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Navigating the Year-End Travel Rush in Japan: Ticket Tips and Trends

December 08, 2023

Navigating the Year-End Travel Rush in Japan: Ticket Tips and Trends

As the peak season for domestic travel during this year's year-end and New Year approaches, we find ourselves at the brink of a significant surge in activity.
For many urban-dwellers originally from regional areas, December 28th marks the end of work, prompting a mass migration back to their hometowns on either December 29th or 30th, accompanied by their families.

As the New Year begins, many businesses in Japan resume operations from January 4th. Those who enjoyed a leisurely New Year in the countryside are all set to return to the urban hustle, causing trains heading back to the cities on January 3rd to become incredibly crowded.

This convergence of travel plans coincides with the influx of foreign tourists visiting Japan during the year-end and New Year period, impacted by the aftermath of the pandemic. Their movements align precisely with the domestic rush, creating a unique and bustling atmosphere as people from all walks of life journey back to the urban centers during this festive season.

As of early December (12/8), here's a general overview of the ticket status for trains heading down from Tokyo to various destinations across Japan:

Downward Bound (From Tokyo to Various Destinations)

  • December 28th - Reserved Car: Available, Green Car: Available
  • December 29th - Reserved Car: Daytime fully booked, Green Car: Some seats available
  • December 30th - Reserved Car: Daytime fully booked, Green Car: Some seats available
  • December 31st - Reserved Car: Some seats available, Green Car: Available
  • January 1st - Reserved Car: Available, Green Car: Available

Upward Bound (From Various Destinations to Tokyo)

  • January 1st - Reserved Car: Available, Green Car: Available
  • January 2nd - Reserved Car: Some seats available, Green Car: Available
  • January 3rd - Reserved Car: Daytime fully booked, Green Car: Some seats available

The information provided above pertains to the general seat availability on trains.
In addition, for trains heading to (and return from) the ski resorts, most of the Green Car seats are already fully booked.


Please note that the availability of seats is expected to decrease as we approach the end of the year.
Therefore, for those planning to use Shinkansen or limited express services, it is strongly recommended to consider making reservations as early as possible.

Additionally, as mentioned in this article, from December 28th to January 3rd, all seats on the Nozomi trains will be reserved, and there will be no sales of unreserved seats.
If you are considering travel between Tokyo and Kyoto or Osaka (and vice versa), reserving and securing your seat in advance is essential.

Seat guide

Shinkansen seats are available in four levels depending on the comfort and services your require.

Ordinary Seat

Regular seats used on Reserved cars and Unreserved cars of Shinkansen. Consider it as "economy class" seat.

Green Seat

Better seats with more space than ordinary seats. All Green Seats are reserved only. Consider it as "business class" seats.

Reserved Seat (Ordinary Reserved Seat)

Your seat is reserved and secured when you book your tickets. Head to the station with a peace of mind.
Seats are the same as Ordinary Seat.

Green Reserved Seat

Better seats and free blankets. Popular among Japanese business persons, executives and people who values comfortable travel. Consider it as "business class" seats.

GranClass Seat

Know as "First Class" of Shinkansen seats. Only available on Hokuriku and Tohoku Shinkansen lines. Gran Class seats comes with airline-like amenities and meals.The most expensive of all.

Unreserved Seat

You can take any open seats in unreserved cars of any train on the departure date. (No departure time will be indicated on your tickets.)
The best seat type if your priority is the cost and are traveling during less-crowded season/time.



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