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

1024px-JRW_series283_inside-greencar.jpg
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.

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 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. (This service was discontinued in March, 2015.)

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.

Shinkansen

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.

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

  1. Fantastic site and so happy you still impart advice!
    So we are trying to figure on which pass to order or if we should order one? (2 adults):
    Sept 6th (Arrival Narita Intl to Tokyo Station)
    Sep 7th (early shinkansen from JR Tokyo station to Mishima)
    Sept 8th (late afternoon/evening train back to JR Tokyo station)
    Sept 9th (Tokyo/metros to Tsukiji & Ginza, Kabukiza Theatre, etc)
    Sept 10th (Tokyo, metros to Ryogoku Kokugikan, etc)
    Sept 11th (Tokyo to Nikko and back to Tokyo)
    Sept 12th (Tokyo to Kyoto)
    Sept 13th (Kyoto)
    Sept 14th (Kyoto to Koyasan)
    Sept 15th (Koyasan to Nara and Nara to Osaka)
    Sept 16th (Osaka)
    Sept 17th (Osaka)
    Sept 18th (Osaka to Narita)

  2. I was initially thinking of getting regional passes but I think getting the National JR Pass will be better since I’ll be visiting Kansai & Kyushu areas.

    Oct26 Arrive late evening KIX. Stay overnight at hotel by airport
    Oct27 Depart early morning from KIX to FUK via a LCC airline; tour around Hakata area
    Oct28 Fukuoka – day trip to Nagasaki, return to Hakata late evening (Ltd. Exp. Kamome both way) Start JR Pass
    Oct29 Fukuoka – Nanzoin & Dazaifu (local trains); back to Hakata and around city
    Oct30 Fukuoka – I’m thinking of half day @ Kumamoto (Shinkansen Sakura or Tsubame) then back to Hakata and around city
    Oct31 Fukuoka/Hakata early Shinkansen Sakura to Okayama (visit Garden & Castle) then Shinkansen Sakura to Himeji (visit Castle & Garden) then JR Rapid Service to Osaka Sta.
    Nov01 Osaka – whole day at USJ
    Nov02 Osaka – day trip to Tottori (Ltd. Exp. Hakuto + fees both way); evening around Umeda or Dotonbori
    Nov03 Osaka – Half day Osaka (Aquarium or Castle or ???); afternoon to Kobe (JR Spec. Rapid Service or JR Kobe Line Rapid Service or Ltd. Exp. Hakuto/Hamakaze) End JR Pass
    Nov04 Osaka – day in Osaka (Airport Limo Bus to KIX between 6-7pm for 11:30p flight home)

    On my previous trip to Japan for 16 nights this past April (Tokyo-Kyoto-Takayama-Kanazawa-Tokyo with side trips to Hiroshima/Miyajima, Nara, Shirakawa-go) I had a 14 day Japan Rail Pass Green and supplemented it with a Suica card and several day bus pass in Kyoto and Kanazawa.

    Am I right in thinking of getting the 7 day JR Pass vs. regional or any other pass combinations that might get me to use other transportation. I’m sure JRPass pays off even if I decide to skip Kumamoto. Also of thinking of upgrading to Green again (I think all the long distance has Green). Should still will pay off or will be close to it. I also have my Suica card from last April. I think I have between 1,000-2,000 yen loaded. Both of my hotels less than 10 min walk from Hakata Sta and Osaka/Umeda Sta.

    Also, Is there any other fees I’m missing with my transportation. I understand there’s additional fees from Osaka to/from Tottori on the Ltd. Exp Hakuto (about 2,200+ yen total for Green rsvd).

    I just want to make sure that the almost US$350 nationwide is better option before I actually purchase it. Or skip the Green and get Ordinary. I liked the Green because all my travels last April was pretty much in an empty or half full Green Car (except for my Wide View Hida from Nagoya to Takayama was full). This was mid to late April (tail end of Cherry Blossoms and 1st day of Golden Week).

    1. Hi AnnHI,

      As long as you want to use Green, only choice is JR pass. There are other regional passes, such as Kyushu rail pass, Sanyo Sanin area pass but Green pass is not available among these regional passes.

      JR Pass will be paid off in my rough calculation. Additional cost is for taking Super Hakuto and some fares to take subway if you need in Osaka and Hakata. But anyway you can go for JR Pass.

      You can use Suica in Hakata and Osaka. You can add more fund into your Suica in other than Kanto region. You can do it at the stations in Hakata area, Osaka area or other major cities if you need.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hello! Your website is a great source of information but I’m still confused about the best option for me. Would you be able to give me some advice on what type of ticket is ideal?

    My rough travel plan is for 3 weeks in 2018 (March 23 to April 14).
    1. Land Narita 23/3 and stay for 1 week in Tokyo (and initially likely catch the Narita express in to Tokyo)
    2. Travel to Kyoto 30/3 to 5/4, with a day trip to Nara.
    3. Travel to Osaka 5/4 to 11/4, with a day trip to Hiroshima.
    4. Travel from Osaka to Tokyo 11/4 ( rest of trip ~3 days).

    What rail pass do you recommend – 7, 14 or 21 days?

    Thanks in advance for any assistance you can offer.
    Kind regards,
    Dean

    1. Hi Dean,

      You may use 14 days JR pass for the last 14 days of your trip. It covers most part of your trip but it does not cover local transportation, such as subway. Please see the link below to find more info:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html

      For staying in Tokyo at the first part of your trip, you may use local deal, such as subway pass. There are some deals which includes subway pass + airport access. Please see the links below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    A friend had recommended me to get the JR pass and I was hoping for a second opinion before I went ahead and invested in one.

    I plan to arrive in Osaka on July 13 and travel to Kyoto the next day and surrounding areas like Nara. Then head to Tokyo for the remaining days and be back in Osaka for the 23 to leave.

    1. Hi Christina,

      Only 7 days JR pass works for your trip. I think you will be staying in Tokyo for more than 7 days. Tokyo – Osaka round trip and short distance trip in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo are not enough to get the worth of 14 days pass. You may get the worth of 7 days pass only.

      If you intend to visit outside Tokyo in this period, 14 days pass may work. But the trip must be long distance, like trip to Nikko, trip to Kanazawa.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/how-to-access-to-nikko-from-tokyo-there-are-three-ways-from-tokyo-shinjuku-and-asakusa.html
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1-day/sample-itinerary-of-day-trip-to-kanazawa-and-shirakawago-from-tokyo.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi, love your website very informative but I’m still so confused about all these passes. Would you mind helping me. Going from December 20 to Jan 3rd, generally
    1. Land Tokyo and train to Kyoto (1 day migajima, 2 day Kyoto)
    2. Day trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima/miyajima
    3. Train from Kyoto to Osaka (3 days Osaka)
    4. Train from Osaka to Tokyo ( rest of trip ~7 days)
    What rail pass do you recommend? 7days? Or 14 days?

  6. Hello JR,

    We are traveling to japan in august.
    We har staying in tokyo from the 1. to the 5. Then:
    6. – 8. mt. Fuji
    9. – magome and tusiomago.
    10. – 12. osaka
    13. – 17 kyoto
    18. – 22 hokkaido
    23. Return to tokyo

    Is recommend to buy the japan rail pass?

    Sincerely,
    Saman

  7. Hi, I’m planning to travel from Tokyo to Hakone, and also making a trip to Aizu Wakamatsu. Can you kindly advice whether should I buy JR Green or JR Original pass? Thank you very much

    1. Hi shirlyn,

      You may use JR pass but you cannot get a big saving. JR East pass Tohoku is cheaper choice.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/jr-east-pass-tohoku-flex-5-days-pass-in-14-days-period-to-cover-tokyo-surrounding-area-of-tokyo-and-tohoku-region.html

      When you go to Hakone, you can take Shinkansen by JR pass but you have to take rapid train or limited express Odoriko to get Odawara by JR East pass. Shinkansen between Tokyo and Odawara is not covered by JR East Pass. When you go to Aizu-Wakamatsu, you can take Shinkansen to get Koriyama by either passes.
      http://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/odoriko-super-view-odoriko.html

      After Odawara, both passes do not cover any transportation. You should have Hakone free pass.
      http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/hakone/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Hi,

    I will be travelling to Japan this June 2017. I will be staying in Tokyo from June 4 to June 9 and my base hotel is in Shinagawa.

    I plan on going to Kyoto on June 9 after checking out of my hotel in Shinagawa. I plan to stay in Kyoto from June 9 to June 10, and will be heading back to Shinagawa on June 10 to catch a flight at Haneda airport.

    Is it worth getting a JR pass if I’m only staying in Tokyo and Kyoto?

    1. Hi Florence,

      You may use JR Pass because round trip fare by Shinkansen between Tokyo and Kyoto is almost same as 7 days pass price. You may take local train in Tokyo and Kyoto. You will get the worth of 7 days pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you for your reply! 🙂

        Does the JR pass cover travelling between Narita airport to Shinagawa (ex. N’EX train) and from Shinagawa to Haneda airport (ex. Keikyu line) ?

  9. Hi ill be travelling to the following city by May-June is JR Pass good enough to use for the following cities?

    29 – 31st May Tokyo
    31 – 1st of June Fuji
    1 – 3 to Osaka then Back to Tokyo on the 3rd

      1. Thanks Takeshi.

        But if im only using jrpass for going to shibuya and disneyland in tokyo, fuji for the theme park nd osaka for universal studios and osaka to narita is jr pass the best choice

        Ty

        1. Hi Vincent,

          It doesn’t matter which area you visit in Tokyo and Osaka. As long as you use the pass for Tokyo-Osaka round trip, it works. You can use it in Tokyo and Osaka. But it’s not a big deal. As per the last reply, JR pass is not very useful in Fuji. Please refer the link which I gave you again.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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