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


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.


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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.

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.


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27 Comments to “Which JR Pass is better, Green or Ordinary? Worthwhile buying Japan Rail Pass Green Pass?”

  1. rabbitE says:

    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.

    • JPRail says:

      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.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • rabbitE says:

        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.

        • JPRail says:

          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.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

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