Shinkansen, known as "bullet train", offers the fastest, most comfortable, and most exciting way to travel throughout Japan.
Since Shinkansen connects between major cities in Japan such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and many other areas across Japan, it is loved to be used by many foreigners who come to visit Japan to enjoy its beautiful sceneries.
However, booking or purchasing Shinkansen tickets may be a bit difficult for those who plan to visit Japan for the first time.
This page offers a clear explanation of how you can book/purchase and use Shinkansen tickets.
If you are looking for a cost-efficient JR Pass, or do not know whether to purchase individual Shinkansen ticket or pass, please visit Compare Japan Rail Pass and Single Shinkansen Tickets.
Shinkansen seats are available in four classes depending on the comfort and services you require. You may want to decide which type of class you are going to choose before purchasing Shinkansen tickets.
Reserved Seat - Regular / Ordinary class (¥¥)
Your seat is reserved and secured upon purchasing your tickets. You can head to the station with peace of mind.
Green Reserved Seat - Business class (¥¥¥)
Larger seats with more comfort, quiet and leg-room than Reserved Seat. Popular among Japanese business persons, executives and people who value comfortable travel. Consider it as "business class" seats.
Gran Class Seat - First class (¥¥¥¥)
Known as "First Class" of Shinkansen seats. Gran Class seats come with airline-like amenities, meals, and beverages. The most expensive of all.
Gran Class seats are only available on Hokuriku and Tohoku Shinkansen lines (Not available in Tokai Shinkansen line which operates between Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka - Hiroshima - Hakata).
Unreserved Seat - Most economical (¥)
You can take any open seats in dedicated unreserved cars. Seats in the unreserved cabin are first-come, first-serve basis.
If your priority is saving money and if you are traveling during less-crowded season/time, this would be the best choice.
(The layout and seat size of unreserved seats are the same as regular reserved.)
A Shinkansen ticket consist of several fees:
Base Fare fee
Issued as a base fare ticket. The fare to be paid to get from one station to another.
Super Express fee
The supplement fee required when using a Shinkansen train or limited express train (as opposed to a local train).
Seat Reservation fee
An additional fee for using reserved seats in Shinkansen. This fee is usually combined with the Super Express fee into a single ticket.
Green Class (Gran Class) fee
The supplement fee for riding the Green car (or Gran Class). It is usually combined with the Super Express fee into a single ticket also.
A passenger usually receives two pieces of tickets (a base fare ticket and a Super Express ticket), but in some cases, these two tickets are combined into one single ticket.
Also, please visit How to Distinguish Between Adult and Child Tickets.
In order to purchase a Shinkansen ticket, you need to have the following information planned beforehand:
Once you have made a rough schedule, you can book your ticket from one of two ways; 1) book online, or 2) purchase directly at a station.
Each way has its pros and cons. Here's a quick rundown.
For those who visit Japan and plan to ride Shinkansen, it is recommended that you reserve your seats beforehand.
By having your seats reserved, you can head to the station with peace of mind and don't need to walk around the station to look for a ticket counter and queue up in a long line with your huge luggage or your little child.
Especially for those visiting Japan during the peak seasons (Golden Week, Bon Festival period, fall foliage season and New Year's holiday season), it is a MUST that you book your seats well in advance, as sometimes the trains get booked out on the very first release day of the ticket.
You can find more information for Peak, Regular and Off-season in Japan from the page below.
The Best Time to Travel on Shinkansen: Peak, Regular and Off-season
Usually, the ticket can be purchased from one month before travel date (it is a regulation by JR).
You can purchase Shinkansen tickets from the pages offered officially by JR Central or JR East, and from the Smart EX, a new reservation App introduced by JR West in 2018.
Or, if you use online booking from us, Shinkansen-Ticket.com, you can book your tickets anytime in advance, and our specialized staff will securely purchase on the very first release day for you.
This may be very helpful for those who will be traveling in a group or family, as we always make sure to arrange seats together, and we do take requests such as arranging seats on Mt. Fuji side, a window seat, non-smoking, etc..
You can then receive your tickets either at your hotel, your friend's apartment, any post office in Japan, or at your home address in your country.
Here's a quick review of booking online from Shinkansen-Ticket.com ticket collections.
- Booking can be made anytime in advance*
- You can save your time to purchase tickets in Japan
- Any seat requests can be made upon booking*
- Your seats are securely purchased even during the peak season
- You can have your tickets delivered to any place you wish (in Japan or outside Japan)*
*Service offered uniquely by Shinkansen-Ticket.com
- Handling and shipping fees* are added to the original ticket price
*Please visit our page Is Online Booking in English Available for Shinkansen? for details
We are happy to arrange your seats on beautiful Mt. Fuji side.
You can, of course, purchase your tickets directly at a station too.
Shinkansen tickets can be purchased at any major JR station from one month prior to traveling date.
There are two ways you can purchase your tickets from; a ticket counter, or, a ticket vending machine.
Ticket counter at the station is usually located in a Ticket Office (or called "Midori no Madoguchi" in Japanese) in major JR stations, and you can purchase tickets from a salesperson at a counter.
Please note that many salespersons at the counter have limited English conversation skills.
Most vending machines at the station offer multilingual menus (Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean) so you should be able to purchase tickets without any difficulties.
It is quite easy to purchase tickets at a station, but as mentioned earlier, there's a possibility that your designated trains are all booked out especially if your travel falls on one of the peak seasons in the year.
Also, you may need to queue up in a long line, as oftentimes ticket counter or vending machine is crowded with people purchasing tickets.
Here's a quick review of purchasing tickets at a station
- Purchase can be done quite easily either at a ticket counter or at a ticket vending machine
- No additional fee is required
- You can flexibly plan your trip even at the last minute
- You need to be at a station just to purchase your tickets
- Seats can be sold out during peak seasons or on weekends
- Your seats may need to be split up if you are in a group or family
- You may need to wait in a long line to purchase
Once you have purchased your tickets (or have received from us at your designated location), you can follow quite an easy step below to take your Shinkansen.
Proceed to your Shinkansen departure station with your ticket, find your platform (usually there is an electric bulletin board near the ticket gate that shows train and platform number), insert your ticket to the ticket gate, head to your platform, get into the cabin number written on your ticket, and find your own seat also written on the ticket.
If you are taking an unreserved seat, you can find the unreserved cabin information from the electric bulletin board.
You can have seats at unreserved cabins of any train of any time on a reserved day with unreserved tickets, and seats in the unreserved cabin are the first-come first-serve basis.
Make sure that you allow enough time at your departure station before taking your reserved train, as you may have a hard time finding your platform at the station.
Since many of the Shinkansen stations are quite complexed, we recommend you to be at the station around 30 minutes prior to your train departure.
(Especially, Tokyo station is the most complex of all in Japan.)
In case you miss your reserved train, you can still take any later train on the same day, but in an unreserved seat.
If there are any more points need to be cleared, please visit our FAQ page, where we have gathered all the questions we have received from our customers in the past, or simply contact us anytime. Our Shinkansen Booking Experts are more than happy to assist you!
Regular seats used on Reserved cars and Unreserved cars of Shinkansen. Consider it as "economy class" seat.
Better seats with more space than ordinary seats. All Green Seats are reserved only. Consider it as "business class" seats.
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.
Better seats and free blankets. Popular among Japanese business persons, executives and people who
Know as "First Class" of Shinkansen seats. Only available on Hokuriku and Tohoku Shinkansen lines.
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.
For further information and photos, please visit official page at http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/ticket/types.html