Skip to content

Shinkansen tickets: How to buy and use

Traveling around Japan using Shinkansen bullet trains is an absolute pleasure. They’re comfortable, convenient, luxurious, and above all, super-fast! However, at first, it can be difficult to know where and how to buy Shinkansen tickets.

Everyone wants to get the best value tickets possible, but without doing extensive research it can be tricky. This guide to Shinkansen tickets will explain the different types, where to buy them from, how to use them, and how you can save money by getting the best-value tickets.

Shinkansen ticket types

To ride a Shinkansen, you need 2 types of tickets.

Firstly, you need a passenger ticket which indicates the car and seat numbers along with the destination station.

Secondly, you need an express ticket to ride Shinkansen trains (and other types of fast ‘express trains’).

Certain trains may use a single integrated ticket, but often you need both a passenger and express ticket to board your train. Train attendants routinely check for both types of tickets during the journey.

Read more: Japan train tickets guide

Shinkansen ticket fees and prices

Passengers can buy Shinkansen tickets from ticket counters, ticket machines or online.

Foreign visitors are entitled to buy a JR Pass, which offers unlimited access to all Shinkansen trains (except Nozomi and Mizuho trains). The JR Pass is great value for money, covering unlimited journeys during its validity.

For non-JR Pass holders, the final price of a Shinkansen ticket is the sum of the base fare + Shinkansen supplement + seat reservation fee (if applicable)+ green car fee (if applicable).

Base fare

This fare depends on the distance of your journey. The fee goes up incrementally the further you travel.

Shinkansen supplement

The supplement fee for catching a Shinkansen bullet train. This fee also increases with the distance you travel.

Seat reservation fee

This only applies to reserved seats. Depending on the date of the journey, and whether it’s high, regular or low season, the seat reservation fee is either 330, 530, 730 or 930 yen. For Mizuho, Hayabusa, and Komachi trains, there is another part of the fee which depends on the distance traveled (between 100 and 620 yen).

Green car fee

This supplement only applies to people riding in green cars (equivalent of first class). This increases with the distance traveled, too.

Child discount

Children (under 12 years old) are entitled to a discount depending on how young they are. Anyone who is 12 or over pays full price.

Children 6 to 11 years old

Children in this age bracket pay 50% of the adult fare. Green car fees are still charged at full price.

Young children (1 to 5 years old)

Up to 2 young children can travel for free when accompanied by an adult. Additional children, or young children you occupy a reserved seat, are charged the regular child’s price (50%of full fare).

Infant (less than one year old)

Up to 2 infants can travel for free. The regular child fare (50% of full fare) applies if the child occupies a reserved seat, green car seat, or bed. In parties with more than 2 infants, only 2 may ride for free; tickets must be purchased for all additional children.

Information that appears on a shinkansen ticket

How to buy Shinkansen tickets

Passengers can buy regular Shinkansen tickets from ticket counters, ticket machines or online.

To save money with a convenient, multi-journey ticket, the Japan Rail Pass is available to order online in advance of your trip.

JR ticket offices

Ticket office in Ueno Station (Tokyo)

There are JR ticket offices at every major and most minor train stations throughout Japan. Credit cards are accepted at the vast majority of ticket offices. You need to provide the following information to buy a ticket:

Number of passengers
Journey date
Departure station
Destination station
Regular or green car
Reserved or non-reserved seat

For a seat reservation, passengers also need to provide the following additional information:

Train name (e.g. Hikari)
Train number
Departure time
Smoking or non-smoking

Also, in the JR offices you can always activate your JR Pass and make the related seat reservations.

Ticket machines

You can use most ticket machines in English. The machines are very useful if you’re familiar with them, but they can be confusing. Not all machines are the same, as some only offer Shinkansen tickets, others only offer seat reservations, and some do not accept foreign credit cards.

How to use Shinkansen tickets

There are special Shinkansen gates at train stations for the bullet trains. You just need to slide both tickets at the same time into the gate to pass through.

You can then check the electronic timetables to find out which platform your Shinkansen train departs from.

If you have a non-reserved seat ticket, you can find where the non-reserved cars and wait in line.

If you have a reserved ticket, you can board your train.

Read more: Train travel in Japan

Single tickets vs Japan Rail Pass

If you’re planning to spend more than a few days in Japan and visit multiple locations, it is almost certainly much cheaper to buy a Japan Rail Pass rather than single tickets. It is rarely worth buying single tickets, even if you’re planning to visit just 2 places.

The cost of a round-trip from Tokyo to Kyoto costs 28,100 yen by Shinkansen train. This is almost the cost of a 7-day Japan Rail Pass (29,650 yen). Therefore, you don’t have to do much traveling to make big savings with the JR Pass.

The post Shinkansen tickets: How to buy and use appeared first on Japan Rail Pass Travel Blog | JRailPass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *