2018 busiest period to travel by train. Tips to book your seat in even busy period.

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

Time goes by very quickly. Next year will be coming soon. I started to write the post about the busy period in 2016. Now I would like to show you the calendar of 2018. You also find some tips when you travel in the peas season in this post.

Don’t travel same direction as local tourist

Before I show you the calendar, I would like to tell you how Japanese residents travel 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 these cities and travel to the hometown to spend the time with family. 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 may be more crowded than usual but it is acceptable.

The movie below shows you how Tokyo station was on December 29, 2016. It is 20 minutes movie and mostly shows car #1 which is non reserved seat car. You will find there was a long line up and many passengers waited for.

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 super 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.

Kyoto and Nara are busy in New Year’s day because Japanese visit shrine and temple to pray on New Year’s Day that is Japanese traditional custom. Major shrines and temples in other cities, such as Meiji Jingu shrine in Tokyo are super busy on New Year’s Day. Actually trains in the cities runs all night long from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day.

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 2018.

*If you look for the information about 2017-18 New Year’s peak period, please see the link below:
2017 busiest period to travel by train. Tips to book your seat in even busy period.

Golden Week (late April to early May)

2018’s calendar is the following:

Apr 28 (Sat)
Apr 29 (Sun) Holiday (Showa Day)
Apr 30 (Mon) Showa Day observed
May 1 (Tue)
May 2 (Wed)
May 3 (Thu) Holiday (Constitution Memorial Day)
May 4 (Fri) Holiday (Greenery Day )
May 5 (Sat) Holiday (Children’s Day)
May 6 (Sun)

There are three consecutive days off from Apr 28 to Apr 30 and four consecutive days off from May 3 to May 6. I expect May 3 and May 6 will be busiest days. However some Japanese residents will take extra days off on May 1 and May 2. Apr 28 will be busier than normal. And April 30 will be busier too.

If you intend to visit the popular attraction in this period, try to visit on May 1 or 2. School is open and many residents will work as usual.

Obon (mid August)

Obon is not National holidays. It is Japanese traditional summer break. Usually Obon period is August 13 to 16. 2018 calendar is the following

Aug 11 (Sat) Holiday (Mountain Day)
Aug 12 (Sun)
Aug 13 (Mon)
Aug 14 (Tue)
Aug 15 (Wed)
Aug 16 (Thu)

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

New Year’s holidays

In Japan, Christmas is not a big holiday season. Most 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 just one of the weekend and holidays. The busiest period in Japan is New Year’s Holidays. It usually starts on December 30 and finish on January 3. 2018-19 calendar is the following.

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

In 2018, December 29 is Saturday. The beginning of New Year’s Holidays will be one day earlier than usual. Saturday on December 29 is the first day of New Year’s Holidays. Many of Japanese travelers will start to get out of the cities in the morning on December 29. For outgoing, I expect train will be busy from the morning on December 29 to the end of December 30. January 3 will be super busy to go back to the cities. Most local travelers want to settle before New Year’s Eve. Usually December 31 is not such a busy day.

January 1 is very slow too. However as I mentioned above, most Japanese visit shrine or temple to pray on New Year’s 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

Online train seats booking is very limited actually. Please see the link below:

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 very early morning and late night. That is why trains in very 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.

22 thoughts on “2018 busiest period to travel by train. Tips to book your seat in even busy period.”

  1. Hi Takeshi-san
    We (family of 4) arriving in Tokyo on Thursday, 27 December 2018 at 7:30am. We have already booked accommodation in Osaka. Would it be difficult to book Shinkasen train (Nozomi) to Osaka with reserved seat for 27 December 2018 as it is close to the New Years holidays? Thank you.

  2. HI Takeshi,

    I am looking into a flight into NRT on August 11th. I’ll stay until about August 31st, leaving from KIX. I was planning on meeting a friend who will be living in Osaka for a few months. He will get the JR Rail pass and meet me on the 11th in Tokyo. That looks like the start of Obon!

    Our plans were to stay in Tokyo for a couple of days, and then make our way to Wakayama… where we’ll just stay in that area for two weeks with family/friends but looking at your calendar, that looks like the busiest time to travel, Obon! I have a friend who lives in Sendai… so I was thinking Tokyo – Sendai. Sendai – Tokyo. Sunrise Izumi to Himeji ( or an early morning Hikari if I can’t book that ).

    Another option is the Hokuriku line to Kanazawa, followed by the thunderbird/kuroshio to Wakayama.

    1) Is this a crazy idea? Any suggestions to minimize the pain of travel?

    2) Do I have a chance at nobi-nobi?

    3) Should I change my plans?

    4) Will the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Kanazawa be less busy?

    1. Hi Gary,

      It may be very hard to book for any accommodation on sunrise. Please do not have a big expectation. The chance is very slim.
      Hokuriku Shinkansen may be less busy. But I cannot say anything at this point. So just try to book Sunrize first. And then try to book Tokaido Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka if you can’t. Hokuriku Shinkansen is the last option.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,
    We will leave Kyoto for Tokyo on 17/4/2018. Should we reserve seats on Shinkansen train?

    If we buy a non-reserved tickets, can we board any Shinkansen train during the day?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Chau,

      You can take any trains by non reserved seat ticket. But your seat is not secured. I think you may find a seat but if you travel with someone, you may not be able to have seats side by side. Please see the link below to find more info about non reserved seat:

      If you really want to secure your seat, you should book it.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi,
    I need to take a train from Tokyo to Yokohama (15th Feb 2018) and from Yokohama to Shin Kobe (18th Feb 2018). Would you be able to help me with finding the link to train schedules for express or fast trains that I can consider. Could you suggest if a train pass will be more economical than buying single tickets. I may also use the local train/ metro within Yokohama and Kobe as well. And if I can buy the train pass or single tickets in advance (online before departure from my country) or it is easy to buy it at the airport when I land?

    1. Hi Virkein,

      You can find the schedule at hyperdia:

      You also can find Shinkansen schedule at the link below:

      Single ticket is the best way. Online is not available basically but you may be able use the service in the link below:

      If not, you have to book and purchase it at any major JR stations in Japan.

      You can catch Shinkansen at Shin-Yokohama too. It’s closer than Tokyo from Yokohama


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi-San,
    For the aoimorirail , the jr pass is only valid for get on-off at aomori, hachinohe and noheji, for the rest of stops I need to paid to get off.
    So if I start from hachinohe and go to asamusi onsen, do I really have to get off and on again at noheji , then pay for the fare when I get off at asamusi onsen?
    Or I can stay on the train until asamushi and show jr pass to the 精算counter and they will automatically charge the fare from noheji?
    When I go back I understand that I may have to purchase single ticket to noheji and stay on to hachinohe.
    Thanks for your help

    1. Hi Joe san,

      I have never tried it before, so I’m not 100% sure. But basically you need to pay for the segment which you ride. I think you need to pay for Hachinohe to Asamushi onsen. If you get off at Noheji and purchase a ticket, you need to pay for only Noheji to Asamushi onsen. If you do not exit at Noheji, you cannot prove to take train from Noheji.

      But may be not. You might need to pay for Noheji to Asamushi onsen only.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi San

    We will be only at Japan for 7 days, is JR Pass worth?
    Day 1 – Reach Haneda at 10pm, stay near Omori station.
    Day 2 – Planning for Tsujiki market then Odaiba area
    Day 3 – Day trip Disneyland
    Day 4 – Check out hotel, change to another hotel near Asakusa. Then visiting nearby such as Sensoji Shrine, Ueno etc.
    Day 5 – Day trip Mount Fuji (can you advice the best route?)
    Day 6 – Check out. Free and easy. Fly home at night.

    Family of 4, travelling witj 2 kids , 5 and 8 YO. thanks very much.

    1. Hi Stilton san,

      JR pass is way too expensive. You may use some local deals:

      You may take Keihin Kyuko railway from Haneda to Omori-Kaigan. I believe Omori-Kaigan is also near your place to stay.

      You may use Suica or Pasmo for the trip on day 2 and 3.

      Tokyo subway ticket is the best choice for day 4 and 6. If you can switch day 4 and 5 (go to Fuji on day 4), you can use 48 hours pass to explore in Tokyo for day 5 and 6. But you cannot get Haneda by subway. You need to take Keihin Kyuko railway again. Many of subway trains on Asakusa line go through to Haneda.

      For trip to Fuji, please refer the link below:


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi Tekashi-San,
    Happy New Year.
    Can you tell me that if I want to travel between 八戸and下北via野辺地, there are two options: 1/青い森鉄道(八戸-野辺地)/JR大湊線(野辺地-下北);2/しもきた大湊行・
    Are they just two different train ride on the same line? I know that JR Pass is valid for 青し森 if drop off at 野辺地, does it apply on しもきた?
    It seems しもきた Can be running from八戸-野辺地-下北, why there is no direct ride but transfers at 野辺地?
    Thanks a lot

    1. Hi Joe san,

      You may take either train. JR Pass covers both. You don’t need to exit at Noheji. JR Pass allows you to exit at Noheji station only because it is one of JR stations. You cannot get off at any other stations between Aomori and Hachinohe. Only Noheji is allowed to get off but you don’t need to.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thanks Tekashi-san.
        I know it’s a bit of travel but if I stay in 盛岡and want to go to 恐山, then have a bath on the way back at 浅虫onsen(l need to paid for this fare), Is that too much for a day trip?
        It could be better if I stay in 青森 for this journey,but I may have other plan when I get to 青森・

        1. Hi Joe san,

          It’s not impossible but it depends on how much you want to stay in Osorezan. It takes about 3.5 hours to get Osorezan from Morioka by Tohoku Shinkansen, Aoimori railway, JR Ominato line and local bus. You may spend more time if connection is not good. And the local bus to Osorezan does not run very frequently.

          Last season’s timetable (Japanese) http://www.0175.co.jp/s/s-bus/osorezan-other.pdf

          If you stay there for one hour, you can do it. But I have never been to Osorezan before. I cannot say one hour is enough or not.


          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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