On Shinkansen trains and JR tokkyū (limited express) and kyūkō (express) services, there’s a choice of ordinary, or futsū-sha (普通車), carriages or more expensive first-class Green Car, or guriin-sha (グリーン車), carriages where seats are two abreast either side of the aisle (as opposed to three). There may be a choice between smoking, or kitsuen (喫煙), and non-smoking, or kinen (禁煙), cars; all JR East Shinkansen services are entirely non-smoking. On Nozomi Shinkansen it’s also possible to buy standing-only tickets for a small discount.

Each train also has both reserved, or shitei-seki (指定席), and unreserved, or jiyū-seki (自由席), sections. Seat reservations cost between ¥300 and ¥500, depending on the season; they are free if you have a rail pass. You cannot sit in the reserved section of a train without a reservation, even if it’s empty and the unreserved section full, although you can buy a reservation ticket from the train conductor.

If you don’t have a reservation, aim to get to the station with thirty minutes to spare, locate your platform and stand in line at the marked section for the unreserved carriages; ask the platform attendants for jiyū-seki, and they’ll point the way. If you have a reservation, platform signs will also direct you where to stand, so that you’re beside the right door when the train pulls in.

Essentials

Everything you need to know before you set off.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Japan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

All aboard: the most incredible sightseeing trains in Japan

All aboard: the most incredible sightseeing trains in Japan

None of this choo-choo stuff – Byun! Shu! are the sounds that a Japanese train makes. And while bullet trains – shinkansen – are one of the symbols of mod…

28 Nov 2017 • Neil McQuillian insert_drive_file Article
Sipping sake: a dispatch from one of Japan's oldest breweries

Sipping sake: a dispatch from one of Japan's oldest breweries

Sake is quickly replacing craft beer as the cool kid on the drinks scene globally – and a number of breweries have recently opened in the UK, USA and Austral…

10 Nov 2017 • Tamara Hinson local_activity Special feature
6 reasons why Osaka should be on your radar

6 reasons why Osaka should be on your radar

Osaka is affectionately known as "Japan's kitchen". It's the birthplace of ramen noodles (which celebrate their 60th birthday in 2018) and is home to some of th…

26 Sep 2017 • Tamara Hinson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right