Which JR Pass is better, Green or Ordinary? Worthwhile buying Japan Rail Pass Green Pass?

Panoramic view green car on Ocean Arrow 287 series. Green seat is like business class seat. (C) w0746203-1

I was asked many times that Japan Rail Pass Green Pass is worthwhile? Of course Green seat is better than ordinary seat. As long as you have enough budget, you can buy Green pass. But JR Groups have so many kinds of trains. They operate more than 100 limited express trains on only regular track and more trains on Shinkansen. And some limited express trains do not have Green seat. But some local trains have Green seat. And also they have many kinds of Green seat. For example, some limited express train give you 2+1 seat configuration. But the other trains give you same 2+2 seat configuration as Ordinary class. So if you have some more ideas about Green seat before you buy Japan Rail Pass, you can make a better decision which pass you buy, Green or Ordinary.

In this post, I show you some example that help you to understand more about Green seat.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

What the difference between Green and Ordinary

Basically the difference is only facility. Green class has more leg room, head rest, leg rest and recline much deeper than ordinary seat. Green class do not include any meal service except a drink service on the specific trains. Let’s compare the seat pitch.

  • Green class — 1100mm to 1160mm
  • Ordinary class — 910mm to 1000mm
  • Economy class on the most flight — 787mm to 838mm

So even Ordinary class has bigger leg space than Economy class seat. If you do not have any problem with the economy class in the flight at all, you do not need to buy Green pass.

Green class of JR Hokkaido trains

Green seat on Super Ozora by 283 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Green seat on Super Ozora by 283 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden

If you have a plan to travel in Hokkaido, I strongly recommend to buy Green pass. JR Hokkaido provides you the best service in Japan Railways Group (six companies = JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR Shikoku, JR Kyushu). Green class of all JR Hokkaido limited express train give you 2+1 seat configuration. “Twincle Lady” who is an attendant just for Green class on limited express “Hokuto/Super Hokuto” (Hakodate-Sapporo), “Super Tokachi/Super Ozora” (Sapporo-Obihiro/Kushiro) provide you soft drink, new paper (maybe Japanese only), magazine (maybe Japanese only too), blanket and steam hot towel. Twincle lady do not attend on the other limited express train, but the attendant provide you very similar service.

Look at the image below. This is the easiest sample.

Hakucho by JR East 485 series (left) / Super Hakucho by JR Hokkaido 789 series (right) (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Hakucho by JR East 485 series (left) / Super Hakucho by JR Hokkaido 789 series (right). Both trains connect Shin-Aomori in Honshu (main island of Japan), JR East area and Hakodate in Hokkaido (JR Hokkaido area). (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Which one do you like it? If you don’t like to smell leather, JR Hokkaido “Super Hakucho” is not recommended. But JR Hokkaido train provide you more luxury atmosphere. And also if you take Super Hakusho from Hokkaido side (Hakodate), you will receive soft drink and steam hot towel. But if you take Super Hakucho from Honshu side (Shin-Aomori, Aomori, etc), you will not receive anything. Because the staffs are sent by JR East for Super Hakucho departing from Aomori. They do not provide JR Hokkaido service. Unfortunately most of trains by other JR companies do not give you this kind of value. There is a huge gap among JR six companies. But JR Kyushu has same type of service.

Green class of JR Kyushu trains

Green seat on 787 series gives you the best comfortability in JR trains. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Green seat on 787 series gives you the best comfortability in JR trains. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

JR Kyushu used to provide same type of service as JR Hokkaido. Before JR Hokkaido started to hire the staffs for “Twincle Lady”, JR Hokkaido asked JR Kyushu to send the staff to educate. Unfortunately JR Kyushu stopped serving soft drink and other services in March 2010. They still have an attendant on Green class of some trains to serve steam wet towel and candy. And also most of limited express trains are designed by one of the well known industrial designer, Eiji Mitooka. Every single JR Kyushu express trains have a great character.

885 series is the newest. But this seat has strong leather smell and slippery. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
885 series is the newest. But this seat has strong leather smell and slippery. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Green class of JR Kyushu trains give you 2+1 seat configuration. Especially Green seat on 787 series is one of the best seat in Japan. But newest car 885 series have the leather seat. It has very strong leather smell. And also it is slippery seat. 787 series is used for many limited express trains in Kyushu. 885 series is used for Kamome and Sonic. When you make a reservation, you can ask which series is going to be used for.

But JR Kyushu operates lots of limited express trains that do not have Green class. For example, JR Kyushu operate many cruising trains, such as “Hayato no Kaze”, “Yufuin no Mori”, “Ibusuki no Tamatebako”. These trains have a colorful character and you will enjoy Japanese authentic culture. But no Green class are on these trains. Please make sure which train you will take before you travel.


Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen 700 series. These seat configuration are the standard on Shinkansen. Green (left) and Ordinary (right
Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen 700 series. These seat configuration are the standard on Shinkansen. Green (left) and Ordinary (right) (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Do you know that Shinkansen train is bigger than regular track trains? Shinkansen is completely different train from the regular train. That is why 3+2 seat configuration in Ordinary class and 2+2 seat configuration are the standard. Most of Shinkansen trains do not have any special service. I tell you the good point and the bad point.

Hayabusa (Tohoku Shinkansen) – Good

There is an attendant for Green class passengers exclusively. Welcome drink (coffee or other soft drinks) and steam hot towel are served. Hayabusa has Glan Class seat. This is much better than Green. But you need to pay the extra charges. Hayabusa is operated by the newest train E5 series. This is more comfortable to ride than E2 series for Hayate.

Max Yamabiko (Tohoku Shinkansen), Max Toki (Joetsu Shinkansen) and Max Tanigawa (Joetsu Shinkansen) – Good

Green (left)/Non Reserved Ordinary (right) Don't take Non Reserved Ordinary on Max. 3+3 seat configuration is terrible! (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Green (left)/Non Reserved Ordinary (right) Don't take Non Reserved Ordinary on Max. 3+3 seat configuration is terrible! (C) Sonic Rail Garden

These trains that have “Max” in the name are operated by the double decker E1 series or E4 series. Green seat is located on the upper level. So it gives you a better view. Especially there are very high soundproofed wall by Shinkansen rail. These three trains are operated by regular single deck train too. So if you have a choice, try to take “Max” trains. If you take Ordinary, don’t take Non Reserved. Reserved Ordinary has the standard 2+3 seat configuration. Non Reserved has 3+3! Too small!!!

Tsubasa (Yamagata Shinkansen) and Komachi (Akita Shinkansen) – Bad

Not big difference between Green and Ordinary on Komachi. Green (left) / Ordinary (right) (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Not big difference between Green and Ordinary on Komachi. Green (left) / Ordinary (right) (C) Sonic Rail Garden

These trains are smaller than other Shinkansen trains. Because these Shinkansen trans are shared with the regular track trains. So both Green and Ordinary have same seat configuration 2+2. There are not big difference between Green and Ordinary. But Komachi has same service as Hayate since Komachi combined to operate with Hayate between Tokyo and Morioka. Tsubasa does not have any special service.

Hikari Rail Star (Sanyo Shinkansen) and Tsubame (Kyushu Shinkansen) – consideration

Reserved ordinary gives you same comfortability as Green on Hikari Rail Star. Reserved(right)/Non Reserved(left) (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Reserved ordinary gives you same comfortability as Green on Hikari Rail Star. Reserved(right)/Non Reserved(left) (C) Sonic Rail Garden

These trains do not have Green class. Hikari Rail Star give you 2+2 seat configuration on the Reserved Ordinary seat and regular 2+3 seat configuration for Non Reserved seat. Japan Rail Pass user can take Reserved seat without any extra. 2+2 seat configuration is the standard on Tsubame. Even Non Reserved seat is 2+2 too. So if you take these trains a lot, Green pass is meaningless.

Mizuho/Sakura (Kyushu Shinkansen) – consideration

These trains are very similar to Hikari Rail Star. These trains are operated by same series as Nozomi, N700. N700 is newer and better than Hikari Rail Star 700 series. And Mizuho and Sakura have Green class. But both Green and Reserved Ordinary have same seat configuration 2+2, and Non Reserved is 2+3. Of course Green seat is more comfortable and has bigger leg space. But it does not have any special service. So Reserved Ordinary is good enough in my opinion.

Other Shinkansen trains

Hikari (Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen), Kodama (Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen) and Asama (Nagano Shinkansen) have 2+2 seat configuration. Ordinary class in these trains have 2+3 seat configuration. So it is okay. Hikari has an attendant for Green class and steam hot towel is served. But other trains do not have any special service. If you take Nozomi (Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen, not covered by Japan Rail Pass), you have same service as Hikari.

Other recommended trains

Super View Odoriko

The first two rows are called Panoramic seat. It gives you the spectacular view. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
The first two rows are called Panoramic seat. It gives you the spectacular view. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

This train has 2+1 seat configuration Green seat on the upper level of double decker car. And also you will get some drink and steam hot towel. Odoriko is operated on same route as Super View Odoriko. Odoriko is operated by old type car. You can move to same destination, Atami and some spot on Izu peninsula. But this is complete different train. Be careful!

Urban Rapid trains

Regular car (right)/Green seat (left) (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Regular car (left)/Green seat (right) (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Rapid commute trains that are operated in Tokyo and surrounding area have non reserved Green seat. If you have a plan to explore in Kanto area, such as Kamakura Chiba, Mito or Saitama, you may take these Rapid trains a lot. These trains are commute trains. So if you ride this train, it may be crowded and may not find a seat. But if you have Green pass, you can take double decker Green car.

51 thoughts on “Which JR Pass is better, Green or Ordinary? Worthwhile buying Japan Rail Pass Green Pass?”

  1. I came upon your website and would like to know if a green pass is a good idea. We will be traveling next April 2016 and there is an $80 difference since the last time I checked between green car and ordinary 7 day pass.
    Here is our tentative itinerary. We plan to do day trips except for Kyoto overnighter because we do not wish to bring larger luggage with us. We enjoy train rides and buying the different omiyage from regions.
    If you can also tell me what ekibens are famous and good from each train ride. どうもありがとうございます!
    Yokohama to Osaka to Himeji
    Yokohama to Kyoto
    Yokohama to Kanazawa (new Hokuriku Shinkansen)
    Yokohama to Tomita (Ashikaga Flower Park)
    Yokohama to Kofu
    Yokohama to Kanazawa

    1. Hi Jen,

      As long as you understand to spend many hours on board, you can go for your plan. Green Pass is always recommended. As you said, it gives us a great deal with small difference.

      I haven’t eat Ekiben for a long time. But Tokyo station and Shin-Osaka station have many kinds of Ekiben. You should check it before on board.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you Takeshi for your quick reply. We will take advantage of the Green Car Pass. Was concerned after reading that Hikari didn’t have Green cars.

  2. Hi takeshi

    Since my flight will be arrive late at haneda. Where I can exchange jr pass? And where I can exchange the pass on the next morning?

  3. hi takashi san, thanks for the great informative site you have here.. need your advise on this.. i will be in japan with the following rough itinerary:
    23 – 26 oct oaska
    26 – 28 oct nagoya
    28 – 31 oct tokyo
    will be traveling to hakone for day trip when in tokyo..
    do you think its worth it to get a rail pass?
    warmest regards,

    1. Hi SK san,

      Single ticket is your choice from Osaka to Tokyo via Nagoya.

      But if you don’t mind to spend more hours and want to save your cost, you can use Kintetsu rail pass from Osaka to Nagoya.

      You have to use single fare from Nagoya to Tokyo anyway even if you use Kintetsu pass.

      Hakone Free Pass is the best choice for the trip to Hakone.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    May I check with you about my 1st Japan visit? My wife and I plan to visit Tokyo / Kyoto / Nara from 30-Oct to 08-Nov (Arriving at HND airport at night time 30-Oct and leave at night time 08-Nov NRT airport ), itinerary is roughly 4D Tokyo/3D Kyoto/1.5D Nara. In this case, is it worth to buy us 2 JR passes? And Other than national JR pass, I did not find out any suitable regional pass for my itinerary, any recommendation? Other than above, how can we use JR pass? Need to make a reservation or just go and pick a train randomly? Is there any advantage for green pass? I mean apart from larger space? Sorry for so many questions. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Wang Chuan,

      You can use JR pass 7 days for the last 7 days of your trip. Because Haneda is very closed to downtown Tokyo but Narita isn’t. So it’s better to use the pass for access to Narita. You can take Narita Express.

      You can simply purchase single fare from Haneda. Or you may use Limousine and subway deal.

      You may need to use subway pass anyway to explore Tokyo.

      I recommend you to book all trains by JR Pass because it covers reserved seat fee and secure the seat. Most of trains have non reserved seat and you can hop in without reservation. But sometimes you cannot get a seat and especially you cannot get the seats side by side. I usually complete all bookings when I exchange JR pass.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi,

    Your website is truly useful for my very first visit to Japan. I am much more enlightened now about travelling around some places in your beautiful country and at least able to ask more specific questions. Appreciate to hear any comments on my travel plans.
    I will be arriving on 20th september in Tokyo.
    21/9 Travel to Toyama. Using Toyama as base to sightseeing in Kanazawa and Kurobe Gorge also using the JR trains partially.
    23/9 Toyama to Kyoto.
    25/9 ,Kyoto to Hakone
    26/9 Hakone to Tokyo
    After researching, found that many parts of the journey are served by shinkansen trains hence I am thinking of a JR 7 day pass and reserving seats at Narita upon arrival. Read on the web there is a rare long stretch of holidays from 21-23 september or something like that. Would the train be very full during this time?
    Thank you very much for your time.


    1. Hi gttan,

      7 days JR Pass gives you a big saving as you think. It is obviously right choice.
      Regarding reservation, don’t worry. It will be busier but you can make it. There are lots of trains on Shinkansen. If you need to take a specific train, for example, need to take 8:00 departure only, you may not be able to do it. But you can take one earlier or later. It’s quite easy to book.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi,

    Your website has been very informative and I appreciate all the information you have provided.

    I am visiting Japan on 25th of October. After visiting Tokyo I intend on travelling from Tokyo to Hakone, Hakone to Kyoto, Kyoto to Hiroshima, Hiroshima to Miyajima return, Hiroshima to Osaka within a 7 day spread. I believe the 7 day pass is the cheaper alternative to the individual trips.

    My question relates to the green pass. A friend of mine recently visited Japan and told me that the ordinary carriages are quite busy and there is a likelyhood of having to stand. Is this true? I do not want to have to stand for 2 or more hours with my luggage due to not being able to find a seat. For this reason I was leaning towards the green pass, just because of the assurance that my travel partner and I will have a seat and room to put our luggage.

    Is seating and overcrowding an issue? With an ordinary pass will I be able to ensure I have a seat and room to hold my luggage?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Beau,

      JR pass 7 days is right choice for your trip.

      I think your friend travel in peak period, like early May or mid August. There periods are super busy season. There are lots of standing passengers. But it’s not happen very often. I don’t think it happens in late October.

      And also you have JR Pass and it covers reserved seat. You can book the train without any extra charge. Your seat will be secured. Of course green seat is more comfortable and spacious. You don’t need to worry about the seat anyway.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Dear Takeshi San

    I’m so impressed by your website, you are truly a top notch Japan rail enthusiast/expert that won’t mind spilling your sweat in this hard worked website just to share info and updates to travelers out there and made our day easy, I love your website and I salute you sir!

    Mean while I need your advice, I plan to travel to Japan covering Hokkaido to Kanto and all the way to Kansai and Kyushu then back to Kanto, on the 16 – 29 August. I’ve been traveling with 7 days JRpass couple of times before and this time I’m going for a 14days pass, but due to the Obon and summer holiday, I’ve been receiving advise to top up some budget and upgrade to a 14days Green pass in order to secure my seats on every trains during this peak season. From your opinion, is it realistic to use the Green pass for the sake of higher chance seat secure?

    Millions appreciate


    1. Hi Lin san,

      Thank you very much for your comment about my website. It motivates me to keep writing!

      Green seat is always easier to book than ordinary. In Obon season, any seats may be booked out. So check the calendar and make an adjustment of your movement in your trip.

      In this Obon season, most of companies will be closed from 13 August to 16 August. Some companies will be closed longer, like 8 August to 16 August. So I expect the following:

      From major cities to outside — Busy on 7 (evening), 8, 12 (evening) and 13 (morning)
      To major cities from outside — Busy on 15 (evening) and 16

      Most of Japanese want to go back to hometown to stay with family members. So try to move different way from Japanese local. For example, if you move to Tokyo on 12 August, it will be okay. Don’t try to go outside from major cities, like Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka on busy day, 7, 8, 12 and 13 August. This is a key to travel in this busy period.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. Dear Takeshi San

        Thank you so much for your prompt reply, I’ll be arriving Sapporo on 16 Aug and out from Haneda on 30 Aug, I guess this wont be messing around with obon’s traffic.

        I think I’ll go for the green pass. Coz I’ll be using dozens of limited express and Shinkansen, and also quite a lot of Tokaido line (comes with green seats too) as I’ll be staying in my friend’s house in Totsuka.

  8. Hello JPRail expert,

    I will buy Shinkansen 7-day pass. I was plan to take route start from Osaka (2days) to Uozu/Kanazawa to ends in Tokyo. Can I used Shinkansen pass from Osaka to Uozu/Kanazawa?
    Im quite confused with JR pass and Shinkansen 7-days pass, are both passes are the same?

    1. Hi Kimmy,

      Do you mean Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen pass?

      If so, this pass does not cover whole part of your trip. Meanwhile JR Pass is a bit more expensive than single fare and express surcharge for Osaka-Kanzawa-Tokyo. If you intend to make a side trip before/after this trip, or using pass from KIX-Osaka or Tokyo to Narita JR Pass may be cheaper.

      At this point, your choice is JR pass 7 days or single fare.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  9. Hi,

    We (2 persons) are travelling to Hokkaido this summer from 21 to 27 July. We planned to get a 7-day Hokkadio Rail Pass. My itinerary will be:

    21 Jul – New Chitose Airport to Sapporo (Stay Sapporo)
    22 Jul – Sapporo to Tomamu (Stay Tomamu)
    23 Jul – Tomamu to Furano or Biei (Stay Furano)
    24 Jul – Furano to Sapporo (Stay Sapporo)
    25 Jul – Sapporo to Otaru to Sapporo (Stay Sapporo)
    26 Jul – Sapporo to Hakodate (Stay Hakodate)
    27 Jul – Hakodate to New Chitose Airport

    We are getting an ordinary pass. Just want to know is all ordinary cars are free seating or we still need to reserved a seat if we are travelling on a Limited Express cars eg. LTD. EXP SUPER OZORA (Sapporo to Tomamu – according to Hyperdia). Is there an extra charge to reserve a seat for ordinary pass holder?

    Lastly, is this itinerary doable? Or this could be a rush travelling? Appreciate your comment. Thanks.

    1. Hi rabbitE,

      Most of trains have both, reserved and non reserved. Hokkaido Rail Pass can be used for both seats. So I recommend you to book all trains that you intend to take right after you purchase your pass. Hokkaido is busy during summer time. Try to book as much as you can.

      Your itinerary is okay. It’s not very tight. You will be able to enjoy your trip.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thank you for your reply & recommendation. I still have doubt about local transpotation in Furano. I am confused about Chuo bus, Lavendar-go bus, or Norokko Train which I seen from many websites. As I am arriving to Furano station, which local bus should I take to get into Kitanomine area to check in my pension?

        Same question to the access from Shiroi Koibito Park to Otaru, I read from forum some people recommended to take a local bus eg. Chuo Bus or JR Bus is easier and less walking than taking a train. Can your recommend me an easier way to Otaru from Shiroi Koibito Park either by bus or by train.

        Thank you in advance for your valuable advises.

        1. Hi rabbitE,

          I have never been to both places so I can’t recommend the best way to get.
          Sorry that I can’t help you.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

  • 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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