How to reserve the train seat of Japan Railway. Is Online reservation available for Japan Rail Pass user?

Hayate by E2 series on Tohoku Shinkansen
Some of Shinkansen and limited express trains have reserved seat only. You cannot take these trains without reservation.

When you take Shinkansen, Limited Express train or Express train, you may take a reserved seat. Though some of the express train have a non-reserved seat, you should better take an reserved seat if you can. If you are Japan Rail Pass user, why don’t you take a reserve seat. Japan Rail Pass includes a reserved seat surcharge. You should use it! And also I strongly recommend to secure your seat especially in peak season, such as late April to the first week of May, August 10 to 20 (It is called “Obon” in Japan. It is a Summer vacation week) and December 29 to the first week of January.

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

Let’s learn how to get a reserved seat.

Before you make a reservation

If you are Japan Rail Pass user, you need to turn in your exchange order to actual Japan Rail Pass. You need to show your pass when you make a reservation. Once you turned in, you can go ahead to make a reservation any reservation window and anytime. But if you use JR Easts’ online reservation, you don’t need to have an actual pass. Please see the below to see the details about online reservation.

Midori no Madoguchi
Midori no Madoguchi (みどりの窓口)

Where you can

You can make an reservation at the reservation office that is called “Midori no Madoguchi (みどりの窓口)”. You can find “Midori no Madoguchi” very easily. You will find a big green sign easily like the above image. “Midori no Madoguchi” is located at most of major stations. If you are in major cities, such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Yokohama, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Sapporo, you cannot miss “Midori no Madoguchi”. You know why? Almost every stations have “Midori no Madoguchi”. You don’t need to worry that you cannot find it.

If you travel JR Central (JR東海) area, there is no Midori no Madoguchi. Because “Midori no Madoguchi” is JR East’s trademark and it avoids to use it. In JR Central area, such as Nagoya, Shizuoka, Gifu, Takayama, it’s called “Shinkansen and JR Lines Tickets (JR全線きっぷうりば)” and it is not Green sign but white sign.

What kind of information you need

Please make sure the following infomation before you make an reservation:

  • Date and time
  • Train name and number
    This is not required. But if you want to take the specific train, please tell the train name and number. It’s much easier to make a reservation. Every express trains have the combination of the name and number like “Hikari 246”.
  • Departure and Arrival Stations
  • Smoking or Non Smoking
    It’s good news for the smoker. Some JR trains still have the smoking seat. But it’s getting strict for smoking in Japan too. Especially in downtown Tokyo smoking during walking is the against regulation. Plaese be careful!
  • Passport
    Japan Rail Pass Holder always have to have a passport! You need to show it when a station officer or a conductor want to see it.

When you can

You can make an reservation anytime within one month prior the departure date. The ticket is started to sell one month prior to departure date at 10:00am

ex1)
Departure date — August 23, 2011 at 10:00 am. Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka
Ticket is started to sell at 10:00 am on July 23, 2011.

ex2)
Departure date — August 24, 2011 at 00:34 am. Sunrise Seto from Osaka to Tokyo
Ticket is started to sell at 10:00 am on July 23, 2011, not July 24. Because this train originally depart from Takamatsu at 21:26 on August 23. Be careful when you reserve the ticket for overnight trains.

Most of trains can be reserved at Midori no Madoguchi only. So you need to be in Japan when you book. Only JR East offer online reservation service. Even if you are Japan Rail Pass user, you can make a reservation in advance.

Online booking

JR East Shinkansen Reservation

This online reservation system is operated by JR East. Unfortunately this JR East Shinkansen Reservation is only English online reservation for Japan Rail Pass, JR East Pass and single ticket users. You can book your seat for these following trains only.

This site offer the seat reservation for the trains that operate in JR East area. So you CANNOT make a reservation for Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen (Tokyo-Kyoto or Osaka). And also there are some restriction. For example, you can make a booking for Nikko. This train goes to Nikko. But you can make a booking between Shinjuku and Omiya only. You cannot make a booking between Omiya and Nikko, because this train is operated on Non-JR line between Omiya and Nikko. So please read Guide (FAQ) before you make a booking.

Eki-net (えきねっと)

I have received a comment from one of my readers, Tak. He told me we can use this Japanese online reservation system even for Japan Rail Pass users. This online reservation is in Japanese. So unfortunately anyone cannot use. However some of my readers asked me that we can use a friend in Japan to make a reservation for Japan Rail Pass user in outside of Japan. Yes. You can do it now.
This reservation system cover all over Japan. So for example, you can book for Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin Osaka. We cannot do this in JR East Shinkansen Reservation. But this online reservation is not perfect. I tried to book for several overnight trains, like Sunrise Seto, Hokutosei and Twilight Express. I could get some of overnight trains. I found Akebono and Hokutosei. But this site showed only Type-B berth. It did not show me any compartment. I have received so many questions about Nobi Nobi seat of Sunrise Seto/Izumo and Carpet car of Hamanasu. But I could not make it for these trains.
So even if you have a friend in Japan or speak Japanese, you still cannot make a reservation for most of overnight trains.

jr-odekake.net (JRおでかけネット)

This way is also added by my reader, Tak. This is reservation call center by JR West. Unfortunately this is Japanese speakers only. I don’t think everyone can use this service. But some readers have a contact in Japan. So I would like to share this information with you.

I have received a reply from JR West. The answer is as follows. “Once you arrive Japan and exchange the voucher to Japan Rail Pass, it is possible to make reservation at our call center. However, you have to collect the ticket within 8 days. (If your departure date is within 9 days, you have to collect 2 days before.) If you don’t collect it, your reservation is automatically cancelled.
This service is limited for the trains departing and arriving in JR West, Kyushu, Shiko area. ” (Well, that’s official answer, but I think you would be able to ring JR West and make reservation from your country even before exchange to JR pass. They cannot see your pass on the phone, and you’ll only need it at the station when collecting the ticket. However, the problem is you have to collect it within 9 days after reservation is made!)

According to the website, there are two ways to reserve a ticket.
http://www.jr-odekake.net/goyoyaku/phone/comparison.html
1. At call center, make reservation only. Payment is made on collecting the ticket at a JR West, Shikoku and Kyushu stations.
2. At call center, make reservation and pay by credit card on the phone.

So my understanding is that if you want to reserve Hamanasu carpet, Akebono Gronto or Sunrise nobi nobi at 10am, 1 month before, you will need to pay for Limited Express surcharge + reservation fee (指定席特急券) or Express surcharge + reservation fee 指定席急行券.

I agree with Tak. Even though Japan Rail Pass covers surcharge and reservation fee, you need to pay. Because this reservation call center is basically for common users. They don’t take any requests without pay. But if you have someone who speak Japanese and you really want to secure your seat, this way of booking may work for you. However this service does not accept the person who want to book reservation for other person. If you ask your friend to book a ticket for you, your friend has to pretend to be you. And you have to provide your credit card information to you. It is very sensitive and not very recommended way.

How can we reserve a ticket from outside of Japan before departure?

As you saw, online reservation do not cover all trains. I really wish Japan Railway have full online reservation system!!!
Anyway, if you want to secure your seat before departure, you need to use a travel agent. This is only way to reserve a ticket before you depart from your country. It is not cheap. One of my frequent visitor, James in Australia, left very useful comment. I would like to share this information with you.

I think many people here asked for how to get JR tickets before arriving Japan, I would like to add.

*JTB actually charge MORE than $55 Australian dollar($56 US dollar March 2011 currency) per ticket, in fact JTB charge $75 Australian dollar($76 USdollar) per ticket.

The $75 came from $55 service fee plus $20 courier fee to deliver your ticket to your hotel in Japan, $55+$20=$75 Funny my ticket for SL-Yamaguchi express is only $60 therefore altogether I need to pay $135 to get SL-Yamaguchi express ticket!

So, all I can say is, if you want to get a JR train ticket before you get to Japan, make sure you are ok with paying at least $75( $76 US dollar), it helps if you really need to get on a particular train that is very hard to book or if you are travelling during peak season. But if you are not in a hurry, travelling in leisure pace across Japan, perhaps think twice.

I hope is worthy many people told me SL-Yamaguchi express is the best steam train experience ever in Japan.

Do you think it’s rip off? But unfortunately this is only way to do it. You can find Japan Rail Pass authorized agent at JR Pass official site. They may be able to reserve a ticket for you too. But some of the agent do not want to reserve your seat. They want to book whole things, like hotel, air ticket, attraction tickets. Because it is too small profit to make a reservation for only train ticket.

Find your hotels in 218 cities throughout Japan!!!

ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Narita 10 min from airport by complimentary shuttle
Karasuma Hotel Kyoto Traditional tatami room

499 thoughts on “How to reserve the train seat of Japan Railway. Is Online reservation available for Japan Rail Pass user?”

  1. hi Takeshi, I will arrived at haneda on 30th june. i will go to osaka from tokyo using shinkansen on the, 5th july.
    can i buy the shinkansen ticket in haneda?
    should I reserved seat? Im with my husbabd and 2 kids.
    thanks

    1. Hi Rika,

      You can book it at Haneda. But Shinkansen booking is easy. You can do it at any major JR stations.
      Reservation is recommended but not required. Train has non reserved seat, first come and first serve. If you go to the platform 15 to 20 minutes earlier than departure time and wait for the train on the line, you may get seats.
      If you go for non reserved seat, you can purchase a ticket just before taking train. Check the fare at hyperdia and find the difference between non reserved seat fee and reserved seat fee.

      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. So, I think dont need to reserve seat.
        Btw, If I want to go to usj from nishinagahori, can I use suica card? I ve checked the route in hyperdia, most of the alternative include JR line. Is it ok if I don’t have JR pass?
        thanks

  2. Hi Takeshi-san,
    Thanks for your reply.
    For the reservation, if I don’t use the online system(only limited to JR East right?), but instead when I land in the Haneda Airport, I present a list of my itienary to the JR counter when I exchange the pass (the only one in Haneda is the Monotrain from 8:00am right?) and request for reservation with the name and No of the trains, the date and the time(do I have to show time? what happen if I can’t make it on that time? Can I re-reserve at the station for the next train?), Will the staff there make reservation for me?
    I ‘ll travel in Aug especialy Kyoto-Nagoya-Takayama-Kanazawa-Kamakura during 10th to 20th.
    If I fail to do neither (online and when exchange), am I still ok to do it at the station before departure during the peak season?
    thanks a lot

    1. Hi Joe san,

      You don’t need to tell you the train name and number. If you tell date, time, departure station and arrival station, they will pick the best one and tell you.
      If you miss the train, you can rebook again.

      Regarding peak period, advance reservation is highly recommended. But it depends on the date and direction. 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

      1. Thanks Takeshi-san. So you mean “they” is the JR counter or Monorail counter? If I miss the train, do I rebook it at the staion for next ride?
        cheese

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    I would like to know about the reservation.

    Right now I’m in Kyoto and tomorrow will head to Tokyo.

    I’m I going to face a problem with it?

    Note that I have Green Pass JR.

    Thanks

  4. Hey Takeshi,

    I’m looking to head from Tokyo to Hakodate on the 8th of May (peak period for Golden week?)

    Anyway i can book this pain-free?

    I can do JR-East booking from Tokyo to Shin Amori but not the rest.

    What do i do?

    Thanks.

  5. Dear Takeshi,

    first of all: Thank you so much for your page! It’s helping us a lot when searching for the best ways to travel with Japan Rail Pass.

    I just managed to register at eki-net with google translator etc.

    Now i try to make a seat reservation for Tokyo -> Kyoto in May 2016. eki-net shows me a price of 5.900 Yen in the end, i guess that’s the reservation fee.

    So – how will it be working when I arrive in Japan? Can I just exchange voucher to Japan Rail Pass at Haneda Airport and then ask the guys at the JR East Counter to give me the Seat Reservation that I booked via eki-net for free?

    Cheers,
    Stefan

    1. Hi Stefan,

      The fare or surcharge is shown but it’s not charged until you collect a ticket. If you show your JR pass and your credit card that you use on Eki net when you collect a ticket, it won’t be charged. I usually collect a ticket when I exchange JR pass. I have done several times and did it in this past February. I had no problem with it. You can do it at Haneda.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takashi,

    With my family (2adults plus 2 kids), we will be travelling from Tokyo to Nakazawa by train then from Nakazawa to Kyoto ( not the same day).
    What is the fastest and direct combination With JR pass for both trips ?
    Another point; how to reach Osaka airport from Kyoto ; we should be the airport around 8h30pm.

    Thank for your assistance

    Best Regards

    Mourad

  7. Hi Takeshi-san,

    My husband and I will be travelling from Tokyo to Nagano and then from Toyama back to Tokyo via the Hokuriku Shinkansen during the Golden Week. We will be using the Hokuriku Arch Passes and I have already made a reservation for the Hokuriku Kagayaki Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano using the JR East Shinkansen Reservation site.

    However, we are not able to reserve the trip back as the JR East Reservation do not include stations beyond Joetsumyoko. Are we able to make the reservation using the Eki-net website and then change them to tickets with our Hokuriku Arch Passes?

    Thank you!
    Christine

    1. Hi Christine san,

      You can book it anyway through Shinkansen reservation between Joetsu-Myokoto and Tokyo. becase it’s Golden Week. As far as you secure the seat only this segment, it’s easier to book for the rest of the segment. Of course you can change it as far as it’s available.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi-San,

        Thank you for your reply! My husband is worried that we might have problems securing seats from Toyama to Joestu-myokoto on the Kagayaki train for the timing we want to take once we reach Tokyo. >< Is it not advisable for tourists to make the reservation for the full route via the Japanese Eki-net site?

        Thank you once again,
        Christine

        1. Hi Christine san,

          If you can use Japanese Eki-net, you can book for full route of that train. I use Japanese Eki-net for JR pass train booking. When I was Japan in this past February, I have booked more than 10 trains for all part of Japan. It was completely no problem and of course it’s free of charge. All tickets could be collected at Narita when I exchanged JR pass there. You will use Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass. But you can use exactly same way of booking as me.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Hi Takeshi,

            Just to add on to this question, how do I book on the website with indication that I have the JR Pass? Do I have to pre-pay with my credit card first then get a refund later when i exchange my JR pass at the green window?
            Thanks for your help!

          2. Hi Florence,

            If you use online booking, you need to input your credit card info for deposit. JR do not charge and they just want to have credit card info in case of no show. If you don’t pick up a ticket, it will be charged to your credit card.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

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