questions & answers: itinerary check

family with children

Family with children


we are a family with 3 kids, travelling April 18th to May 3rd to Japan this spring. I am thinking of purchasing JR Passes for us, but would appreciate your advice: the Child One is 7,5y.o.and will definitely need a pass; the Child Two is 5,5y.o. and actually does not need a ticket as far as i have read, Child Three is a baby and will be 6 m.o. thus will not need any ticket while travelling on my lap.
I am considering14days passes for our time in Japan.

At the moment the plan is to travel Tokyo-Kagoshima on 23.04. to visit friends, then on 26.04. to Kyoto, then on 1.05. to Osaka and on 2nd - up to Tokyo.

My questions are:
1) is it doable on 23.04. to make it from Tokyo to Kagoshima at all ? What time latest should we board in Tokyo so we manage to arrive in Kagoshima on the same day?
2) although the Child 2 does not require the pass, will it be possible to get a seat on Shinkansen for her without the pass?
Or, in order to guarantee the seat for a long trip, would it be wiser to purchase also a pass for her?
3) as the dates are very close to Golden Week, i am worried if we would be able to get the seats all together... is it possible to make seat reservations (get the tickets) in advance while activating the passes upon arrival? What are our chances if we reserve on 18/19th for the parts Tokyo-Kagoshima and Kagoshima-Kyoto, Shin-Osaka-Tokyo as these dates are already fixed? How far in advance can one make reservations, if at all at these high season dates?
4) as 14days pass does not cover our whole journey, i am thinking when it would be better to activate the passes: upon arrival to Narita on 18th (and use the passes to get to Tokyo Shibuya where we stay) OR better purchase normal tickets and activate the passes on 19.04 so we are able to use them on 2.05.when coming back to Tokyo before we fly back home. In other words, i tend to using the pass 19.04 to 2.05. when most Shinkansen travels are planned. What would you say?

Many thanks in advance for your guidance,


Hi there!

Traveling with children is no problem on the Shinkansen. We have a special blog post with information about child passes.

1.) Tokyo - Kagoshima is about 480 Minutes (or 8 hours of straight travel) with the Shinkansen. It is certainly possible but you should ask yourself if you want to spend this amount of time in the train. The last possible train departs at 15:33.

2.) When you travel with an infant it is expected that you take your child on your lap if trains are busy and seats are not guaranteed unless you buy a child ticket or pass. You could consider buying an extra child pass depending on how important this is for you.

3.) You can reserve all your tickets the movement that you are in Japan and have activated your JR Pass. I think that you should have no problem at all doing this if you do you directly upon arrival. It is handy to bring a printed list with routes and times that you wish to travel, this will help the JR Staff a lot and will speed up the process.

4.)The key to utilizing the JR Pass is to cover as much Shinkansen and train travel with it as possible. In your case I think it would be better to wait and use to pass to return to Tokyo.

Hope this helps!

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Hi Daniel,
thanks a lot for your comments and advice, sure very helpful!
How far in future can i set the start date when i activate the JRP upon arrival? I mean, can I activate the pass with the 1st day validity let;s say one week after the initial activation?

Another question - are there any night trains in Japan? Like in Europe, we have City Night Line international sleeping trains - you can really sleep there overnight while travelling ex.Berlin to Zürich... Do you have similar trains or night connection? If yes, would it be an option for our trip to/from Kagoshima?

thanks, and best regards,


Hi KiSkinFam,

Yes that's no problem you can exchange the pass and select a date for later use. This is also a great way to reserve tickets in advance during busy periods. You can select a dayt up to 30 days after activation.

Japan once used to be a country full of night trains, sadly few remain these days. There's one night train - the sunrise express - that travels between Tokyo - Osaka - Okayama and on. The problem is that this train is very popular and can be sold out weeks in advance. You could ask for tickets upon arrival, this would give you enough time to rearrange things if tickets are not available. After Okayama you'd still have to use the Shinkansen from there to Kagoshima, which is still pretty long trip.

Hope this helps too!

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