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

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

  1. Dear Takeshi-san,

    I’m planning a trip to Japan (March/April), which will last almost 30 days. Please find below my detailed itinerary.

    1) For first 6 days of my stay in Kansai I’d like to buy some Kansai pass – I know there’re a few of them. Do you think that in my situation (use of subway in Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara and trains between these cities) Surutto Kansai 3 Day Ticket (I will have to buy two of them) is the best option? If not, would you please suggest me another Pass or Card that is the most convenient solution in my case?

    2) I will also but JR Pass for 21 days and will start using it from April the 9th until the end of my stay. I checked the connections between the places I’d like to go to. Would you please have the look at the trains I chose and tell me if all of them will be covered by my 21 days JR Pass? And if any option is not covered by the Pass, please recommend me another solution.

    3) Is it possible to use JR Pass to get from Osaka to Kansai Airport April 26th?

    4) As far as I’m concerned the reservation of the seats can be made only in Japan and not via internet, is that right?

    Please help me!
    Kind regards,
    Agnieszka

    MARCH 29
    Arrival Kansai Airport (hotel Osaka)

    MARCH 30
    Kobe (hotel Osaka)

    MARCH 31-APRIL 2
    Kyoto sightseeing (hotel Osaka)

    APRIL 3
    Nara sightseeing
    night bus Kyoto to Tokyo

    APRIL 4-APRIL 9
    Tokyo sightseeing

    evening train Tokyo to Yokohama

    Train: Tokyo 8.02 p.m.
    JR Tokaido Line for NUMAZU
    Yokohama 8.31 p.m.

    APRIL 10
    Kamakura

    Train: Yokohama 8.02 a.m.
    JR Yokosuka Line for KURIHAMA
    Kamakura 8.26 a.m.

    Return Kamakura 8.03 p.m.
    JR Yokosuka Line for TOKYO
    Yokohama 8.28 p.m.

    APRIL 11
    Hakone

    Train: Yokohama 8 a.m.
    JR Tokaido Line for ATAMI
    09:07 Odawara
    Hakone Tozan Railway for HAKONE-YUMOTO at 9:17
    Hakone-Itabashi 9:21

    APRIL 12
    Yokohama sightseeing
    Evening train to Kanazawa

    Train: Yokohama 7:29 pm.
    7:57 Tokyo
    SHINKANSEN HAKUTAKA 577 at 8:12 p.m.
    Kanazawa 11:13 p.m.

    APRIL 13-14
    Kanazawa sightseeing
    Evening train to Nagoya

    Train: Kanazawa 8:06 p.m.
    LTD. EXP SHIRASAGI 66
    Change: MAIBARA 8:01-8:11 p.m.
    SHINKANSEN KODAMA 696
    Nagoya 10:35 p.m.

    APRIL 15
    Nagoya sightseeing

    APRIL 16
    Nagoya-Himeji

    Train: Nagoya 7:36 a.m.
    SHINKANSEN HIKARI 495
    Himeji 9:18 a.m.

    Himeji-Nagasaki

    Train: Himeji 5.50 p.m.
    SHINKANSEN SAKURA 569
    Shin-Tosu 8.15 p.m.
    8.25 p.m. LTD. EXP KAMOME 45
    Nagasaki 9:57 p.m.

    APRIL 17-18
    Nagasaki

    Evening train
    Nagasaki-Kumamoto

    Train: Nagasaki 8: 22 p.m.
    LTD. EXP KAMOME 48
    Shin-Tosu 9:55 p.m.
    10:04 p.m. SHINKANSEN TSUBAME 353
    Kumamoto 10:39 p.m.

    APRIL 19
    From Kumamoto to Aso

    Train: Kumamoto 8:35 a.m.
    LTD. EXP KYUSHU ODAN TOKKYU 2
    Aso 9:43 a.m.

    Return
    Aso 8:28 p.m.
    LTD. EXP KYUSHU ODAN TOKKYU 101
    Kumamoto 9:34 p.m.

    APRIL 20
    From Kumamoto to Kagoshima

    Train: Kumamoto 7:01 a.m.
    SHINKANSEN TSUBAME 307
    Kagoshima 7:57 a.m.

    APRIL 21
    From Kagoshima to Beppu

    Train: Kagoshima-chuo 12:40 p.m.
    SHINKANSEN SAKURA 556
    Kokura 2:24 p.m.
    14:39 LTD. EXP SONIC 29
    Beppu 3: 49 p.m.

    APRIL 22
    From Beppu to Hiroshima

    Train: Beppu 2:53 p.m.
    LTD. EXP SONIC 40
    Kokura 16:03
    16:25 SHINKANSEN SAKURA 560
    Hiroshima 17:16

    Ferry to Miyajima

    APRIL 23
    Miyajima-Hiroshima-Tokyo

    Train: Hiroshima 5:17 p.m.
    SHINKANSEN SAKURA 560
    Shin-Osaka6:42 p.m.
    19:16 SHINKANSEN HIKARI 534
    Tokyo 10.10 pm.

    APRIL 24
    From Tokyo to Osaka

    Tokyo 5:03 pm.
    SHINKANSEN HIKARI 481
    Shin-Osaka 8:03 p.m.
    20:15 JR Kyoto Line Rapid Service for ABOSHI
    Osaka 8:19 p.m.

    APRIL 25
    Koya-san

    APRIL 26
    Osaka sightseeing
    Evening flight from Kansai Airport

    1. Hi Agnieszka san,

      I’m impressed by your trip plan. It’s so organized and I don’t have many things to mention to you.
      I answer your inquiry and add some tips.

      1. Kansai thru pass is a good idea. But if you can switch Kobe on March 30 and Koya-san on Apr 25, it’s more efficient. Because JR pass covers trip to Kobe but not Koyasan. You can visit Koyasan by Kansai thru pass.

      2. Only Hakone is not covered. If you visit all part of Hakone, Hakone free pass can be purchased at Odawara.
      http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/hakone/
      Of course you can get Odawara by JR Pass. You may take Shinkansen from Shin-Yokohama to Odawara if you want to have more comfortable seat.

      3. Yes. Your JR pass will cover until April 29th if you start to use it. You can take Limited express Haruka or airport rapid to get KIX from Osaka.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-access-from-kansai-airport-to-downtown-osaka-kyoto-and-kobe.html

      You can start using JR pass on April 6th. Even though you move in downtown Tokyo only, you can take JR trains to visit many places.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      You can use subway deals for April 4th and 5th to visit the places where you cannot access by JR pass, such as Skytree, Tsukiji. And after you start using the pass, you can visit the places by JR pass. It’s more efficient way.

      4. You are right. You cannot book it in advance. However most of train in your plan is not hard to book. And also you can exchange the pass when you arrive in Japan. You don’t need to do it in Tokyo. When you exchange the pass, you can pick the date when you want to start using. Once you exchange the pass, you can book the trains that you want to take. I usually complete all bookings when I exchange the pass. If you worry about it, you can do it in advance. And also you can change the schedule after you book it. You can go to Midori no Madoguchi to show your reserved seat ticket and tell them you want to change. You can do it anytime without any extra cost.

      At last the timetable will be revised in late March. I don’t think it will be a big change. But just keep it in your mind
      Hyperdia does not show updated schedule ever after it’s revised. You can find the express trains schedule at all JR sites. So far these are not revised yet. But it will be revised earlier than hyperdia.
      http://www.jrkyushu.co.jp/english/time_table/time_table.jsp
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/index.html
      http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/index.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi-san,

        Thank you very much for your kind and quick reply! I will use your suggestions for sure and I must admit I find this site extremely helpful.

        Cheers,
        Agnieszka

  2. Hi Takeshi-san

    Would you happen to know, if I can make a reservation for JR hokkaido at Kansai Airport?

    I have a JR Pass green, and would like to make reservations for Super Hotoku, which I read is very popular for its Green Seats. So it will be good if I can make the reservation when I arrive in Japan at Kansai Airport.

    Appreciate your kind reply.
    Regards
    Tat

    1. Hi Tat san,

      It’s no problem at all. Whenever I use JR pass, I complete all bookings when I exchange the pass. So you can book your seat for Hokkaido, Kyushu or any other JR lines at any major JR stations.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi im planning a trip for my family (10) soon and need help just yo be surr as we are all first time visitors. Pls allow me to nake mistakes as i purely based everything on google :) for your kind feedback pls:

    MAY 29 – arrive in Nagoya and go straight to Osaka (sleep 1 night in osaka)

    MAY 30 – JUNE 2 – enjoy osaka, kyoto, kobe, himeji, nara, hiroshima (sleep 4 more nights in osaka)

    JUNE 3 – shopping in osaka until afternoon then back to Nagoya (sleep 1 night in Nagoya)

    JUNE 4 – go to Tokyo for a whole day trip then back to Nagoya (sleep 1 more night in Nagoya)

    JUNE 5 – whole day Nagoya sightseeing (sleep 1 more night in Nagoya)

    JUNE 6 – flight out of Japan via Nagoya

    Questions:
    1) is this itinerary do-able or too much? If too little pls let me know what else i can add to have a great time

    2) what is the cheapest way to travel? I read about jr passes that have 2 types: one w reserved seats and one basic non-reserved. Is this accurate? If yes, do i need reserved seats for the places we will visit? Also, is this peak season making it hard for us to get seats if we dont reserve?

    3) since it is more than 7 days and we dont want to get a 14-day jr pass as too expensive, how much if we get unlimited passes for osaka area (that covers all the places we wanna visit) + jr pass? Or can we just use the unlimited pass in osaka + pay each shinkansen ride from nagoya to osaka and vice versa, nagoya to tokyo and vice versa & unlimited pass in nagoya?

    4) is it cheaper to get unlimited pass vs renting a van in osaka & nagoya? This is considering we are 10 persons.

    As you can see we want to travel cheap as we’d rather spend money on sightseeing, shopping and food! Hope you can help us :)

    Best regards! And hope for your feedback the soonest!

    1. Hi Fiona,

      1. It’s doable. But don’t add any more places. It’s enough.

      2,3. You may use JR pass 7 days for the first 7 days. It will cover until you complete the trip to Tokyo. You don’t need to have JR pass for the last 2 days in Nagoya and back to the airport. Single ticket may be okay.

      You cannot book a ticket online. So your only choice is booking after you arrive in Japan. It will be Golden week and very busy period. But there is no way to book before arrival anyway. The only thing you can do is book all train booking after arrival. You can book it when you exchange your JR pass at Nagoya station.

      4. Unfortunately I’m not familiar with Van or renting car. So I cannot compare these.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi, thanks! so ill get jr pass then.

        1) jr pass covers our nagoya to osaka on the first day?

        2) we can use jr pass in osaka, kyoto, kobe, himeji, nara, hiroshima? no other pass needed?

        3) what can we purchase to go around tokyo and nagoya?

        regards!

        1. Hi Fiona,

          1. Yes

          2,3. You may need other passes because JR pass does not cover subway and local bus. Please see the link below:
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html
          http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

          For staying in Nagoya, subway pass may be suitable. But it depends on where you go. Single ticket may be okay.
          http://www.kotsu.city.nagoya.jp/english/english_tickets.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  • Your comment will not be shown until I approve.
  • Please do not ask me to make your itinerary. Because I am not your personal travel agent. I am very happy to check your itinerary. But please try to make the plan by yourself. In this website, there are lots of resources to make your plan.
  • If you want to ask me which pass suits your plan, please tell me your detailed itinerary and location to stay. I cannot choose any deals without the detailed itinerary because I have to compare the total single fare and deals

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