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tcreath Oct 12th, 2007 11:15 AM

Japan rail question - Do we have to reserve our seats on Shinkasen?
First of all, I greatly apologize if this has been asked and answered before. I did a search but didn't really find much. We are leaving for Japan in a week, and will be taking a train from Tokyo to Kyoto. Are reservations on the Shinkasen trains mandatory? And can we just get the tickets the day we want to leave or should we get them a few days in advance?


Mara Oct 12th, 2007 12:05 PM

Here is the Japan Rail website that explains about purchasing tickets.

So you will not have a Rail Pass?

You can buy your tickets at the airport JR office and get it over with :)

Enjoy your trip!

tcreath Oct 12th, 2007 12:53 PM


Thank you for the link. I haven't been able to find out if reserved seats are mandatory though. I searched through that site and couldn't find the answer, although I'm sure its there somewhere. We will not have a rail pass.

I was nervous about waiting until the day we want to depart to get our tickets because I'm not sure how often these trains sell out. I will probably do as you suggest and go ahead and get them at the airport to play it safe. Thanks for the tip!


Alec Oct 12th, 2007 12:55 PM

If you don't have Japan Rail Pass, which has to be bought in advance of travel to Japan, then just buy your ticket shortly before you travel to Kyoto and you'll be fine. The fastest trains to Kyoto are Nozomi, which run up to 8 times an hour and every train carries non-reserved coaches. As you board the train at the start of its journey in Tokyo, there will be plenty of seats available. The only time reservation makes sense is when you travel at particularly busy times, such as Golden Week, Obon and New Year.
But if you are using JR Pass, then you are restricted to twice-hourly Hikari service and reservation, while not compulsory, is a good idea. It's free with JR Pass and you can do it at the same time as you hand in your exchange order for the actual pass, in Japan. You can do that at Narita or at major stations in Tokyo. Best to do it a day or two in advance as the process takes 30 minutes or so and View Plaza Travel Centers where you get it done can be busy.

tcreath Oct 12th, 2007 01:06 PM

Alec, thanks so much for your help! I was confused on the reservation fees and whether they were mandatory or not because if we can save some money we will!

For some reason the Japan railway confuses me and I'm not sure why. I have used the trains many trains in Europe but can't seem to get a grasp on the Japan trains! I'm sure it will make more sense when we actually get there.


KimJapan Oct 12th, 2007 02:23 PM

Reserved seats are not mandatory on shinkansens or most other trains. A few trains do require reservation, like if you want a sleeper.

The price for a seat reservation is only about 500 yen, so making a reservation for a seat will cost you next to nothing and assure you a seat. With no reservation, you ride in non-reserved cars only, and hopee for a seat.

You can get your ticket anytime, even on the train. You have a better chance of getting a reserved seat if buy ahead of time.

Price is visible on The price you pay for the trip is the fare plus the charge. The fare is the basic cost of point A to point B. The charge is supplement for nicer and faster train. Seat reservation adds little* (like 500 yen about) , and you can choose to include its cost or not on hyperdia.

If you know which train you want to take, a reservation makes good sense because non-reserved cars fill up and you may end up standing. With no reservation, get to the statioin early and line up with the other passengers taking non-reserved. If the train originates before where you get on, you may be standing, but if it originates where you get on, you will likely get a seat. Since the cost is so low, it's worth making a seat reservation whenever possible.

gard Oct 13th, 2007 08:14 AM


I don't think you have to make reservations. We had a rail pass and used the train quite a lot when we went there and we didn't make reservations at all. And between Tokyo and Kyoto there are lots of trains. You can read more about our Japan experience in my trip report with pictures and links . Get in touch if you have any questions :d

Gard - trip reports and pictures

mrwunrfl Oct 13th, 2007 06:29 PM

hyperdia is a bit misleading. When you do a search that includes reserved seats (the default) you see the following for Tokyo to Kyoto on a Nozomi:
Fare 7980
Reserved Seat 5540
total of 13520.

That 5540 is actually the charge and the res seat fee, as KimJapan mentioned.

If you select 'Charge fare= unreserved seat" for your search then you will see:
Fare 7980
Unreserved seat 4730
For a total of 12710.

The 4730 is the extra charge for using that kind of train. The minimum you will pay on the shinkansen is the 12710, unreserved.

Sydney2K Oct 14th, 2007 03:31 PM

Interestingly, I've never travelled the Shinkansen unreserved (usually because I have a JR Pass)- how does one purchase an unreserved seat? Which cars are unreserved? (This is for interest's sake.)

KimJapan Oct 14th, 2007 04:03 PM

When you purchase a ticket they will ask you which you want, reserved or unreserved. With a JR Pass, reservations are optional and problem to make them if seats are available,, and also no problem to just get on in a non-reserved car to try your luck.

tcreath Oct 14th, 2007 05:14 PM

Thank you all again for your kind replies. It was hyperpedia that had me a little confused because it looked as though the reservations are mandatory and kind of expensive.

Thanks again!

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