Japanese Shinkansen (Bullet Trains) Guide | Part-1

Shinkansen “Bullet Train”

There are Shinkansen lines that cover most of the major cities in Japan.
It takes longer than airplanes, but since there is no pre-boarding inspection and the stations are close to the city center, the time required is not that different, and in many cases, Shinkansen is more convenient.

Tokaido Shinkansen

Main stops: Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka

Tohoku and Hokkaido Shinkansen

Main stops: Tokyo, Fukushima, Sendai, Morioka, Shin-Hakodate Hokuto (Hokkaido Shinkansen only)

Akita Shinkansen

Main stops: Tokyo, Sendai, Morioka, Akita

Yamagata Shinkansen

Main stops: Tokyo, Fukushima, Yamagata

Joetsu Shinkansen

Main stops: Tokyo, Echigo Yuzawa, Niigata

Hokuriku Shinkansen

Main stops: Tokyo, Nagano, Toyama, Kanazawa

Sanyo Shinkansen

Main stops: Shin-Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima, Hakata

Kyushu Shinkansen

Main stops: Hakata, Kumamoto, Kagoshima Chuo
*The West Kyushu Route (main stop: Nagasaki) is scheduled to be in service in the fall of 2022.

Shinkansen Seat Classes

Ordinary Car (Standard Class)

  • Non-reserved car
  • Reserved car
    The difference in fare between a non-reserved and a reserved car is about 300 to 1,000 yen.
    *On some Shinkansen trains, all seats are reserved.

Green Car (Business Class)

The seats of green cars are more spacious than ordinary cars. The green car fare changes depending on the distance. For example, between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, the difference in fare between a reserved car and a green car is about 5,000 yen.

Gran Class (First Class)

Gran Class is the most luxurious class of Shinkansen, and the seats are spacious and comfortably made. Among them, on long-distance Shinkansen, there is a dedicated attendant for Gran Class who serves light meals and drinks. The Gran Class fare varies depending on the distance. For example, between Tokyo and Kanazawa, the difference between a reserved car and a Gran Class is about 13,000 yen.
*Gran Class is only available on Tohoku, Hokkaido, Hokuriku, and Joetsu Shinkansen lines.

Personally, I think non-reserved seats are fine if you want to pay less, ride from the first station, and have enough time to wait in line on the platform. If you want to take the Shinkansen during busy periods (such as the first week of May, summer vacation, the New Year holiday season, etc.), I recommend you take a reserved seat.

Where to Buy A Shinkansen Ticket?

Shinkansen tickets come in sets of two: a boarding pass (the fare for the trip) and a limited express pass (the fare for riding the Shinkansen). 

Before purchasing a ticket, decide:
-whether you want to buy a round-trip ticket or a one-way ticket
-the station where you will board
-the station where you will get off
-the date you will board
-the approximate time you will board
-the number of people

*If you buy a round trip, you can get a 10% discount if you meet the distance and number of days requirements.

JR Ticket Office (Midori-no-Madoguchi)

We recommend you purchase tickets at JR Ticket Office (Midori-no-Madoguchi) located at major stations. There, you can compare the prices of non-reserved seats and reserved seats, or ask which bullet train you should take to arrive by your desired time.

Ticket Vending Machine

Check out the article below for the video and flow
How to Buy a Shinkansen Ticket at Vending Machines 


The company (JR) that operates the service differs depending on the type of Shinkansen. Please choose the website that best suits your boarding station and destination.

JR-East Train Reservation
Choose this one if you want to take the following Shinkansen:
・Tohoku/Hokkaido/Akita/Yamagata Shinkansen (main stops: Tokyo, Sendai, Morioka, Hokkaido, Yamagata, Akita)
・Joetsu and Hokuriku Shinkansen (main stops: Tokyo, Nagano, Niigata, Toyama, Kanazawa)

Ticket Deals and Passes (JR-West)
Choose this one if you want to take the following Shinkansen:
・Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen (main stops: Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima, Hakata)
・Kyushu Shinkansen (main stops: Hakata, Kumamoto, Kagoshima Chuo)
・Joetsu and Hokuriku Shinkansen (main stops: Tokyo, Nagano, Niigata, Toyama, Kanazawa)

Choose this one if you have (or purchase) KYUSHU RAIL PASS and would like to make a seat reservation.


You can take the Shinkansen with the pass. You need to reserve your seat. Please refer to the link below for more information.
JAPAN RAIL PASS How to book a reserved seat
*Japan Rail Pass is not valid for “Nozomi” (Super Express for Tokaido Shinkansen) and “Mizuho” (Super Express for Kyushu Shinkansen) 

This article will be continued in Part-2. Please read Part -2 for the boarding flow and how to get a refund.
Japanese Shinkansen (Bullet Trains) Guide | Part-2

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