Japan Railways West (JR West) recently launched an online ticket service that allows you to buy tickets online and pick them up in person at a train station in western Japan. You can buy shinkansen tickets and regular train tickets, as well as some regional rail passes (but not the all country Japan Rail pass). Here’s our full guide to this service.
JR West Icoca ticket: Ng KW / Shutterstock.com
- In September 2019, Japan Railways West (JR West) launched a website that allow you to purchase train tickets online.
- The service is only offered by JR West, so it only covers tickets in western Japan (including Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and points west). It does cover shinkansen tickets that originate in west Japan and end elsewhere (like shinkansen tickets from Kyoto to Tokyo, but not in the other direction).
- You can buy tickets for express trains, airport express trains, and shinkansen (bullet train) tickets.
- You can purchase tickets up to one month in advance. You can do so from inside and outside Japan.
- You pick up the tickets in person at special ticket machines or ticket counters at major train stations in west Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Kansai International Airport etc). You CANNOT pick up tickets in Tokyo.
- You can also buy regional rail passes, but NOT the all-country Japan Rail Pass. (See our detailed guide to the Japan Rail Pass for info on how to purchase and use it).
- The website and the ticket machines where you pick up your tickets are a little clunky, so read this page carefully before making your purchase.
- When you pick up your tickets in Japan, you will need three things: 1) reservation number, 2) ID code, and 3) the credit card you used to make the purchase.
- And of course, you don’t have to buy tickets in advance. You can simply buy shinkansen tickets and railway tickets in person at any rail station in Japan, either from ticket machines or the ticket office.
- You can also still buy shinkansen tickets and Japan Rail Passes from Japan Railway approved agents
Shinkansen in the depot in Osaka: EvergreenPlanet / Shutterstock.com
Here is the JR West website for online ticket purchases:
- This service is operated by Japan Railways West (JR West) and it only covers tickets in west Japan and those originating in west Japan and terminating elsewhere. Also, you must pick up your tickets at major train stations in west Japan (so it is not possible to pick up tickets in Tokyo etc).
- The service also allows you to purchase regional rail passes (but not the all-country Japan Rail Pass – see our guide to buying and using a Japan Rail Pass).
- Thus, this service is of limited use for international travelers to Japan. Those who might really benefit from it are people flying into Kansai International Airport (KIX).
- As mentioned above, this site is a little clunky, so we suggest that you read the following section to avoid getting stuck.
Shinkansen in Osaka Station: Luca Brianza / Shutterstock.com
Buying Tickets Online
First, access the JR West Online Ticket Purchasing Site.
Overview top page – image © Chris Rowthorn
Scroll down and select either regular tickets (for shinkansen etc) or special discounted tickets (for regional rail passes). We’ll choose the regular tickets option for this article. There are two options for this: Reserve Ticket by Selecting Train or Reserve Ticket by Selecting Stations. We’ll choose the Selecting Stations option. NOTE: This only works during normal working hours in Japan (5:30 am – 11:30 pm JST).
Purchase options – image © Chris Rowthorn
Input the date and time of your trip and the departure and arrival stations. Also, click the box for shinkansen if you want to go by shinkansen (most people will choose this option for long trips). We’re inputting a short trip from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka (the Osaka shinkansen station) on the shinkansen on November 1, 2019. After inputting the information, hit Search.
Date, time and route – image © Chris Rowthorn
The system will return several possible trains that fulfill your search requirements. The Ordinary Car and Green Car buttons are for reserved seats. If the button for Non-reserved seating reads Available, you can also choose a non-reserved ticket, which will be cheaper than reserved or Green Car seats. Click the button that you want. This turns it red. After making your choice, hit Select.
Route and seating selection – image © Chris Rowthorn
The next page shows the ticket prices. You will be asked to select Ticket Type. For most shinkansen journeys, there will be only one choice here: Regular Ticket. Click Select.
Ticket prices – image © Chris Rowthorn
You will then be asked to input your name, email address and a four-digit identification number (ID number). Use a number you can easily remember or MAKE A NOTE OF THE NUMBER, because you will need it when you pick up your ticket!! Then tick the Agree box and hit Agree and Continue.
Passenger information and ID number – image © Chris Rowthorn
Read the Terms and Conditions, tick Agree and then click Agree and Continue.
Terms and conditions – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll then have to input the number of users (ie, passengers or tickets), your preferred seats, and which ticket you buy. Options include one-way and roundtrip. A third option is no basic fare ticket. This third option is not really an option for foreign travelers, so you can ignore this option. One you’ve made your selections, click Next (New Reservation). NOTE: The New Reservation button is confusing and makes you wonder how you’ll pay for the present reservation. Don’t worry, if you click Next, you’ll be brought to the payment page (even if you aren’t going to make another reservation, ie, this is the only way to the payment page).
Users and seats – image © Chris Rowthorn
Ticket type – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll then have to confirm your information and, lower down on the same page, input your credit card information. After inputting the information, hit Purchase.
Confirm information – image © Chris Rowthorn
Payment information – image © Chris Rowthorn
You will then see the Processing page.
Processing payment – image © Chris Rowthorn
You will then see the Reservation Confirmation page.
Reservation confirmation – image © Chris Rowthorn
You will receive an email a few minutes later stating that JR West is processing your purchase. This email will show your ticket details.
JR email about processing payment – image © Chris Rowthorn
You will receive another email a day or so later stating that JR West has accepted your purchase. This email will also show your ticket details.
JR email confirming purchases – image © Chris Rowthorn
Shortly before the date of your train trip, you will receive a reminder email about your trip and ticket information.
Picking Up Your Tickets in Japan
As mentioned above, you can pick up the tickets you bought online at major JR train stations in west Japan. This includes Kansai International Airport, Kyoto Station, Osaka Station and many others. You will need three things to pick up your tickets:
- Your five-digit reservation number
- Your four-digit ID number
- The credit card that you used to make the purchase
If you forget any of those, you will not be able to pick up your tickets from a machine (you should go to a manned ticket counter if you have forgotten any of the above and they MAY be able to issue your tickets).
Once you’ve arrived at the train station, look for the special ticket machines that handle tickets purchased online. These are usually green. Here are those machines at Kyoto Station:
Kyoto Station ticket machines – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a closer picture of the bank of ticket machines in question:
Kyoto Station ticket machines close – image © Chris Rowthorn
Tickets that issue tickets purchased online have a blue label reading 5489 (this can be read as “go-yo-ya-ku” in Japanese, which is also the word for “reservation”).
5489 sign – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s a shot of one of the ticket machines in question:
Ticket machine – image © Chris Rowthorn
At the upper right of the screen, you will see language selections. Select English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese or Korean.
English and other language selections – image © Chris Rowthorn
Then select Receive Reserved Tickets.
Receive reserved tickets – image © Chris Rowthorn
Then select JR West Online Train Reservation.
JR West tickets – image © Chris Rowthorn
Then select Paid by credit card when reserving.
Payment type selection – image © Chris Rowthorn
Then input your five-digit reservation number.
Ticket number – image © Chris Rowthorn
Then input your four-digit ID code.
ID number – image © Chris Rowthorn
Then insert the credit card that you used for purchase into the card slot.
Credit card slot – image © Chris Rowthorn
Then confirm your ticket details and hit Issue.
Ticket detail confirmation – image © Chris Rowthorn
Then hit Receipt if you’d like a receipt.
Receipt screen – image © Chris Rowthorn
Then grab your tickets from the ticket slot.
Ticket issued – image © Chris Rowthorn
Other Ways to Buy Japan Train Tickets and Rail Passes Online
As you can see from the above, the JR West ticket buying system is a bit clunky. Moreover, it only covers tickets for west Japan and doesn’t cover the all-country Japan Rail Pass (which is what most tourists need). Here are some better ways to buy Japan train tickets and rail passes online:
- You can buy directly from an authorized online dealer of Japan Rail Passes
- You can also buy reserved seat shinkansen tickets online.
For all the details of the Japan Rail Pass, and some great tips on how to make the best use of one, see Japan Rail Pass: How to Make the Most of It.
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- Get travel insurance for Japan - World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)