Green class interior of Narita Express

JR trains’ seat guide, Gran class, Green class and Ordinary class seats. Guide to buy JR Pass Green or Ordinary

1024px-JRW_series283_inside-greencar.jpg
Green seat car of the Limited Express Kuroshio by 287 series. It offers very comfortable 2+1 seat layout with large panoramic windows. (C) w0746203-1

When you travel by the JR express train in Japan, you have a few choices of the seat. Most of the JR express trains offer two classes, Green and Ordinary. Those are like business class seat and economy class seat on the fight. And the highest class seat, “Gran class” is available on some of the Shinkansen lines. Some express trains in Kyushu offer Deluxe Green class. And there are some trains which offer the compartment.

Green class is better than Ordinary class definitely. But it is pricey. Before choosing the class of seat, you should know how much better Green class is than Ordinary class. And you should know what the benefit of Green class is. Especially if you intend to buy JR Pass, you will consider which you will get, Green seat pass or Ordinary seat pass.

In this post, I would like to focus on the seat of JR trains. You will know the layout of the seat, a leg space, benefit of higher class seat. I believe you can judge which seat is your choice after reading this post.

The types of JR train’s seat

Gran class seatThe Tohoku Shinkansen,
The Hokkaido Shinkansen,
The Hokuriku Shinkansen
DX Green class seatSome of the Limited Express trains in Kyushu area
Green compartmentLimited Express Super View Odoriko
Some of the Limited Express trains in Kyushu area
Green class seatMost of the Shinkansen trains
Most of the Limited Express trains
Rapid trains in Greater Tokyo area
Ordinary compartmentResort Shirakami
Ordinary class seatAll trains

Gran class seat

The seat of Gran class (C) Asacyan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Gran class is the highest category of seat in all JR trains. It is like First Class seat on the train in Japan. There are only 18 seats in the car. And the seat layout is 2+1.

  • Leg space – 1,300 mm
  • Width – 520 mm
Gran Class seat on E5 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Gran Class seat on E5 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden

There is an exclusive staff in Gran class car. The light meal is served on board. You can choose Japanese style or western style. The amount of the food is very small. Please do not expect a full size of meal.

Japanese style light meal on board (C) Kurumi1211 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Coffee, tea, green tea, pop, juce, beer, Japanese sake and wine are also included. You can drink as much as you can. And the tea snack is served too.

Green class seat

Green seat on Super Ozora by 283 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Green seat of 283 series in Hokkaido (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Gran class is the highest category of JR trains’ seats but it is available on the specific trains only. Green class is more common choice for the passenger who wants the higher class seat. Green class seat has more spacious in the leg space than Ordinary class seat. Green class seat has nicer head rest, the leg rest and this seat reclines much deeper than Ordinary class seat. Green class does not offer any meal and/or drink services on board.

Since Green class seat is available on most of limited express trains, the seat size, the leg space and the seat functions are varied by the train.

  • Leg space – 1,100 to 1,200 mm
  • Width – 460 to 490 mm
  • Seat layout – 2+2 or 2+1

2+1 layout is more spacious definitely. I would like to show you some of Green seat.

Green class seat on the Shinkansen

Green class seat of N700 series on the Sanyo Shinkansen and the Kyushu Shinkansen

All Green class seat on the Shinkansen has 2+2 layout and this layout is the standard of the Shinkansen. The Shinkansen train fleet is wider than the trains on the conventional lines. This 2+2 seat layout on the Shinkansen lines offers same amenity as 2+1 seat layout on the conventional trains.

However the Akita Shinkansen and the Yamagata Shinkansen are different. These two Shinkansen train fleets are same width of the conventional trains.

Green class seat of the Akita Shinkansen fleet E6 series.

As you saw the photo above, everything is more narrow than the standard of the Shinkansen. The seat itself is not bad. This seat has lots of the leg space. But the armrest is narrow.

If you take Akita Shinkansen “Komachi” or Yamagata Shinkansen “Tsubasa”, Green class seat is smaller than other Shinkansen trains. Please expect this and do not disappoint.

Green class seat of the limited express train on the conventional lines

The limited express train is the fastest and most comfortable train on the conventional line. This train runs on the route which the Shinkansen does not run. The seat layouts of the limited express trains are 2+2 or 2+1 as I mentioned above.

2+1 seat layout of Green seat of 287 series. This fleet runs in Kansai region as Limited Express Kuroshio, Konotori, and more.

This 2+1 seat layout is very nice and so comfortable. It offers same amenity as 2+2 seat layout on the Shinkansen line.

2+2 seat layout of Green class seat of E353 series. This fleet runs as Limited Express Azusa (C) Toshinori baba (own work) / Wikimedia Commons

Obviously 2+1 looks more spacious. This E353 series runs on Chuo line between Shinjuku and Matsumoto as the Limited Express Azusa. Actually this fleet is one of the newest fleets in all JR train cars.

This difference is caused by the value and the way of thinking of each train companies. JR East and JR Central place more importance on the capacity. Other JR companies place more importance of the comfort.

I would like to show you the major limited express trains which have 2+2 Green class seat layout:

Some of Wide View Hida have 2+1 seat layout Green class car.

Green class seat on the ordinary train

Green class seat of the commuter suburban train

Some local trains have Green class seat. In Greater Tokyo area, the train for suburban area offers Green class seat.

This seat is actually very similar to the limited express train’s Ordinary class seat. The leg space is only 960 mm which is much smaller than Green class seat standard on the limited express train, 1,100 mm to 1,200 mm. However the regular car on the local train is very crowded and it is hard to find the seat in many situation. And the seat is not like this in the regular car.

The commuter train regular car is always like this. It may be even more crowded.

This type Green class seat is available for the commuter who want to avoid the crowded train. Please do not expect the same amenity of other express train’s Green class seat.

DX Green class seat

This Green class is available on 787 series in Kyushu region.

There are only three seats of DX Green in one train set. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

This seat is much bigger than common Green class seat. It is 5 cm wider, 1 cm longer in the depth and 3 cm higher than common Green class seat on 787 series. You recline the seat deeply and it is almost flat. Each seat has two power outlets

Green compartment

Green class seat compartment is available on the Limited Express Super View Odoriko (Shinjuku – Izukyu Shimoda) and JR Kyushu’s 787 series.

Limited Express Super View Odoriko offers a few compartments in Green class car. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
JR Kyushu’s 787 series Green compartment is also called “Salon Space”. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Most compartments accommodate 4 passengers.

Ordinary class seat

This is most common seat for most travelers.

  • Leg space – 910 to 1,200 mm
  • Width – 440 to 480 mm
  • Seat layout – 2+3 on the Shinkansen or 2+2 on the limited express train on the conventional line

There are also many kinds of Ordinary class seat. However there is no big difference between many Ordinary class seats. Some trains offer better seat on the reserved Ordinary class car.

I like to show you several samples.

Ordinary class seat on the Shinkansen

2+3 seat layout is the standard of Ordinary class seat on most of the Shinkansen line.

Ordinary class seat of N700 series on the Sanyo and the Kyushu Shinkansen lines. This is the standard layout of the Shinkansens’ Ordinary class seat.

The Shinkansen fleet is wider than the trains on conventional trains. This is the reason why the layout is 2+3. You can recline the seat. Green car seat is way better but the ordinary class seat is not a bad choice.

Some Shinkansen trains have 2+2 seat layout. The Akita Shinkansen and the Yamagata Shinkansen have 2+2 seat layout.

The Akita Shinkansen E6 series Ordinary class seat (C) Sonic Rail Garden

These Shinkansen line trains go through the conventional line. The size of the fleet is smaller than the standard Shinkansen fleet size. This is a reason why these Shinkansen fleets have 2+2 seat layout. It does not mean that this 2+2 seat layout is better other Shinkansen 2+3 seat layout. The width of the seats are almost same .

There are several more Shinkansen fleets which have 2+2 seat layout in Ordinary class on the Sanyo and the Kyushu Shinkansen lines. These are better 2+2 seat layout which is different from Ordinary class seat on the Akita Shinkansen and the Yamagata Shinkansen.

The first one is 800 series on Kyushu Shinkansen. All Ordinary class seats are provided by 2+2 seat configuration.

800 series of the Kyushu Shinkansen does not Green class seat. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

And the other one is N700 series, 700 series and 500 series of the Sanyo Shinkansen and the Kyushu Shinkansen. N700 series usually runs as “Mizuho” or “Sakura”. 700 series and 500 series usually runs as Kodama. These series provide 2+2 seat for only RESERVED Ordinary class seat.

Ordinary class seat in reserved car on N700 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden

As you see the photo above, the seat looks Green class seat. If you take a seat in non reserved car, the seat layout is 2+3. If you take Sakura or Mizuho, I highly recommend you to reserve your seat. And Kodama offers 2+2 seat layout in the reserved car. However this seat is offered on Sanyo Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hakata only. Kodama which runs on Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka does not offer any 2+2 seat layout. All Ordinary class seats are 2+3.

Ordinary class seat of the limited express train on the conventional line

All Ordinary class seats on the conventional lines’ limited express train are 2+2 seat layout.

If you take a seat on most of economy class seat on the flight, the leg space is around 800 mm. Even the smallest leg space on Ordinary class seat is 910 mm. It is way bigger than the flight economy class seat. My height is 184 cm (6 feet) but I am okay with Ordinary class seat.

What is the difference between Green and Ordinary?

If you are thinking to buy JR Pass, you may be wondering that you should buy Ordinary or Green pass.

The difference is basically amenity and the functions. Green class seat offers bigger leg space. And it offers lots of functions, such as the head rest, the leg rest and recline much deeper than ordinary seat. As I mentioned above, Green class seat does not include any meal services.

Usually Green class seat car is quieter than Ordinary class seat car. I do not mean that Ordinary class seat car is very noisy. But Green class seat is very expensive. Most of family travelers with small child avoid to take Green class seat. Many Green class seat passengers pay for this atmosphere.

And if you use JR Pass Green, you can book a seat on either Green or Ordinary. This gives you a bigger chance to book a seat. Especially if you travel in the busy period, this may be a big advantage. However some trains do not have any Green class seats. Even the train has it, the space may be very limited.

In my opinion, JR Pass Green is very good deal. As long as you can pay for it, you should go for it. But as I mentioned, JR trains’ Ordinary class seat is not a bad choice. If you are very sensitive with your budget, you can go for JR Pass Ordinary. That is not such a bad choice.

Green class of JR Hokkaido trains

Green seat on Super Ozora by 283 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Green seat on Super Ozora by 283 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden

If you have a plan to travel in Hokkaido, I recommend to buy Green pass. JR Hokkaido provides you the best service in Japan Railways Group (six companies = JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR Shikoku, JR Kyushu). Green class of all JR Hokkaido limited express train give you 2+1 seat configuration. “Twincle Lady” who is an attendant just for Green class on limited express “Hokuto/Super Hokuto” (Hakodate-Sapporo), “Super Tokachi/Super Ozora” (Sapporo-Obihiro/Kushiro) provide you soft drink, new paper (maybe Japanese only), magazine (maybe Japanese only too), blanket and steam hot towel. Twincle lady do not attend on the other limited express train, but the attendant provide you very similar service. (This service was discontinued in March, 2015.)

204 thoughts on “JR trains’ seat guide, Gran class, Green class and Ordinary class seats. Guide to buy JR Pass Green or Ordinary”

  1. Dear Takeshi,

    My flight will be arriving Tokyo and i plan to head over to kyoto, osaka and back to tokyo. Will buying JR Pass green seats be worth or should I just buy individual tickets?

  2. Dear Takeshi,

    I bought JR Pass and managed to book online on my main routes from Tokyo – Kanazawa – Nagano – Tokyo. However, there is no online booking for Train from Kanazawa – Wakuraonsen. Then, I asked my friend who happened to be in Tokyo to purchase ticket for me for Kanazawa – Wakuraonsen – Kanazawa (he was told that he cannot book for me). He also told me that I can get a partial refund for the ticket that he purchased for me – as I can get the ticket with my JR Pass when I am already in Japan. Is this correct? and how do I do this?

    Thank you,

    andy

    1. Hi Andy,

      You cannot get any refund if your friend book a ticket and pass it to you. Even if you show your JR pass with a ticket which your friend purchased, you cannot get any refund. But technically you may be able to get a refund partially.

      1. Ask your friend to purchase and book a ticket. He/she will pay a full fare.
      2. You will buy it from your friend.
      3. You will cancel a ticket at the ticket window. You will get a refund but you have to pay a handling charge which is 330 yen if you cancel it 2 days prior to the travel date. You have to pay 30% of the ticket price if you cancel one day before.
      4. Rebook a ticket with JR pass right after you complete to cancel procedure.

      If you do this, you will lose only 330 yen. However if the train which you will book is booked out when you will cancel it, someone might take a ticket between your cancel and your rebook. Especially cancellation fee is different between 2 days before and 1 day before. Some knowledgeable traveler knows this rule and they always try to book 2 days before.

      If you do this way, please check the seat availability first. You may ask a staff at the ticket window. If there are seat available, you can book it with JR pass and then you can cancel a ticket later.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. I am planning a trip from Tokyo to Kanazawa, Toyama, Takayama, Nagano, then Back to Tokyo from 29 December to 4 January. I am concerned about not getting seats since I travel with small kids. 1) Is it better to buy Green car JR Pass to ensure getting seat? 2) If I buy Green car JR Pass but the Green car is full, can I reserve ordinary car, if available?

    1. Hi Andy,

      Even if you use Green pass, the chance to book is not much different from ordinary class. Because it does not many green seat on this line. But you can book a ticket for this route online if you can pick up a ticket one day before.
      https://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/English/wb/common/Menu/Menu.aspx?_ga=1.4778995.1325107855.1421419524

      This online site covers only Hokuriku Shinkansen between Tokyo, Nagano, Toyama and Kanazawa in your trip. It does not cover Toyama-Takayama segment. If you use the bus, you can get a seat online. The bus service is available for Kanazawa-Takayama or Toyama-Takayama via Shirakawago:
      https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/highwaybus/shirakawago.pdf

      If you use Green pass and it’s full, you can book an ordinary seat too. But in most case, ordinary is much busier when green is full.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Arigato gozaimashita, Takeshi san.
        Your advice is very helpful.
        I am arriving Tokyo on 28 Dec, so, hopefully I can pick up the ticket right away at Narita for my trip to Kanazawa the next day.

        Cheers,

        andy

  4. Hi!

    I’m travelling to Osaka on December 1-8, 2018.
    What is advisable JR Pass? Ordinary or Green?
    I will travel around Osaka-Nara-Kyoto area only.

    Many thanks!

      1. Thank you so much for the response!

        I decided to get JR West Kansai Pass on my travel on Dec 1-8, 2018 at Osaka-Nara-Kyoto-Osaka. Am I eligible to this pass and can avail this for as much as I can during my stay?

        I’m planning to get, 1 (4-day West Kansai Pass) and 1 (3-day West Kansai Pass) and will be multiplied in 2 for me and my partner. Can I get them in one transaction through Klook?

        Thank you so much!

  5. Appreciate very much for the helpful informations. We plan to use the 7 day JR pass for our trip from Tokyo/Hakone to Kyoto then back to Tokyo to fly out of Narita. Will we be able to get from Kyoto to Narita on the same day as our flight since the plane’s departure time is in the afternoon ~6pm?
    Also, with green JR pass, will reservation still be required?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Yenny,

      You can use JR pass for your trip. You can get Narita from Kyoto on same day. I recommend you to take Hikari (Tokaido Shinkansen) from Kyoto to Shinagawa and then take Narita Express from Shinagawa to Narita. You may find the timetable in the links below:
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound.pdf
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/eastbound.pdf
      http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/index.html

      Reservation is required for taking Green seat. You cannot take any seats in Green seat car without reservation even if you have JR pass green.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you for the prompt reply. I will use Hakone pass-Romance Car from Tokyo to Hakone. Then how to use JR pass from Hokone to Kyoto? Once in Kyoto, I plan to do day trips to Nara, Osaka, Himeji before leaving Japan via Narita. Do I need to make reservations for each of these day trips? Will I be able to benefit from Green pass with these routes?
        Thank you,
        Yenny

        1. Hi Yenny,

          You can start using JR Pass from Odawara.
          https://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html

          But you don’t need to exchange JR pass in Odawara. You can exchange it in advance. When you are in Tokyo or arrival day in Narita, you can exchange it. You can choose the day when you start using it.

          You can take Green seat for taking Shinkansen and Narita Express.
          https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-departure-arrival-stations/stations-in-tokai/nagoya-toyohashi/what-is-shinkansen-bullet-train.html
          https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/narita-express.html

          You can take Shinkansen between Kyoto and Himeji. You can take Shinkansen between Kyoto and Shin-Osaka even though it’s only 10 minutes ride.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi! If I buy JR Pass Ordinary Tickets, can I reserve seats in Shinkansen Trains? (We have 2-adults, & 1-kid 6-yr-old)

    Can JR Pass Tickets be used for,
    1, Keikyu Main/Airport Line Rapid Ltd. Exp.?
    2, SHINKANSEN HIKARI?
    3, Osaka City Subway Midosuji Line?

    1. Hi Charles,

      1. No. These are not JR trains. If you arrive or depart at Haneda, you can take Monorail by JR pass.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/how-to-access-from-haneda-airport-to-downtown-tokyo.html

      2. Yes.

      3. No. All subway trains throughout Japan cannot be taken by JR pass.
      Please see the link below to find the info about coverage of JR pass.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html#How_to_use_JR_pass_in_major_cities_and_tourist_spots

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi! Takeshi,

        May I ask if JR Pass could be used as below,
        1. LTD. EXP NARITA EXPRESS ?
        2. SHINKANSEN HIKARI 471 ?
        3. Osaka City Subway Midosuji Line for NAKAMOZU ?

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