questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

reserving seats during golden week

Reserving Seats during Golden Week

Hello, We will be coming to Japan on April 27th after 16 days in China. (We initially planned our trip to be Japan first, then China, to avoid GW but couldn't get the tickets to work out.) We will be in Japan until May 7th.

1. Is there anyway to book our train reservations before we get there based on our itinerary?
2. If we can't book until we arrive on 4/27, will it be unlikely that we can get reservations for the itinerary listed?
3. Would it be better to purchase other types of tickets rather than the full 14 day JR Pass?

Our itinerary is as follows and we planned to purchase a 14 day JR Pass:

Saturday 4/27/12 Shanghai to Tokyo flight (9:55 am – arrive Tokyo at 1:50 pm) Stay in Narita
Sunday 4/28/12 Depart Narita 6:59 am and arrive Takayama at 1:09 pm (3 trains).
Monday 4/29/13 Takayama –Take 1 hour bus to Shirakawa – go.
Tuesday 4/30/13 Shirakawa – go in am. Take bus 1.25 hours to Kanazawa in pm.
Wednesday 5/1/13 Kanazawa –
Thursday 5/2/13 Nara (6 am train – arrive 9:40)
Friday 5/3/13 Nara in am. Train to Kyoto in afternoon.
Saturday 5/4/13 Kyoto day - Nijo castle
Sunday 5/5/13 Kyoto day Additional temples.
Monday 5/6/13 Kyoto day – Fushimi Inari Travel to Tokyo or more time in Kyoto?
Tuesday 5/7/13 Return to Narita (Subway to Kyoto station, Kyoto train 8:56 to Narita 12:56) Depart Narita at 5:00 PM


Hi there,

Looks like you already made a detailed with many great places. To answer your questions:
1.) Seat reservations can only be made once you are in Japan and have exchanged the rail-pass. Once you arrive at Narita you can activate your JR-Pass there and make all the reservation you would like / or buy the tickets.

2.) I have traveled on several days during golden week in the past with a friend and we where always able to get seats, a couple of times we could not sit beside each other but at those times the other Japanese passengers where so kind the swap seats with us, so we could. We did with same day reservations, since you can make most of your reservations at least one day in advance I don't think it will prove to be a problem.
In the rare case that the seats reserved seats have sold out you can still take the train with a un-reserved seat, these go on a first come first seat basis, so be sure to come to the station early and line up. You can ask the JR-Staff in advance where a non reserved car will stop so you know where to stand.

3.) Here is a little break down of ticket prices,
Narita Airport --> Takayama ¥ 16,900
Kanazawa --> Nara ¥ 7,820
Nara --> Kyoto ¥ 540
Kyoto --> Narita Airport ¥ 15,930

For a total of ¥ 41,190 this would not cover the cost of the 14-Day JR Pass (¥ 45,100) so it may be better to buy the tickets as you go with the current itinerary.

Hope this helps,

Expert button 2

Thanks Daniel! That gives me great relief. Dawn


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