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

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 cover surcharge and reservation fee, you need to pay. Because this reservation call center is basically for common users. They don’t take any request 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.

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.

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

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

  1. Ash says:

    Thank you – I’ll try calling again!

    Does this mean that I have to pay over the phone for the seat booking? Or just provide my credit card “just in case”? The woman I spoke to seemed to be saying that I had to pay right then and there.

    • Hi Ash,

      When you purchase express surcharge ticket, you have to buy right away. It’s charged to your credit card when you are on the phone. I think this is a sort of miscommunication. Because JR pass covers express surcharge. But if you understand that and you can pay, you can purchase it.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Ash says:

        Thank you, Takeshi! The Hamanasu seems to be booked up for my travel day, so we’re going to take the shinkansen north instead and cross fingers that the other two trains can be booked right. Tomorrow night I will try booking on Hokutosei using your advice, and I won’t tell them that I have rail pass – just that I want to pay the seat fare (and the berth?) now and I’ll pay the rest when I pick up.

        Your readers may want to know that when I called, I had to give them a Japanese phone number – the first agent I spoke to said she could not make any reservation without a phone number, and it couldn’t be a hotel phone number. I was able to use my friend’s cell phone (before she found out that I wanted to book with rail pass).

        • Hi Ash,

          I will add phone number issue in the post. Thanks for letting me know.

          If you try Hokutosei, you have to book it at 10:00 am sharp, otherwise no chance. All spaces will be booked up in one second now. (not one minutes!) This is one of most difficult to book in Japanese trains with Twilight Express.

          Good luck!


          Takeshi / JP Rail

          • Ash says:

            Thanks, I hope we can get it! We want a Duet cabin and are travelling on a Tuesday night, but we’ll take any kind of berth honestly as long as we get on the train. I hope that they don’t book up while we are struggling with the system. Yesterday, between me and my friend in Japan, we called O-dekake 6 times total and still never got a reservation…

  2. Detty says:

    HI Takeshi,
    We will travel from Tokyo to Hakone to Kyoto and Osaka. All one way. So, Japan rail pass does not work for us. Does this mean we have to buy train tickets individually on the counter when we get to Japan then? You said no online booking for Kyoto and osaka route , but there is online booking for narita express from narita to tokyo? How do we do that before we leave?

    Thank you for the advice.

    • Hi Detty,

      Narita Express can be booked but you have to pick up the ticket 2 days before. That means you cannot book Narita Express for arrival day. So you have to book all tickets after arrival. It’s easy to book Narita Express and Shinkansen.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. GG100 says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I am not a Japanese and would like to reserve the seat for Sunrise Seto in advance before arriving in Japan. I really do not know how to reserve via on-line. So, I will ask my Japanese friend in Tokyo to purchase the ticket for me.

    Can I refund the ticket and use my JR pass to re-purchase the ticket that my friend buy for me when I arrive to Japan?

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Hi GG100,

      Basically you can’t refund it. I’ve heard some of travellers tried and made it. But you have to show JR Pass when you book it if you want to get a ticket without any extra in basic rule.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. erica says:

    Hi! I’ll be traveling from tokyo to kyoto by shinkansen in the evening of 1 January. will the trains be very crowded ?

  5. Mark says:

    It looks like the JR East Eki-net and the “whole country” Eki-net are different and require separate registrations – here is a reply I got from JR East:

    Thank you very much for using our online reservation service.
    We are writing to respond to your inquiry.

    First, please be informed that separate registration will be required to use an Eki-net service(Japanese version) as it differs from our service. Please note, however, that the Eki-net(Japanese version) service is intended for the residents in Japan, and therefore a domestic domicile should be registered when signing up for the service.

    Furthermore, please also be reminded that there are some major differences in a cancellation charge and a deadline for a ticket collection etc., since rules and regulations of Eki-net(Japanese version) are completely different from those of JR-East Train Reservation (English version).

    If you have any further question regarding its service, please call them directly in Japanese.(*Inquiries are accepted in Japanese ONLY.)

    Sincerely yours,

    • Hi Mark,

      As far as I know, both booking sites are operated by same system. I have used both site for same trips. When I showed confirmation by Japanese site, they found both booking by English and Japanese. But I guess JR East does not have approval to sell the ticket to foreign tourists for other JR areas by other JR companies, like JR Central, JR West. When we travel in Japan, it’s very hard to find the difference or border of JR companies. But each JR companies are different. Some companies, like JR East or JR West are very aggressive to foreign travellers market. Other companies, especially JR Central, do not seem to be interested in this market.

      I hope all JR companies will make booking sites for foreign travellers. But as far as I see the situation, honestly I cannot be optimistic.


      Takehsi / JP Rail

  6. Novita says:

    Hello takeshi,

    The information above is for Jr pass users. What about those travelling without Jr pass? Can we still reserve a seat? Where and how do we buy nozomi ticket tokyo-osaka (one way)? Thanks :)

    • BlueMeans says:

      Just a point to remember… Reserved seats are 2 + 2 and unreserved are 3+2. If you have a party of 4 make sure you reserve two rows one one side as you can turn the chairs around to face each other.

      However if you are 3 and really want to sit together you “may” want the 3+2 seats. They are slightly narrower.

      It doesn’t matter if you have a jr rail pass but if you have jr pass reservations are free. The procedure is the same for both.

    • Hi Novita,

      It’s same as JR Pass user. The way to book is very limited for overseas travellers.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. Mark says:

    Hi Takeshi-san

    Thanks for your wonderful site! I would like your expert advice. Here is the situation. I am currently in Japan, family is arriving on December 20th 2014. They will have JR Rail Passes (I cannot get one – wrong visa). Staying in and around Tokyo for the first week (I still have to work); will start JR Pass on 30th and travelling to Takasaki for New Year (I will get a 3 day JR Kanto pass – works out a bit cheaper). From Takasaki we will travel to Hiroshima on the 1st, stopping off at Kyoto on the way. I will buy a return ticket (get a discount of 10%); we return to Tokyo and onto Morioka on the 5th. My question is this – for the trips to Takasaki and then onto Kyoto/Hiroshima we will be travelling at peak times. I was going to reserve all the tickets at Narita on the 20th when my family arrives but do you think that that will be too late to be assured seats? I can do the Takasaki leg via the JR East Eki-net but not the Tokkaido legs. Any advice gratefully accepted.

    Regards and 4649


    • Hi Mark,

      1st January is usually slow. I don’t think it’s hard to book.
      Do you intend to use Eki-net in Japanese?

      If so, you can book any trains. Of course you can book Tokaido Shinkansen too.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Mark says:

        Thanks Takeshi-san
        I applied for a reservation via the JR-East Eki-net (English) system for the Takasaki leg (outwards) and then tried the Japanese whole country Eki-net for the other legs but my JR East username was not recognised. Maybe it needs some time for the system to update etc. I will try later.

        Thanks again and 4649



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

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