Riding the Shinkansen with the Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass allows for unlimited travel on almost all Shinkansen bullet trains, making it a popular option for travelers to Japan. Take a look at the guide below to see exactly how to ride the Shinkansen when using a Japan Rail Pass. 

There are primarily two types of rail passes available for use: the National Japan Rail Pass and Regional Japan Rail Passes

The National Pass, as the name implies, allows access to facilities all around the country. It is available in iterations of a 7-day (50,000 yen), 14-day (80,000 yen), and 21-day (100,000 yen) pass. The standard National Pass allows access to the

Ordinary Reserved or Non-Reserved Car. There also exists the Japan Rail Green Class which allows access to the more luxurious Green Car available on the Shinkansen train.

These are also available in iterations of a 7-day (70,000 yen), 14-day (110,000 yen), and 21-day (140,000 yen) pass. 

The Regional Pass allows access to Japan Rail Group-operated transportation within a specific region in Japan, such as Kansai or TohokuThe option of regional passes should not be overlooked if travelers are focusing their itineraries on specific regions, as they are more affordable.

The usage period for these passes varies depending on the region. For example, there is a 5-day and 7-day pass for the Hokkaido Regional Pass, but for the JR East Regional Pass that services much of central Honshu and Tohoku, there is only a 5-day option available for purchase.

Map of the Japan Rail Pass network

Map of the Japan Rail Pass network

@Japan Experience

The Japan Railway Network Regions

The Japan Railway Network Regions

Looking for an exciting and cost-effective way to explore Japan?

With the JRP National & Regional Pass, you'll have unlimited access to Japan's extensive railway network, including the high-speed Shinkansen trains. Don't miss out on this opportunity to experience all the beauty and excitement that Japan has to offer!

Sapporo Midori

The JR West Ticket Counter in Sapporo Station, Hokkaido


take a look at a more comprehensive list of exchange offices // Japan Rail Pass Exchange Offices

The pass calculates time in days of usage, not by specific hours or minutes.

What this means is that the first day of activation will count as the first day of the validity period and that the time of activation or time of first usage is not accounted for. 

For example, if someone activates a seven-day pass on one day, the pass is usable throughout the first day and up to six days afterwards. On that last day, the pass is fully usable until the end of the day, regardless of the time of activation on the first day.

Note that there are no train lines in Japan that operate for full 24-hour periods, so the final train of the day is something that should be kept in mind. Inner city trains will operate up to relatively late hours (usually a bit before or after midnight, depending on the train line), but Shinkansen trains and other rail lines that traverse farther distances usually cease operations earlier, as they typically take a longer time to reach their final destinations.

last train

Inside the last train in Tokyo


read more about reserving seats on the train in japan // How to Reserve Seats on the Train in Japan
Reservation Machine

Ticket and reservation machine at Yotsuya Station

@Japan Visitor

As of 2020, there are new rules in place in regards to bringing oversized luggage onto the Shinkansen train. Oversized luggage is defined as any suitcase that is between 161 cm and 250 cm in total dimensions (height, width, and length measured and combined), and not exceeding 30 kg (66 lbs) in weight. Any luggage that exceeds these dimensions are considered too large or heavy to be brought onto the Shinkansen, so be wary of these regulations.

If you are bringing on luggage such as this, it will need to be stored in the oversized luggage area, and use of this area requires a reservation. This can be done largely the same way as general Shinkansen seat reservations.

When at a Japan Rail Office to make a reservation, inform the attendant about your large luggage, and this space will be reserved for you as well as a seat that is nearby the storage space as it is available. There are additional prompts for these reservations at the ticket kiosks, but if you need any help, station attendants will be present to assist you. 

Note that things such as musical instruments or strollers do not count as oversized luggage, even if they exceed the dimensions listed above. Therefore, they do not need to be put into the oversized baggage area. However, if you do wish to use this area for such items, you will need to make preparations for them beforehand.

Oversized Luggage

The oversized baggage area located behind the reserved seats.


READ more about the oversized baggage regulations // New Luggage Reservation Rules for the Shinkansen
Shin Yokohama gate

Eastern shinkansen entrance at Shin-Yokohama Station.


For food and beverage, there is a deployable table connected to the seat in front of you. Some Shinkansen bullet trains will have vending machines on board. Some Shinkansen bullet trains will have an attendant with a snack and beverage cart going up and down the aisles, though this service will be ending towards the end of October in 2023. These refreshments are payable by cash, card, or a pre-loaded IC card.

The Ordinary Car is the most general-access car. The Green Car is one step up in luxury and features more leg room and a more feature-laced seat with deeper recline and padded headrests. One step up from this is the Gran Class Car which upgrades even further from the Green Class. Occasionally, snacks and refreshments are included with Gran Class Seats.

Reserved Car Seats

Reserved Seats inside a Shinkansen Ordinary Car


Green Car

Interior of the Green Car on the N700 Series Shinkansen




©Par Kaidog — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16946627

read more about the different types of shinkansen cars // Different types of Shinkansen Cars

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