257.1     Enshu Railway, Shinkansen
Takatsuka         262.4
Maisaka           267.5
Bentenjima        269.8
Araimachi         272.9
Washizu           276.6
Shinjohara        282.4     Tenryu Hamanako Railway

Futagawa          286.7
Toyohashi         293.6     Meitetsu, Toyohashi Railway, Shinkansen, Iida Line
Nishi-kozakai     298.4
Aichi-mito        302.1
Mikawa-otsuka     305.2
Mikawa-miya       308.3
Gamagori          310.6     Meitetsu
Mikawa-shiotsu    312.9     Meitetsu
Sangane           315.5
Koda              318.5
Okazaki           325.9     Aichi Loop Railway
Nishi-okazaki     330.1
Anjo              333.7
Mikawa-anjo       336.3     Shinkansen
Higashi-kariya    338.1
Kariya            341.6     Meitetsu
Aizuma            343.5
Obu               346.5     Taketoyo Line
Kyowa             349.5
Odaka             353.6
Kasadera          356.8
Atsuta            360.8
Kanayama          362.7     Meijo Line, Meitetsu, Chuo Line
Otobashi          363.6
Nagoya            366.0     Higashiyama Line, Sakuradori Line, Kintetsu,
                            Meitetsu, Shinkansen, Kansai Line
Biwajima          370.0     Tokai Kotsu Jigyo
Kiyosu            373.8
Inazawa           377.1
Owari-ichinomiya  383.1     Meitetsu
Kisogawa          388.6

Gifu              396.3     Takayama Line
Nishi-gifu        399.5
Hozumi            402.3
Ogaki             410.0     Kintetsu, Tarumi Railway
Tarui             418.1
Sekigahara        423.8

Kashiwabara       430.9
Omi-nagaoka       435.2
Samegai           439.8
Maibara           445.9    Shinkansen, Biwako Line, Hokuriku Line

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