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Shinkansen Travel Tips: How Early Do I Need to Arrive at the Station?

August 24, 2023

Shinkansen Travel Tips: How Early Do I Need to Arrive at the Station?

The Shinkansen, known as the bullet train, offers a convenient way to travel across Japan and is widely used by international tourists visiting the country.
For many tourists, it might be their first time riding the Shinkansen.

In this article, we will provide insights for those who are less familiar with the Shinkansen, offering guidance on how early to arrive at the station on the day of departure and other important considerations.

Please note that this article assumes you have a reserved seat (either in the regular or Green Car). If you have an unreserved seat ticket, the information provided may not be applicable.

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How Early Should You Arrive at the Shinkansen Station?

The time you need to arrive at the Shinkansen station varies depending on whether you're boarding at the starting station or at a station along the route.

For starting stations like Tokyo, Nagoya, Shin-Osaka, and Hakata, some trains allow passengers to board 15 to 20 minutes before departure. Keep in mind that some trains might undergo cleaning after arrival, during which boarding is prohibited. Taking this into account, arriving at the platform about 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time at the starting station will ensure a smooth boarding process.

At intermediate stations like Shin-Yokohama, Odawara, and Kyoto, the boarding times can differ. Some trains might have a stop as brief as 1 minute, while others might stop 5 to 10 minutes due to waiting for other Shinkansen to pass. Regardless, arriving at the platform about 15 minutes before the departure time provides ample mental and physical preparation.

You can confirm the platform by checking the large electronic display boards near the ticket gates.

Checking Your Train Carriage and Seat

Different Shinkansen types have varying carriage configurations, some even having up to 16 carriages. To have a hassle-free boarding experience, it's a good idea to confirm which carriage and location you'll be sitting in before getting in line or boarding (You can find your carriage and seat numbers on your ticket).
The platform typically indicates where each carriage will stop. Waiting at the designated spot prevents you from boarding from a distant carriage and having to navigate the train's narrow aisle.

You can see the indication for Car 3 on the Shinkansen platform.


Arrive at the Station 30 Minutes Before Departure for Peace of Mind

While arriving on the platform 15 minutes before departure, as previously mentioned, is generally sufficient, we recommend planning to arrive at the station 30 minutes before departure, especially for foreign tourists unfamiliar with Japan's geography. Delays in your journey to the station or navigating through vast station complexes (especially at stations like Tokyo) to reach your Shinkansen platform might consume more time than expected. If you're traveling with a family and young children, allowing even more extra time might be prudent. And if you find yourself with extra time, explore station souvenir shops or grab a snack for your journey.

Please note that starting from November 2023, as mentioned in this article, in-train sales on the Shinkansen will be discontinued. It's advisable to secure your food and drinks before boarding.

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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