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

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Green class interior of Narita Express
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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. Bel says:

    Hi Takeshi

    3 person
    16-25 June 2017

    Is this too rush schedule?
    16 – Saitama (visiting friend)
    17 – Shinano Omachi ( how many hour reach?)
    Will visit Hida Furukawa
    18 – Tateyama Alphine Route
    19 – Toyama – Shirakawago
    20 – 22 Kyoto, Osaka
    23-24 – Saitma
    24-25 – Shinjuku – Haneda

    7 days JR Pass better?

    What can you recommend if my schedule is too rush?

    Thanks

  2. Hads says:

    Hello Takeshi-san!

    I’ll be travelling to these places in June –

    1-4 Osaka (2- day trip to Kobe)
    4-6 Kyoto
    6-8 Hakone
    8-11 Tokyo

    I was reading up on the Japan Rail Pass and did my calculations for the rides. It seems like total cost for these train rides are “lesser” than the cost of the JRP (7-day pass). Is it also true that the JRP can be used for airport limousine service? Can’t seem to read/find out anything about this!

    Do you recommend I take the JRP at all? Also, within the cities, can I use the JRP within a city? Or would I have to get the regional passes as well?

    Hear from you soon! Many thanks!

  3. Rose Jee says:

    Hi Takeshi San,

    I am travelling to Tokyo on 11 April to 4 May. My itinarery is to as follows:-

    1. Tokyo
    2.Osaka
    3.Kyoto
    4.Kobe
    5.Nagano
    6.Nagoya
    7.Tokyo
    8.Hokkaido

    We are buying the 21 days JRpass and am wondering whether a green card would be better as we are doing quite alot of travelling by train. We also plan to go Hiroshima. Should we go from Osaka or Nagano.

    Thank you!
    Rose

  4. Andy says:

    Hi, I will be travelling arriving to Osaka Kansai airport. Staying 2 nights in Osaka city then travelling to:
    1. Fukuoka
    2. Nagasaki
    3. Kumamato
    4. Beppu
    5. Hiroshima Kobe
    6. Himeji / Okayama
    7. Nara
    8. Izumo
    9. Kyoto
    10.Nagoya

    Would it be still okay to add in 1 trip with 1 overnight stay at Tokyo? And what passes should I purchase as I will be staying in Japan for 15 days. Should I get the individual passes in each location, e.g. JR West pass and single trip tickets between different place?

    Also, for the JR nationwide pass – can i use it for travelling within Osaka city?

    Thank you.

  5. Donna Nakamura says:

    Takeshi-San thank you for this information as it was very informative. We are traveling to Japan at the end of May with a Group of 25 and I we are going to
    Tokyo to iwaki (visit relatives)
    Iwaki to Ise
    Ise to Kyoto/Osaka
    Osaka to Hiroshima
    Hiroshima to Kanazawa
    Kanazawa to Tokyo

    With this large of a group would you recommend green car or ordinary car as I am afraid the entire group may not get reserved seats? Or is it fairly easy to get reserved seats on the ordinary car for this group? If you recommend green car then are there also recommended trains for us to take trough our Journey? Thank you so much for your help!!

    • Hi Donna san,

      I think ordinary seat is more recommended. Because the number of seats in Green car is much fewer than ordinary car. It’s much hard to book it in green car.
      By the way, have you contacted to the travel agent? Usually travel agent do not take care of booking only. But your group is quite large. When I have worked as travel agent, I have done it. Probably they can take care of it. Please try to contact to the nearest Japanese travel agent.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Glen says:

    Dear Takeshi San,

    I would to seek your advise.

    Below will be my itinerary for my upcoming japan holiday for a family of 4 adults.

    12-15 April – Tokyo

    15-17 April – Hakodate

    17- 20 April – Sapporo

    20-22 April – Back to Tokyo

    My questions:

    1) Is it more advisable to get the 7 day or 14 day JR nationwide pass?

    2) Is it more advisable to get the Green or Ordinary Pass?

    3) Sorry this question doesnt link to Railway but if possible from your personal experience, will it be good to drive in Hokkaido during the period of April? Will the roads still be snowy? Because i would love to drive in Hokkaido but have never driven on snow before and will be a little concerned.

    Thank you in advance for your advise.

    With Regards,
    Glen

  7. David says:

    Hi

    Schedule as below
    24 march tokyo arrive at nrt
    27 march to osaka
    30 march kyoto and return to osaka on the day
    01 apr to tokyo
    03 apr to tokyo hnd

    So am i right to say that i use the jr pass on the 27march so that i can use maximise the use of the jr pass until 02 Apr.

    So for my im traveling 4 adults probably 4 luggage 2 strollers. So will green pass woll be a better choice?

    Tks

  8. Adrian says:

    Hi, I will reaching haneda airport on the 21 march till 3 April. plan is to travel to osaka for 5 days, 4 days in Kyoto and back to Tokyo.

    should I be getting a 7 day pass and a single trip ticket from Tokyo to osaka or better off getting a 14 days jr pass instead?

    Thanks!

  9. Carolyn says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    We are travelling to Japan from 4 to 15 April and would like to check if we would benefit more from the 14 days Green Car Pass or the ordinary pass will be enough? Our concern is because of the long journey on certain days and it will be peak season due to cherry blossom? Also, will the Green Car be available on most trains (Shinkansen Hikari) based on our itinerary below?

    D1: Narita Airport to Kyoto
    D2 to D5: Kyoto
    D5: Kyoto to Hiroshima and travel to Miyajima by ferry
    D6: Hiroshima
    D7: Hiroshima to Tokyo
    D8: Tokyo to Yokohma (return)
    D9: Tokyo to Nagoya (return)
    D10-12: Tokyo

    Cheers!

    • Hi Carolyn,

      14 days JR pass will work. Actually mid April is busy but not peak season. Peak season is early April and late April to early May. Shinkansen runs very frequently. Ordinary pass is okay to get a seat.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. Magdi says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    we will be in japan between 22.03.17 – 03.04.17 with our two small children (both under 5 years).
    Our route using the 7 days JRP will be:
    *Tokyo – Kyoto
    *Kyoto- Hiroshima & Miyajima
    *Hiroshima- Osaka
    *Osaka- Tokyo.

    My Questions:
    1. Do you think due to the cherry blossom, the Shinkansen will be very crowded outside the rush ours (between 9:30-17:00)?

    2. Do you recomend us a seat resevation in advance or can we use the non-reserved wagons?

    3. Since we are travelling with our small children
    (incl. 2 luggages and 2 strollers) and considering the amount of people traveling on shinkansen in that period, is it woth it to by the green pass instead of the regular one?

    Thank you in Advance.

    Magdi

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