questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

reserving seats

reserving seats

We arrive in Japan on Dec. 26 but won't activate and begin use of the 7-day JR Pass until Dec. 31 to use during our biggest travel time of Dec. 31 to Jan. 6. I heard that's the busiest travel time of the year. How do seat reservations work? We can't reserve any seats until Dec. 31 and the Pass is activated, right? What happens if all seats are taken? Do you get on the train, for example from Kyoto to Hiroshima, and stand?
Upon activation, can we reserve seats on trains for various dates and destinations through Jan. 6?


Hi Naomi,

If you arrive on the 26th in Japan you can already exchange your pass then and set the first day of use on the 31st. This way you can also make reservations beforehand, starting at the moment that you have received the actual pass. You can make al the reservations for your trip if you want at this point.

In case you can't get a seat reservation for any reason: Every Shinkansen train also has a certain amount of cars with unreserved seats. These go on a first come first serve basis, so be sure to line up early. The best way to obtain one of these is to go the the platform from where the train is question will depart, find where a unreserved car will stop (this can be seen by signs above the platform gates) and be sure you are there well in advance to procure it.

It is very rare for people to stand in a Bullet train, the only time I have seen this myself was when several trains where cancelled due to a typhoon showing up, so in general I don't think you have to worry.

Happy Holidays!

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