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Buying Shinkansen tickets online.

I"m going to make a return trip to Japan in 2020. The first time I was there someone in Japan bought my Shinkansen tickets for me. Next trip I have to buy my own.

However, I cannot figure out how to buy tickets and make reservations online ahead of time. Anyone here have the answer?

Posted by
3452 posts

Frank , you might want to contact Harold ( NYC ) , he recently visited Japan , and as usual , he is a fount of useful information .

Posted by
5450 posts

I bought a JR Pass coupon (not available in Japan) in their NYC office, which was exchanged for the actual pass in Tokyo. The pass just paid for itself with Kyoto and limited use on the specific network. The JR desks that issued our reserved seats did have lines but were pleasant and gave good “secret” advice about boarding at intermediate stops in Tokyo to avoid crowds and long walks.

Posted by
681 posts

We will be going to Japan in November so thanks for the information.

Posted by
126 posts

As far as I know, you can't buy the JR pass directly on their website, you have to use a third party. I used this one when I went in 2017 and had no issues:

They send the inactive pass to your house, you take it with you to Japan and activate it there, we activated it at the Narita airport once we landed it.

Hope that helps.

Posted by
11286 posts

This was the video I used to learn about how to buy tickets:

Note that there is no discount for advance purchase, so the only reason you need to buy far in advance is if you are traveling during a busy time and want to make sure to have seat reservations. I just bought mine on the day of travel. The Hyperdia app and website work well for figuring out trains.

It is often said that you simply MUST have a Japan Rail pass when visiting Japan. However, just like in Europe, a pass is a great deal for some travelers and not others (it would not have been a good deal for me). Here is a great FAQ about the pass, including some tips for figuring out if you should get one. Note that if you're flying open jaw, right away that makes it much harder for a rail pass to pay off; if you're flying in and out of the same Japanese city, it right away becomes likelier that it will work well.

I still have to finish my Japan trip report (it's turning out to be even longer than I anticipated), so do ask me if you have further questions. I'll just say now, look into going to Nagasaki. It wasn't on my original plan, but my sister insisted, and she was 100% right. It has so much fascinating history, totally independent of having been the second city to be hit with an atomic weapon. It's a bit of a geographic outlier (I flew in and out), so it's not as easy to splice into a trip as some other destinations, but it's well worth it.

Posted by
13042 posts

The short answer is you just walk up and buy the Shinkansen tickets when you are ready to travel, unless it is during the very busy New Year or cherry blossom season.

I tried to figure out how to buy tickets online for our November trip ( 2 months ago) and after reading a lot I concluded it was best to just buy them in Japan. We had only one journey ( Tokyo to Kyoto) so we were not using a JR Pass. There is no discount for buying tickets ahead.

But I am so used to buying our train tickets in advance that I thought we should at least get the tickets at the station the day before our travel. We stood in two different lines for Shinkansen tickets, only to be told when we reached the window that they only sold "same day" tickets. We were directed to a different ticket window "outside" but in the huge Tokyo Shinagawa station we could not find it. So we decided to just show up and get our tickets the next day when we were ready to travel.

Turns out that was the way to do it. We had a leisurely morning, going for a walk to explore a bit, before checking out of our hotel and walking to the station. There was barely any line for tickets, and the very helpful agent sold us tickets on a Nozomi train departing 30 minutes later, with seat reservations on the "Fuji-san view side" ( the right side if traveling Tokyo to Kyoto).

30 minutes was just about right for us to head to the platform, walk down and find our car number, and line up in the proper spot. The platform is marked with car and seat numbers so you know which end of the car to board. Lines painted on the platform keep the queue in place. It is all very orderly and efficient.

If you have more than one trip by Shinkansen you should look into the JR Pass, but we did not, so I cannot help with that.

Posted by
7668 posts

We were in Japan mid April, end of Cherry Blossom season. We easily went to a train station near our hotel and got our tickets. Agents speak English. I had all of our choices written out in advance. explains it all in detail.

Posted by
17 posts

I bought a voucher for Shinkansen through one of the authorized sellers. They did require Japanese visa. So figure out if you need visa before you start the whole process. Anyway, you buy a voucher through one of the authorized sellers, and later on you exchange that voucher for an actual Shinkansen pass at the airport where you land. They will stamp your pass with the start date and end date. At any given train station you will have to show your pass to a guard/person at the gates.

Posted by
11286 posts

Just to clarify, the post by travel_bug is conflating two different things. The shinkansen is the high speed train; much of what he/she posted about is for the JR Pass, not for the shinkansen.

If you want a JR Pass, the coupon for this does indeed have to be purchased before you get to Japan, and does indeed require that you are visiting Japan on a tourist visa. They do check your passport when you exchange the coupon for the actual JR Pass.

However, if you just want to buy individual shinkansen tickets, you can do this without a passport, and can do it regardless of your visa status, and do not need to do it in advance.

Posted by
11207 posts

Everyone keeps saying I don't have to buy Shinkansen tickets in advance. Not always true. A few weeks ago I was traveling from Hiroshima to Kansai Airport. I wanted to take a Noon train but it was sold out. I had to take one at 10AM because it was the only one available. This was on a Saturday of a three day weekend. Had the tickets not been bought in advance and I went to take the noon train I would have missed my flight. (My tickets at the time were bought by someone else in Japan.)

So again, I will ask....does anyone know how to buy Shinkansen tickets in advance.

Posted by
13042 posts

Here is what Japan Guide has to say on the subject:

Here is the JR online purchase portal for central Japan:

But I don’t know if that is the one you need. If not, here is an agency that will sell you tickets online and deliver them to your hotel: