The 300 series operated on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines between 1992 and 2012. When first introduced, they were used on the fastest Nozomi services, being capable of 270 km/h (170 mph). As more were delivered they replaced earlier 100 series units on the Hikari service.
With the introduction of newer 700 series and N700 series equipment, the 300 series sets were gradually demoted to slower Hikari and Kodama services, and were completely withdrawn from services by the start of the revised timetable in 2012.
The front-end styling of these units consisted of a curved wedge, replacing the aircraft-style nose-cones of previous Shinkansen trains. They were only formed as sixteen-car sets and had no restaurant cars, though they did originally feature two refreshment counters (later removed), they are notable for being the first Shinkansen sets to employ three-phase AC traction motors instead of direct current units, as well as new bolsterless bogies to reduce weight.