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Shinkansen - Non Reaserved Seat - Christmas 2017

Hello everyone,

I am a Tokyo Resident, I arrived one month ago. A friend is coming during winter Holidays (he arrives the 24th of December). We will go from Tokyo to Hiroshima (the 28th of December), then to Kyoto (the 31st) and finally come back to Tokyo (the 5th of January).
We will use the Shinkansen.

I cannot obtain a JR Pass because I'm a one year resident. But my friend hesitates to take a JR Pass.
Of course it is cheaper, but I know that trains will be crowded during Winter holidays. And if he takes the JR Pass, I cannot take a seat for him before he arrives.

So I'm affraid that all trains for Hiroshima, Kyoto (...) will be full when he comes in December.

I just arrived in Japan and I don't know how Shinkansen works. I asked questions at Tokyo Station but I am not sure the guy understood me...

So I have questions concerning Non Reaserved Seat:

- How do these tickets work: I buy one and I can use it for any trains ? Or I have to select the day ? The train ?
- I know that some trains have a "Non-researved carriage" and some have not. How can I know which trains have a "non-researved carriage" ?
- If many people take a "Non reaserved seat" and they all want the same train, has it already happened that some people are "refused to enter" and have to wait for another train ? Or it never happens ?
- With JR Pass, are these only "Non-Researved seats" we can take ?

I don't care to be standing up during 4 hours. I just want not to lose time: I want to be sure that if I go to the station for a train, I will have it. And I want to be sure to have a train the 28yh, the 31st and the 5th because I have booked my hotels.

That is why, if my friend does not take the Pass, I can take reaserved seats and we will be sure of the "departure time" and the "arrival time".

What do you think I should do ?

- Take a 2 Weeks JR Pass.
Wait until he arrives the 24th and reserve Shinkansen trains for the 28th ? (I will have to change train at Osaka for Hiroshima) and for the other days.

- Take a one week JR Pass.
Reserve a Nuzomi train between Tokyo and Hiroshima (not use the JR Pass). Like that I am sure to have this train.
And use the JR Pass for the journey between Hiroshima and Kyoto and between Kyoto and Tokyo. (Because I will have more time to book these trains)

- Do not take a JR Pass because if I have to wait until the 24th of December there will probably not have trains left for the 28th (between Tokyo -Osaka and Osaka-Hiroshima) and the other days.

Thank you very much. :)
I apologize if this is not clear.



  • Hi,
    There is indeed a large number of people traveling during the end/start of the year. There is a chance that you could be standing on the train, but you will not be denied boarding. Nozomi trains leave every 10-15 minutes from Tokyo anyways.

    With the JR Pass, you can get seat reservations, in fact they are a free perk with the pass. There are some trains that require seat reservations, but not for the routes you mention. The main prohibition with the pass is that you cannot use it for Nozomi or Mizuho trains. There is no guarantee that Nozomi trains will always have available seats either.

    You have a couple of misconceptions here. First, for going Tokyo to Hiroshima, then to Kyoto, then back to Tokyo, you are still a little short of making a 14 day pass pay off. Although the difference is not much and with a few side trips for example to Nara (which is extremely worthwhile) and the Narita Express train (if using Narita Airport) you can break even.
    Second, going Hiroshima to Kyoto to Tokyo does not make a 7 day pass pay off.

    So if you definitely want a better chance at seats, you can buy 2 regular fare tickets (yes, you must choose a specific train and time, naturally) immediately and pay for reserving 2 seats if they are open.

    If your friend wants to save some money, you can buy the tickets up to Kyoto, and your friend can use a JR Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass between Kansai and Hiroshima. There is significant money savings over regular fare tickets with it, and your friend can ride the Nozomi with the regional pass. On the down side, there are no seat reservations at all with the regional pass. So there is a chance of needing to stand, although from Kansai to Hiroshima there is a lot less traffic than between Tokyo and Osaka. You can always ask at the JR office how full a train is for reserved seating to give you an idea of crowding.

    So there is no right answer here - it is a roll of the dice. It is all up to you and taking the chance or not.
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