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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.

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

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.

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.
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

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

  1. Luis says:


    I am a first time JR Pass user and i am still gathering information on how to fully take advantage of it.

    Here are some of the trains i am planning to use:

    Shinkansen Hayabusa, Limited express Kaiji, Shinkansen Kagayaki, Limited Express Shinano, Shinkansen Hakutaka, Senzan Line Rapid from Sendai, etc.

    My question is:once i get to Narita Terminal 1 and get my JR Pass, should i be able to make all my reservations for all my planed trips at once? for both shinkansen and limited express trains?

    Please let me know

    Thank you


  2. Kristen says:

    We are a family of 5 travelling to Tokyo in a couple of weeks. I have purchased our JR pass but cannot find somewhere to reserve seats on the Shinkansen to/ from Kyoto.
    Can I do this before we leave or will I have to do it once we exchange the coupon for the actual pass?
    Many Thanks

    • HI Kristen,

      No, you can’t. As you see the post above, there is no online reservation for JR pass user in English.
      When you exchange the pass after arrival, you can go for it. Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka is not hard to book.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. indrawanpaimin@yahoo.com.sg says:

    Hi JPRail,

    We plan for an annual holiday on 25th July to 4th August 2015 (we are in 5 persons). Our schedule are as follows :
    1. Arrived 26 July 2015 – 28 July in Tokyo (Hotel Sunroute Higashi Shinjuku)
    2. 28 July 2015 – 29 July 2015 – Hakone (Palace Hotel Hakone)
    3. 29 July 2015 – 30 July 2015 Hidu/Takayama (Hida Hotel Plaza Takayama)
    4. 30 July 2015 – 01 August 2015 – Hiroshima (Hotel Granvia Hiroshima)
    5. 01 August 2015 – 03 August 2015 – Kyoto/ Osaka (Sakura Terrace Hotel)
    6. 03 August 2015 -04 August 2015 – Tokyo (Shinagawa Prince Hotel)

    As you know we trully want to try the bullet train (Shinkanzen).

    Can you provide us our Japan railways on our holiday itinerary above.
    Awaiting to your assistance for the above inquiry. Thank you.

    Best Regards,

    Indrawan Paimin

  4. Juson Xabac says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    I’m planning to visit Hokkaido in mid Nov 2015,

    Day 1 Hakodate
    Day 2 Hakodate – Jozankei
    Day 3 Jozankei – Otaru
    Day 4 Otaru – Sapporo
    Day 5 Sapporo

    I was wondering if it is worth getting a 3 day JR pass for the travel. Thank you in advance for any assistance/advice you can give.

    • Hi Juson,

      If you have round trip between Hakodate and Sapporo, it will work. But if you have one way trip from Hakodate, it does not work even though you will travel Otaru. At this point, single fare is cheaper than 3 days pass.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. melike öztürk says:


    Im planning to go to Aomori,Akita and Sendai matsuris(weekdays)and also some days i may go from Morioka.so of i make reservation before 2 weeks-when i cone to Japan,can i find seats at train?i dont want to take risk but also i cant make reservation outside of Japan.


  6. melike öztürk says:


    Im planning to go to Aomori,Akita and Sendai matsuris(weekdays)and also some days i may go from Morioka.so of i make reservation before 2 weeks-when i cone to Japan,can i find seats at train?i dont want to take risk but also i cant make reservation outside of Japan.


  7. Jeroen says:


    We are planning our trip to Hakone and want to travel on a Sunday back to Kyoto.
    We would like to travel with the Hikari (Odawara-Kyoto) and book a single ticket 1 way.
    Sofar we could find all information. But, how can we by the ticket in front? And how many days in front max?

  8. adriana says:

    I have a group traveling to Osaka and they (15 pax) would like a Hiroshima Tour on the 30th of April. I need you help to know what train they need to get to travel Osaka – Hiroshima – Osaka… Please kindly advise best train options and rates. I would like to buy their train tickets online in advance, if possible.

  9. Janice Tan says:


    We will be travelling to Osaka in June 2015, and will be staying very near Namba area, about 5 mins walk from Sakuragawa Station. I would like to know which is best way to travel from Kansai Airport to OCAT, Namba area, by Airport bus Kansai Airport Line or by JR? which is the fastest and most convenient? We will be arriving on a Saturday morning, 630am.

    Thank you.



    • Hi Janice,

      As long as traffic is okay, I think bus may be faster. Because you may need to transfer at Tennoji to get JR Namba station, but bus goes directly.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  10. Chew Tiang says:


    I have JR Kyushu Pass, how do I reserve seat for Tamatebako?

    Thank you


  1. To rail pass or not to rail pass – Japan edition | dinosaurs can't knit

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