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Types Of Bullet Train Tickets And Seats Explained #2: Reserved Vs. Non-Reserved

Bullet trains are a great time-efficient transportation option while traveling long-distance in Japan. In the last article, we learned about seating options - Ordinary Vs. Green. This article will look into the types of tickets, Reserved Vs. Non-reserved, list of holidays/dates to be noted when planning your trip with bullet trains, and about JR pass and its perks.

When traveling in Japan on the train, whether if it is your vacation or a business trip, bullet trains are often a great option. Bullet trains are one of the main attractions not just to many international visitors who are traveling to Japan. It also serves Japanese people in daily commute and long-distance travel. It allows us to save a lot of time compared to the conventional train system or other transportations such as cars or buses.

In the last article, we explained the different types of seating options depending on the comfort level.

In this article, we will break down the types of tickets, Reserved Vs. Non-reserved.

Queue or No-Queue: Reserved Vs. Non-Reserved

Now that we briefly understand the tiers of train carts according to the comfort level, let’s look into the type of tickets, Reserved Vs. Non-Reserved.

Bullet Train Fare Comparison Chart

TOKYO - SHINAGAWA STATION, PRICE CHART FOR 「NOZOMI」(for one adult, morning time*) as of Oct 2021. - JR Central *Price for Ordinary / Reserved seating areas vary depending on the time of the year or of the day.

Non-reserved Seats (Jiyuseki)

Jiyuseki (non-reserved) seats are first-come, first-serve.  Though this is the most affordable option of all bullet train tickets, being the first-come-first-serve ticket also implies occasional queueing depending on the time of the year or of the day. 

Especially if you’re planning on traveling in a group, you may find it difficult to sit together in the jiyuseki (non-reserved) seating areas during the high seasons. Obon, Golden Week, Silver Week, Ohmisoka (New Year’s Eve), sanrenkyu (Three-day weekends) are a few big Japanese holidays to watch out for. 

During those high seasons as well as rush hours, Jiyuseki voyagers may also want to expect extra time to wait in line to onboard. Some say, at the busiest times like New Year’s Eve, it is recommended to wait in line at least 30min minutes before the departure time. (Also, when you calculate the queue to get on board, be mindful of “line-holders”, who stay in line on behalf of the party until the line moves!)

Reserved Seats (Shiteiseki)

The Shiteiseki (reserved) area is often less busy than the Jiyuseki (non-reserved) areas. While both reserved and non-reserved seatings offer soft seats and a luggage storage area, it may feel less crowded therefore more spacious. 

When you start researching for the bullet train ticket price & schedule, you will notice that the price varies depends on the time of the day and also of the year. Here are the high/low/regular seasons determined by JR Central: 


Usually, there is an additional charge for reserved seats (Shiteiseki), however, Japan Rail Pass users are able to book reserved seats (Shiteiseki) with no additional fee.


A JR Pass is a 7, 14, or 21-day flat-rate unlimited ride ticket for use on trains run by JR (including bullet trains!). JR Pass is only available to travelers visiting Japan from foreign countries for sightseeing. 


At the moment, the purchase of a JR pass is only available upon an inquiry. You may submit your inquiry via the methods listed below: 


Upon submitting the inquiry, please kindly include the information below: 

  • First [middle*] Last name: MUST match the one on the passport

    IF you’re ordering for other people than yourself, please provide the name of each person who’s like to order a pass. 
    Also, please check the name is correct and matches the information listed on the passport.

  • Your departure date (if you have)

  • Type & number of pass you’d like to order (choose one from each sub-bullet point)

    • Adult / Child

    • 4 / 7 / 14 days 

    • Green / Ordinary

  • Your shipping address

  • Phone number

  • Email address

  • Credit Card Information

    In case of a rush order, providing this information upon submitting the order helps expedite the process.

Once you arrive in Japan, to pick up JR Pass, please visit JR customer service center/ticket office, "Midori no Mado Guchi", at a nearby train station. "Midori no Mado Guchi" is located at major stations with green signs.

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