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

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You might be nervous about booking of trains. Online booking is very limited. Most of you have to book your train after you arrive in Japan. Especially if you travel in peak season, such as Golden Week (late Apr to 1st week of May), Obon period (mid Aug) and New Years holidays (late Dec to early Jan), many trains are booked out. You may want to know how busy trains will be before you leave.

Unfortunately there is no way to find it online in English. But we have it in Japanese that is “JR Cyber Station”.

In this post, I show you how to use this site. I know that most of you do not understand Japanese. I believe that you will be able to use this site and find the seat availability of the trains after you read this post even if you do not understand Japanese, .

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

Step 1 Find the service segment of the train

You have to find the space availability one train by one train.

ex) Trip to Takayama from Tokyo
Tokaido Shinkansen for Tokyo to Nagoya
Limited Express Wide View Hida for Nagoya to Takayama
*You have to check twice for Tokyo – Nagoya and Nagoya – Takayama.

You can find the service segment of trains at Hyperdia. Please see the link below to get the details about using Hyperdia:
Hyperdia perfect guide, train timetable and route search engine

Step 2 Get the station name in Japanese

You must have the station name in Japanese. There are several ways to get it. I think using Wikipedia is the easiest way. Please try to google “Wikipedia *** station”.

For example, try to get Japanese word for Kanazawa station. Please google “Wikipedia Kanazawa station”.

wiki-kanazawa1

I could find it at second in the first page. My language setting is Japanese, so I found Japanese wikipedia link at the first. But if you google it, you will find it somewhere in the first page. Now click the link at Wikipedia page.

wiki-kanazawa2

You can find Japanese word “金沢駅 (Kanazawa-eki)” in even English wikipedia page. Actually you may find Japanese word in other language wikipedia. Kanazawa station was wrote by many language in wikipedia, such as French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean.

Before move to next step, we need to copy the station name in Japanese. Please copy only “金沢”. We do not need “駅”. This means station in Japanese. We need to copy only location name.

Step 3 Access to JR Cyber Station

JR Cyber station is only online service for checking availability for JR trains. Before you access this site, please check the time. Because this site is available from 6:30 to 22:30 in Japan time. Now please access JR Cyber station.
And then, click the first link that says “■空席案内(指定席の空席照会がご覧になれます)”.

Cyber station1

Now you need to choose date and time.

Cyber station2

Next choose the train type. Please see the image below:

Cyber station3

The procedure is a little bit different between Shinkansen and conventional line trains (other than Shinkansen). If you check the availability for Shinkansen, please see the next chapter. Otherwise please see the chapter “Step 4-b”.

Step 4-a Check seat availability for Shinkansen (bullet train)

If you choose Shinkansen, drop down menu is appeared and you can choose both departure and arrival station. Of course, you can paste the station name that you copied at wikipedia above.

When you complete to choose at all dropdown menu, you can click “検索”.

Cyber station4

You get the result. The availability and the category of seat are shown by the following symbols:

Sample result of Tokaido Shinkansen for Tokyo to Nagoya
Sample result of Tokaido Shinkansen for Tokyo to Nagoya
Sample result of Tohoku Shinkansen for Tokyo to Sendai
Sample result of Tohoku Shinkansen for Tokyo to Sendai

All train names are shown in Japanese. If you want to make sure these train names, these following links show you Shinkansen timetables online or PDF.

Tohoku, Akita, Yamagata, Joetsu and Hokuriku Shinkansen (JR East Official English site)
Tokaido and Sanyo Shinakansen (Tokyo-Kyoto-Shin Osaka-Hiroshima-Hakata)
Westbound (from Tokyo)
Eastbound (to Tokyo)
Kyushu Shinkansen (Hakata-Kumamoto-Kagoshima Chuo)

You may find the name of train from departure time.

Step 4-b Check seat availability for conventional trains (other than Shinkansen)

If you choose “在来線列車” (conventional line trains), you have to paste the correct station name at both departure and arrival. And you can click “検索”. If you fill in wrong name, wrong time or other errors, the following page is shown.

Cyber station7

But sometimes JR Cyber Station gives you the choice.

Cyber station8

In this above case, there are two similar names and it gives us choices. Please see the choices carefully and pick you the correct one.

And we get a result.

Sample result of Limited Express for Shinjuku to Matsumoto
Sample result of Limited Express for Shinjuku to Matsumoto

Other notes

When you use JR Cyber Station, please remember the following notes.

1. JR reserved seat ticket is on sale one month prior to departure dates. You cannot check the availability for more than one month.

2. When you check the availability, sometimes seasonal train cannot be found. Most of popular seasonal trains, such as Resort Shirakami, JR Kyushu trains can be found.

3. Overnight train Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo from Tokyo cannot be shown. Other direction (to Tokyo) can be found. But only availability for Nobi Nobi seat is shown. We cannot find the availability for other compartment.

4. Overnight train Hamanasu (both way) can be found. But the availability for only type B-berth and regular reserved seat (a.k.a. Dream car) are shown. It does not show you the availability for Carpet car.

Sample result of Overnight train Hamanasu for Aomori to Sapporo. It's completely booked out.
Sample result of Overnight train Hamanasu for Aomori to Sapporo. It’s completely booked out.

5. Other overnight trains are seasonal operation and cannot be found at JR Cyber Station.

6. JR Cyber station can check the availability for JR trains only. You cannot get an availability for any express trains on private railway lines, such as Tobu railway, Kintetsu railway, Odakyu Railway.

7. Again, this site is available from 6:30 to 22:30 in Japan time only. You cannot access this site outside this hour.

51 thoughts on “How to find seat availability of trains. JR Cyber Station guide.”

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    My family and I will visit Japan soon (21/01 – 02/02) and we have purchased 7 day JR Pass in our country, we are going to arrive at Tokyo on 21st and depart on 24th to Kawaguchiko, we will be activating our JR passes on 24th.
    I’ve tried to look up Shinkansen reservation using JR east but it all seems too complicated.
    Just wondering after my arrival at Tokyo, if I don’t activate my JR pass (e.g. on 22nd and 23rd) do you think it’s possible for me just go to ticket counter and ask the person there to purchase and reserve the tickets for me? and when I’m ready to activate my JR pass (24th) I can just go to the ticket office and collect my tickets?

    Thanks,

    Jen

    1. Hi Jen,

      You can exchange your JR pass on arrival day, 21st January. Of course you can start using your JR pass on 24th. When you exchange JR pass, you can pick the date when you want to start using it.
      Once you get an actual pass, you can start booking. So you can book your seat on 21st January even if you don’t start using it yet. Whenever I use JR Pass, I complete all bookings when I exchange it.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi-san,

    If based on the JR Cyberstation, the reserved seats from Kyoto to Kanazawa seem to be sold out. i am a little panic as in, does this mean that the non reserved seats may be sold out too and the chances to board the train is slim?

  3. Hi, I’m worried about my upcoming trip with my friend.

    Based on your experience traveling, I want to know if you think it’s wiser of me to drop the JR Pass, and just get the shinkansen tickets in advanced.

    Our travel dates are scary- terrible timing.
    Dec. 28th arrival- Narita
    Dec. 29th- Tokyo->Kyoto
    Dec. 31st-Kyoto to Onomichi, Hiroshima (shimanami kaido)
    Jan. 2- Travel from Onomichi to Hakata, Hakata to Kagoshima
    Jan. 6- Return to Tokyo by plane

    I’m worried about not being able to get tickets, if I wait until my friend arrives on Dec. 28th. I just want to get your opinion. I already checked and lots of the times are sold out already.
    Also, I don’t see any Hikari trains from Kyoto to Hiroshima?

    Should I forego the JR Pass, if I want to travel on these busy days? Seems like Nozomi are the only ones left for day time shinkansen tickets…I have never traveled in Japan during this new year’s season, and I can only imagine the crazy crowds… I live in Tatebayashi, Gunma. So, I go to Tokyo often during holidays. It’s terrible.

    1. Hi Kristy,

      So let me make sure your situation. You are resident and your friend will visit Japan. Your friend will use JR pass. right?
      Can you read Japanese? If you can, you can book tickets for both you and your friend at Eki net. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/how-to-reserve-seat.html

      Eki net is basically service for regular ticket passengers. But you can book it for JR pass user too. You can book it before your friend coming, and you can collect ticket after your friend activate JR pass. I use this service whenever I use JR pass.

      There is no direct Shinkansen trains between Kyoto and Hiroshima other than Nozomi. But if you are okay with changing trains, you can use two trains for Kyoto to Shin-Osaka and Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima. JR pass covers Sakura. Please see the link below to find the timetable.
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound.pdf

      In worst case, you can take ordinary train from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka and take Sakura from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima.

      I also wrote some tips about getting ticket during busy period. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/2016-busiest-period-to-travel-by-train-tips-to-book-your-seat-in-even-busy-period.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. DearTakeshi
    I am planning our trip to Japan in October and your comments have been most useful, I wanted to thank you for sharing your mine of information – we are very much looking forward to our trip, once again, many thanks!

  5. Hello Takeshi,

    I think the website (JR Cyber station) can be translated into english, not all letters though, but I think it’s easier to use the website. I don’t need to enter the exact time of my departure time and I can read the list of the name of the trains in the result page. Sometimes I just need to check Hyperdia again because the name of the trains are not the same with the the name of the train in Hyperdia.

    I checked the website for several tomorrow trains (Saturday), sometimes I get triangle and X, but I think there are still so many circles for two or three days later of departure. Do you think it will be safe for me to make seat reservation after getting my rail pass in Japan for mid of October?

    I will book all my seat reservations as soon as I get my pass in Japan. But do I have to make cancellation beforehand (to ticket office) if want to change my train? And how if I miss the train in the station? Do I have to pay the penalty for train cancellation or when the office staff knows I miss the train because I try to reserve the next train?

    Can I prefer seat numbers when making seat reservation? Can I prefer box seat in Resort Shirakami train? Is there extra fee for the box seat? (my group will be four adults, but there will be luggages with us)

    Do you know whether SL Niseko train (from Sapporo St to Rankoshi St) will operate for this year? Do some trains in Japan not operate in the same schedule every month? I found in Hyperdia, Ltd Exp. Azusa 71 departs at 06.30 from Shinjuku St to Kofu St for tomorrow, but I can’t find it in Oct.

    Thanks in advance,
    Eddy

    1. Hi Eddy,

      Mid October is much slower than August. I think you will be okay.
      When you want to change your booking, just go to the reservation window and return a ticket. And then rebook. There is no penalty even if you miss the train.
      Box seat of Resort Shirakami accommodate four passengers. So you and your group can use it. When you book it, tell reservation staff that you want to book box seat.
      Some trains run as seasonal operation. That is reason why you cannot find some trains. I don’t think SL Niseko will run in this season.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Dear Takeshi,

    I read with interest the information you have taken much trouble to compile on the web and am grateful for this reference, particularly the ability to check seat availability.

    I intend to take a 7 day JR pass for my family for a year-end trip to Japan. The trip includes a lengthy sojourn across the country. As a result, and because we will be in Japan for 10 days, it is important to time the start of the use of the pass correctly.

    Do you know if it possible to pre-authorize the pass and making bookings from the post-date, prior?

    This means, if we arrive in Japan, on Dec 18, and intend to stay till Dec 29. We only need to use the pass from Dec 22 to Dec 28, but are concerned about availability of tickets, as the period falls within the start of the peak season in Japan. As such we probably would want to book tickets on arrival in Japan, say on Dec 18 – does JR allow this – that is, to pre-authorize the start date of the pass from Dec 22, and then for us to make bookings during the 7 day period starting Dec 22?

    As the travel involves crossing a large sector of Japan, ensuring we have seats is critical as it has an impact on the holding of hotel rooms without losing a deposit.

    We are holding hotel rooms for two different alternatives and travel routes, in case we cannot do the pre-booking or find that seats have run out, for the more popular sector which runs through Osaka and Tokyo. However, there is a date until which cancellation is free, and hence the need to book on arrival, if available.

    In a sequence this is how it would look like

    Dec 18 : Arrival in Japan
    Dec 19: Activate JR pass for use from Dec 22
    Dec 19: Make all bookings for period between Dec 22 and Dec 28
    Dec 22: Permitted to use pass based on activation request
    Dec 28 : Last day of use of pass

    If you need clarification let me know.

    Thank you very much.

    1. Hi David,

      It’s completely no problem.
      For example, when I used JR pass in this past February, I arrived in Narita airport on January 30. I exchanged JR Pass right after arrival but I started to use the pass on February 1. When I exchanged JR pass at Narita airport, I complete to book all seat tickets for February 1 to 7.

      So you can do what you want. And actually the busiest period will start on December 28 or 29. In Japan Christmas season is busier than usual but not peak. New Years holidays is the peak season. It’s much slower than your expectation.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply, Takeshi-san. Could I ask your opinion on these matters :

        (1) if it would be better we completed our travel passing through Tokyo on Dec 27, in terms of getting tickets, since Dec 28 is the start of the holiday period.

        (2) if the Hokkaido Shinkansen leg is very popular and likely to be sold out well in advance, during this period, as we intend to travel from Hakata to Hakodate and if we stumble at this leg, then we will have to curtail our plans to go to Hakodate.

        (3) Is a day trip to Huis Ten Bosch worth the travel, if that is all the time we have to spare to go there. We are likely to have to take an early train to maximize the day there.

        (4) Is cycling the best way to get around Yufuin, given that the hot springs are well spaced apart and accessible generally by private transport.

        1. Hi David,

          1. If you travel from Tokyo on 28th, it will be busy. But if you go back to Tokyo, it’s not an issue. 28th may be busier but not the busiest.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/2016-busiest-period-to-travel-by-train-tips-to-book-your-seat-in-even-busy-period.html

          2. I’m very optimistic to book Hokkaido Shinkansen. However Hakata to Hakodate is very very long trip. It will take 10 hours trip. Are you okay with it?
          3. It’s worth visiting there.
          4. I have no idea about cycling in Yufuin. I have never done that before.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Dear Mr. Takeshi,

            I was reading online about hotels that arrange rooms specially for trainspotters. The Mets Hotel Akebane is one of these, though I am unable to reach the hotel via the usual booking portals such as trivago. I also read the Odakyu Hotel Southern tower (Shinjuku) overlooks perhaps the busiest train station in Japan, though you have to get the right room. Also read that the Imperial hotel is another good bet for viewing train activity from the comfort of one’s hotel room.

            Do you have any suggestions or advice about trainspotting from the vantage point of a hotel room in or around Tokyo?

            Thank you, sir.

            Regards,
            David

          2. Dear Takeshi,

            Thank you for the compilation as it reduces our sourcing time down considerably. There is a good spread of hotels cited and that will simplify the choice of hotel. My son is a rail fan and mentioned this to me, if it were possible to change our plans. I think this is a wonderful opportunity. Shinjuku sounds like the best bet for action, but of course some exploration still needs to be done. Thank you once again!

            David

  7. Hello,

    I love your website, it’s very informative. I have a question: can I reserve seats on the Evangelion train from Shin-Osaka to Himeji? how do I do that?

    Thanks!

    Connie

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