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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.

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

  1. Janice says:

    Dear Takeshi san,

    Many thanks for your replies and advise. Your blog is v helpful. Im looking forward to a good trip in may and hopefully more trips to Japan after that.


  2. Janice says:

    Dear Takeshi san,

    Thank you for your reply. Regarding my questions, sorry to trouble you but need more clarifications:

    1. is 10 min enough to transfer at Nagoya and Shin Osaka stations? connections are for Kyoto-Takayama-Hiroshima-Osaka and we will be having one suitcase per person and since the journey is quite long, isnt it better to have a reserved seat?

    2. it was for Takayama to Toyama via Inotani. Hyperdia results show only departing platform from Inotani to Toyama but the train name is same. There is no info on arrival platform no at Inotani.

    Thank you.


    • Hi Janice,

      1. Shin-Osaka is okay because you will transfer from Shinkansen to Shinkansen. But it will be tight in Nagoya. Because you will take Shinkansen from Wide View Hida platform. It’s not impossible but you got to be hurry.

      2. You have to transfer. There is no direct local train from Toyama to Takayama. All local trains from Toyama go to Inotani only. But Inotani is very small station. Transfer is quite easy.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Janice says:

    Dear Takeshi san,

    i have some questions regarding reserved seats and transfers

    1. if i reserve the seat when i arrive at KIX and miss the train, what do i do next? do i go back to the seat booking window and reserve it again? what happens if im already on the platform?

    2. when i use hyperdia, it shows transfers and the arriving platform. if its the same train, i dont need to do the transfer correct? even if it shows on the website. or i need to come out of the train and go back to it again?

    Thank you.


    • Hi Janice,

      1. You can take next one if you are okay with non reserved seat. Seat itself is not different between reserved and non reserved. But if you miss it, like limited express Haruka, next train will come at least 30 minutes later. I think you have a time to go back ticket window.

      2. If the train is exactly same, I think hyperdia does not show transfer. Which train did you see?


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. Cristina says:

    Hi Takeshi-san!!!! First all, I would like to congratulate you for your website. I just added to my bookmarks because it’s really helpful to prepare my trip to Japan. So I would like to explain my plans about my trip to Japan, and if you could be so kind to make me any kind of suggestion or recomendation, I will be really thankful!! My trip to japan

    From 13 to 25 of September:

    14- arriving day at Tokyo Narita Airport. we are going to contract(we had)a shuttle bus to take us to the Hotel
    15-16-17 Tokyo days
    18- Trip to Nikko (using a special pass which covers all transports from Asakusa I think, around 4000 yens and it’s for two days)
    19-departure and stay at Hakone. We are going to use a special pass which covers too al transports and give specials discounts at local attractions
    20-Hakone (enjoying the ryokan and onse hotel)
    21- Departure at midday or earlier at Kyoto. I was looking and It is mandatory to pass again to Odawara. From there, we are going to take a Shinkasen Hikari or something similar….
    22-23-24 Kyoto. At 24 we are going to Nara, taking the train of not JR Company to go there. It is cheaper and not so much time so.
    25- To osaka, stay a few hours and go to the internation airport

    what do you think about our trip?I was thinking to add Kobe, but I am not really sure because I prefer visit less places but really enjoy my visit to these places, not only go and take the pic, do you know what I am mean?
    Secondly, ‘cos we are going to spend 2 days at Hakone, and also 3 days at Kyoto(JRPass does not useful in that city)in Hakone and Nikko we have special passes to enjoy more the experience and which cover all transports….and Tokyo have special cards to use all the underground lines for two days(I was thinking to buy two days cards, 2 of them for each person)….do you think it is better to buy the JRPass?In my case I think it is not necessary and about prices….it’s similar or less(without JRpass)but…I would like to know your opinion, I would like to know how easy could be for a non japanese speaker obtain that kind of special passes, cards, and Hikari or any shinkashen train ticket.

    Because we are thinking to buy in japan most of them, in Shinjuku offices or tourism offices or any kind of japanese travel agency…but the train ticket, specially the one to go to Kyoto, I would like to buy and book the seat too….

    Sorry for this large message and thank you for share all the information you have your amazing country!!

    Regards, Cristina

    • Hi Cristina,

      Thanks for your comment about my website!

      I have nothing to say about your itinerary. It’s good to go. You are very organized. :)
      You have picked right passes and deals. I think you mean All Nikko Pass and Hakone Free Pass.

      It’s very easy to purchase because these destinations are very overseas tourists friendly. Both Asakusa (to Nikko) and Shinjuku (to Hakone) stations staff are very familiar with overseas travellers.

      When you stay in Tokyo, as you think, you can purchase metro pass as you need. It can be purchased at any stations. So you can decide to purchase or not on the spot.

      JR Pass is not your choice. Single ticket for Odawara to Kyoto is much cheaper than JR Pass. Actually it’s not very hard to purchase and book Shinkansen. You can do it at Tokyo, Shinjuku or other major stations in Tokyo. You can purchase and book at even Narita airport stations. These stations are much more familiar with foreign tourists than Odawara. And you can secure your seat in advance. There are some Hikari that stop at Odawara. You can pick one of those Hikari and it’s the fastest way to get Kyoto from Odawara. Please see the timetable below:

      In Kyoto, you can purchase Kyoto sightseeing card or all day pass as you need. Kobe is nice city. It takes less than one hour from Kyoto by JR special rapid train. Anyway you can decide after you visit several places in Kyoto. You don’t need to fix your schedule at this point.

      At last, you can purchase Kansai Area Pass for departure day. You can take Haruka express train to KIX. Of course you can take either local or Haruka to get Osaka.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. yenny yuly says:

    Konichiwa Takeshi.. im so in love with your webaite. Its really helps a lot. I already bookmarked it and keep reading it. Thank you so much. Im so excited ib my journey.

    Anyway. I need ur suggestion.
    Day 1 : arrived osaka kansai airport at 8.30 am. Directly exchange my jrpass and go to tokyo. Sightseeing. (Asakusa. Tsukiji fish market)
    Day 2 : go to disney sea
    Day 3 : mount fuji (kawaguchiko station)
    Day 4 : straight to kyoto, sightseeing in kyoto
    Day 5 : go to hiroshima and miyajima island and go back to kyoto by night (i stay in kyoto)
    Day 6 : go to osaka. Stay in osaka
    Day 7 : osaka
    Day 8 : go back to my country.

    What do you think about my itinery? Is it effective to use jr pass? If not. Pls help me to fix it. Im really need ur suggeation. Thank you so much!!

    • Hi Yenny,

      Your itinerary is good. But if I were you, I visit Kyoto first. My suggested itinerary is the following:

      Day 1 : arrived osaka kansai airport at 8.30 am. Go to Kyoto by ICOCA and Haruka one way type at 3030 yen.
      Day 2 : Kyoto sightseeing. Start to use JR Pass on this day.
      Day 3 : Go to Tokyo. Sightseeing Tokyo in the afternoon (Asakusa).
      Day 4 : go to disney sea
      Day 5 : Visit Tsukiji in early morning and then go to mount fuji (kawaguchiko station)
      Day 6 : go to Osaka
      Day 7 : go to hiroshima and miyajima
      Day 8 : go back to my country.

      I think this is more comfortable. Because you will spend 4 hours to take train to Tokyo just after arrival. It’s a long day and make you tired.
      And if you use ICOCA and Haruka, you can use ICOCA for sightseeing in Kyoto. If you use Kyoto subway pass or bus pass, you can save ICOCA and use it for even subway in Tokyo.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • yenny yuly says:

        Ohayou takeshi. Thanks for very fast response. Really apreciate it.

        1. why you think is better to exchange my jr pass on 2nd day?how if im using my jr pass on my way to kyoto?

        2. And where i can buy ICOCA?

        3. If im start using jr pass on my 2nd day. Is it still cover my way from my hotel in osaka to osaka kansai int airport? If not. How much the fare?

        4. One thing im still confused. The jr pass valid for 7 days start from 00.01 right? If im start at 09.00 am on sunday. So it will end at sunday again at 11.59 or monday at 11.59?

        Thank u so much for the help.

        • Hi Yenny,

          1. Because you will stay for 8 days and you have 7 days pass. You need something, pass or single ticket on 1st day or 8th day. I think ICOCA and Haruka is the best deal. But this is only available from airport or round trip.

          2. You can purchase it at JR KIX station. You can exchange JR pass at KIX station and start to use it on 2nd day as well.

          3. If you start to use it on 2nd day, your departure day will be 7th day of JR Pass. So it will be covered.

          4. The rule says, “The definition of “1 day” is 00:00 to 23:59. If you start to use 7 days pass on April 1, your pass is expired at 23:59 on April 7. However if you are on board at 0:00 on the last day, you still can take a train. Your pass cover until you get off the train. After you get off the train, as long as you don’t exit the station, your pass still cover basic fare.”


          Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. Janice says:

    Hi Takeshi, in order to reserve the seat, the date and time must be given.

    What happens if the date and time shifts or just the time shifts?
    If i miss the train i reserved, can i get on to the next one or i must go back to reservation window to make a new reservation?
    Same for the train name and number – assuming i miss it, can i get on the next one?

    Thank you.


    • Hi Janice,

      If you miss the train, you can take next train if next one has non reserved seat. Otherwise you go back to Midori no Madoguchi (reservation window) and get reserved seat ticket for next one. As you think, reserved ticket shows train name, time and date. It can be used for just that train.

      But it doesn’t take a long time to book next one. It’s much easier and more simple than that you think.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. Bruce Taylor says:

    Travelling Kyoto to Hiroshima Friday 25th April. Will be the only train trip on our itinerary. Need to be in Hiroshima by midday. Do we need to book a seat and if so, how?

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Bruce,

      Reservation is not mandatory, but recommended. As you see the post above, you can book at Midori no madoguchi of most JR stations. You can’t book it online. So you have to do it after you arrive in Japan.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  8. Ann says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    I am thinking of doing this route from Otaru to Tokyo – see Route 1 (http://www.hyperdia.com/en/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=OTARU&arv_node=TOKYO&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2013&month=11&day=11&hour=11&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&airplane=off&ship=off&bus=off&privately=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7)

    I am getting a JR Pass exchange voucher but I only want to activate it on my Day 6 onwards. My itinerary looks like this:

    Feb 3 (Day 1) : Arrive 3:15 PM JST in Narita Airport
    Feb 4 (Day 2) : One-way flight Tokyo to Sapporo
    Feb 5 (Day 3) : Sapporo
    Feb 6 (Day 4) : Asahikawa
    Feb 7 (Day 5) : Otaru
    Feb 8 (Day 6) : Day train Otaru to Tokyo
    Feb 9 (Day 7….

    My question is, can I book and reserve all the tickets that I need for the Hokuto, Hakucho and especially the Hayabusa train when I arrive in Narita airport on Day 1, even if the JR Pass will only be activated on Day 6? And during Day 6, can I use JR Pass on the JR Rapid airport train from Otaru to Shin-Sapporo even without reservation?

    Another question is, are the transfer times in Hyperdia achievable? And is there a penalty if I missed the train that I have reserved (for example, there’s delay due to a snow storm or something)?

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Ann,

      Usually the trains that you want to take can be booked easily. But it will be during Sapporo snow festival. So it’s hard to say.
      You can book Hayabusa at JR East online booking as I mentioned above. Other trains have non reserved seat. In worst case, you can take this seat anyway. (It’s not guaranteed for your seat. If it’s full, you have to be standee.)

      JR Rapid service is a sort of commute train. As long as you have a ticket or pass, you can take it anytime.

      For JR pass user, there is no penalty if you miss the train.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Ann says:

        Thanks for the fast response! Ok, so if I understood it correctly, what I will do with Hayabusa is:

        1. Book on JR East website before flying to Japan
        2. Upon arrival in Japan on Feb 3, collect JR Pass on Narita airport and indicate activation date as Feb 8
        3. Pick-up Hayabusa ticket on Narita airport terminal 2 (can I do that even if the JR Pass is technically not yet activated??)

        I guess I’m still worried about Hayabusa, since it doesn’t have any non-reserved seats. What if I missed the Hayabusa train I’ve reserved? Can I easily rebook for the next Hayabusa train?

        Sorry it’s actually my first time visiting Japan, so I’m extra nervous :)

        • JPRail says:

          Hi Ann,

          That’s right. When you turn in your JR Pass at Narita, you can pick up Hayabusa ticket too. I usually do it at same time. Of course you can book it before leaving without JR Pass. You can show your JR Pass exchange order and Hayabusa confirmation number. You will receive both at Narita.

          Actually Shinkansen is not so hard to book. If you miss it, you will book other later train. There is not only Hayabusa but also Hayate. I can’t say how long you will wait for later one. But I believe you will take later train anyway.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

  9. Richard says:

    One tip about seat reservations with the japan rail pass if you are fussy about the seat (want the last row, nobody sitting next to you etc) is to use the automated ticket machines to almost book a seat. You can choose the train and then see the seat map and which seats are free. This will show you which is the last row (nobody sitting behind you) or if some coaches are busier than others. You can also check just before your train since there might be someone next to you for a three hour journey with some other pairs of seats totally empty).
    It seems to work for any shinkansen from any machine, but for limited express the machines only show the seat map (and issue tickets) for limited express going through the station where you are using the machine.
    once you know the seat number, make a note. then go to the manned ticket desk and ask for the ticket and tell them the seat number you want. The machine is no good for making reservations with the rail pass but you can use it in this way to check the seat map and decide on seating.

  10. Wilson says:

    Hello, thanks for this good web site.

    A few questions:
    1. I am from Hong Kong, can I buy Kyushu JR Pass when I arrive Kyushu? Or must I buy the exchange order in my country first?
    2. Can I buy the Kyushu JR Pass in Fukuoka Airport? Or I can only buy it in “Midori no Madoguchi ” of Hakata Station?
    3. If I don’t take the reserved seat, is it correct that I just show the Kyushu JR Pass to the staff at the gate? Do I need to insert that pass (is it like a ticket?) to the gate in order to get through it?
    4. If I will take the reserved seat, is it correct that I just go to the ticket counter, show them the JR Pass and then buy the reserved tickets, before the train departs?

    Thank you.

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Wilson,

      If you mean the pass at the following site, you can purchase it at major JR stations in Kyushu.

      You can’t purchase it at Fukuoka airport because it’s not JR station.
      You can take any non reserved train with showing your pass at the ticket gate. I believe you can’t insert the pass at the gate. But actually I have never used Kyushu Rail Pass. So I’m not 100% sure.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

    • Lukas says:

      Dear Wilson
      I am traveling to Kyushu later this month. From what I’ve read, JR Pass holders do not go through the automated turnstiles. Instead, there is a manned gate, and you show your pass to the person at the gate.

    • Lukas says:

      Sorry, to add – apparently you can buy the pass upon arrival. The nearest convenient place would be Hakata Station, just about 5 – 10 min subway ride from Fukuoka Airport.
      For me, I bought the exchange voucher. If you do so, I’ve read that you can exchange the voucher at the travel information centre at the airport. But as Takeshi san has said, you cannot buy the pass there. For that you need to go to Hakata station.


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

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I always welcome your comment. But before you leave a comment, please remember these following:

  • This is not an official website. This website, JPRail.com is a private website. I don't sell any tickets or passes.
  • I am not a travel agent. Please do not ask me to make an itinerary. I can check your itinerary and give you suggestion. I think making an itinerary is a part of your travel. Please try to make it by yourself. Enjoy! :)
  • If you need access information to your hotel, please don't ask me but ask your hotel.
  • If you are looking for the information about timetable, please refer Japan Railway's timetables.
  • If you are looking for the information about the fare, please refer Fare Calculation.
  • If you are looking for the information about reservation, please refer, How to reserve seat.
  • And you may find the infomation that you need at full index in site map.

If you still have a question, of course I can answer your question.
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