Shinkansen - Kato vs. Tomix vs. Micro Ace?


I'm currently in the market for some N-scale shinkansen trains - found what appears to be a fairly well-stocked store in Japan on the net that'll do mail-order to the US:

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First off, anyone have any experience with these guys? Seems like a pretty good store, but I haven't found any mention of them here or elsewhere. Their prices seem pretty good (basically slightly above Japanese street price, with reasonable shipping), and they have a nice selection.

Second, they have Kato and Tomix shinkansen sets, which I've seen talked about, but they also have Micro Ace, which I have not. Does anyone have one of these Micro Ace sets and how do they compare with Kato and Tomix? Is Kato still the best manufacturer, or has Tomix or Micro Ace surpassed them at this point? (Last thread I was able to dredge up had Tomix equal to Kato in quality... but in looking at some of the pics of Kato's shinkansen sets, some of the paint doesn't quite seem to match even between cars in the same set, which is a little worrying.)

Thanks for any help...


Reply to
Jeff Williams
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[posted and mailed] (Jeff Williams) wrote in news:

Hobby Search Japan. Not a bad store.

I have no experience with Hobby Search -- however, I do have experience with a dealer in Germany who has similar inventory, but is VERY fast on the shipping ... and, he's got good prices, and speaks/writes English ...

Shameless endorsement: Go to

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and check the online shop; or mail with your questions/orders and say hi from me :-P

I don't have any M-A shinkansen sets tho I do own a fair number of their express train sets.

Quality is excellent. Quiet, reliable motors, crisp printing and coloring and lots of detail to marvel at.

Kato's stil lgood, but supply is often flakey, and it's stil lthe same as it was years ago -- wheras Toimix and Micro-Ace are steadily moving the boundaries of quality forwards.

(Last thread I was able to

Depends on the set and the photo quality -- Kato sets are their typical quality; Tomix is more readily available (as well as a little cheaper) tho not everybody likes their shinkansen coupler mechanism.

Micro-Ace is the newcomer; they do limited releases which sell out VERY VERY quickly on the more popular items; when you se something you like, ORDER NOW, because you may not get another chance.

Personally, if I had a choice of brands to buy, I'd buy Micro-Ace first, Tomix second and Kato a VERY distant third.

Reply to


Jeff, can I suggest you join

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It is probably the best on-line source of information about Japanese model trains. The list members are knowledgable and friendly, and their are many useful links and resources.

All the best,


Reply to
Mark Newton

Can you describe the coupler mechanism that some don't like? Just want to try to figure out if I'd be one of those people.

You didn't seem so down on Kato earlier, so I'm just wondering why you're so emphatic about them being a "VERY" distant third. Are Tomix and MA really that much better? Can you just give me a couple examples of what you think makes them better? (Detail level, motor quality, fit and finish, etc.) Sorry if I sound nitpicky but I don't have a shop around me that even carries Tomix or MA that I know of, so I don't really have any other way to check out these models myself before buying, and I don't want to waste $150 or more on something I won't be satisfied with...

Is there much overlap between the three manufacturers? I do have some specific trains I'm looking for, based on what I personally rode on during my trips to Japan over the past few years, so maybe that will simplify my decision a bit... (all blue stripe, 0 and 100 series stuff for now, I think.. maybe a 500 series a bit later just for the coolness factor.)

Thanks... and I did join the Yahoo group mentioned by another poster, but I may as well continue this thread as I started it here.


Reply to
Jeff Williams

One point to note with Tomix is that their sets require you to add individual car running numbers yourself from a sheet of rub-on transfers. That can be quite fiddly and pretty tedious, especially if you have a long (16-car?) set. And while it's not so noticeable on the shinkansen sets, Tomix and Micro Ace trains now generally have blackened wheels as standard, whereas this is still very much the exception for Kato.

Reply to
Dave Fossett

I have made one purchase from Hobby Japan, and many from another Japanese dealer, Rainbow Ten at

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Both have the same price, 10% off MSRP, and both provide excellent service.

Regarding the German store mentioned in another reply, his prices are higher than the Japanese prices if you are in the US. It is cheaper to order from Japan.

I think Kato, Tomix and Micro Ace are all very competitive on quality. People may rank them differently, but they will be close.

Other Japanese manufacturers of similar quality are Green Max, Kawai and World Technical Art (World Kougei). World Technical Art makes very nice n-scale brass, both rtr and kits.

Reply to
Ken Rice

I haven't been to Japan in a number of years, but last time I was there, it sure seemed to me that the Tomix N that I was seeing was more toylike than Kato.

I owned an older Kato 7-piece set of the original blue-and-white shinkansen. A nice quality set, but the pantographs were one-piece plastic moldings and not especially realistic. Motor was hidden beneath the floor which allowed full interior detail, but was noiser and not as smooth-running as later Kato models. The closest equivalent shown on that web site you've listed shows a 2002 release date so the model may have been revised recently. I recall the paint being top-notch.

I bought a 5-piece Kato Super-Hitachi set in the '90s: That was a _gorgeous_ model! Kato had gone so far as to simulate the electronic billboard on the nose of the train, and it could be changed at the turn of a screwdriver. Pantographs were metal and moveable but not wired for electrical pickup. Front and rear units had dummy couplers which actually would couple, though not automatically. Can't comment on the performance of the powered unit because it wasn't in stock at the time.

In general, the Kato 7-piece sets include a powered unit, while the 5-piece sets do not. Interior lighting is sometimes optional (11-204), but IME, a good Japanese hobby department will have small options like this in stock. Some also come with Rapido-type couplers as standard, but you can replace these with the optional Kato knuckle couplers (11-702), though Kato also suggests Magne-Matics as an option.

I've never seen or heard of Micro-Ace before, so I can't comment there.


Reply to
Jeff S
[posted and mailed]

"Jeff Williams" wrote in news:rt1Ob.10605$

Tomix uses a system whereby the car ends are buttign up to each other, giving a continuous line of train in a bend, but it's not prototypical; and some people don't like how it looks.

At this point in time, yes. Kato's been steadily slipping over the years, down to the point they can be accused of having a brassmentality in plastic models; some may say rightly so because their models ARE very nice and run very well, and as far as the shinkansen models go, I might even agree with them; for anythign else (basically, all the trains that use Japan's extensive 3'6" network) I'll only buy Kato as a last resort; that's why I put Kato on the 'distant third' spot ....

I understand your concern. Basically, Kato models haven't changed over the years; where Tomix has gradually evolved their models (Micro-Ace of course, new to the markethas had to offer quality on par with the others - something they've done admirably).

Another problem plaguing both Kato and Micro-Ace models is availability; as I noted earlier, Micro-Ace does limited runs, which sell out rather quickly; Kato runs batches, which may or may not sell out immediately, and sold out products may nbot be rerun for a long time; Tomix generally keeps most stuff in production or on stock.

There is some overlap -- take a look at this page for whom makes what:

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JRForum is a great place to ask questions (and get answers!) - I'm a member there as well.... JTrains (another group) is for asking questions about the prototype.

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