Shinkansen 0 Series at Fukuyama Station, April 2002

The 0 Series Shinkansen were the first trainsets built to run on Japan's new high speed rail network, and are therefore still the image of the Shinkansen in the minds of most non-Japanese because of all the publicity they received when the first Shinkansen line began operation in 1964.

The 0 series (which were not originally so classed; there was no need to distinguish classes of trainset until later) entered service with the start of Tokaido Shinkansen operations in 1964. These units were white with a blue stripe along the windows and another at the bottom of the carbody, including the front pilot. The story goes that the noses were styled after the Douglas DC-8 airliner, and certainly the resemblance is apparent.

Unlike previous Japanese trains, the Tokaido Shinkansen and all subsequent Shinkansen were standard gauge (4'8", 1,435 mm between the rails). The trains are all powered by 25kV AC electricity at 60 Hz. On the 0 series, all axles of all cars are powered by 185 kW traction motors; this is sufficient for a 220 km/h (136 mph) top speed.

The original trains were 12-car sets; some subsequent sets were 16 car. Later, shorter trains of 6 cars and even 4 cars were assembled for lesser duties. Production of 0 series units continued from 1963 until 1986.

Existence as a Shinkansen train is tough; though most rail equipment has a service life of thirty or more years, Shinkansen sets are tired after fifteen, and they are generally removed from service after that point. All 0 series cars are now past fifteen years of service; therefore, few are left. The only 0 series sets now in use are 6 car sets used on JR West Kodama services between Shin-Osaka and Hakata, and on the Hakata Minami Line, which is technically not a Shinkansen line.