questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

reservations during golden week

Reservations during golden week

Hi there,

We will be arriving to Japan on the 13th of April well ahead Golden Week. We will then be traveling around for 21 days so we will have do do some travel during that crazy period!

On the JR website it says:

Please note that during crowded periods you cannot be guaranteed a seat on a specific train.
The periods when seat reservations are particularly difficult to secure are as follows:

 December 28 to January 6 

The New Year holiday period is the most popular travel time for Japanese people, for vacations and returns to hometown areas.

 April 27 to May 6

Due to consecutive holidays in a comfortable travel season, there is large-scale travel throughout Japan for leisure and recreation.

 August 11 to 20 

Another time for traditional travel to hometown areas, called the Obon season.

In our case; we have planned to travel toward Tokyo (as we understand most people will be doing the opposite). So we wil be doing:

Hiroshima to Osaka on Saturday 27th April

Osaka to Tokyo on Tuesday the 30th April

(if possible Tokyo-Nikko-Tokyo on Wednesday the 1st of May).

Anybody with experience on this matters could help us:

1) Find out if the quote from the JR website means there is NO WAY we will have an assigned seat on these routes? We don't mind booking it well in advance as we know our dates and destinations.

2) We have been told about the possibility of simply going to the station and queuing for a non assigned place but that is a little silly as we actually can plan this well ahead. How difficult do you believe our dates and trajects are?

Thanks so much for your help,



Hi Yona,

Having traveled myself during the Golden week, I can tell you that it is hard to get seats together if you book even 1 day in advance. The last time me and a friend traveled from Kagoshima (all the way in the south of Japan) to Tokyo in 2 days, we got our tickets on the first day of travel and reserved for the second as well. On the first day some trains were already full and we had to wait an hour for seats and for the 2nd day we got seats but not together. The other Japanese passengers back then where very kind and would move seat so we could sit together. So in short: Yes it is hard to get seats but it is not impossible. If you can book 3 days in advance then I don't think you will have any problems, or in the worst case you get tickets for a train later.

To your question of ''how difficult the trajects will be''. It is true that at the beginning of the golden week post people leave the bigger cities and return later but since the Shinkansen only stop at bigger cities it is everywhere pretty much the same. I would recommend making the reservations the moment you activate your JR-Pass, for this you could make a printed itinerary with preferred travel times to make the progress go smoothly.

Hope this clears things up!


Thanks for your prompt answer (as usual) Dan!

I am still unsure then about how reservations work during the Golden Week. You mention you and your friend booked a few days before traveling and, while you had a little trouble, ended with assigned seats. However, on the website I linked ( it says that reservations are not "guaranteed".

This is what I am trying to figure out... if I am in Japan on the 14th of April, will it be that hard to book then a few trains during the Golden Week or will I be told that this is not possible as it is high season. Or is the concept of a "guaranteed seat" different (as in, if I just show before the train departs then I may not have an assigned seat and have to stand)?




Hi Yonathan,

If you can book your seats almost 2 weeks (on the 14th) in advance for golden week I don't think you will have any trouble getting assigned seats together or on a specific train.

The website you liked is like a disclaimer, what they are trying to tell you is that once all reserved seats are gives out you will have to line up for the non-reserved seats. There are no limitations to the JR-Pass during ''high season'' or busy travel times and once you have your tickets reserved they are yours. It is like your 2nd meaning, if you start waving the JR-Pass in the face of a JR-staff member 10 minutes before departure, they may not be able to give you a seat (please don't do this at any time, it is meant as a joke).

For reference: the sentence you linked to is: Please note that during crowded periods you cannot be guaranteed a seat on a specific train.

Please don't worry about it, if you make your reservations around the 14th of April you won't have trouble getting seats.
(Just don't lose the tickets or JR-Pass in the meantime, as they can not be re-issued)

Happy Travels,


Thanks Dan, that's exactly what I needed to know!

Yeap, the text from the JR website made things a little confusing...but I can see the typical tourist waving his/her JR pass around thinking it allows you to claim just any seat anywhere at any time.

Thanks again,



I just re-read what I wrote and saw that I made a little mistake with: ''The website you liked'' it should have been ''The website you linked''.

Glad you found it useful :)


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