2017 busiest period to travel by train. Tips to book your seat in even busy period.

(C) Calendar* / DafneCholet
(C) Calendar* / DafneCholet

Many readers have asked me about busy period to travel. I wrote about the calendar of the peak period in 2016 season. Now I would like to tell you about 2017. And also I would like to give you some tips when you travel in the peas season.

Don’t travel same direction as local tourist

Before I show you the calendar, I would like to tell you how Japanese tourist move in the peak period. Please keep these in your mind when you build your plan.

1. Trains from major cities are busy in the beginning of the peak period.
2. Trains to major cities are busy at the end of the peak period.

Major cities, like Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka have huge population. Huge number of travelers get out of the cities. So you have to avoid to leave cities in the beginning of the peak period. On the other hand, if you travel opposite way, train is not crowded.

The following movie is only 40 seconds. It is Japanese local news and shows you how busy Tokyo station was on December 29, 2015.

If you stay in the cities in peak period, it is not much different from regular weekend. Of course attractions, such as USJ, Tokyo Disneyland are busy. I do not recommend you to visit very popular attractions in the peak period. You have to spend a couple of hours to take just one ride. You will not be satisfied.

I would like to show you some more tips about getting a seat during peak period later. First of all, I would like to show you the calendar of the peak period in 2017.

*If you look for the information about 2016-17 New Years peak period, please see the link below:
2016 busiest period to travel by train. Tips to book your seat in even busy period.

Golden Week (late April to early May)

2017’s calendar is the following:

Apr 29 (Sat) Holiday
Apr 30 (Sun)
May 1 (Mon)
May 2 (Tue)
May 3 (Wed) Holiday
May 4 (Thu) Holiday
May 5 (Fri) Holiday
May 6 (Sat)
May 7 (Sun)

There is five consecutive days off from May 3 to May 7. I expect May 3 and May 7 will be busiest days. However some of Japanese residents will take extra days off on May 1 and May 2. Apr 29 and 30 will be busier than normal.

Obon (mid August)

Obon is not National holidays. It is Japanese traditional summer break. Usually Obon period is August 13 to 16. 2017 calendar is the following

Aug 11 (Fri) Holiday
Aug 12 (Sat)
Aug 13 (Sun)
Aug 14 (Mon)
Aug 15 (Tue)
Aug 16 (Fri)

I expect the busiest day is August 11 for outgoing and August 16 for incoming.

New Years holidays

In Japan, Christmas is not holiday season. Most of public schools have winter break from December 25 to January 7. And December 23 is holiday. Christmas period is a bit busier than usual. But it is not a big issue. The busiest period in Japan is New Years Holidays. It usually starts on December 30 and finish on January 3. 2017-18 calendar is the following.

Dec 29 (Fri)
Dec 30 (Sat)
Dec 31 (Sun)
Jan 1 (Mon) Holiday
Jan 2 (Tue)
Jan 3 (Wed)

The beginning of New Years Holiday will be Saturday on December 30. Many of Japanese travlers will start to get off the cities in the afternoon on December 29. For outgoing, I expect train will be busy from afternoon on December 29 to the end of December 30. January 3 will be very busy for incoming. Most of local travelers want to settle before New Years Eve. Usually December 31 is not such a busy day.

January 1 is very slow too. However most of Japanese visit shrine or temple to pray on New Years Day. Local trains run all through the night from December 31 to January 1. Some of local lines are very busy in this period.

How to book a seat in peak period

How to reserve the train seat of Japan Railway.

However you can find the availability of the trains in advance.

How to find seat availability of trains. JR Cyber Station guide.

You must know the booking status of the trains that you want to take in advance. It will be much easier to find a seat after you arrive in Japan.

The first thing you need to do is trying to book a seat right after you arrive in Japan. But you may not be able to make it. I introduce some tips to expand the possibility to book a seat.

Take early or late trains

Nobody want to travel in early morning and late night. That is why trains in early morning and late night are slower than daytime trains. Late night trains are usually slower than early morning train.

Take slower trains

Everybody wants to get the place as early as possible. That is why slower trains have lower demand than faster trains. I do not recommend you to take local trains to move for a long distance. This technique can be used for Shinkansen only. I recommend you to take slower trains on Shinkansen line, such as Kodama.

Please see the links below to find Shinkansen timetables:

Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen (Tokyo-Nagoya-Kyoto-Shin Osaka-Hiroshima-Hakata)
Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen (Hakata-Hiroshima-Shin Osaka-Kyoto-Nagoya-Tokyo)

You will find the trains that stop at all stations. That is Kodama. It’s way slower than other Shinkansen trains. But it’s much easier to get a seat on this train. If you are okay with spending extra hours but want to get a seat, try to book a seat on Kodama.

Take Green seat

Green seat is more spacious but more expensive. So usually Green seat is easier to book than Ordinary seat. However in peak period, even Green seat on some trains are booked out. Especially if you are wondering JR pass ordinary or Green, it maybe expand the possibility to get a seat. But if you cannot get Green seat, you have to take ordinary seat even if you have Green pass. It maybe gamble.

Try to book separately

If you cannot find a seat, divide into two segments and try to book. You may find a seat. For example, if you want to get a seat for Tokyo to Shin-Osaka, you can try to book for Tokyo to Nagoya and Nagoya to Shin-Osaka.

How to get a seat on non reserved seat car

I explain about reserved seat and non reserved seat in the link below. You can find some tips to get a seat in non reserved car. You may be able to use this way even in peak period.

Reserved seat VS Non reserved seat. How to get a seat on non reserved car?

I hope these information will help you to travel smoothly in the peak period.

46 thoughts on “2017 busiest period to travel by train. Tips to book your seat in even busy period.”

  1. Dear Takeshi-san,
    You are awesome. Thank you for your help. We arrive in Osaka on April 9 and want to travel Osaka-Kyoto on April 12 and Kyoto-Tokyo on April 14. We depart from Tokyo Haneda April 19. Just doing basic math I don’t think the JR pass is worth it for us. Do you? However I am nervous that we will not get seats, especially on April 14 from Kyoto to Tokyo. We are two adults and one 5 year old. If you have any suggestion I would be grateful!

    1. Hi Jillian san,

      You don’t need JR pass. Please see the link below to find some info about your trip.

      Actually Shinkansen reservation from Kyoto to Tokyo is not hard. You can get a seat easily. 5 years old is free of charge if you share one of your seat with your kid. If you want to have one seat for your child, you need to pay child fare which is half amount of adult fare.

      And also, if you want to save your cost and you are okay with spending some extra time, you can use Platt Kodama. Please see the link below:


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi san,

    First of all, thanks for posting such detailed info. It’s definitely very helpful for foreigners planning their trips across Japan. I know it is to me.

    I’m traveling to Japan (Tokyo) on April 3. I’ll be traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto on Sat, April 8. From April 8-13, I expect to be on board of quite a few shinkansens.

    I’m wondering if I should try and reserve seats in advance, especially for this Sat 8 trip? Also, would you say the Green pass is a good addition in this case?

    Thanks upfront and kind regards,

    1. Hi Fausto san,

      Actually it’s not hard to book Shinkansen seat. I always recommend you to book in advance. But i’s not required. Shinaknsen is demanded by lots of business travelers. So weekend is not an issue. And also April 8 is not a busy date.

      Green pass is always recommended. It’s much more spacious and much quieter than other cars. I always use Green pass.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    We are going to Mt Fuji on the 12 Apr and plane to stay one night there, can you advice where we can stay and what we can do there. Reading at your advice, knowing there is 3 day pass in Mt Fuji.
    This is my first trip to Mt Fuji . Please advice me. Thank you.


  4. Hello Takeshi,
    Is it possible to books seats for the Resort Shirakami train from Aomori-Akita one month before travel, using the JR East online reservation? We will have JR Pass, but will still be in England at the time of booking. I really need to book the seats in advance to make sure we don’t travel up to Aomori for nothing. I don’t even mind paying for them, although I know that they would be covered by our JR Passes. Look forward to your advice! Many thanks!

    1. Hi Linda,

      Unfortunately there is no way to book for Resort Shirakami other than Japanese online site. JR East online reservation does not cover Resort Shirakami. It covers major limited express trains only.

      Sorry but you have to book it after you arrive in Japan.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi,

    what do you think of my below itinerary? I know I will miss Cherry blossom in bigger cities as I arrived. but should I go to Hokkaido area first or last on my trip? also I term of busier time. below is my plan. so at least I catch Cherry blossom at Sendai?

    16/04 arrive Haneda
    19/04 Hakodate
    20/04 Sapporo
    22/04 Sendai
    23/04 Nagoya
    24/04 Takayama
    25/04 Kyoto
    27/04 Osaka
    28/04 Tokyo
    29/04 depart from Haneda morning flight

    thank you!

    1. Hi Feny,

      It’s too early to see cherry blossom in Hokkaido. Usually early May is the season to see cherry blossom. So I don’t think you can see it in Hokkaido any days of your trip. Please see the map in the link below:

      I think you can see it at Sendai or Takayama. If you want to see really nice one, try to visit Kitakami, Hirosaki and/or Kakunodate at the end of your trip. These places have superb cherry blossom view in late April.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi san
    I am arriving in Tokyo on 27 April and planning to go to Sendai. I hope to travel around the Tohoku region during the golden week to Hirosaki, Kakunodate , Aomori and Matsushima bay area. I am planning to travel back to Tokyo by the 3rd of May. What are my chances of of getting seats on trains to these areas during this busy period? Thank you.

  7. Dear Takeshi,
    Thank you for writing the detailed article here. I will be travelling from Fujikawaguchico to Kyoto on April 29. And on May 4 from Kyoto to Tokyo. I am worried we might not be able to get a reservation on the Shinkansen because we don’t arrive until April 27 in Japan. Do you think if buying Green Car JR pass will be better for getting reservations or will this be wasted? Thank you!

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Green pass may not help you to increase the chance getting a seat. I have heard many times that Green pass holders could not get even ordinary seat in peak season. In super busy season, all seats are booked out. You will wast your investment. I think ordinary pass is better choice.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Hi Takeshi san,
    Will be in Sapporo during the ice festival week in February. Is this considered to be peak period for train travel in Sapporo? Plan to visit Otaru and Asahiyama Zoo using train. Is it advisable to book reserve seats?

    1. Hi Irwin san,

      It’s the busiest period in Sapporo. You are okay to visit Otaru. Only commute trains run between Sapporo and Otaru. You can get Otaru easily.
      Trip to Asahikawa may be busy. It’s hard to guess how many visitors want to go to Asahikawa too. But please expect it will be busy too. Advanced reservation is highly recommended.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. Dear Takeshi-san,
    I try to make online reservation of JR East website, from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto return, but which available only up to Shin-Aomori, how can I do for reservation? Would you give me some advise. Thank you.

    1. Hi Adi san,

      Please make a reservation for trip to Shin-Aomori at this point. When you collect a ticket, ask to change the destination to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. It’s not hard to change it.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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