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When/How to Purchase Train Tickets between Tokyo & Kyoto

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Jul 19th, 2009, 03:56 PM
  #1
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When/How to Purchase Train Tickets between Tokyo & Kyoto

I'm in the process of trying to replan my previous aborted trip to Japan last year and in reworking the itinerary trying to figure out the best route for us to purchase our train tickets between Tokyo & Kyoto.

We arrive November 15th and intend to purchase a N'Ex Suica fare into the city. We will stay in Tokyo until November 19th when we depart for Kyoto for 5 days. On the return from Kyoto we overnight in Hakone for one night and then return to Tokyo for one night before our departure on November 26th.

I have gone back and forth on the option of a JR Rail Pass, but I'm not sure it will really save us much money. I'm finding the approximate fares between the cities we are visiting (Tokyo, Kyoto & Hakone), but the various options of fares, seats, tickets, etc. has my head swimming. Not to mention if we just buy a regular train ticket with no JR Rail Pass, when should we purchase the train tickets? A month prior, a week prior, after arrival in Japan, the day before our departure for said cities? I am at a loss and would great appreciate any help or suggestions from my friendly Fodorites.

Thanks in advance.
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Jul 19th, 2009, 05:23 PM
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That's great that you are going to do the trip that you had to cancel.

I think it is a very close call as to whether a JR Pass will save you much with your itinerary - you know you need to buy the Pass voucher before you get to Japan but if you opt for regular tickets you can only buy them in Japan -

http://www.japanrail.com/index.php?p...ow-to-purchase

Since it is fall leaf viewing season I think when you are visiting Kyoto, you should probably buy your tickets as soon as you can after you arrive.....I haven't traveled that time of the year though....
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Jul 19th, 2009, 06:07 PM
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With or without JR Pass, getting a seat for Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto should present no big problems. There are usually two Hikaris to Kyoto an hour (the ones on which the pass is valid), and reserving a day or two in advance should be sufficient, or at the time you activate your pass.
If you aren't using a pass, then you have a wider range of trains to choose from. The fatest, Nozomis, run up to 8 times an hour and there are usually plenty of seats - many trains run less than half full. Booking a day or so in advance should be more than sufficient, and you can book your return journey at the same time. If you need to change your reservation, you can do so free of charge before departure, or just sit in the unreserved cars. Every Nozomi has three unreserved cars at the front of the train going west, and at the back of the train going east. Hikari has 5. Usually there are seats available, even though you may have to share a row with another passenger.
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Jul 19th, 2009, 08:08 PM
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With your itinerary I would not buy a rail pass. In your case it(the pass)would limit your options on the ground and take up more time with the purchase, redeeming voucher for the pass and limit the amount of trains available to you.

Aloha!
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Jul 20th, 2009, 04:06 AM
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I agree with hawaiiantraveler -- skip the rail pass. For the amount you'd save, it's not worth the paperwork and extra time you'd spend. Also, it would be useless if, for example, you wanted to take the Odakyu line between Hakone and Tokyo.
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Jul 20th, 2009, 11:28 AM
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Thank you so much for all the wonderfully helpful replies!
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Jul 21st, 2009, 06:29 PM
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I'll piggyback at the back of this thread, saves creating a new one. Looking at Hyperdia, it looks as if an unreserved ticket from Tokyo to Nagoya will only cost me 6000 yen, while a reserved seat will cost twice as much or more. Is that the case, or is there something I'm missing?

I assume that to ride in the unreserved car all I have to do is rock up to the Shinkansen ticket vending machine, swipe my Suica card, purchase the ticket and line up in the unreserved cars queue?
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Jul 21st, 2009, 07:23 PM
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Hyperdia is a bit misleading as it lumps together the seat reservation fee (nominal, average ¥500) with the charges for riding faster trains. Select unreserved seat on hyperdia and the real price will come up, ¥12,710 one way.

You can't use Suica for express or limited express trains, which shinkansen is. http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/suica-nex/s-n_users_guide.pdf
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Jul 21st, 2009, 07:24 PM
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http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_001.html

Here's an explanation of the fare calculation. I believe what you are looking at is the basic fare - around 6000 ¥ - the other 4000 ¥ is the express train fare supplement. The cost of a seat reservation is only about 500 ¥ (nothing with a JR Pass).
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Jul 21st, 2009, 07:25 PM
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Thanks for the better explanation, KJ - we were posting at the same time.
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Jul 22nd, 2009, 05:30 PM
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Thanks Kim and Mara for the clarification.
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