How to ride on a Shinkansen

April 29, 2006

Japan is well known for a country that have high use of trains. Virtually you can go anywhere in Japan by train. Most of the trains that runs in a city and all of the trains that goes intercities were run by the biggest railway company in Japan. That is Japan Railways (JR, notice how the shortened name has striking resembelance with the kanji ‘station’). A couple years ago, JR split up to become JR-Kyushu, JR-NishiNippon, etc. The differences were on the territory of operations only. Introducing the Shinkansen! This intercity speedliner were the main transportation for people in Japan for going from city to city. People might think that riding a shinkansen should be the same as riding a normal train. Well, yes, but not quite…When you buy a shinkansen ticket, usually (depending on your departure station and your arrival station), you will get, instead of one, two tickets. Now, what these tickets are for? And what about the seats in shinkansen? I’ll explain it to you shortly.

First, about the seats. There are two kind of seating that you can get. The first is the fixed seat. This is like booking your seat aboard the shinkansen. The seats are marked and the seats you have reserved will be guaranteed to be yours for your journey. Of course, if there is a fixed seat, there must be free seats. Yes, there is. This seats are free-for-all seats. Provided you are lucky enough to get an empty seat, there are no differences from the fixed seats. Of course the pricing is cheaper. And then in the free seats, there is the smoking car and the non-smoking ones. Unfortunately, for fixed seats there are no smoking cars. There is also a special car that is called the green car. I suspect this is a special kind of car with expensive pricing and top class service.  Never tried it before, so I cant really say for sure. 

Shinkansen usually consist of lots of cars. sometimes they can be like 10 cars and its also often to see a shinkansen that have 16 cars. Out of these, usually the first 3 cars ( car number 1-3) were the free seat cars. And out of the three, usually car number 3 is the smoking car. 

Okay, so now you know about the shinkansen cars, seating and probably already decided on what kind of seating you want. Next, is how to buy a shinkansen ticket. A shinkansen ticket can be bought in any JR train station (got that? ANY JR station. Before, I thought it can only be bought at the major train stations where the Shinkansen stops. Silly me!). Be sure to specify your departure station and your arrival station. Well, usually you dont have to be that specific with your destination station. Just say the name of the station that the shinkansen will stop. But be sure to be specific with the departure station. You may wonder why, ill explain it to you. If you get it right, you should get 2 tickets. The first one is your shinkansen seat ticket and the other one is a ticket that can be used to get from your departure station to the station where the shinkansen awaits. That’s the reason. You should get a free ride from the station of your depature to the station where the shinkansen awaits. Upon arrival, go to the shinkansen transfer gate and BE SURE to put BOTH the tickets in the gate at the same time (yes, its okay to put it in with one on top of another). Pick up your ticket and then hop on a shinkansen that is bound for your destination. 

So you have endured the pain of seating of hours in a train and now you arrived at your destination station. Maybe the first thing that you want to do is to get out as soon as possible from the station. Not so fast! Theres another trick in here. If the station that the shinkansen arrived is your final destination, then go ahead and get out (remember to pass both ticket on the gate). But if it is not, then hold on. You can get a JR transfer from this place. Just get to the transfer gate, and put both ticket in. Youll receive one ticket back. Then ride the train of your choice. Upon arriving to your destination station, hand over the ticket you have to the station ticket person. He’ll have you pay for the trip from your shinkansen arrival station to this final destination station at a discount. Neat huh? That’s it. Have fun!


3 Responses to “How to ride on a Shinkansen”

  1. Teddy Says:

    Nice tricks. Thanks, since this is my first time riding a shinkansen.

    Yokohama, Tokyo

  2. Vincent Says:

    Thanks for the detail information. Has been very useful

  3. fv1978 Says:

    There is more information about buying Shinkansen’s ticket. Here :

    I hope will usefull. Thanks

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