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

Green class interior of Narita ExpressRail pass for visitors
Green class interior of Narita Express
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.)

Comments

  1. lorih says:

    Thanks takeshi but I was wondering if it was worth getting the green pass over the ordinary since we are traveling in a large group. Would all of us have difficulty getting reservations?

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Lorih,

      It’s very hard to say. If you travel in spring break, Golden week (end Apr to 1st wk May), mid August, and New Years hoildays, it will be very tight. And also it depends on the train and departure time. Of course it’s much harder to get all of 6 than couple of seats.
      If you don’t want to take any risk, ordinary is better. Green pass does not guarantee the seat booking. The choice is yours.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. lorih says:

    I am traveling in July with a group of 11people. Weplan to go to Tokyo Mt Fiji kawaguchi Kyoto Nagoya matsumoto. Do you think its worth it for the green pass? Thank you

  3. Richard says:

    I would say best thing about green class is the peace and quiet since most families and noisy groups will be in the normal seats. especially on shinkansen green class can be wonderfully quiet. The extra space is welcome but even though i’m 193cm tall I find the normal seats have enough space, much more so than european trains for example. If you can afford it then green class is the way to go, especially since the green class japan rail pass isn’t massively more expensive than the ordinary class one.

  4. Emman says:

    Hi,

    I’m from the Philippines. I would just like to ask where I could request for the exchange order to obtain the japan rail pass? I read that it should be made outside Japan. Does the Japanese embassy here in the Philippines accommodate the request for exchange orders or should I have to look for an accredited travel agency here?

    Thank you very much!

    kind regards,

    Emman

  5. Jessica Yeo says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    We are travelling to Hokkadio from 20 Nov 2013 to 29 Nov 2013. We are likely to have 4 Big 29″ Luggage. We intent to get 7 day Hokkadio Rail Pass. My Itinerary will be;

    20 Nov 13 to 22 Nov 13 Arrive New Chitose Airport 12.30pm. Stay at Noboribetu Onsen. (Shuttle bus provide by Hotel)

    22 Nov 13 to 24 Nov 13 Hakodate

    24 Nov 13 to 25 Nov 13 Lake Toya

    25 Nov 13 to 29 Nov 13 Sapporo Where :

    26 Nov 13 – Day trip to Jozankei

    27 Nov 13 – Day trip to Otaru

    28 Nov 13 to 29 Nov 13 Sapporo

    My question is :

    As I have 4 big luggage to travel around, It will be no problem on Hokkadio Rail way if I get the Green Pass, but what happen on the shuttle bus especialy from JR Toya to Toya Onsen and Jozankei to Sapporo, will there be any luggage compartment to put my 4 big luggage?

    Also can you give any comments on my Itineray?

    Thanks.

    Jessica Yeo

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Jessica,

      First of all, your itinerary is very organized. I don’t see any problem at all.

      Regarding bus, bus to Lake Toya is probably a regular commute bus. You will see it at the following link:
      http://livedoor.blogimg.jp/b70hs5el87/imgs/3/b/3b456fdb.jpg
      If you take taxi, fare is around 2500 yen. But you need to take 2 taxis because of your luggage.

      It doesn’t have any luggage compartment. You may have to hold your luggage at your seat. Some of the bus to Jouzankei have a luggage compartment. But you will go there as day trip. I think you don’t need to take your luggage when you go there.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Jessica Yeo says:

        Hi Takeshi,

        Thanks for your reply and info.

        I change my itinerary to:

        20 Nov’13 – 21 Nov’13 – Stay Sapporo

        21 Nov’13 to 22 Nov’13 – Noboribetsu

        22 Nov’13 to 23 Nov’13 – Lake Toya

        23 Nov’13 to 25 Nov;13 – Hakodate

        25 Nov’13 to 26 Nov’13 – Otaru

        26 Nov’13 to 27 Nov’13 – Sounkyo

        27 Nov’13 to 29 Nov’13

        27 Nov’13 – Day trip to Jozankei

        28 Nov’13 – Sapporo

        29 Nov’13 – Home Sweet Home

        The luggage we are thinking to use Yamato Taqbin to send my luggage to Hakodate and then from Hakodate to Sapporo. So that we only need to carry a small luggage.

        Also need to find out it is advisable to travel to Sounkyo becasue the it takes 3 hours to reach Kamikawa and then 25min by bus to reach there. According to Hyperdia, I have to depart Otaru @0850 reach Sapporo 0934 and then change tack at 0941 and reach Kamikawa @ 1200. At Kamikawa it is advisable to take taxi or to take bus. I have 5 people can the taxi take 5 passenger or I have to take 2 taxi? Do you know how much it cost? Do you have the bus time schedule to Sounkyo?

        Sorry to troble you but I would denfinately appreciate your reply.

        Thanks.

        • JPRail says:

          Hi Jessica,

          The timetable of the bus to Soujukyo can be found at the following link:
          http://www.dohokubus.com/12w-kamikawa.pdf

          I think you can take 12:10 dep bus. But if you take a taxi, the fare is approximately 7000 to 8000 yen per taxi one way. You have to take 2 taxis. It’s not recommended obviously.

          By the way, in late November, it will be very cold in Sounkyo. Are you going to ski there? I just want to mention that it will be very cold up there.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

          • Jesscia Yeo says:

            Hi Takeshi,

            Thanks for your info.

            We are thinking of going there but do not know whether wll it open for ski in November. We are not sure whether is there any snow? Is the temperature very low in Sounkyo? Is it very far away from Sounkyo?

            In fact, I am thinking to rent a car for a day when we arrive JR Noboritesu, JR Lake Toya and JR Kamikawa for easy exploring. But I’m not sure is it safe or difficult to drive during late November. Will these places snow during late November?

            I think we will have discount on car rental if we hold JR Hokkaido Pass.

            Any way thanks in advance for your reply.

            Jesscia yeo

            • JPRail says:

              Hi Jessica,

              Please see the following:
              http://www.sounkyo.net/english/tourism/

              In Sounkyo, it’s winter and very cold already. If you are not very familiar with driving on icy cold condition, I don’t recommend it. It was snowing in Furano area in last week. So don’t expect autumn weather there. It’s winter. I’m not surprised if temperature is below -10.

              Lake Toya and Noboribetsu have milder weather than Sounkyo. But if it’s snowing, it’s not surprised as well.

              Cheers,

              Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. Fred says:

    When I search for JR pass information, I find two two sites (at least) selling the tickets. One is JR pass.com with price $356 for 7-days pass. The other is acprail.com (by name from Google search result ‘JR Rail for Canadians’) priced $492/7 days.

    I wonder why there are two different prices. My guess is that acprail is an agency selling the JR (and others) tickets and they add their profit on top of it. Am I right?

    Is there only one JR Pass system in Japan? Does it make any difference from where I buy the ticket?

    Thanks

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Fred,

      The price at ACP is Green pass. JRpass.com show Ordinary pass price. Check the all price at ACP. You will see same price as JRPass.com. There are so many travel agents. But they sells at same price basically. Sometimes it is different. But it is not much different, like a couple of dollars.

      JR Pass is only one that is issued by JR Group.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. Jim Nakazawa says:

    Takeshi,

    Do JR Hokkaido’s Limited Express trains have some green car seats that are available without a reservation to green Japan Rail Pass users? I think that there will be times when we suddenly change our plans and will not have enough time to get a reservation when transferring from a local train to a LEX. When that is the case,should be just sit in the non-reserverd ordinary car seats? My Japanese is too weak and I won’t be able to explain my situation to the Conductor. We already have our 14-day green Japan Rail Pass vouchers.

    Thank you, your replies alway provide us with valuable information.

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Jim,
      All Green seats are reserved seat except Rapid train in Greater Tokyo area. Basically you cannot take any Green seats without reservation. If there are lots of empty seat, the conductor may be able to assign the seat. But you need to talk to them anyway. And also, green seats in Hokkaido are very popular. It is no surprise that it is sold out. Make a reservation as soon as possible. You can change it later if you need.
      Don’t worry about language barrier. I don’t think the conductor can speak English very fluently. But they always try to communicate and try to understand. Especially there are lots of overseas tourists in Hokkaido and Kyushu. They are very familiar with the tourist.
      Cheers,
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  8. T T H says:

    Dear Takeshi,
    I will traveling around Japan between 8 ~ 23 Fed 2012. Is this period is considered as peak season in Japan? It seems that foreign travelers facing quite a problems regarding seat reservation when traveling with Hayabusa or Sunrise Seto even with the Japan Rail Pass.
    I will travel by Hayabusa 6 from Shin-Aomori arrive at Tokyo 21.24 on the 11Fed, and continue to Okayama by Sunrise Seto which leaving at 22.00 in the same day. Except worrying about the seat reservation on Hayabusa 6 and Nobi nobi seats, I will wonder whether I can managed to walk with my luggage within 20 minutes between the platform 22 and the platform 9 in order to catch up the Sunrise Seto.

    with Tks
    T T H

    • JPRail says:

      Hi TTH,
      If you go to Sapporo between Feb 6 and 12, it is busy. Sapporo will hold Snow Festival. This is one of the most popular event. Most of hotel will be sold out.
      So it will be very hard to get Hayabusa and other trains in Hokkaido. But you can make a reservation for Hayabusa on JR East English website. Try to get it ASAP.
      It is not busy in other area. So Sunrise is not busy at this period.
      Regarding the transfer at Tokyo, I think you gave me same question in last week. You have 36 minutes at Tokyo, not 20 minutes. Even if you have a luggage, it will be no problem. You can make it.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  9. Agreed. I travelled during the holidays and was lucky enough to get a seat in the green car.

  10. James says:

    There is another advantage of Green Car, good chance you will get a seat during busy holidays. Ordinary reservation seats sold out early from time to time during public holidays.

    Cheers
    James

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