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

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 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

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

  1. Hai,
    I will travel on 4/2 and use my 7 day JR pass.
    1. Can i reserved the seat to other place on different date ( going to Kyoto, tokyo,disneyland ,gala yuzawa, mount fuji and shin osaka-kansai on the last day ) , all in one time when we first use our JR pass ? so that we don’t need to go to the office everyday just to reserve the seat.

    2. When we want to reserve the seat, do we need to make sure the time as well ? example, i want to go tokyo on 5/2 ,but not sure what time,just estimate,7 it ok ?

    3. what about if we miss the train ? let say, we already reserved tokyo on 7 am, but we missed the train.we instead have to take 715 it ok ? or we have to go back to the office before taking the train ?


    1. Hi Fad,

      1. Yes, you can. I usually complete all bookings when I exchange JR Pass.

      2. You have to pick which train you take. That means you have to decide the exact departure time. Otherwise you cannot reserve your seat.

      3. You have to rebook it. Reserve seat ticket is valid for the original train. If you miss it, you have to return your ticket and rebook it. You don’t need to pay any penalty.


      Takeshi /

      1. Thank you for your reply.

        And how about if we don’t reserved the seat. Can we just simply take the JR train after we exchange it at the ticket office ? Just bring the JR Pass and take the train right ? No need to ask ticket everyday ?

        p/s : i understood, if we reserved, we can get a seat if it pick hours.

        1. Hi Fad,

          If you take local trains, such as taking train in downtown Tokyo, all you have to do is showing your pass when you enter the station and get on the train.
          When you take express trains, such as Shinkansen, you can take non reserved seat car without reservation. Most of trains have non reserved seat car. It’s first come first serve. So you may not get a seat because the seat is not reserved. And you may be asked to show your pass by conductor when you are in non reserved seat.


          Takeshi /

  2. Hi there,
    Quick question: When you go to exchange your voucher and reserve seats, can you make arrangements and reserves seats for the Nozomi and Mizuho lines too? I was trying to figure out routes from Osaka to Niigata, but whether it was googlemaps or hyperdia; they kept telling me to take the Nozomi or Mizuho lines too. Any help would be much obliged.

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    My family of 3 will be in Japan, April 25th to May 2nd, during the busy holiday season. We will have the 7 day JR Pass. I am worried that once we arrive in Toyko that it would be impossible to get seats on the train heading to Hakone (Odawara Station) on April 28th morning and then from there on the 29th to Kyoto. Also, we will Leave Kyoto on May 1st back to Toyko. What are the possibility of not getting on a train? And can I book these seats at the Airport where I pick up my JR Pass?
    Your advise would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Ruth,

      I think you will be able to get a seat anyway. You can book all train ticket when you exchange your JR pass. Whenever I use JR pass, I complete all train bookings when I pick up JR Pass.

      The following links show you Shinkansen timetable. It will be revised in March 26. But it will not be much different.

      I believe these link will show you new timetable in April.

      You may decide which train you will take. In worst case, try to get a seat on Kodama. (It’s shown as “K”.) This is much slower than Hikari (“H”) but it’s much easier to get a seat.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hi Takeshi,
        Thank you for the quick response. We feel less worried about taking the train. Can you tell me if all train stations have coin operated public pay telephones?
        Thank you,

  4. Hi Takeshi,
    It is still too early for our trip of 3 couples to see the Autumn Colors in Japan. We arrive Tokyo on Nov 17 and plan to take Shinkensen Ozumi to Kyoto on Sunday Nov 20. In Tokyo, we stay near JR Yamanote Line Shin-Okubo station. Can we wait until we arrive Tokyo and then buy Ozumi ticket? If yes then what JR Station we can buy the tickets? (Shinyuku station?) and what is their operating hours?

    1. Hi James,

      The ticket is on sale one month prior to departure date. And also online reservation for overseas tourist is not available. So you cannot do anything until you arrive in Japan anyway. But Nozomi runs every 10-15 minutes. It’s easy to book even if you book it after you arrive in Japan.

      You can book at any major JR stations. Most of stations on Yamanote line have reservation window that is Midori no Madoguchi. But Shin-Okubo does not have reservation window unfortunately. Shinjuku has the window. They open 5:30 am to 11:00 pm.


      Takeshi /

  5. travelling On 23 of May 2016 Kyoto to Hiroshima. If I buy Japan rail pass in India will there be any problem in getting seat reservartion as the next day I leave for Osaka airport.

  6. Hi Bernard, We are arriving at Narita in February and will be travelling by Shinkansen to Nagano the very same day we arrive. The JR-East Train Reservation says we have to pick up the tickets the day before we plan to take the Shinkansen but this will not be possible. How can we book our seats in advance and pick up our tickets the morning we arrive from HK for our trip to Nagano 3 hours later?

    1. Hi Wayne,

      You cannot pick up the ticket on the day of travel by this booking site. You have to pick up the ticket at least 2 days before if you book it through JR East site. So you have to book it upon arrival. But it’s not hard to book for Shinkansen to Nagano after you arrive. There are lots of trains and it will be no problem to book.

      *Bernard is one of readers. I think he will not reply to you.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thanks again for a great helpful site.

        We used the JR pass on our recent trip to Japan, and it was really easy. The only day we had any difficulty booking at all was December 31, when we couldn’t get 4 reserved seats at the time that suited us, but had to take a train an hour later. We made many of our bookings in advance, but on a couple of occasions, turned up, and booked seats less than 15 minutes before the train was due to depart.

        The other problem we encountered was the queue at Narita Terminal 2 to collect our JR pass – we queued for nearly hours from about 6:15pm to 8pm. We wanted to use our pass for the NEX into Tokyo, but, with the benefit of hindsight, we should have just payed for those tickets and saved ourselves a very long queue, and exchanged our passes at Tokyo.

      2. Thank you Takeshi (and apologies for calling you Bernard). Is it possible to buy tickets for the Shinkansen for travel on the same day? We are arriving Monday 8th Feb very early in the morning and want to get to Nagano in the early afternoon?

        Kind regards, Wayne

    2. You can pick up your ticket right after arrival, and can use it right away, if you choose to take the unreserved seat. It is not a peak season so there will be plenty of seats available. Just know which cars are for free/unreserve seats.

  7. Hello,

    I was wondering how to get from bakurocho station to Kyoto station. I understand that I have to book tickets for the shinkansen to Kyoto but where do I do that? I have a JR pass.

    1. Hi Tim,

      Bakurocho is two stations away from Tokyo station by Sobu line local train.
      You can book Shinkansen ticket at any major JR stations in advance. Unfortunately Bakurocho station does not have reservation window. But you can book it when you exchange JR Pass if you want. Whenever I use JR pass, I complete all bookings at the time of exchange.


      Takeshi /

  8. This is a non-JR reservation question Takeshi.

    We expect in March to be staying near Sanjo (Keihan) Station in Kyoto.

    If we travel for example Sanjo (Kyoto) to Yoshino (Nara), hyperdia offers a train change at Tambabashi to Kintetsu limited express.
    For the seat reservation on the Kintetsu Limited Express:
    – can we book Kintetsu reserved seat at the Keihan station,
    – allow time at Tambabashi Kintetsu to get seat reservation,
    – pay on train,
    – avoid the problem and take ordinary trains. :-)

    Thanks in advance…. and with very best wishes to you and yours for the holiday season.

    1. Hi Dennis,

      You cannot book it at Keihan station. But if you have any time when you are in Kyoto, you can book it at Kintetsu Kyoto station in advance. Kintetsu Kyoto station is exactly same place as JR Kyoto station.
      You cannot pay on board. You need to book it in advance.


      Takeshi /

  9. Hi Takeshi,

    I’m going to be traveling in Japan betwen Dec 30th – January 11th. Prior to booking plane tickets I didn’t realize how busy this time of year is and am concerned about getting on trains.

    The three legs I’m most concerned about are below and would really appreciate any advice you have (I’ve read all your articles about overnight trains/reservations with JR pass/through eki-net/looking on hyperdia, etc etc.)

    I have to do more research, but I’m thinking we will get either the 7-day or 14-day JR pass since we’ll be going from Tokyo all the way to Kumamoto over the 2 week visit.

    1. We get into Narita Dec 30th around 5pm and want to get to Nagoya that night. Do you think we will have trouble getting tickets if we try to book when we land?

    2. We are leaving from Kyoto around 9:30a to Kumamoto (likely via Shin-Osaka) on January 4th. Do you think we will be able to get seats if we wait to reserve when we land on December 30th?

    3. This leg is probably the most unrealistic :) We were hoping to catch the Sunrise Seto from Okayama to Tokyo, departing Okayama at 22:33 on January 8th. Since this is the busy season, what do you think our chances are of being able to reserve nobi nobi seats when we land in Tokyo on Dec 30th?
    Do you think our chances of reserving Sunrise Twin room when we land on the 30th are better than trying to get nobi nobi?
    If there is a chance we may not be able to get any reservations at all, I’m thinking it’s better to forgot the overnight train and just bite the bullet (literally) and take shinkansen the next day. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Amy,

      1. I expect Dec 29 is the busiest day. I think the evening on Dec 30 is okay.

      2. January 4th is a normal day. Most of residents in Japan have to go back home until the end of Jan 3. Because they will be back to normal on 4th Jan. So you will be okay.

      3. It’s so hard to say. Actually Jan 8th is not in the peak season. School winter break is until Jan 7th. But Jan 8th is Friday. It has bigger demand than other days. This train is popular in all season. I’m not surprised if Nobi Nobi is sold out in ordinary week day. In my opinion, you chance is 50:50. If I were you, I go for it. Even if you are okay with any kinds of compartment, I think you can make it.


      Takeshi /

      1. Thanks Takeshi. I really appreciate your response. I’m going to call on 12/8 and see how many are still available, then weigh that option versus buying a flight to Tokyo.


  10. Hi Takeshi, thanks for a great site.

    Is the Japanese language only Eki-net site the same as the JR East Shinkansen Reservation website in as much as they refund the amount you pay when you collect your tickets with your JR Pass?

    I tried out the site using google chrome to translate for me, but couldn’t see that information.



    1. Hi Bernard,

      There is no information about using JR Pass in Eki-net. This is a kind of secret way among Japanese tourist who live in foreign country. But one of Japanese reader has asked JR East about booking on Eki-net with JR Pass. JR Ease said they accept JR pass booking. You don’t need to pay anything if you show your JR pass when you collect the ticket.


      Takeshi /

      1. Thanks for your reply. I’ll be travelling around the peak time (28th December to 7th January, including on 29th, 31st December, 2nd January) so I will try to book in advance for those critical days, and pick up reserved tickets when I arrive on the 24th December.

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