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

  1. Angela says:

    Hello! I am planning to buy online tickets with seat reservation for Ltd Express/Shinkasen from Hakodate-Shin aomori-Ueno. I am choosing to collect the tickets from Hakodate. From the JR website, I know the office is open from 10am, but I am planning to take 8 am train out. Will I be allowed to collect tickets a day in advance? Otherwise, I have to change the time for departure. Hope you can advise…

  2. Ash says:

    Hello! Thank you for your helpful information. I’d like to ask about reserving overnight trains to make sure I understand well.

    I am arriving in Japan on Feb 18 and activating a 7-day Rail Pass on Feb 21.
    We want to take some overnight trains:

    Hamanasu on Feb 22 from Aomori to Sapporo (want to book carpet car if possible)
    Hokutosei on Feb 24 from Sapporo to Ueno (Duet or two Solo, B-Shindai is OK too)
    Sunrise Seto on Feb 25 from Tokyo to Himeji (Nobinobi or Sunrise Twin)

    If I understand correctly, I can call Odekake and reserve but I need to pick up within 8 days.
    So if I can pick up tickets on Feb 19 in Kansai, I should call Odekake to make the reservation on Feb 12. Is this correct?

    I wonder if I can really get seats calling so close…we are kind of flexible about room type and train, but not about days. What do you think?

    • Hi Ash,

      If you use Odekake net for booking by JR pass, you have to pick up within 8 days. You are right.

      But if you use JR Pass for taking overnight trains, the pass does not cover limited express surcharge for other than Carpet and Nobi Nobi. In this case, you can make a call one month prior to departure date. Especially Carpet, Duet, Solo, Sunrise twin are sold out right after on sale usually. I think you can make B-Shidai only if you book before 8 days.

      You can book berth and seat without base fare ticket at Odekake net. JR Pass does not cover limited express charge for overnight trains anyway.

      On the other hand, Hamanasu Carpet is fully covered by JR Pass. But if you want to get it, you should pay express charge at 1300 yen to secure the seat. Please refer the link below:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/my-trip-from-aomori-to-sapporo-on-march-19-2012-by-hamanasu-carpet-car.html

      Nobi Nobi is much easier than carpet. But it’s no surprised if it’s sold out within 8 days. But Sunrise is limited express train and surcharge is 3150 yen. It’s way higher than Hamanasu. You can try Sunrise twin first. And if you can’t make it, you can try Nobi Nobi if you want. But you have to pay 3150 yen even though JR Pass covers this fee.

      So if you want to book the ticket on your wish list, you have to make a call to Odekake at 10:00 am on Jan 22, 24 and 25. Around 10:00 am, Odekake net is very busy. It’s hard to reach them. If you make a call 10 minutes earlier, you can contact them. But you have to think about how you will kill 10 minutes to 10:00 am. They don’t want to hold a line.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Ash says:

        Thanks for your helpful reply.

        So, in short, I would have to call 30 days before departure to reserve the berth/seat, if I want to get the ones I like. But I would also have to pick up the reservations from JR West within 8 days, right? Can someone pick them up for me?

        • Hi Ash,

          As long as you pay, you can pick up by departure date. 8 days restriction is for JR Pass user. You will be JR Pass user, but you will pay for accommodation fee and limited express surcharge. So you can make a call one month before and you can pick up it after you arrive.

          I’ve done this way when I booked Hamanasu carpet and Hokutosei B-solo. When I tried to book for Hokutosei around 11:00, all tickets were sold out other than B berth.

          Good luck.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Karen Singapore says:

    Hi, I will be travelling to Hokkaido with 3 others from Dec 25 – Jan 2. We will be staying in Furano and want to take the train to Sapporo on the 30 Dec and then from Sapporo back to Sapporo Chitose airport on the 2 Jan. Could you let me know if I need to get a rail pass for this travel before entering Japan and whether I need to pre book my tickets as i know it is a busy period.

    Thanks for your help

    Karen

    • Hi Karen,

      Single ticket is most affordable choice for your trip.
      You can book it at the link below:
      https://www3.jrhokkaido.co.jp/rail-en/asp/RWY010.aspx

      But if you take a train, you will take the following train:
      Dec 30 local train (Furano-Takikawa) No booking required
      Dec 30 Limited Express Super Kamui (Takikawa-Sapporo) can be booked
      Jan 2 Rapid airport (Sapporo-New Chitose) can be booked but not required

      So you should book only Limited Express Kamui on Dec 30. It takes less than one hour for this trip. This train has non reserved seat. You can take this train without booking. But you may not get a seat and will be standee on board.

      Cheers,

      Takehsi / JP Rail

  4. elena says:

    hai,
    my friend and i are going to japan this December. we are going to Sapporo from Osaka. i’m going to use JR Pass. can i use JR Pass for this route? do i have to pay more? thanks.

  5. vina says:

    Dear Takeshi san,

    I plan to visit kochi from osaka? could you tell me how to buy ticket to go there for round trip?
    is it can be booked first? thank you

    • Hi Vina san,

      You can book at any major JR stations. Especially in Osaka, you can book and purchase a ticket at any stations.
      If you take limited express train, ticket is on sale one month prior to departure date. After that date, you can purchase and book anytime.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. Benjamin says:

    Hi, can you advise how I can purchase rail tickets in Hokkaido? I am contemplating the 3 day Hokkaido pass and am working out the sums using Hyperdia website to see if it is worth.

    1) When I search for the fare, it gives me ‘fare’ and ‘seat fee’. Qn: is the seat fee compulsory? It’s pretty expensive, but I guess it guarantees a seat on the train? Is it possible to not pay the seat fee?

    2) Where can I purchase the tickets from? At the train station? Do I need to purchase in advance?

    3) If I purchase the JR Hokkaido pass, do I still need to pay a ‘seat fee’, or is my seat guaranteed? Where / how do I go about reserving this seat if I use the pass? Your post doesn’t seem to indicate online booking facility for JR Hokkaido?

    Thanks for your help in advance!

  7. Hannah says:

    My friend and I are going to Osaka next week. Is it possible to book an overnight train bound for Osaka-Tokyo at sunrise seto 3days after our arrival? We are arriving on Nov. 4. We plan to take the overnight train (Nov.7-8). But you mentioned we should reserve one month in advance.

    If its not possible, would an overnight bus ride with Willer Express do?

  8. Jack says:

    Dear Takeshi-san,

    We are a family of 5 and plan to visit Japan in mid Nov as self-guided tour. Our planned itinerary is as follow:-

    Day 1-2 : Arrive Narita, stay at Setagaya area, visit Tokyo Disneyland
    Day 3 : day trip to Mt Fuji
    Day 4-6 : Shinkansen to Osaka, stay at Otemae Universal Studio, day trip to Kyoto
    Day 7-8 : Shinkansen back to Tokyo
    Day 9 : Depart from Narita

    We’re wondering whether we’d be getting 7 day JP East Rail Pass and/or individual rail ticket. Would appreciate it if you’d kindly advice us.

    Thank you very much.

    Best Rgds,
    Jack

  9. Glenn O. Sy says:

    My family and I plan to visit Japan next week. from Nagoya we plan to travel to Osaka. How do we buy our tickets for Shinkasen train

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