How to reserve a seat of Japan Railway trains. How about online reservation available?

Tohoku Shinkansen E5 series run mostly as Hayabusa and Hayate. These trains have only reserved seat. You cannot take this train without seat reservation.
Tohoku Shinkansen E5 series run mostly as Hayabusa and Hayate. These trains have only reserved seat. You cannot take this train without seat reservation.

When you take Shinkansen, Limited Express train or Express train, you may take a reserved seat. Though some of the express train have a non-reserved seat, you should better take an reserved seat if you can. If you are Japan Rail Pass user, why don’t you take a reserve seat. Japan Rail Pass includes a reserved seat surcharge. You should use it! And also I strongly recommend to secure your seat especially in peak season, such as late April to the first week of May, August 10 to 20 (It is called “Obon” in Japan. It is a Summer vacation week) and December 29 to the first week of January.

Let’s learn how to get a reserved seat.

Before you make a reservation

If you intend to use Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass), JR East Pass, Tokyo Wide Pass, Sanyo Sanin Area Pass, Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass, Hokkaido Rail Pass and Kyushu Rail Pass, you need to turn in your exchange order to the actual Pass before booking your seat. You need to show your pass when you make a reservation. Exchange order does not work to book a train seat. Once you turned in, you can go ahead to make a reservation any reservation window and anytime. But if you use JR Easts’ online reservation, you can book a seat before exchanging an actual pass. Please see the below to see the details about online reservation.

Midori no Madoguchi (みどりの窓口)
Midori no Madoguchi (みどりの窓口)

Where you can

You can make an reservation at the reservation office that is called “Midori no Madoguchi (みどりの窓口)”. You can find “Midori no Madoguchi” very easily. You will find a big green sign easily like the images above and below.

The logo of Midori no Madoguchi
The logo of Midori no Madoguchi

“Midori no Madoguchi” is located at most of major JR stations. If you are in major cities, such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Yokohama, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Sapporo, you cannot miss “Midori no Madoguchi”. 99% of JR stations in these cities have “Midori no Madoguchi”. You can find it very easily.

The signeage is different in JR Central area

If you travel JR Central (JR東海) area, you cannot find Midori no Madoguchi. Because “Midori no Madoguchi” is JR East’s trademark and JR Central avoids to use it. In JR Central area, such as Nagoya, Shizuoka, Gifu, Takayama, it’s called “Shinkansen and JR Lines Tickets (JR全線きっぷうりば)” like image below.

JR Central ticket office. It does not have any green signage. It looks very simple.
JR Central ticket office. It does not have any green signage. It looks very simple.

JR Central operates Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. JR Central has ticket office in Tokyo, Shin-Yokohama, Kyoto and Shin-Osaka. In these stations, you can find two different ticket offices, Midori no Madoguchi and JR Central ticket office. But you can book any JR train ticket at either ticket office. This difference does not matter for us in most of cases.

What kind of information you need

Please make sure the following infomation before you make an reservation:

  • Date and time
  • Train name and number
    This is not required. But if you want to take the specific train, please tell the train name and number. It’s much easier to make a reservation. Every express trains have the combination of the name and number like “Hikari 246”.
  • Departure and Arrival Stations
  • Smoking or Non Smoking
    It’s good news for the smoker. Some JR trains still have the smoking seat. But it’s getting strict for smoking in Japan too. Especially in downtown Tokyo smoking during walking is the against regulation. Plaese be careful!
  • Passport
    If you use Japan Rail Pass or other JR passes, You always have to carry your passport. You may be asked to show it by a station officer or a conductor want to see it.

When you can

You can make an reservation anytime within one month prior the departure date. The ticket is started to sell one month prior to departure date at 10:00am

Departure date — August 23, 2011 at 10:00 am. Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka
Ticket is started to sell at 10:00 am on July 23, 2011.

Departure date — August 24, 2011 at 00:34 am. Sunrise Seto from Osaka to Tokyo
Ticket is started to sell at 10:00 am on July 23, 2011, not July 24. Because this train originally depart from Takamatsu at 21:26 on August 23. Be careful when you reserve the ticket for overnight trains.

Most of trains can be reserved at Midori no Madoguchi only. So you need to be in Japan when you book. Only JR East offer online reservation service. Even if you are Japan Rail Pass user, you can make a reservation in advance.

Online booking

JR East Train Reservation

This online reservation system is operated by JR East. Unfortunately this JR East Shinkansen Reservation is only English online reservation for Japan Rail Pass, JR East Pass and single ticket users. You can book your seat for these following trains only.

This site offer the seat reservation for the trains that operate in JR East area. So you CANNOT make a reservation for Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen (Tokyo-Kyoto or Osaka). And also there are some restriction. Please read Guide (FAQ) before you make a booking.

Eki-net (えきねっと)

I have received a comment from one of my readers, Tak. He told me we can use this Japanese online reservation system even for Japan Rail Pass or other travel passes users. This online reservation is in Japanese. So unfortunately anyone cannot use. However some of my readers asked me that we can use a friend in Japan to make a reservation for Japan Rail Pass user in outside of Japan. Yes. You can do it now.
This reservation system covers all over Japan. So for example, you can book for Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin Osaka. We cannot do this in JR East Shinkansen Reservation. But this online reservation is not perfect. I tried to book for overnight trains, like Sunrise Seto. I could get some of overnight trains. I have received so many questions about Nobi Nobi seat of Sunrise Seto/Izumo. But I could not make it for these trains.

So even if you have a friend in Japan or speak Japanese, you still cannot make a reservation for most of overnight trains. (JRおでかけネット)

This way is also added by my reader, Tak. This is reservation call center by JR West. Unfortunately this is Japanese speakers only. I don’t think everyone can use this service. But some readers have a contact in Japan. So I would like to share this information with you.

I have received a reply from JR West. The answer is as follows. “Once you arrive Japan and exchange the voucher to Japan Rail Pass, it is possible to make reservation at our call center. However, you have to collect the ticket within 8 days. (If your departure date is within 9 days, you have to collect 2 days before.) If you don’t collect it, your reservation is automatically cancelled.
This service is limited for the trains departing and arriving in JR West, Kyushu, Shiko area. ” (Well, that’s official answer, but I think you would be able to ring JR West and make reservation from your country even before exchange to JR pass. They cannot see your pass on the phone, and you’ll only need it at the station when collecting the ticket. However, the problem is you have to collect it within 9 days after reservation is made!)

According to the website, there are two ways to reserve a ticket.
1. At call center, make reservation only. Payment is made on collecting the ticket at a JR West, Shikoku and Kyushu stations.
2. At call center, make reservation and pay by credit card on the phone.

So my understanding is that if you want to reserve Hamanasu carpet, Akebono Gronto or Sunrise nobi nobi at 10am, 1 month before, you will need to pay for Limited Express surcharge + reservation fee (指定席特急券) or Express surcharge + reservation fee 指定席急行券.

I agree with Tak. Even though Japan Rail Pass covers surcharge and reservation fee, you need to pay. Because this reservation call center is basically for common users. They don’t take any requests without pay. But if you have someone who speak Japanese and you really want to secure your seat, this way of booking may work for you. However this service does not accept the person who want to book reservation for other person. If you ask your friend to book a ticket for you, your friend has to pretend to be you. And you have to provide your credit card information to you. It is very sensitive and not very recommended way.

Find your hotels in 218 cities throughout Japan!!!

ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Narita 10 min from airport by complimentary shuttle

Karasuma Hotel Kyoto Traditional tatami room

How can we reserve a ticket from outside of Japan before departure?

As you saw, online reservation does not cover all trains. I really wish Japan Railway have full online reservation system.

Anyway if you want to secure your seat before departure, you need to rely on a travel agent. This is only way to reserve a ticket before you depart from your country. It is not cheap. One of my frequent visitor, James in Australia, left very useful comment. I would like to share this information with you.

I think many people here asked for how to get JR tickets before arriving Japan, I would like to add.

*JTB actually charge MORE than $55 Australian dollar($56 US dollar March 2011 currency) per ticket, in fact JTB charge $75 Australian dollar($76 USdollar) per ticket.

The $75 came from $55 service fee plus $20 courier fee to deliver your ticket to your hotel in Japan, $55+$20=$75 Funny my ticket for SL-Yamaguchi express is only $60 therefore altogether I need to pay $135 to get SL-Yamaguchi express ticket!

So, all I can say is, if you want to get a JR train ticket before you get to Japan, make sure you are ok with paying at least $75( $76 US dollar), it helps if you really need to get on a particular train that is very hard to book or if you are travelling during peak season. But if you are not in a hurry, travelling in leisure pace across Japan, perhaps think twice.

I hope is worthy many people told me SL-Yamaguchi express is the best steam train experience ever in Japan.

Do you think it is rip off? But unfortunately this is only way to do it. You can find Japan Rail Pass authorized agent at JR Pass official site. They may be able to reserve a ticket for you too. But some of the agent do not want to reserve your seat. They want to book whole things, like hotel, air ticket, attraction tickets. Because it is too small profit to make a reservation for only train ticket.

611 thoughts on “How to reserve a seat of Japan Railway trains. How about online reservation available?”

  1. Hi
    We are planning to go from Tokyo to Hiroshima by bullet train on 15 April and from Hiroshima to Kyoto on 17 April. Also considering day trip from Kyoto to Osaka on 20 april.

    Am I right in believing nozomi is direct train between the sights but not covered by jr pass. Can you advise please

    If I need to take nozomi train without jr pass how do I need to book/reserve train. I live in UK

    1. Hi Chandramouli,

      Unfortunately there is no way to book and purchase a ticket before you arrive in Japan. If you use regular fare ticket, you have to book and purchase it after you arrive in Japan at most of JR stations’ reservation window.


      Takeshi /

      1. Thank you. Would you suggest me to book jr pass. Or would it be better to buy individual ticket when I land in Japan. Jr pass would be economics but I believe it do not cover nozomi train which is direct train between Tokyo and Hiroshima and Hiroshima and Kyoto. Please advise

        1. Hi Chandramouli,

          I recommend you to use 7 days JR pass because it’s cheaper and convenient. As you think, you cannot take Nozomi and need to change trains on the way to Hiroshima. But this is only issue if you use JR pass. You can take Hikari and change Sakura at Shin-Osaka. Sakura’s reserved seat is actually much better than Nozomi and Hikari.

          It’s worth to change trains.


          Takeshi /

  2. HI Takeshi,

    We will arrive in Haneda on 28 april (golden week) at 7am and plan to immediately take train to Hakodate. We have purchased JR Pass for our trip.

    Do you think we will be able to get a seat in this peak period?

    Can you advise the route from Haneda Airport to Hakodate?

    Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      April 28 is one day before the beginning day of Golden Week. Your chance to get a seat is much bigger. If you come back to Tokyo during Golden Week, you should book your seat in advance. You can book it JR East online site as I explained above.

      You can take Tokyo Monorail to get Hamamatsucho and then take local train to Tokyo station to catch Shinkansen to Hakodate.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        thank you for your prompt reply!

        is it possible to book Sapporo to Tokyo route online if we have yet to activate our JR Pass?

        or should we book it on our first day in Haneda Airport?

        thank you once again.

  3. We would like to go from Tokyo to Kyoto and the way back one week + 1 day later in mid-April, we are Canadian traveling as tourism (2 adults). For us, I figure the JR Pass 14 days is an overkill.

    We have great difficulty knowing which line we have to use.
    There many mentions of JR Central area, East train reservation, JR West train. So a simple question: We need to use which line exactly to do the round trip Tokyo-Kyoto and Kyoto-Tokyo with the Bullet train?

    After we know that one, how to find the cost of the tickets for the round trip between Tokyo and Kyoto ? Web link ? We want to know if this cost less then getting the JR Pass before leaving Canada, or buying a round trip ticket between Tokyo and Kyoto.

    Thank you for any help?

    1. Hi Benoit,

      You may take Tokaido Shinkansen. Please see the link below:

      It costs about 15000 yen one way for base fare and reserved seat fee. The fare is varied by season and class. You can find the exact fare and timetable at Hyperdia:

      14 days pass is too expensive for round trip to Kyoto. Only 7 days pass suits this round trip but you will spend 8 days. Single ticket is cheaper.

      If you are okay to spend more hours and save your cost, Platt Kodama is considerable:


      Takeshi /

  4. Hi Takeshi again,

    I found this website that claims they can buy and reserve shinkansen tickets for you, have you heard of them before?

    What do you think my chances are of getting any train on April 29th (first day of golden week) from Odawara to Kyoto if I dont reserve any seats until I arrive in Tokyo on the 24th? If this is impossible I will have to cancel my Hakone leg altogether but I really dont want to choose this option… 🙁

    Please advise!


    1. Hi Celine,

      It will be tough to get a seat especially if you want to take Shinkansen from Odawara to Kyoto directly. Please see the link below:

      There are some Hikari which is shown by “H” in the timetable to stop at Odawara. You can take this train to Kyoto without transfer. But it runs only once every two hours mostly. But if you are okay to take Kodama (“K”), your chance is getting bigger. But this is slower than Hikari and you may need to change the trains at Nagoya.

      Actually I know this Shinkansen reservation site. But this is not an official site. This is one of travel agents and I have never used this site before. So I don’t mention this service on my website and I cannot say anything about this site.


      Takeshi /

  5. Hi Takeshi-san,

    I tried to reserve ThunderBird ticket from Kanazawa to Osaka using Hokuriku Arch Pass but I cant seem to find the JR-West train reservation online. Your advise please. Thank you.

  6. Hi Takeshi-San,

    I have purchased a JR East – South Hokkaiko Rail Pass Flex6 days (exchange order) in Hong Kong and would like to exchange for JR pass at Narita Airport upon my arrival of 15 March 2017 to start my trip from Narita Airport to Hakodate immediately.

    In order to secure my seat, I have tried to make a reservation online. However, I am not allowed to make the date for the ticket picking up date and travelling at the same date (i.e. 15 March 2017).

    Grateful to have your advice how I can do.

    Your help is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

  7. Hi Takeshi-San,

    I purchased a Hokuriku Arch Pass and would like to make a reservation online. However, when I register for membership it requires a credit card. Will I be charged at the time of reservation or is it only used as a guarantee? The last time I made an online reservation without a JR pass, I was charged immediately. Your help is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Nora san,

      It’s just guarantee. If you don’t collect your ticket, it will be charged. It’s not charged to your card when you book it.
      I have used it for JR pass and it was not charged.


      Takeshi /

  8. Ohaiyo, Takeshi san

    Can you advice if i would to take the shinkansen, where and how do i go about to booking?
    I will be leaving Osaka on the 20th Feb to Tokyo on the same day.
    Which website will be cheaper or better/trusted?
    Will Hikari be a better option or Kodama be a better option as compared to the Nozomi?
    Kindly seeking your advice.

    Warmest regards,
    Sachiko Tham

  9. hello, takeshi san
    is it possible to make same day ticket reservation for early morning (around 06:00) kagayaki shinkansen from ueno station, or i must make a reservation the day before ?

    thank you.

  10. I am trying to get from Hiroshima to Tokyo on Jan 4 th. JR Pass tells me it is sold out all day. I have green car pass – any ideas how to get to Tokyo?

    1. Hi Ejv,

      Check the availability of Kodama. It does not have Green seat but I think you can find the seat. Kodama does not run between Hiroshima and Tokyo. You have to change the trains a few times. It’s inconvenient but you have no choices.


      Takeshi /

      1. Takeshi-son

        I went back to the ticket office again and they are saying the only way to get to Tokyo is to go non-reserved out of Hiroshima on the 4th. That’s it. Everything is sold out. They gave me a ticket to go out on the 5th. But I really need to get to Tokyo on the 4th or I lose my pre-paid hotel (6 nights). Is it possible to travel non-reserved on the 4th if I am holding a ticket for the 5th? And I was wondering, are there ever cancellations that would open up a green car ticket for the 4th?

        Thank you for any advice you can provide.

        1. Hi Ejv san,

          You can board on non reserved seat car anyway. But you may have to stand up all the way in the car. Please see the link below to get the info about how to get a seat in non reserved car.

          You can return your ticket once you get Tokyo. You don’t need to pay any fees.

          Good luck.


          Takeshi /

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