2017 busiest period to travel by train. Tips to book your seat in even busy period.

(C) Calendar* / DafneCholet
(C) Calendar* / DafneCholet

Many readers have asked me about busy period to travel. I wrote about the calendar of the peak period in 2016 season. Now I would like to tell you about 2017. And also I would like to give you some tips when you travel in the peas season.

Don’t travel same direction as local tourist

Before I show you the calendar, I would like to tell you how Japanese tourist move in the peak period. Please keep these in your mind when you build your plan.

1. Trains from major cities are busy in the beginning of the peak period.
2. Trains to major cities are busy at the end of the peak period.

Major cities, like Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka have huge population. Huge number of travelers get out of the cities. So you have to avoid to leave cities in the beginning of the peak period. On the other hand, if you travel opposite way, train is not crowded.

The following movie is only 40 seconds. It is Japanese local news and shows you how busy Tokyo station was on December 29, 2015.

If you stay in the cities in peak period, it is not much different from regular weekend. Of course attractions, such as USJ, Tokyo Disneyland are busy. I do not recommend you to visit very popular attractions in the peak period. You have to spend a couple of hours to take just one ride. You will not be satisfied.

I would like to show you some more tips about getting a seat during peak period later. First of all, I would like to show you the calendar of the peak period in 2017.

*If you look for the information about 2016-17 New Years peak period, please see the link below:
2016 busiest period to travel by train. Tips to book your seat in even busy period.

Golden Week (late April to early May)

2017’s calendar is the following:

Apr 29 (Sat) Holiday
Apr 30 (Sun)
May 1 (Mon)
May 2 (Tue)
May 3 (Wed) Holiday
May 4 (Thu) Holiday
May 5 (Fri) Holiday
May 6 (Sat)
May 7 (Sun)

There is five consecutive days off from May 3 to May 7. I expect May 3 and May 7 will be busiest days. However some of Japanese residents will take extra days off on May 1 and May 2. Apr 29 and 30 will be busier than normal.

Obon (mid August)

Obon is not National holidays. It is Japanese traditional summer break. Usually Obon period is August 13 to 16. 2017 calendar is the following

Aug 11 (Fri) Holiday
Aug 12 (Sat)
Aug 13 (Sun)
Aug 14 (Mon)
Aug 15 (Tue)
Aug 16 (Fri)

I expect the busiest day is August 11 for outgoing and August 16 for incoming.

New Years holidays

In Japan, Christmas is not holiday season. Most of public schools have winter break from December 25 to January 7. And December 23 is holiday. Christmas period is a bit busier than usual. But it is not a big issue. The busiest period in Japan is New Years Holidays. It usually starts on December 30 and finish on January 3. 2017-18 calendar is the following.

Dec 29 (Fri)
Dec 30 (Sat)
Dec 31 (Sun)
Jan 1 (Mon) Holiday
Jan 2 (Tue)
Jan 3 (Wed)

The beginning of New Years Holiday will be Saturday on December 30. Many of Japanese travlers will start to get off the cities in the afternoon on December 29. For outgoing, I expect train will be busy from afternoon on December 29 to the end of December 30. January 3 will be very busy for incoming. Most of local travelers want to settle before New Years Eve. Usually December 31 is not such a busy day.

January 1 is very slow too. However most of Japanese visit shrine or temple to pray on New Years Day. Local trains run all through the night from December 31 to January 1. Some of local lines are very busy in this period.

How to book a seat in peak period

How to reserve the train seat of Japan Railway.

However you can find the availability of the trains in advance.

How to find seat availability of trains. JR Cyber Station guide.

You must know the booking status of the trains that you want to take in advance. It will be much easier to find a seat after you arrive in Japan.

The first thing you need to do is trying to book a seat right after you arrive in Japan. But you may not be able to make it. I introduce some tips to expand the possibility to book a seat.

Take early or late trains

Nobody want to travel in early morning and late night. That is why trains in early morning and late night are slower than daytime trains. Late night trains are usually slower than early morning train.

Take slower trains

Everybody wants to get the place as early as possible. That is why slower trains have lower demand than faster trains. I do not recommend you to take local trains to move for a long distance. This technique can be used for Shinkansen only. I recommend you to take slower trains on Shinkansen line, such as Kodama.

Please see the links below to find Shinkansen timetables:

Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen (Tokyo-Nagoya-Kyoto-Shin Osaka-Hiroshima-Hakata)
Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen (Hakata-Hiroshima-Shin Osaka-Kyoto-Nagoya-Tokyo)

You will find the trains that stop at all stations. That is Kodama. It’s way slower than other Shinkansen trains. But it’s much easier to get a seat on this train. If you are okay with spending extra hours but want to get a seat, try to book a seat on Kodama.

Take Green seat

Green seat is more spacious but more expensive. So usually Green seat is easier to book than Ordinary seat. However in peak period, even Green seat on some trains are booked out. Especially if you are wondering JR pass ordinary or Green, it maybe expand the possibility to get a seat. But if you cannot get Green seat, you have to take ordinary seat even if you have Green pass. It maybe gamble.

Try to book separately

If you cannot find a seat, divide into two segments and try to book. You may find a seat. For example, if you want to get a seat for Tokyo to Shin-Osaka, you can try to book for Tokyo to Nagoya and Nagoya to Shin-Osaka.

How to get a seat on non reserved seat car

I explain about reserved seat and non reserved seat in the link below. You can find some tips to get a seat in non reserved car. You may be able to use this way even in peak period.

Reserved seat VS Non reserved seat. How to get a seat on non reserved car?

I hope these information will help you to travel smoothly in the peak period.

42 thoughts on “2017 busiest period to travel by train. Tips to book your seat in even busy period.”

  1. Hello Takeshi san,

    I have a question regarding seat reservation using the vending machines. Is it possible to pick your actual seat-number? I have only seen videos with people selecting Aisle or Window seat, how does this work when reserving tickets for two people?
    Will it be possible to reserve a D+E seat using the machine?

    Kind regards,
    John

    1. Hi John san,

      In most of vending machine, you can pick up the seat for most of trains. But it depends on where you use the machine and which train you will take. There are some exceptions and many patterns. So I cannot guarantee you to pick up the seat number for all trains at all machines. If you really want to make sure to get the seat for two of you side by side, I recommend you to book it at the window.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi san,

        thank you for your fast response! I completely forgot to specify that I was asking about Shinkansen Tickets on the Tokaido line (which will be booked in Tokyo).
        Thank you for your answer though, might just get it at the window to be on the safe side then.

        We will be travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto on the 26th of July which is also our date of arrival. Should we expect it to be very busy? We were going to get the tickets early in the morning for a train at around 10AM.

        Kind regards,
        John

  2. Thank you very much for this useful information! I have a question: I am returning from America on August 15th. I already have an unreserved shinkansen ticket to get from Ueno Station to my home in Japan. But I will still need to get from Narita airport to Ueno station. I am thinking of taking the Keisei Skyliner or the Keisei Limited Express. I don’t want to book ahead of time if I don’t need to, but do you think it will be too busy because of Obon Festival? It will be early evening, maybe around 5 o’clock or so. Please give me your advice! Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Marie,

      I think you will be okay. It will not be hard to book a seat on Skyliner. In worst case, you can get Ueno by regular limited express. It’s commute train and you can take it anyway.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi
    Do you have a time table for Furano express from Sapporo in July 2017?

    I would like to find out if I have a Hokkaido JR pass, can I make a booking online or in JR Sapporo station reserve a seat/ticket?

    Thank you so much for your assisting.

    Jen

  4. Hi Takeshi,
    Thank you for the very useful information. My husband and I are coming to Japan in August and we didn’t realise until much later that we booked to travel during the busiest period. I have done a bit of research and it looks like i will not need to buy a 7 day JR pass. We land on the 7th of August 2017 and leave for Kyoto on the 12th, which is during Obon. Am worried that we will not find train tickets to Kyoto (our hotels are already booked).Do you think i can buy my train tickets for Tokyo-Kyoto and Kyoto-Osaka (15 august) at the Shinjuku station? Am planning to do so on the 8th. is that too late?

    Thank you so much for your help, really appreciate it.

    An

    1. Hi An,

      It may be hard to book a seat for 12th to Kyoto. All you can do is trying to book a seat right after you arrive in Japan. You can book a seat at any major JR stations throughout Japan.

      Kyoto to Osaka is a commute line. You don’t need to book. You can take Special rapid train by base fare ticket only. It takes only 30 minutes ride.
      http://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/rapid-service/special-rapid-service.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hello
    I’m May I would to ask you how to get to Toyama from Kanazawa by train I have check the timetable through Hyperdia I have found some trains serviced by Shinkasen and IR Ishikawa railway for Tomari I am wondering how I can reserve the ticket? Do I have to book in anvanced?(I will travel on 17th May) Can I buy the ticket at the station?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi May,

      If you take IR Ishikawa railway train, it’s commute train and reservation is not required. Just go to Kanazawa station to purchase a ticket at the vending machine.

      If you take Shinkansen, you can book a seat in advance if you want. But there are lots of non reserved seat if you take “Tsurugi” or “Hakutaka”. You can buy non reserved seat ticket just before taking Shinkansen. But if you take “Kagayaki”, all seats are reserved. You cannot take it without reservation.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi

    Thanks so much for your fast reply where I posted in last year’s section about travel to Nagano in the new year period. I think I will try for the 31st as you suggest. You think if I book as soon as it opens I should get something? Can you tell me when booking will open for Dec 31 given there is no Nov 31? Would it be the 30th or the 1st? Thanks so much again.

    1. Hi Sue,

      The ticket for December 31 will be on sale at 10:00 am on December 1 because there is no 31st in November.
      You may try to get a ticket for December 30 on November 30 if you like.
      Good luck.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi

        We are staying in Shinjuku and will travel to Hakuba 31 December. Could you tell if you think the Azusa 3 from Shinjuku at 7.30am would be easier to get a booking? I am thinking it might be less stressful with luggage and teenagers than getting to Tokyo station for the Shinkansen (assuming I could secure seats) and then the bus from Nagano even though the travel time for Azusa is longer. Also, I assume both Tokyo and Shinjuku stations will be very busy and possibly hard for us to navigate with time constraints? Thanks again

        Sur

        1. Hi Sue,

          I don’t think it will be super busy. But you can book online in advance. Ticket will be on sale at 10:00 am on Dec 01. I recommend you to book it on this date.

          You can find the map of the station in the link below:
          http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/stations/index.html?src=gnavi

          And also the following post may help you:
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/travel-tips/signage-and-announcement-in-the-station-and-train.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Dear Takeshi-san,
    I am planning to travel on 29 April 2017 (the start of the golden week…) from Kyoto to Hakone ( yes its best avoided, but i had booked the hotels and everything before i found out about golden week)

    I am just wondering will it be possible to have a sidetrip : Kyoto (7 am train) –> Nagoya ( visit Toyota museums) –> Hakone (2 pm Train) ??

    Or shall i just go ahed with Kyoto –> Hakone directly and tour hakone instead.

    1. Hi Florence san,

      You can drop by Nagoya. It’s not an issue and if you go straight, it does not help to avoid it. Train is busy and please expect the museum is also crowded.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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