The Red List of Trains in Japan

JNR 183 and 189 series

The original livery (JNR Standard Livery for Limited Express)

Data (as of 17 Jul 2021)

Status:  Extinct 
Constructed in: 1972-82
Number built: 508*
Retired in: 2019

*353 carriages of the 183 series and 155 carriages of the 189 series. Those converted from 485 series (116 carriages) are NOT included.


This article is about 183 series and 189 series (electric). Do not be confused with KiHa 183 series or KiHa 189 series (diesel).

The 183 series was a limited express EMU type of Japanese National Railways, and introduced when many lines in Chiba Prefecture were electrified. They looked very similar to 485 series, but the 183s had two sets of doors per carriage and had no dining car. These features were inferior to other limited express trains at that time, but JNR considered them unnecessary as limited express services towards Chiba Prefecture did not run long (less than three hours). They were initially introduced to Sazanami (Tokyo - Tateyama via, Uchibō Line) and Wakashio (Tokyo - Awa-Kamogawa via Sotobō Line), then expanded to more limited express services. Furthermore, they were also used for Azusa (Shinjuku - Matsumoto) on Chuo Main Line.

In 1974, JNR developed a new variant that could run even with heavy snow, which was initially used for Limited Express Toki (Ueno - Niigata). They were later reallocated to other services as Joetsu Shinkansen high-speed rail opened in 1982. Furthermore, JNR developed another type called 189 series, which were compatible with Class EF63 locomotive (bank engine) to climb steep gradients of the Usui Pass in Nagano Prefecture. The 189 series were used for Limited Express Asama (Ueno - Naoetsu via Nagano).

When JNR was privatised in 1987, JR East succeeded all 183 and 189 series units. Since both series were almost identical, JR East used them without distinction except the Usui Pass route where only the 189 series was allowed to enter. Both series were mostly replaced with newer trains in the 1990s and 2000s, but several units remained for seasonal trains, rail tours and school trip trains. A few units of the 189 series also remained in Nagano Prefecture even after a bullet train line was opened in 1997, and used for regional services between Nagano and Naoetsu. All 183s and 189s retired by 2015 and 2019, respectively.

Meanwhile, JR West converted some 485 series units to 183 series, and used for Limited Express Kitakinki (Shin-Osaka - Kinosaki, later renamed Konotori) and other services in northern Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo Prefectures. They were mostly unchanged from the 485 series, and could not be coupled with genuine 183 series units. The remodelling took place in 1990-91, 1996, 2004 and 2009, but all of them were scrapped by 2013.


Just after the privatisation, JR East refurbished some used for Azusa services, calling them "Grade Up Azusa" (using Japanglish).

After 1992, Azusa units were repainted again. Trains with this livery were quite common on Chuo Line until the late-2010s.

JR East refurbished those for Asama services in 1990. The very last unit of the 189 series was painted as such.

JR East had one unit compatible with through-services towards Tobu Lines, but it was very unpopular because of poor seating.

The 183 series owned by JR West had three headlights unlike the genuine 183 series.

JR West later repainted some of them.

(Updated: 17 Jul 2021)

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