Trip Tips: Train Travel (Shinkansen)

Japan has a state of the art transportation system and I LOVE riding the train here. Sure, it’s pricey (we residents are NOT eligible for Japan Rail passes) but Japanese trains are fast, clean and nearly ALWAYS on time.

Booking a train ticket is not terribly difficult, but there are still a few things to know before you head to the station. I’ll talk about booking shinkansen tickets today, though some of these sections apply to limited express and other reserved trains as well.

A shinkansen pulls into Shin-Osaka
A shinkansen pulls into Shin-Osaka

Reservations

– You can purchase tickets in advance or on the same day you want to travel. If you are traveling on a weekend, I recommend purchasing your ticket at least a day out. If you are traveling over a Japanese holiday or during Obon or Golden Week (God forbid), by ALL means get yourself to that station and purchase a ticket as early as you can.

– You do NOT have to be at your departure station to purchase a ticket from there. For example, you can go to Shinjuku station to purchase a ticket from Kyoto to Hiroshima.

– You can purchase a ticket using either the ticket machines just outside the ticket gates or at the ticket offices. Be aware that the ticket machines have some limitations – you can NOT use a foreign credit card to complete your purchase if using the machines. You will have to pay in cash (inserting the money in, ATM-style) and some journeys might require you to have a significant amount of cash on hand. If you go to the ticket office, you can use a foreign credit card (and have any questions answered that you might have).

– You MUST keep your ticket with you until the end of your journey. You are required to insert your tickets into the machine both at the beginning and at the end of the journey. Do NOT lose that ticket. 🙂

Seating Options

Reserved (Shiteiseki – SHTAY-ee-seck-ee) – If you are traveling on a weekend or during a peak commuter time (7am-9am, 5pm-7pm) or are traveling with a group, you’ll most likely want to consider a reserved seat. This allows you the convenience of heading to the boarding area at the last minute, knowing your seat is already secured. Reserved seats are generally ¥300-¥1500 more expensive than non-reserved seats but can be worth the price for the peace of mind and the extra luggage space.

Non-reserved seats (Jiyuseki – GEE-you-seck-ee) – Non-reserved seats are a good option for those who are traveling during off-peak hours and don’t have a lot of luggage. Most shinkansen have at least three cars (usually Cars 1-3) that are designated as non-reserved seating. Note that stations will sell more tickets than there are seats for non-reserved cars; there is a chance you could get stuck standing for a portion of your trip. Luggage space can be limited in the non-reserved cars; there is room for bags on the overhead racks but larger luggage may have to be held or placed in front of you. I often opt for non-reserved seats when traveling on weekdays or going short distances on the shinkansen.

Green Seats – Green cars are the shinkansen’s “first class” option but frankly, I don’t find it worth the price at all. The refreshment carts are the same ones that roll through the other cars and the seats are only marginally bigger. Unless you have a lot of money to burn, save your pennies and go with one of the other options.

Train Types

Most travelers to Japan find themselves using Japan’s main shinkansen line, the Tokaido Sanyo line. There are several types of trains that run this route:

Nozomi – This is Japan’s fastest train, making the fewest stops as it travels between Tokyo and Hakata (Fukuoka). This is also Japan’s priciest train and you’ll need a special express ticket to use it (don’t worry – it all gets factored in when you make the purchase). For Japan Rail pass holders, be aware that you can NOT ride the Nozomi train without also paying the surcharge. Also, some Nozomi trains do not have non-reserved seating options.

Hikari – This is the second-fasted train on the Tokaido Sanyo line, making some stops at smaller stations in addition to the main stations. The Hikari line is slightly cheaper, but still requires a small surcharge. Rail pass holders, however, do not need to pay anything extra.

Kodama – This is the slowest of the Tokaido Sanyo trains, stopping at all stations on the line. It is the cheapest option and often has at least three cars of unreserved seats. Often, the Kodama train gets held up at some stations while it waits for a Hikari or Nozomi train to pass on the same track.

127 thoughts on “Trip Tips: Train Travel (Shinkansen)

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  1. Mae-waribiki(advance purchase) is also another option but I think it requires purchasing a ticket a few months in advance, I think its two months.

    And the other one is those ticket station, some are offering tickets more or less 1000 yen cheaper.

    I love Shinkansen.

    1. Absolutely right on those additional discounts, samokan! For travelers though, not many are here with enough time to get the mae-waribiki and I’ve heard non-Japanese speakers have a harder time sorting through the discount ticket options, since English info is so sparse on them.

  2. Such great info! I haven’t had the opportunity to take the shinkansen very often so this will be a useful resource for me 🙂 It’s very convenient although can get a bit pricy especially in groups! We usually drive or fly using mileage within Japan – it’s much easier than in the States!

    1. I LOVE using my miles here in Japan. It is ridiculously easy to book a mileage ticket here compared to the States and with so many miles, I find I can get most of my trips for free, unless they are last minute. But it was fun to take the shinkansen between Okayama and Kobe the other month – forgot how much I enjoy those trains!

      1. I agree! It’s so much easier to use miles here in Japan as long as you book early! It’s ridiculous 🙂 I haven’t been to Okayama before. but I’ve heard good things about it!

  3. I’m going to Japan during April (thank god not during the golden week). I’m planning to take the Shinkansen at 4 different prefectures (Tokyo, Shizuoka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima) during the peak hour (around 8am) with my luggage. Would it be possible for me to get on if I don’t reserve a seat? I do have a rail pass though! Thanks for this wonderful article!

    1. Hi Kai,
      Thanks for the comment. The best thing about unreserved seats is that even if the train is full, you can always stand in the aisle. It’s not exactly fun but it happens. I once rode all the way back to Tokyo from near the Japan Alps while standing as it was a holiday weekend. I advise you to go about 10-20 minutes before your train so that you can line up on the platform at the unreserved cars (usually cars 1-3). Have a great trip!

  4. Thank you for the useful article on how to ride the Shinkansen!

    Me and a friend are going to Japan next week and are planning to take the night bus from Osaka to Tokyo, stay at Tokyo for a few days then travel back to Osaka via Kyoto using the Shinkansen (Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka).

    We’ve thought of not using the JR Pass since using the Shinkansen for the Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka trip and not a round-trip doesn’t seem to be worth the cost (estimated 18,000Yen versus the 28,000Yen of a JRP) but we’re not so sure. What can you recommend?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Michi! It’s not worth getting the rail pass if you are simply going to use it from Tokyo to Kyoto. You can take a regular JR train from Kyoto to Osaka for a mere 540 yen and it takes nearly the same amount of time as the shinkansen. For your planned travel, I would just pay as you go. Have a great trip!

      1. I want to travel to Hiroshima from Jakarta on26th. June by sinksnsen train. Please advice me where from I should purchase the ticket and what would be the price.
        Udayan from Siliguri,India.

      2. How are you getting to Japan first? Where will you fly into? You can check train times and prices on hyperdia.com. Tickets for the shinkansen are easily purchased at the train station (nearly any train station) either in advance or on the day you want to travel.

    1. Hi Madawi. Sorry for the delay in replying but I’m away for the weekend. It costs 14110 now to go from Tokyo to Kyoto on the fastest shinkansen, the Nozomi. It’s the same for the return fare. Frankly, I don’t think first class (or green car, as it’s called here) is worth it. The regular seats are just as comfortable and food carts come rolling through should you get hungry, but I suggest buying a bento at the train station before you board. You can always check times and prices at hyperdia.com in English for all trains in Japan.

  5. Hi Uncover Japan,

    A short question. If I already buy single ticket for Nozomi reserved seat, what happen if I miss the train? Can I just go in the next train by going to the unreserved seat area?

    Thanks very much.

    Regards,
    Linda

    1. Hi Linda,
      Yes, you can catch the next train (or any after that) and ride in the unreserved section. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can pop into the ticket office and have them change the reservation for you for a later train at no extra charge but they can’t always do this, especially if a train is booked out for reserved seats. By taking the unreserved seats on the next train, you do lose out on a few hundred yen but at least you’ll get to where you need to be!

  6. Hello, can someone tell me if I’ll be able to change to an earlier Nozomi train if I have a ticket for a later time?

    I booked with a tour company (Japanican) and they are only giving me a window of when my departure from Kyoto to Tokyo will be but I need to be back in Tokyo at a certain time.

    Is it easy to get changed (if available) or possible to just sit in the unreserved section on an earlier train?

    Thanks!

    1. It’s much easier to change a reserved ticket to an earlier train than it is to change it to a train you have just missed. Simply visit the ticket office in the train station. The only issue may be if the train you want to take is booked out. But you can always ride in the unreserved section of any train with a reserved ticket – you just paid a little bit more than those sitting there (but not by much).

  7. I purchased my ticket package through Japanican.com – they made it seem like it couldn’t be changed but once I have my ticket from them, it seems I can change it directly with the train station?

    1. I’ve never purchased tickets through a third-party site like Japnican before (except for times like Golden Week, there’s really no need to get a ticket more than a day or two in advance) but regardless of whether you can exchange it for another reserved seat ticket, you CAN still ride in the unreserved section.

  8. We have a dinner reservation back in Tokyo so I’m just trying to make sure we leave Kyoto early enough in case the train ticket they give us is a later train.

    It’s a 1 pm, middle of the week afternoon train – i can’t imagine that is peak time so it should be room?

  9. Our travel date is July 30 so we’re good there!

    We have reservations at Sushi Sawada back in Tokyo but only one seating time (6:30pm) – don’t want to mess around and miss it!

  10. Indeed! Yeah it sounds like we’ll be fine, regardless of Japanican.com said to me. It seems that the ticket is ours when we get it and we just coordinate with train company/station directly to change it or just go on an earlier train via an unreserved seat on that same day.

    Thanks for your help!

  11. I’m sorry to bother you again but I’m still a bit confused with Japanican.com response. I don’t know why it would be an issue to change to a train about an hour earlier (if needed) but there is no problem taking a later train?

    “Dear Mr. Mike”

    Thank you for your inquiry of your tour.

    Yes, it is going to be Nozomi bullet train.

    You cannot change to earlier train at the station but you can take later train on a non-reserved seats on a same day in case you miss the train.

    Thank you.”

    Do you know why they tell me this will be a problem? Is there something I am missing?

    1. I’m sorry. At this point, I don’t know why it would be a problem, unless Japanican has sold you a ticket at a significant discount that is completely nonrefundable or changeable (much like a discount airline fare). I would check with any major station office early in your trip to sort out the issue so you don’t have to worry about it. You can visit any shinkansen ticket office – it doesn’t have to be your train’s starting point or destination. Good luck!

  12. They offer a “E-Voucher for Kyoto Bullet Train Open Ticket Package & Kyoto Sightseeing One-day Pass” which seems to be more flexible and I can just book when I arrive in Tokyo a few days before our trip. I’m not sure why they didn’t just recommend that. I may cancel what I have and book that instead with them.

    I can’t say thank you enough for answering my questions and helping. Very very kind of you!

    1. No problem. I’m sorry I don’t have a concrete answer for you but I have no doubt you’ll be able to sort it out. The one-day sightseeing option sounds like it might be just the ticket (er, no pun intended). And yes, the $100 savings is a big motivator to purchasing in advance, but can turn into the occasional headache! Good luck and have a great trip!

  13. And booking through Japanican does seem to save me about $100 (for 2 round trip tickets for my wife and I) otherwise I would probably just do all of this when I arrive and not use Japanican but hey $100 is $100 🙂

  14. Hello, thank you very much for the info! This info one of the best I’ve read so far XD

    Anyway, I’ve read this page 2 times, but still have some doubts actually..
    My sister will come on 11 August which happened to be the same day of Obon holiday (sigh… if I knew about this holiday before -,-“) with a JR Pass. I can’t use JR pass since I’m living here more than 6 months.

    We plan to travel to Kyoto on 14. Do you think we still can book any of Shinkansen ticket on 11 August for 14 August departure? Is it possible that the ticket (including the non-reserved ticket) are all sold out?

    Or should I book a reserved-seat ticket this week and stop my sister to buy the JR pass?

    I found this in another website “2014 Obon travel season is anticipated to take place between August 9 and August 17. The busiest days are expected to be August 9, 10 and 13 with people leaving big cities”

    Do you have any suggestion?

    1. Obon is a tough time for travel, that’s for sure. The “official” dates are usually the 13th-15th, so yes, the weekend of the 9th and 10th will be busy with people taking the entire week off and the 13th itself will be busy with people heading out for just the three days. The 14th will probably be busier than normal but I don’t know if it will be the absolute peak, per se.

      From my understanding (and personal experience), nonreserved seats don’t ever “sell out”. I’ve taken trains back home on holidays where Ihad a nonreserved ticket but had to stand for part or all of the trip because there were no seats, BUT they still let people board the train and stand in the aisles. It seems that so long as the train isn’t at capacity for standing room (something the station staff would know, I assume, as the train fills up), then you can ride. It won’t necessarily be a comfortable ride but you’ll get there.

      Is the only major train trip you are taking to Kyoto (and back I assume)? You can use hyperdia.com to figure out the cost of your train travel around Japan, as you probably know. If your sister isn’t going to be spending enough money on transportation to justify the cost of the rail pass, then just skip it and maybe head to the station soon to see if you can get a reserved ticket.

      I hope this helps!

  15. Hi. My family of five will be travelling on Saturday 11 October from Kyoto to Tokyo. Time is not a real issue, but should we bullet train for the experience or drive?

    1. Hmm, it’s a long drive – at least 5h30min. I’ve done it once and found it to be rather boring and the traffic around Tokyo is pretty rough. Plus October 11th is the start of a 3 day weekend so things could get CRAZY trying to get out of the city by car. In my opinion, I’d take the train. It’s much pricier since there are five of you but you can look around for discount tickets.

      1. Thanks for the advice, train it is. 🙂
        Are you also able to advise me where I can find discounted ONE-WAY tickets from Kyoto to Tokyo? And since I’m asking questions, what is the 3 day weekend for?

      2. Most cities have discount ticket offices, either near the station or in the downtown area (I’m sure Tokyo has several). I know that Japanican sells tickets in advance that are a pretty reduced rate but come with certain stipulations. And the holiday in October is Sports Day (always the 2nd Monday). Unless you catch a “field day” event at a local school, there really isn’t anything to see. But as an official 3 day weekend, roads and trains will be crowded and popular fall destinations (ie Japan Alps) will be packed.

  16. Hello Uncover Japan,

    I will be travelling to Japan from the 5th of August and I will be staying in Hiroshima. As I will be travelling from Tokyo Narita Airport, would it be cheaper if I get a JR Pass?

    1. Well, that depends. Will you be travelling BACK to Narita airport as well? In the span of seven days? Or will you be doing enough other travel to justify the 14 day railpass? A 7 day rail pass is about 29100 yen and the cost of a ticket from Narita to Hiroshima without taking into account any discount fare or unreserved seats is 21400 yen. It would absolutely be worth it if you are coming back to Narita within 7 days, but you might lose a little money if you take the 14 day pass and don’t do many other trips. I always price my trips on hyperdia.com and make a cost comparison. You might want to do the same to get an idea of transportation costs.

  17. Hello! I’m living in Japan at the moment, and I’m going to be taking a shinkansen from Maibara to Hakata and back on Nov. 23. Leaving as early as possible (one of the first trains) and coming back on a train that leaves Hakata at 7ish PM. Two questions:

    1. What’s your opinion on reserved vs. non-reserved on that journey?

    2. Know of any way I can make these tickets cheaper? I want the cheapest option possible. I’m approaching JLPT N2 Japanese skill, so I can converse with the ticket counter workers if I need to talk to them about something in order to get a discount. Do they have student discounts? Buying a month early discounts?

    What do you think?

    Thanks for the help!

    1. Good question, pathlesstraveled. For what it’s worth, Sunday is usually a busy travel day being the end of the weekend BUT that weekend happens to be a 3-day holiday. SO perhaps, you’ll find Sunday to be less crowded than it normally would be otherwise, meaning a nonreserved seat SHOULD be no problem. However, it is also prime leaf time around Kyoto so for part of the journey, you might have a crowded train anyway. I’m truthfully not sure about student discounts but I do know that you can prepurchase nonreserved shinkansen tickets from discount ticket offices (usually found either near the main stations or in the downtown area of larger cities) for about a 10% discount. I got a ticket like that for a trip from Fukuoka to Osaka and back and had no issues using it. Just check to make sure you can travel on any day and any train. I bought mine about a week or two in advance and I’m not sure if buying further out has benefits or not. I have to admit, as far as I live from the train station and as many miles as I have, I usually fly! I hope that helps!

      1. Hi,

        Was looking at hyperdia to go from tokyo to Osaka.

        Seems like the price is same for nozomi and the other shinkansen. Then isn’t it not worthwhile to get the rail pass ?

        Thanks

      2. Hi Alex,
        Not necessarily. Are you going to Osaka AND coming back to Tokyo on the train? Within 7 days? A 7 day rail pass is 29110 yen. A trip to Osaka from Tokyo on the Nozomi shinkansen is 14400 yen one way. Even if you do a round trip on the Nozomi shinkansen, that’s only 28800, a few dollars short of a rail pass. Now, if you are using that rail pass to also travel outside Tokyo and outside Osaka (not within the cities – I don’t consider it worth it then), then it’s a good choice. Otherwise, I don’t think it matters and you can save a few dollars without. Also, you CANNOT use the Nozomi shinkansen with a rail pass. Only Hikari and Kodama from Tokyo to Osaka. It takes a little longer but not much (Hikari is the faster of the two, Kodama makes more stops).

  18. Hello Uncover Japan,

    Thanks a lot for your article, it helps me quite a lot in planning for holiday next year! 🙂

    Unfortunately though, me and my 4 other friends are going to Japan during the Golden Week (yea i know, not the best time to come, but we weren’t aware of it until we actually purchased the airplane tickets *sigh*).
    Since we’re traveling on budget, originally we were planning to take night bus on May 5th from Kyoto to Tokyo (Shinjuku), and then take Romance Car to Hakone the following morning.
    However, I read several articles and forums, and they said the traffic in highways on May 5th will be very very congested and crowded, since people are heading back to Tokyo.
    So we are down to using shinkansen (my poor wallet *sobs*).

    I’ve been researching and seems like the best option available is to take Hikari train from Kyoto straight to Odawara.
    However, there’s another option where we can take Hikari to Shizuoka, and then change to Kodama train for Odawara.

    So the questions are:
    1. Do we need to buy separate ticket (for Hikari and Kodama) if we’re going to take this option? Or can we just use 1 ticket through the journey?

    2. And also, I’m assuming it’s safer for us to purchase the reserved seat (for both options)? Since we’ll be bringing our luggages and assuming it will be packed.

    3. You were saying in some comments that there are some ways to get a discounted ticket, through discount ticket offices.
    Is it possible if let’s say a friend who lives in Japan buy those for us? Will it be applied to non-reserved seat only, or can it be applied to reserved seat?

    4. Is there any other option we can consider beside night bus and train? I know there’s also a budget plane, but not sure if we have the time to travel back to Osaka to catch the flight, plus during high season, not sure we can also find a good price ticket.

    Anddddd my long comment (and questions) are done!
    Thanks a lot! 🙂

    1. Hi MimoeT,
      Whew, that’s a lot to take in! May 5th is NOT a good time to travel, as you mentioned, since so many people will be returning home from Golden Week. That being said, here’s what I think in response to your questions.

      1. No. If you purchase a ticket through to Odawara, you will receive all the components of the trip that you need at one time. Most time that’s one ticket, sometimes two. Just slide them all into the ticket machine and it will spit back out whatever you still need. If you are in doubt, ask the station staff which ones to insert but when you buy your ticket, you will be able to choose Odawara as the end destination and you won’t need to buy separate legs.
      2. You can TRY to purchase the reserved seats but you may have to do so in advance online. Reserved tickets go QUICK for days like April 29th, May 5th and the Obon holidays in August. You can always buy unreserved tickets, but don’t be surprised if you have to stand for part or all of the journey. An unreserved ticket on a day like May 5th doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a seat.
      3. Your friend could most likely buy you the tickets at a discount ticket office, but for those types of tickets, they might have blackout dates. If so, I can imagine that May 5th might be one of the blackout dates. But your friend can ask. And yes, this applies to non-reserved seating only, as far as I know. When I purchased my tickets at a discounter, it was only unreserved, even though I know exactly which trains I wanted to take.
      4. To get to Hakone, there really aren’t any other options other than night bus or train or rental car. You can look at Jetstar Japan flights from Osaka Kansai to Narita but getting back to Hakone would be a trial and not worth the time and expense. Overnight bus might be the BEST option as the traffic won’t be as terrible at night but it’s not a terribly comfortable option. Quickest is the shinkansen to Odawara from Kyoto (and they DO have one or two direct a day, if you prefer that) but like you said, not cheap. Will you have a rail pass? That’s a free trip on the Hikari and Kodama shinkansen if so.

      Good luck! And have a great time in Japan! Golden Week is a tough time to travel around but there are also so many festivals and events, so it’s a really near time to be in Japan as well.

      1. Hi there!

        Thanks a lot for your prompt reply!
        Hahaha yes i know it’s a lot to take in, but I really appreciate your feedback, it definitely gives me a clearer direction! 😀

        Answering your question; no, we wont be having a JR Pass, since the itinerary doesn’t need one. We’ll fly in to Osaka, spend a week in the city and the surrounding neighborhood (Kobe-Himeji-Nara) using Kansai Thru Pass, Osaka 2 Days Pass and some other passes. Then moving to Kyoto for 2 days, travel to Hakone and last to Tokyo, and we’ll fly home from Tokyo.
        Duration of the trip will be 16 days in total.

        So according to what you said earlier, about the night traffic wont be as bad; do you think it’s better for us to stick with the night bus like our original plan, rather than take shinkansen?

        We’re planning to arrive at Hakone in the morning since some of us will only do a day trip and not spend the night there.
        We are just concerned if by any chance there’ll be a massive traffic jam, and it will throw off the entire schedule.

        It will be our first time in Japan, so regardless what happens, I think it will still be fun 😀

        Thanks~

      2. Sorry for the late reply! It’s hard to know if the night bus is best. Chances are, you will be fine and you’ll save a bundle of money. But there is a much greater chance of a traffic accident (especially around that date when SO many people are on the roads) than there is a problem with the trains. Hard to say … the train is probably a better guarantee. Good luck!

  19. Hi uncover japan,
    We are travelling to japan this year during golden week, we didn’t know anything about golden week when we booked! But we will be going from tokyo-kyoto on April 30, and then we need to return to tokyo and go to narita airport on May 5th. Yes we’ve chosen the worst dates to travel I’ve noticed! Anyway a few questions:
    1. we arrive in tokyo on April 24th, is this enough time to buy our reserved shinkasen tickets? We r buying a JR pass prior to arriving in japan. Or can we purchase them before hand online, using our JR pass?
    2. Do trains always travel on time?
    3. Is it worth getting a JR pass? We want to go to kyoto, Osaka, Nara then back to tokyo.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Diana,
      It’s a tough call on the rail pass, but I’d suggest the 7-day one, using it for your trip to Kyoto, to Osaka (getting to Nara is much more convenient on the private Kintetsu line, and only about 600yen one way), and then back to Tokyo and the airport. The 14 day pass would NOT be worth the price, i my opinion. And you don’t need the green car. The regular pass will suffice.
      I truthfully am not sure if you can purchase your tickets online beforehand if you have a JR rail pass. I know that most places require you to show the pass or the pass number and your passport to be able to purchase the ticket. Do you have a JTB office near you that you could contact? They would probably be able to tell you the exact rules of usage.
      In Japan, the trains nearly ALWAYS run on time. A delay of 2 minutes is significant. There have been no strikes or major delays in the 7 years I have lived here but accidents do occasionally happen. Most of the delays I know of occur up north when snow and ice make the tracks impassable. Otherwise, if the train says it will leave at 9:23, you’d better be on the platform and ready to board before that. They re very punctual.
      Yes, those dates are TERRIBLE dates to travel! 🙂 But sometimes you just have to make do. I hope this reply helped and that you have a great trip!

  20. Hi
    Me and my Wife are traveling to Japan in April. We have a Japan Rail Pass (14 days) that we plan to activate on April 7th in order to do our first trip on April 8th from Tokyo to Hiroshima. Then we will go back to Osaka on April 10th and then to Tokyo on the 12.
    I had a really hard time to find accommodation in Osaka. Do you think that I will find tickets on the Shinkansen? I heard that I can’t reserve one until I Validate my JR Pass.

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Alex,
      You’re coming to Japan at prime cherry blossom time so there’s always a chance that trains might be very crowded. Generally, they’re “usually” not sold out except for Golden Week and Obon but it might be more difficult to get the exact train you want. Try to make all of your reservations on the day you activate your pass. And if the reserved seats are sold out, you can always ride in the unreserved section, which allows for standing room. Uncomfortable, sure, but it guarantees you’ll get on a train.
      Hope that helps.
      Mandy

  21. Great info! I’m planning to reserve tickets and this will be my first time riding the shinkansen this November so this article really helps.
    I have a few questions and hope you can help me out. Thanks!

    1. I’m planning to take the shinkansen from Tokyo station to Jomo Kogen station, is it possible to pick up my ticket at Shinjuku station (since I’ll be there most of the time before I head to Tokyo station)? Can I also collect my return ticket at the same time?

    2. I’m required to enter the day that I want to pick up the tickets when making a reservation. Is it possible for me to pick it up earlier in case I have time?

    3. In one of your earlier replies, you mentioned that if we have a reserved ticket and we missed the shinkansen, we can just ride in the unreserved section in the next train. Do we have to go to the office to get our tickets updated first or something? I know that if we want to ride the next train with a reserved seat, we have to go to the office to check if there’s seats left.

    1. Thanks for your message, masterelr.
      1. You can purchase your tickets from any station that has a JR ticket office or JR ticket machine specifically for shinkansen and limited express trains (accepts Japanese yen cash only, no foreign credit cards).
      2. I can’t say if the tickets will be ready earlier or not. They will likely have the reservation in the computer already but may not print them out until the day you indicate you are coming. You may have to wait for them to prepare the tickets, but I can’t see too much of an issue attempting to secure them earlier.
      3. No, you do not need to exchange your tickets as far as I know. (I have never personally missed my train.) And if that particular train route has no unreserved seats in general, you are actually allowed to stand for the duration of the ride. The only thing you may have to do is simply explain the situation to the conductor when they come to stamp your ticket on the train itself.

  22. Hi. We’re going to Japan May 2-8 (yeah! the Golden Week). I bought a JR Voucher because from Kansai airport, we will take shinkansen to Tokyo and stay there until the 5th, then go to Kyoto and spend a night there, then to Osaka. Ive been reading reviews on how bad the queues on trains and tourist spots. I got scared knowing our pass has no reserved seating. Ive learned there is a different gate for JR Pass holders (manual). Just want to know if they give priority to tourists with JR pass during jampacked times like the Golden Week.

    1. Hi Tin,
      What day do you actually travel? May 3rd and 6th this year are predicted to be the worst. If you have the regular JR Pass, yes, you can get reserved seats (for no fee) by going to any JR Travel office and having them book the seats for you. That said, there might not BE any more available reserved seats, in which case you’ll ride in the unreserved section. Regarding gates, you’ll most likely just have to use the ticket gate to the far side next to the station master’s office so you can show the staff your pass. A JR pass, as far as I am aware, can’t be “slid” into the ticket machine and must be presented. But it’s not a separate gate, per se, and there are no perks to being a tourist, other than the kind help you will receive from station staff. They can’t give you any kind of priority.

  23. Hi. I will bring my wife and 2 kids to Tokyo in November 9th to 19th. In between, I plan to take shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto (stay 1 night), then local train from Kyoto to Osaka (2 nights) and back to Tokyo from Osaka. The last few days will be reserved for Tokyo Disneyland.

    Having said that, do you think it is wise for me to get a JR pass? knowing that JR pass is not applicable for Nozomi.

    I’ll stay somewhere near Ueno Station (Subway) in Tokyo and still thinking if I should get the JR pass for me and my wife (i understand children below 6 is free of charge for all trains/subway).

    1. Hi Howard,
      Sorry for the delayed reply. In the case of taking the train just to Kyoto and back to Tokyo, it’s actually not worth getting the JR pass. You can check the prices personally but it will cost about 28200 yen for that roundtrip on the Nozomi shinkansen, which is only about $227 with the current exchange rate. The 7 day rail pass currently costs 29,000 (about $234). So you would actually save a few dollars. However, if you can squeeze at least one leg of your airport trip (assuming you are coming from Narita, that is) into the same 7 days in which you use the pass to get to and from Kyoto, you could actually do better with the pass than without. I do NOT consider the JR pass worth using at all to go from, say, Osaka to Kyoto (or back) or for trips in the Tokyo region. A travel card like the SUICA or one of the special one-day passes is much better for in Tokyo.
      I hope that was of help to you!

  24. hello. can i buy only one way nozomi ticket from shin-osaka to tokyo. how much is it and where can i buy it? i search everywhere but they only sell the 5 days unlimited passes.

    1. Hi Gee. You can check any price for the trains at hyperdia.com. Just type in your route and you’ll see all the possibilities. To get from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo costs Y14450. I don’t know of anywhere you could buy a one-way ticket in advance but, unless you are traveling during Golden Week, Obon or New Years, there is really no need. Simply purchase it the day of your travel or when you arrive in Japan at any JR rail station.

  25. Hi! I found this blog just in the right time! I’ll be travelling to Japan for about 10 days in 20-ish July. I booked JR West Pass (since I will be in Osaka in the first 4 days), but there are some things that confused me.. I’m thinking of buying JR West Pass, shinkansen to Tokyo, ICOCA and SUICA separately, because JR pass can be used for JR trains only right? How do you think? Or is it more worth it to buy JR rail pass?
    Also, I will be going to Tokyo in weekend (it’ Saturday) by shinkansen, do you think I need to book the ticket in advance? As for Osaka, does the station is always packed with people or just so-so? I’m afraid that I need to rush if I go in weekend.. Would you mind to help me finding which one is the best option? Thank you very much!!

    1. Hi Kiki,
      Thanks for your message. I am curious as to how much time you will actually spend outside of the Osaka/Kyoto area those first four days. Unless you are going somewhere further afield (Kinosaki Onsen or southern Wakayama), I doubt this pass will pay off. Kyoto city is best seen by bus (500 yen for a one day pass), Osaka is best seen using an ICOCA card (rechargable as needed) and to get from Osaka to Kyoto only costs 560yen one-way. So, in my opinion, the pass isn’t worth it. But if you are going down to the Kumano Kodo, it may be.
      No, you do not need to buy your shinkansen tickets in advance. There are many shinkansen services every hour and Tokyo to Osaka (and return) is one of the most popular routes. I wouldn’t worry – the main times a reservation would be needed is at Obon or Golden Week. Just expect certain hours of the day (earlier trains versus midday trains) to be more crowded than others.
      As for crowded stations, Osaka is a very big city and the stations are always fairly busy. As is Tokyo station and Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. I don’t think there is anything to be done to avoid the rush, but if you need to buy a ticket right before you are due to get your train, either use cash to buy it from the ticket machine or leave enough time to wait in line at the ticket office to use your credit card.
      As a reference, the SUICA and ICOCA systems are now linked (as are many other cities’ cards) so you can use an ICOCA card in Tokyo and a SUICA card in Osaka with no problems (on JR trains).
      I hope this helps!
      Mandy

      1. Thank you for your feedback!
        I will be going around Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto in the first 4 days. The thought of buying JR West Pass is because I can take Haruka train from Kansai airport, and then use the pass to go to those cities. Do you think it’s worth it? I think Haruka train costs around ¥3,000?
        Oic so I don’t need to buy in advance right? I think I’ll just use SUICA card in Tokyo (so far I know I can’t use JR East Pass from Osaka to Tokyo, am I right?). Do you maybe have better option? Thank you for your help!

  26. Hi, I’ll be travelling to Japan next month (July), and I’ll be arriving at Kansai International Airport. On the next few days, I’ll go to Tokyo via Shinkansen (Nozomi). I would like to buy the Shinkansen ticket in advance. Is it possible for me to buy the Shinkansen tickets at Kansai International Airport? Or should I go to Shin-Osaka station/any JR stations to get the tickets? Thank you!

      1. No, I won’t be using JR Pass. I meant the one-way Shinkansen ticket from Osaka to Tokyo. Is it possible to buy it at Kansai Airport?

    1. Yes, nearly all the shinkansen run that route without any transfers. You can take the Kodama, Hikari or Nozomi shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya. Check times on hyperdia.com.

  27. Hello I want to ask something. I have bought an airplane ticket from kansai(osaka) to narita (tokyo) on sat 18, 2015. I need to ride shinkansen from tokyo to sendai.My destination is sendai. Can the shinkansen ticket can be purchased on the same day sat 18 with cash?Cause I only have bank card as a student. If booking online, can I exchange the e―ticket with the original on the same day too?I read u must take the ticket before the day of departs though(I wonder is it wrong). Thank you!

    1. You will have no problems purchasing a shinkansen ticket in cash when you arrive. You can pay in cash either at the ticket machine itself or in the JR ticket office. You can also use your bank or credit card (ONLY in the JR office) to pay for the ticket as long as it is also tied to a major company like Visa, Mastercard, Amex, etc. It’s not necessary (and often more difficult) to book the ticket online in advance. Only JR rail passes for overseas visitors NEED to be purchased in advance.

  28. Have been reading through your advice, it is very helpful.
    I have just discovered that my trip to Japan coincides with some of the peak Obon travel sites and am considering what I might need to book in advance.

    My trip has five big travel days:
    5th August – getting the bus to Kawaguchiko at the base of mount Fuji
    6th August – bus back to Tokyo
    8th August – Shinkanzen from Tokyo to Kyoto
    10th August – travel by train from Kyoto to Nagiso, then bus to Tsumago
    11th August – travel by train to Matsumoto, then onward travel to Kamikochi
    14th August – travel back to Tokyo from Kamikochi via Matsumoto.

    Are there any of these trips which will not be necessary to book in advance?
    I arrive in Tokyo on the 3rd of August

    Is this likely to be too short notice to make a reservation for the Tokyo to Kyoto train?

    Thanks

    Harvey Reynolds

    1. Hi Harvey,
      Obon is officially celebrated the 13th-15th but that entire week can be problematic. Travel is expected to peak on the 8th, 12th and 13th out of the big cities. So yes, you might encounter some problems getting the train you want out of Tokyo to Kyoto. It might require taking a train later in the day or simply joining the masses queueing up for the unreserved cars. You “should” be ok with the return trip on the 14th, as the 15th and 16th will be the busier days.
      You can reserve ALL your seats/tickets as soon as you land on August 3rd. It might take some of the pressure off knowing whether you will catch a train or not. Being Obon, if everything is full, you may have to bank on standing for part of your journey. Trains will run at 150-200% capacity on super-busy travel days (Golden Week, Obon) and you just cross your fingers that a seat frees up during the trip. Not at ALL ideal, but you’ll still get there.
      I hope that helps.
      Mandy

      1. Thanks.

        One final question.
        My most complicated travel day is travelling from Kyoto to Tsumago.
        Travelling by train between Kyoto and Nagiso, three different trains are required.
        Is train the best option for this journey?

        Thanks

        Harvey

      2. To be totally honest, Harvey, the best way to see the Kiso Valley is by car. You cover more ground and it makes the process of getting there much easier. If that is not possible, than yes, train is your best bet. To reach Japan’s countryside can take a bit of time and effort via public transportation but it’s worth it.

  29. Hi! My friend and I were planning to travel from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo via Shinkansen and our date of travel is smack dab in the middle of Obon week – Aug 12. We don’t arrive in Tokyo until Aug 10… so I’m assuming it’s impossible to reserve tickets. Is our best bet just to queue up for unreserved seats?

    1. You could try to see what is available at any JR office the first day you arrive. There is a possibility of finding a ticket during one of the more off-peak times, like in the middle of the day. Otherwise, I’d pick a midday train on August 12th and line up early on the platform in front of car 1 (1-3 are usually all nonreserved but Car #1 always seems to have the shortest line). Unreserved cars often don’t have the same amount of space for luggage as reserved cars so either aim to be first in line to use the racks at the end of each car or be prepared to sit with your suitcase in front of you or on your lap.

  30. Hi
    May need ur advice as we will be in Osaka in Dec for 5 days and will travel from Osaka to Tokyo staying 3 days n fly back from Tokyo. Should we get our Shinkansen ticket from Tokyo Narita airport or at Osaka airport for e reserved seats for 2-3pax? Which is the right line to get? Which station to stop at Tokyo? Sorry 1st time there.
    Thk u.

    1. Hi KT,
      If you are only taking the shinkansen one way, it is not worth buying a JR rail pass. In that case, you can purchaase a ticket for the Nozomi shinkansen that runs between Shin-Osaka and Tokyo. You can also buy a ticket on the slightly slower Hikari or Kodama lines but the price is not that much cheaper so you might as well take the fastest train. Unless you are travelling around Dec 29-Jan 3rd, an advance reservation is not necessary. In Tokyo, the shinkansen terminates in Tokyo station – from there, you can take a local train or subway anywhere in the city.

      1. Hi UJ (UncoverJapan)

        Thk u so much for the very informative guide…greatly appreciate.😊
        One more last question that is we r staying in Umeda…can we get our ticket from the station nearby, must we buy in advance.
        Thank you.

      2. Umeda is right next to Osaka station, so you’ll want to take the train from there. A local train will take you to Shin-Osaka, where you’ll transfer to the shinkansen. You can buy shinkansen tickets from any JR ticket office and from the ticket machines marked shinkansen in any JR station (cash only). To check your schedule, use the hyperdia.com website.

      3. Hi UJ

        Would like to check whether do we need to purchase JR pass from S’Pore ….planning to travel to Hokkaiddo in early June this year. Our hotel will be at Sapporo. (4 adults)

        Need your views n advice.

        Thank u.

        Best Regards KS

        On Thu, 13 Aug 2015 at 4:19 PM, Uncovering Japan wrote:

        > Uncover Japan commented: “Umeda is right next to Osaka station, so you’ll > want to take the train from there. A local train will take you to > Shin-Osaka, where you’ll transfer to the shinkansen. You can buy shinkansen > tickets from any JR ticket office and from the ticket machines m” >

  31. hi… we are a couple with a 9 mth old kid, arriving in ogori, yamaguchi japan for a year-long stay for professional reasons on a cultural studies visa.. we arrive at kansai airprt on sep 10..we need to travel to yamaguchi by train from there.. we need to know the exact procedure to be followed.. how many trains do we change…can we book in advance… & whether a pass is required.. bdw, r there any specific rules for d passes..i read somewhere dt only people on short stay can avail them… also, cn we gt all train tickets icluding local train & shinkansen at one place? thanks inadvance..

    1. I hope you enjoy your year in Yamaguchi-ken. The only people who can use a JR rail pass are visitors on 90 day visas. To check your exact train schedule (complete with times, transfers and track information), refer to hyperdia.com. It’s very difficult to book trains in advance outside of Japan but unless you are arriving during the upcoming Silver Week holiday (Sept 19-23), around New Years, or during Golden Week (April 29-May 5th) there is very little need to reserve ahead. From Osaka, you should be able to purchase your ticket all the way through to your destination, unless you need to take a private, local railway or bus.

  32. Hi,

    We are family 4 adults & 2 kids. Traveling to Tokyo from 5-15th Dec. our plan like below:-

    Day 1: arrive Haneda Airport back to hotel near Kamata stn
    Day 2: Lake Kawaguchico
    Day 3: Tokyo city
    Day 4: Kyoto stay 5 nite – Kyoto city tour
    Day 5: Koyasan temple
    Day 6: Osaka
    Day 7: Himeji & Hiroshima
    Day 8: Nara & Hikone
    Day 9: back to Tokyo – Onsen (any recommendations)
    Day 10: Tokyo city tour
    Day 11: early flight at Haneda airport

    My concern is it worth for me to get 7 days
    JR pass? How local train for me to visit on non JR train?

    I’m considering the E-Voucher for Kyoto bullet train round trip open ticket & Kyoto 1 day sightseeing package. Cost adult 21,600 yen & child 10,800 yen.

    Is it worth ? Or get unlimited 7 day JR Pass!

    1. Hi ST,
      I actually don’t know much about the E-voucher but at a glance, it doesn’t seem worth it. With all of the additional travel you would be doing on the other days, I feel the JR rail pass is a much better value. But I also would reconsider doing Koya-san as just a day trip, especially if you have little kids. It is a very long way to go from Kyoto to Koya-san just for a few hours.

  33. Hi

    I intend to get the Kansai Hiroshima Pass where I will be using the Sanyo Shinkansen for travel to and from Hiroshima/miyajima to Osaka on 8 Dec.
    If i do not intend to get reserved seats, do I still need to get tickets separately or just use my pass during the 5 day validity period to board any applicable train .
    What is the chance I will not be able to get seats (reserved /unreserved) on the JR Sanyo line/ Shinkansen nozomi from Miyajimaguchi to Osaka at around 5 pm on 8 Dec (Tuesday)
    Thanks

    1. Hi Amardeep,
      Honestly, I don’t know much about the Kansai Hiroshima pass. But from my experience, getting a reserved ticket on the train at that hour on a Tuesday should not be an issue, especially unreserved seats. I’ve only ever had to stand on a train in the unreserved section ONCE in seven years and it was due to not understanding that a three-day weekend in Japan in autumn means EVERYONE will be returning from the mountains at the same time. You should have no trouble at all.

  34. Hello! Thanks for the useful blog post about the Shinkansen.

    I have a question regarding the place to buy tickets. Sorry if this has been answered before but… I do understand that they can be bought even if you’re not at your intended departure station. However, can I buy them at any JR Station or does it need to be at a station where Shinkansen operates (e.g. can I buy one at Osaka Station instead of Shin-Osaka)?

    Second, if I buy a ticket for an unreserved seat, is the period of validity of my ticket only set for one day? For example, I buy an unreserved seat ticket for a Nagoya-Kyoto route for a certain date, say October 11th… Is it only valid on that date, and if I miss the last train I will need to buy a new one, or is there like a 3-day validity period or something?

    Thanks in advance! ^_^

    1. Hello Shiela,
      Excellent question as to which stations have shinkansen tickets. No, the station at which you buy the shinkansen ticket does not necessarily have to be the station from which the shinkansen operates. I can buy shinkansen tickets at JR Ebisu station, for example, which is the closest to my home, but no shinkansen actually stop there. Not every station has the automated ticket machine to purchase shinkansen tickets but so long as they have a JR office, you can buy your ticket at the counter (and use a foreign credit card too).

      No, the period of validity for an unreserved ticket can be quite long. I don’t remember exactly how long but the last one I bought had a validity of 2-3 months from time of purchase. So you have plenty of wiggle room.

      Have a great trip!

      1. Ah, I see. So I can buy unreserved tickets few days in advance… and it’s only the reserved seats that need to be used within the day (in case you miss the original boarding time), is that correct? Sorry for asking a lot of questions, it’s going to be my first time in Japan ^^

  35. I am bringing my family to japan for the first time this December. we will arrive in Narita and plan to head straight to Hakuba for a weeks skiing. Thereafter, we will return to Tokyo for a few nights to explore the city and make a side trip to Karuizawa. Is it worthwhile to get the JR East pass?

    1. Hi Joe,

      I’d say it would be worth it, as you don’t have to use the JR East Pass on consecutive days. If you want to know exactly how much you would pay out of pocket, check out hyperdia.com to see how much each leg of your journey is. The pass will likely work out cheaper for your destinations, so long as you use it within the proscribed number of days.

  36. Hi, may I know how do I tell which train car is for reserve and unreserve seats? I plan to buy tickets for reserve seats and don’t want to end up going into the wrong car.. I’m taking the train from Ueno station by the way.

    1. It depends on the train, but unreserved cars are generally Cars 1-3. However, when I went to Aomori this summer, there weren’t ANY unreserved cars on the Tohoku shinkansen. So everyone needed a reserved ticket.

  37. I’m trying to book a shinkansen ticket from Ueno to Jomo Kogen. I checked the price on JR site and it says its 5,700 yen for one way. But after I completed my reservation I noticed that the price shown is 3,110 yen instead.
    Did I do it correctly or do I have to pay the other extra when I collect the ticket or something?
    Below is a screenshot of the price on JR site and also my reservation.

  38. Hi,

    We arrive in Japan on 1st May 2016 (during Golden week) and want to travel to Hiroshima on 4th May, then Hiroshima to Osaka on 8th May. What are our chances of being able to reserve seats on the bullet train for those journies on 1st May when we arrive in the country? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jo,
      You may luck out on the May 4th tickets, as most people won’t travel until the 5th or the weekend and travelling TO Hiroshima won’t be as bad as traveling to, say, Tokyo. But you may have trouble on the 8th if people choose to extend their Golden Week into the weekend. It’s a relatively short leg from Hiroshima to Osaka but be aware that many others may be trying to travel the same route. You always have the option of buying jiyuseki (unreserved) and standing for part or all of the journey. No fun, certainly, but it gets you there.

      1. Thanks for your reply-it is really appreciated! Would you recommend us then travelling to Hiroshima a day or two later (5 or 6th May) from Tokyo which would mean we do the 2nd part of our journey (Hiroshima to Osaka) on the 9 or 10th May? Would that give us a better chance in securing seat reservations when we arrive in Tokyo on the 1st as it avoids golden week for trip to Osaka?

      2. No, not really, as Golden Week officially ends on May 5th. So those who cannot take the entire week off will be returning on Thursday, the 5th. So I would NOT advise traveling then. The 4th would give you a greater chance of success than the 5th, in my opinion. But if you travel the later part of your route on the 9th or 10th, you wouldn’t have any problems. So it’s a toss-up.

  39. Hi, UJ. I am planning to go to Japan on April and consider taking Shinkansen from Tokyo-Kyoto-Nagoya-Tokyo. I will be going with my husband, a toddler, a stroller and two full size luggages. Based on your experiences,

    1. is it possible for us to do the things, i.e getting the luggages on/off the train then also a stroller and a kid, on time without making inconvenience to other passengers? How long usually a shinkansen stops at stations?

    2. Is there enough space in the unreversed car area for big luggages and are we allowed to put them at the space between carts (near toilets)?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Tiffatora,
      1. The train stops for anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. It’s usually ample time to get all of the passengers off and load up those who want to board with no trouble. Train staff are always monitoring the platform for issues so if you have a rare problem, like your stroller gets caught in the door, you won’t have to worry that the doors will close and the train will leave with you still stuck. My advice is – as soon as they make the announcement on the train for your stop, get up and move to the end of the car to stand by the door in preparation to disembark.
      2. In the unreserved cars, there is a luggage rack overhead (though large suitcases won’t work there), ample room in front of your legs (not comfortable for long distances but if you need to slide a large suitcase in there you can) and at the ends of the cars, there is often space for two very large suutcases and a rack above that can hold slightly smaller suitcases or bags. These spaces are usually in the car themselves, not in the space between cars where the toilets are.
      I hope that helps!

  40. Hello!

    I’ll be taking the Shinkansen from Nagoya to Fukuoka on 2 May. I know that’s the Golden Week time, so I’m a little concerned whether there’s reserved tickets availability. I’ll only be landing in Japan on 17th April. Would the tickets be sold out by then?

    Thanks!

    1. It’s hard to say. That day will most likely be a bit better than May 3-5 or the previous weekend but I’d prepare yourself for the possibility that tickets may be sold out or perhaps you have to take a train at a time that’s more inconvenient (midday, as opposed to early morning, etc). Nothing prevents you from buying an unreserved ticket, however, and lining up to grab a seat in one of the unreserved cars. If no seats are available there, you just get stuck standing. No fun at all on such a long trip but at least you would get where you are going.

  41. Hi,
    I am planning to ride Nozomi Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto on Jun 20,2016, together with child and luggages. Can I buy the ticket directly at the station about an hour in advanced before departure and also buy a reserved seat? The place which I buy the ticket, is it the same place to buy a reserved seat? Thanks

    1. Hello Ivonne,
      When you purchase your ticket at the JR station, you will have the choice of either reserved or unreserved. On June 20th, I highly doubt that you will have any trouble getting a reserved ticket from Toyko to Kyoto on the day. There are at least 6-10 shinkansen every hour that run that route so you should be fine. Enjoy your journey!

  42. Hello. I’d like to ask something. This month, I will be traveling to Japan with my Family.  If I booked for 4 persons shinkansen NOZOMI ticket( all of them are non-reserved) to Tokyo-Shin Osaka, let’s say at 08.00am(Tokyo)->10.30am(Shin-Osaka) at 25th July this month and 03.00pm(Shin-Osaka)->05.25(Tokyo) at 27th day of this July. My question:

    1. If I miss the train at 08.am from tokyo, can I and my family catch another Nozomi unreserved seat? Do I have to explain to conducter or ask JR ticket offices to update ticket?

    2. If I also miss the nozomi shinkansen at Shin-Osaka, can I catch another next shinkansen, let’s say at 03.15 without changing to JR offices and keep standing in line (queueing) until next Nozomi, let’s say(3.15pm) arrive?

    3. How is the possibility of getting 4 seats in unreserved car in Nozomi?

    4. How do I get information about Nozomi and other Shinkansen unreserved seats car? Is there any official websites? What about unreserved cars in Hikari and Kodama? How much the possibility of getting the unreserved seats compare to Nozomi? I heard some Nozomi cars are reserved seats.

    5. Is there any websites which I can buy shinkansen ticket online? Or discounted ticket for shinkansen Tokyo-Osaka-Tokyo online?

    6. Where can I find information about shinkansen Nozomi timetable with the most updated information?

    7. At the date I explain( take Shinkansen to Osaka at 25th July of this month, and Take Shinkansen to Tokyo 27th July month), is it peak hours or off-peak hours? If I want to avoid peak hours, what time I should book shinkansen un-reserved seats?

    Sorry, I askwd too much. I really want to go to Osaka, but my mom said the reserved car is a bit expensive:(

    1. Hi Rina,
      Unreserved (or non-reserved) means you can ride any train at any time, usually within three months of buying the ticket. You can NOT use an unreserved seat ticket on a shinkansen that has only reserved seating (like the Tohoku shinknsen).
      2. Yes, you can buy tickets online from certain travel websites (ie Japanican) but they are mostly part of package deals with hotels. I do not know anywhere in the Tokyo area to buy discounted tickets for the shinkansen. Foreigners who are just visiting can always take advantage of the JR Pass.
      3. July 25th and JUly 27th should not be too busy, but it is summer vacation and many people might be traveling. It really is difficult to say. The route from Tokyo to Osaka is a very very popular route.
      4. The different in price for a reserved ticket versus a non-reserved ticket from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka is only about 1000 yen. (US$10) You may want to pay a little bit more to guarantee yourself a seat if you are worried. The GREEN car is the expensive car and – in my opinion – not worth riding in.
      5. You can check train schedules at hyperdia.com.
      I hope this helps!

  43. Hi! We are a group of 12 flying into Fukuoka and will have to travel to Hiroshima on December 15. Our flight arrives around 2:30pm. Can we just purchase tickets for the Shinkansen on the day of our arrival or should we pre-book? We will all have luggage with us so reserved seats would be preferred. If we pre-book, will rebooking be difficult in the event of a delayed flight? Is there a price difference for adults and kids? If so, what is the age bracket for the kids fare? Thank you.

    1. Hi Anjeanette,
      I know that traveling as a group makes you want to have everything in order as often as possible, but I frankly think you’ll be better off just buying the tickets on arrival.December 15th is a Thursday, so not a busy travel day, and you are coming in before what may be the “end of business day” rush hour. You may have to split up into two separate cars or spread yourselves throughout one train car, but it is highly doubtful that you wouldn’t be able to find reserved seats. I don’t think you’ll have an issue. I’ve never personally rebooked a reserved seat – usually, if someone misses their reserved train, they can take any subsequent train, but they MUST sit in the unreserved section. As for price, adults are aged 12 and up. Children are aged 6-11, and the fare is 50% (half) of the adult price. Kids 5 and under ride for free, but they also expect they will ride in your lap. If the train is not full, I always let my daughter sit in her own seat. But if you want to specifically make sure they have their own seat, you’d have to pay.

    1. Anyone of any age can purchase a seat on the shinkansen, but visit the ticket office itself to be sure you’re paying the appropriate rate. There are discounts for children under a certain age who purchase a seat. If you are a single adult traveling with two children, you will need to buy a seat for one of them.

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