You might be nervous about booking of trains. Online booking is very limited. Most of you have to book your train after you arrive in Japan. Especially if you travel in peak season, such as Golden Week (late Apr to 1st week of May), Obon period (mid Aug) and New Years holidays (late Dec to early Jan), many trains are booked out. You may want to know how busy trains will be before you leave.
Unfortunately there is no way to find it online in English. But we have it in Japanese that is “JR Cyber Station”.
On Feb 5, 2011, the first Hayabusa was on sale. But the first Hayabusa train to Shin-Aomori from Tokyo was sold out in ONLY 40 seconds!!! The fisrt Hayabusa from Shin-Aomori to Tokyo was sold out in one hour and 30 minutes. I don’t talk about only Gran Class, but any class on Hayabusa. I expected it would be popular. But this is more than what I expected.
I tried to access online site, and check the possibility for the booking of Hayabusa. I made it. Yes, we can.
If you want to book online, access to JR East Shinkanse reservation. You have to be a member. You need to have a credit card to guarantee the booking (not for payment).
I read most of the major Japanese news paper. They said Hayabusa was sold out on Mar 5, 2011. But I could book it. I could make a reservation for even Gran Class. I did not click “Submit” on the last page. So I don’t know that the reservation would be completed or not.
Anyway you can make a reservation before you depart from your country. If you want to take Hayabusa, I strongly recommend to book in advance.
When you take Shinkansen or Limited Express train, you may book a seat and some trains require you a seat reservation. Though some of the express train have a non-reserved seat, you should book a reserved seat if you can. If you use JR Pass, Hokkaido Rail Pass, JR East Pass, Tokyo Wide Pass, Sanyo San’in Area Pass and Kyushu Area Pass, these passes cover a reserved seat fee. You should use this benefit. And also I strongly recommend to secure your seat especially in the peak seasons, such as late April to the first week of May (a.k.a. Golden Week), August 10 to 20 (It is called “Obon” which is a summer break.) and December 29 to the first week of January.
I would like to explain you how to get a reserved seat.