Buying shinkansen bullet train tickets online is easy to do before you arrive in Japan. It’s also easy buy them in Japan from train station vending machines. We’ll show you how to do both.
300 series SHINKANSEN © tmizo
Travelling by Japan’s shinkansen, or bullet trains, is a must-do for visitors to Japan. And rightly so – as someone who has made a lot of shinkansen journeys over the years, the experience never gets old.
While it’s easy to buy tickets at train stations in Japan, you might want to buy tickets in advance. This is a good idea in busy seasons, when reserved seats can sell out in advance and queues for tickets at ticket counters can be LONG. Buying tickets in advance gives you peace of mind and assures you a seat. Of course, if you’d like to buy the tickets in person at a train station, we’ll give you all the details
Buying Reserved Seat Shinkansen Tickets In Advance Online
Buying shinkansen bullet train tickets online is simple through an official agent. Follow the links to make your purchase for a one way or round trip shinkansen ticket on a specific route:
- Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen tickets
- Tokyo to Osaka shinkansen tickets
- Tokyo to Hiroshima shinkansen tickets
- Tokyo to Kanazawa shinkansen tickets
- Tokyo to Nagoya shinkansen tickets
- Kyoto to Tokyo shinkansen tickets
- Kyoto to Osaka shinkansen tickets
- Kyoto to Hiroshima shinkansen tickets
Order Shinkansen Tickets At Least 3 Days In Advance
Order shinkansen tickets at least 3 days in advance. You can buy either regular or green car (first-class) tickets.
You can collect your shinkansen tickets in Tokyo or, more conveniently, have them delivered to your hotel anywhere in Japan for a small extra fee. You must order at least 3 days in advance before the day of travel.
I would advise you to book your shinkansen tickets as far in advance as you can, during peak season like Christmas and New Year, cherry blossom season (April) and fall foliage season (November). It gets extremely busy and trains are often fully booked.
Green Cars Vs Ordinary Cars
Here’s my advice on green cars (first class cars) versus ordinary cars on Shinkansen trains.
How to Buy Shinkansen Tickets at Train Stations in Japan
It’s very easy to buy shinkansen tickets in person at train stations in Japan. Any JR ticket office or ticket window can sell you shinkansen tickets. In larger train stations like Tokyo and Kyoto, they also have dedicated shinkansen ticket offices. Here’s the one in Tokyo Station on the Yaesu side.
Shinkansen ticket office in Tokyo Station – image © Chris Rowthorn
You can also buy tickets for other JR lines in these offices. The problem is, during busy times, there can be long lines at these offices. There’s a solution: Use the shinkansen ticket vending machines! These are either inside the shinkansen ticket office, or right next door.
These machines offer services in English, Korean, simplified and traditional Chinese. Here’s one in Kyoto Station:
Shinkansen ticket machine – image © Chris Rowthorn
In the upper right corner of the screen, you will find the buttons for language choices:
Shinkansen ticket machine language choices – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the top page of the English version. Once you land here, it’s all self-explanatory.
English top page of the shinkansen ticket machine – image © Chris Rowthorn
Note: you must pay in yen cash. It’s handy to have a few Y10,000 notes, as well as some Y1,000 notes for this. You can put all the bills in together. The machine gives change and will issue a receipt if you’d like. It’s very easy! And you can feel superior to all the folks waiting on line at the ticket counters.
Should You Get A Japan Rail Pass?
If you are planning to make several shinkansen journeys during your time in Japan, you really should consider buying a Japan Rail Pass – it might well work out as the cheaper option. (See my complete rundown of the benefits of a Japan Rail Pass, or simply skip to buying a Japan Rail Pass online). Add up the cost of your individual shinkansen journeys and compare it to the total cost of a rail pass. Simply follow the links above to get pricing for the individual journeys.
Seeing Japan By Shinkansen – Multi City Itineraries
Here’s some useful Japan itineraries to help you plan your trip using the shinkansen to move between cities:
Tokyo-Kyoto 1-Week Itinerary
If you have only one week in Japan, then Tokyo and Kyoto are the two places you should visit. These cities will give you the best experience of modern and traditional Japan. Here’s the ideal one-week Tokyo-Kyoto itinerary.
Osaka-Kyoto 1-Week Itinerary
If you’ve got one week in Japan and don’t want to travel much, an Osaka-Kyoto itinerary is a great way to see both modern and traditional Japan. Here’s how to do it.
Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo 10-Day Itinerary
Ten days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Japan. Here’s a great Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka itinerary that will allow you to see the best places efficiently and easily.
Classic Japan itineraries – here’s six Japan itineraries that explore the country’s major cities. A Japan Rail Pass is probably the best way to proceed for those cities with more than 3 cities.
Nagoya’s Legoland is an easy day trip from Kyoto or Osaka on the shinkansen – it’s less than hour’s journey time.
Universal Studios Japan Theme Park, Osaka
Take the shinkansen from Kyoto (only 11 minutes to Osaka by shinkansen!) or Tokyo to visit the huge USJ theme park.
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 Suica card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world