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Shinkansen: How to Buy Bullet Train Tickets

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The Shinkansen, Japan's bullet train, is a fast train that allows passengers to travel comfortably over long distances in the shortest time possible. This article provides information on how to purchase Shinkansen tickets online or at the station in all areas of Japan.

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How to Buy Shinkansen Tickets


If you want to travel in Japan fast and in comfort, use the Shinkansen (bullet train). It offers comfortable seats and a pleasant ride to major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, as well as cities and towns in the Tohoku and Kyushu regions.

Shinkansen: How to Buy Bullet Train Tickets

This is the map of Shinkansen lines in Japan. Check the area you wish to visit and which Shinkansen you need to ride to get there, then purchase your ticket. This article introduces the Shinkansen ticket types and how to buy them online or at station counters in Japan.

If you plan to travel in Japan using a Japan Rail Pass, please check the link below.

Book the Japan Rail Pass (7, 14, or 21 Days) on KLOOK

Table of Contents:

1. Seat Types on the Shinkansen
2. Shinkansen Ticket Types
3. How to Buy Shinkansen Tickets Online
- All Areas of Japan and JR Pass
- Making Shinkansen Ticket Reservations
4. How to Buy Shinkansen Tickets at the Station
- Midori no Madoguchi (JR Ticket Office)
- Using Ticket Machines
5. How to Use Your Shinkansen Ticket

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1. Seat Types on the Shinkansen


There are three types of seats on the Shinkansen: reserved seats, non-reserved seats, and green seats.

If you wish to buy a reserved seat ticket, you need to purchase it in advance. The great advantage of this type of bullet train ticket is that you won't need to worry about not being able to sit during the ride. If your travel itinerary is already decided, we recommend purchasing a reserved seat ticket.

On most Shinkansen trains, the non-reserved seats are located in the first three cars, and passengers can sit wherever they prefer. The fare is cheaper (by about 500 yen) than for a reserved seat. However, during the peak travel seasons, such as at the end of December, New Year holidays, and the Golden Week in spring, all the non-reserved seats may be taken and some of the passengers may have to stand until they reach their destinations.

The Tohoku Shinkansen, which connects Tokyo to northern Japan, does not have non-reserved seats, so be sure to check in advance which Shinkansen you need to ride.

The number of green seats is limited on each train, and the fare is more expensive (by a few thousand yen) than for a reserved seat. A green seat is wider than a reserved/non-reserved seat, so passengers can enjoy a pleasant, quiet ride.

2. Shinkansen Ticket Types


There are two types of tickets: a passenger ticket and a limited express ticket.

The passenger ticket indicates the car and seat numbers along with the arrival station. The limited express ticket is required to ride particularly fast trains such as the Shinkansen.

To ride a Shinkansen and/or a limited express train, you will purchase the two types of tickets mentioned above, although there is also a single, integrated type of ticket for some trains.

As shown in the photograph above, passengers will be asked to present their tickets to the train attendant, who will come to check your tickets during the ride.

3. How to Buy Shinkansen Tickets Online

The Shinkansen will be crowded during the New Year period, Golden Week in the spring, the Obon Festival in mid-August, and on national holidays. Additionally, reserved seats may even be fully booked on weekends, so we suggest making reservations in advance.

If you're not using a Japan Rail Pass, then you'll buy your bullet train tickets individually. You can book your tickets on the activity booking site Klook.

Book Shinkansen tickets online

If you're on a tourist visa, we recommend using the Japan Rail Pass, which allows you unlimited travel on JR lines in Japan, including the use of some of the bullet trains. Buy your Japan Rail Pass on KLOOK! The procedure is simple:

Purchase the Japan Rail Pass (7, 14, or 21 Days)

If you plan to explore a particular area in Japan over several days, consider using the convenient regional passes.

Below are some of the regional JR passes that we recommend:

- 5-Day JR EAST PASS (Tohoku Area) for Tokyo, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Fukushima, Aomori, Yamagata, Akita, and other area in northeastern Japan
- 5-Day JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata Area) for Tokyo, Saitama, Nagano, Niigata, and other areas north of Tokyo
- 5-Day JR Kansai WIDE Pass for Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Tottori, Takamatsu, and other areas in western Japan
- 5-Day JR Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass for Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Okayama, Wakayama, and other areas in Western Japan
- JR Kyushu Rail Pass for Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Beppu, adn other areas in Kyushu
- JR Hokkaido Rail Pass (5 or 7 Days) for Sapporo, Hakodate, Otaru, Asahikawa, and other areas in Hokkaido
- JR East and South Hokkaido Rail Pass for areas in eastern Japan such as Nikko, Fukushima, Sendai, and Yamagata, plus southern Hokkaido, including the Sapporo area

For Kanazawa, Hokkaido, and Eastern Japan


Higashi Chayagai in Kanazawa

Visitors planning to travel to destinations in eastern Japan, including areas like the Hokuriku Region where the city of Kanazawa is located, the Tohoku Region, and Hokkaido, can make reservations via the official website of JR East. The website offers regular tickets and cost-saving travel passes.

JR East Official English Website: JR East

For Kyoto, Osaka, and Western Japan

shinkansen in japan

Townscape in Kyoto

There are various discount travel passes for cities in western Japan such as Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima, as well as for the Kyushu Region. Reservations can be made via the official website of JR West.

JR West Official English Website: JR West

If you plan to travel from Tokyo to Hakata in Fukuoka, try Smart EX, a convenient reservation app. By using this app, you will be able to go through the ticket gates using only your smartphone. Please note that the app may not be available in some countries.

Smart EX Official Site: Smart EX

All Areas of Japan and JR Pass


If you wish to travel all over Japan, we recommend the Japan Rail Pass. This pass allows the user to ride various trains, including the Shinkansen. The price for a seven-day pass is 29,110 yen. For comparison, the regular Shinkansen fare for a one-way, reserved seat from Tokyo to Osaka is 14,450 yen, so purchasing this Japan Rail Pass makes up for the cost of a round trip.

However, there are some exceptions, as this pass cannot be used on the Nozomi train, the fastest train between Tokyo and Hakata on the Tokaido-San'yo Shinkansen line. An additional charge will be required for the Nozomi, so most Japan Rail Pass users ride the Hikari or Kodama trains.

To obtain the Japan Rail Pass, you need to purchase an Exchange Order in your own country from designated sales offices and travel agencies. After you arrive in Japan, present your order at one of the exchange offices. Making your Japan Rail Pass purchase online via Klook is a quick, no-hassle way to get your exchange order and pass.

Making Shinkansen Ticket Reservations

To make Shinkansen ticket reservations, just follow the website guide: choose the Shinkansen train you need to take, the seat type (reserved or non-reserved), seat location and the number of passengers.

Please note that in most cases, you have to receive the ticket at the station where you will board the train, either at the Midori no madoguchi (Shinkansen ticket office) or the ticket machine. Making reservations is only the first step. Be sure to obtain the ticket in advance and arrive early at the station on the day of departure.

4. Buying Shinkansen Tickets at the Station

If you plan to buy Shinkansen tickets at the station after your arrival in Japan, go to the Midori no madoguchi (JR ticket office) or use the ticket machine.

Please be aware that the Shinkansen bullet train is operated by Japan Railways (JR) only, so make sure that the station of purchase is a JR train station. Shinkansen ticket cannot be purchased from stations operated by other railway companies than JR.

Midori no Madoguchi (JR Ticket Office)


The Midori no madoguchi at Ueno Station

Midori no madoguchi is a ticket office located at major stations in the JR network.

Pro: You will be able to talk to an attendant who can offer additiona information for your trip.
Con: You may have to wait in line. The attendant may speak only Japanese.

Using the Ticket Machines


The Shinkansen ticket machine at Kyoto Station

The photograph shows the ticket machines located at Shinkansen stations, which handle tickets for reserved, non-reserved, and green seats. The ticket machine display can be switched to English.


You may not have to wait in line at the ticket machine, but have your itinerary ready, as operating the machine can be complicated at times.


The timetable for the trains is displayed on one of the monitors, so be sure to check it at the time of purchase.

Pro: The display can be switched to English. It is less crowded than the Midori no madoguchi ticket office.
Con: The operation can be slightly complicated.

5. How to Use Your Shinkansen Ticket


There is an exclusive ticket gate for Shinkansen trains at the station, which is separated from other ticket gates. Just slide both tickets at a time into the gate.

Check the electric bulletin board, which displays the timetable, and head to your Shinkansen platform. If you have a non-reserved seat ticket, find where the non-reserved cars are located in the train, and wait in line.


There are kiosks nearby the ticket gates selling beverages and bentos (packed lunch boxes). It's a good idea to buy some snacks before boarding the train. Food and beverages can also be purchased aboard the Shinkansen.

After boarding the train, there will be nothing left to do but relax and enjoy the scenery.

Enjoy Your Ride on the Shinkansen


The Shinkansen makes traveling in Japan so much easier. Be sure to make all the necessary preparations and then enjoy your trip to the fullest!

Purchase the Japan Rail Pass (7, 14, or 21 Days)


Why are there two tickets for Shinkansen?

To travel by Shinkansen or limited express train, you will need a "base fare ticket" and an "express train ticket". There are two types of express tickets: one for reserved seats and the other for non-reserved seats. The base fare is the same for any type of train operated by JR on that particular distance. For example, you can travel from Tokyo to Atami by either rapid train or Shinkansen and the base fare for both of them is 1,980 yen; however, if you choose the Shinkansen, the express ticket (1,760 yen for an unreserved seat) will add up making it a total of 3,740 yen. In other words, on a regular train that is not an express or Shinkansen, you would only pay the base fare.

Can you buy food on Shinkansen?

Yes, food and drinks can be purchased on Shinkansen trains from the onboard food and beverage carts, which offer a variety of meals, snacks, and beverages. These carts typically move through the train cars during the journey, providing passengers with the opportunity to purchase a range of options, including bento boxes, sandwiches, noodles, and assorted drinks. Some Shinkansen services also feature vending machines within the train cars, offering additional refreshments and snacks for purchase.

Do I need to reserve seats on Shinkansen?

"It is generally recommended to reserve seats on Shinkansen trains, especially if you are traveling during peak periods, holidays, or on popular routes. Seat reservations ensure that you have a guaranteed seat, allowing for a more comfortable and stress-free journey. Additionally, reserved seats provide the flexibility to choose your preferred seating arrangement and ensure that you can travel with your companions together, if applicable.
While unreserved seating options are available on certain Shinkansen services, they are subject to availability and may result in a more crowded experience, particularly during busy travel periods. Therefore, reserving seats in advance is advisable, especially for long-distance or intercity travel."

Is there a limit to the luggage I can bring on the Shinkansen?

You may bring up to two pieces of baggage on board free of charge. For each bag the total of the length, width and height must not exceed 250 centimeters, the length must not exceed two meters and the weight must be no more than 30 kilograms.

Is there Wi-Fi in Shinkansen?

Yes, free Wi-Fi is available on most Shinkansen and express trains operated by JR. This complimentary Wi-Fi is available in both standard and green car (first-class) cars, providing passengers with convenient connectivity while on board. However, it's important to note that connectivity may vary depending on the specific Shinkansen service or route. The connection tends to be unstable in mountainous areas when the bullet train runs through tunnels.

Main image by Pixta
Original text written by Miki Takeshita

This article is a revised version of the original, which was published on April 15, 2014.


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The MATCHA editorial department. Our articles feature useful travel information for visitors to Japan, from how-to guides to recommended places to visit.

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