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.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    I wanted to thank you for writing this post. We are flying into Haneda on December 27th and trying to get to Miyazaki before the New Year. We were thinking about staying a couple days in Tokyo first, but now I think we will leave right away. Thanks so much!

  2. Hi,
    I am not sure If I can get the JR pass form to fill in first before I arrive Narita airport to exchange the voucher.

  3. Hi Tikashi,
    Do you know any company do luggage transfer from Hotel to Service Station and vice versa?
    As I know there is a service from hotel to hotel but because I am stay at airbnb. I am not sure if I can send luggage to nearest station in osaka.

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