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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

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 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.

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

  1. Tom says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    As mentioned earlier I would like to reserve seats on the Japanese version of eki-net with the JP Rail Pass.

    Do you think that I could use the address and phone number of the hotel to register myself?

    Thank you for your answer!

    Best regards,

    Tom

  2. Tom says:

    Hi,

    First of all, thank you very much for your extensive explanation! It helped a lot with planning my trip this August.

    As I am traveling in one of the most busy month through Japan, I would like to make reservations in combination with the JP Rail Pass.

    I read that this would be possible on Eki.net. How can I make this reservation with the usage of the JP Rail Pass?

    Thank you in advance for your help!

    Tom

    • Hi Tom,

      If you can use Eki net, just use it by same way as regular booking. It will show you the fare and surcharge that will be charged to your credit card. But once you exchange JR pass and show the booking by Eki net, it won’t be charged. I always use this way when I go to Japan. I have never been charged to my credit card.

      I recommend you to print out your booking list on eki net. It will make the procedure be faster and easier.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Pam Funderburg says:

    Hello!

    My husband and I will fly into Narita on August 3, 2014, at approximately 1730. We know that we need to take a train to Tokyo Station, where we will get a train (JR Joetsu Shinkansen) to Echigo-Yuzawa, than change to the Hakutaka limited express to Takaoka, where our son will meet us. Do we need to make reservations for any or all parts of this journey? It appears that I cannot make reservations for the Narita to Tokyo Station portion until we land at Narita. Since I don’t know precisely when we will arrive at Tokyo Station (in case of delays with flights, baggage, etc.), I am not sure when to book a reservation for the Tokyo Station to Echigo-Yuzawa portion. I wonder if it is necessary on this day or at this time of day. Thank you in advance for your advice.

    • Hi Pam,

      JR East has online reservation for Narita Express, Joetsu Shinkansen and Hakutaka. But you can’t use this because you have to pick up your ticket by 21:00 the day before you travel. You will continue travel to Takaoka right after you arrive in Narita. So you have to make a booking for all trains on the spot. You can make all booking at Narita airport station. But the problem is schedule. I checked the timetable. Your schedule is super tight. The last connection to Takaoka is the following:
      Narita Express #46 Narita Airport 18:48 – Tokyo 19:49
      Joetsu Shinkansen “Toki #347″ Tokyo 20:12 – Echigo-Yuzawa 21:20
      Limited Express “Hakutaka 26″ Echigo-Yuzawa 21:30 – Takaoka 23:38

      So you have to complete custom, immigration, baggage pick up and reservation in 1 hour 18 minutes.
      It is not impossible as long as your flight will arrive on time. I have done it in 45 minutes. If you do this, you have to be hurry to get off the airplane, get custom and immigration as soon as possible. They work very quickly. As long as your document is okay, it takes lees than 10 minutes. Baggage will come off with 30 minutes after flight arrival.

      And then go underground to get station and find JR East Travel Service Center. Please see the following link about arrival in Narita.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/trip-to-tohoku-and-nagano-in-2013-winter-part-1-from-narita-airport-to-ueno.html

      Hope you will make it!

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Pam Funderburg says:

        Thank you very much for the information regarding trains to Takaoka from Narita. I rechecked our arrival time at Narita, and it is 1630, not 1730, so that does give us an extra hour. Pam

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