Usually you’ll find plenty of empty seats on the Bullet Train, but during commuting or holiday times the carriages can get pretty busy. If you’re looking into reserving seats here’s what you need to know.
How to reserve seats and board your train
Seats can be reserved free of charge at station Midori no Mado Guchi ticket offices, recognisable by the green sign (see photo), or at Travel Service Centres and JR-associated Travel Agencies. Reservations cannot be made in English for most routes outside Japan, but you can reserve JR East trains here!
- Take your Japan Rail Pass to the Midori no Mado Guchi
- Specify which train you wish to reserve a seat on, stating smoking or non-smoking
- You will receive your reserved seat ticket (carriage 号車, row 番, seat 席, Dept 発, Arr 着)
- Show your Japan Rail Pass at the ticket gate and go to your platform
- Find your carriage number on your ticket
- Stand at the correct carriage point on the platform. Carriage numbers can be found printed on the ground and hanging from signs (non-reserve carriages are usually numbered 1-5)
- Line up behind the white line and wait for your train
- Enter the train and find your seat, seat numbers are indicated above the window (sit in any seat if an unreserved carriage)
Keep hold of your ticket as you may have to present both your Japan Rail Pass and seat reservation to the ticket inspector.
When to book
You can make reservations right up to train departures, although during national holidays such as Golden Week, Obon or New Year, 3-4 days in advance is necessary.
If you are in a large party and want to sit together, I recommend reserving seats for your journeys at the beginning of your stay. Plan which trains using Hyperdia and take the print out to the ticket office, making it easier for the staff to book them for you.