Non reserved seats on the bullet train Tokyo - Kyoto
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Aug 31, 2011 8:18 PM Last Post By: duxton20
Aug 27, 2011 4:14 AM
I know the bullet trains topic is well covered but I couldn't find an answer to my question. We are catching a nozomi to Kyoto and the pass I am looking to buy (Japanican E voucher) saves about $74 on a return ticket price through Hyperdia and as there are 3 of us, thats a saving of over $200 for me. The problem is the ticket can only be for non reserved seating. I know there are several carriages for non reserved seats so does anyone know if we will have any trouble getting a seat? Leaving on a Thursday AM from Tokyo station and coming back on a Sunday afternoon from Kyoto.
The JR pass doesnt suit as its only for 7 consecutive days and we have 9 most of which is spent in Tokyo where we cant really use it.
Any information appreciated
Aug 27, 2011 4:37 AM
1Non-reserved is just that -- a few cars for people who don't want to spend a bit more to guarantee a seat. Traveling in the middle of the week should pose no problems. Hard to say about your Sunday schedule, but there's more than 1 car per train for non-reserved. People often stand/squat in the back between cars if they can't get an actual seat.
You haven't said what date/month you're traveling, too (only Thursday). Festival or holiday time will be harder to get any seat, obviously.
Aug 27, 2011 5:04 AM
2Thanks for the reply but its not a matter of spending ' a bit more' to get a seat, AU$200 is a BIG amount more..( I am travelling with 2 teenaged children ). The Japanican ticket is 21000 yen as opposed to the prices on Hyperdia which come out just over 27000. If you have any tips on getting a cheaper seat I'd be happy to hear them.
We are travelling in October, around the 15th.
Aug 27, 2011 5:42 AM
3You should not have a problem finding seats. I often went to Kyoto for weekends from Tokyo travelling Friday/Sunday evening and rarely (only in busy seasons which is not the case for you) had problems finding a seat. Trains originate in Tokyo station so Tokyo->Kyoto should not be a problem at all. The return on a Sunday will likely be more crowded but you should be fine there as well.
A problem could be if you require three seats together. Are you fixed to certain trains with the Japanican ticket or can you take any train (within a period of time)? If the latter, you could wait in-line at the platform and only get on a train when you are first (or close to first). Trains depart every 5-10 minutes or so.
Aug 27, 2011 6:10 AM
4Nozomi trains have 3 unreserved carriages while Hikari trains 5 and Kodama trains 10.
As to the west bound (Kyoto bound) trains, nearly all Shinkansen trains originate at Tokyo Station. Therefore if you wait in line on the platform for 5 minutes or so, you can surely get seats. Or you can just jump on a train which is about to leave if it's vacant.
On the other hand, no eastbound (Tokyo bound) trains originate at Kyoto. So you can't always find space for you 3, or even if you can, you may not be able to sit together as you'll be travelling in the Sunday afternoon. The likelihood that you can find seats will increase if you choose to travel on Hikari. It has 5 non-reserved cars, but it takes 20 minutes longer than Nozomi and it's less frequent than Nozomi.
Puratto Kodama Economy Plan is affordable, but it only allows you to travel on Kodama, whose travel time is 80 minutes longer than Nozomi's.
The price difference between the e-voucher option and Puratto Kodama is minimal.
Aug 27, 2011 6:55 PM
5Thanks for the replies above, with the Japanican ticket we can catch any shinkansen and as we have plenty of time to get back to Tokyo a slower train is fine. I will have a look at the kodama trains also.
Aug 27, 2011 7:42 PM
Aug 28, 2011 11:07 AM
7The thing with Kodama trains is there is a LOT of waiting at various stations to allow faster Hikari and Nozomi trains to pass. Only if a Kodama train is going to a specific destination would I ever suggest using them.
This might be stating the obvious but five minutes before virtually any Shinkansen departs all seats will invariably be taken. BUT if turn up say 40 minutes before a particular train leaves and wait in one of the queueing lines then should have no problem.
Aug 28, 2011 5:15 PM
8As said above, travelling Tokyo->Kyoto is not a problem as trains start here and you will always get a seat. However, I think that returning will be problematic as Kyoto is a popular weekend destination.
Also, I don't get you. If you leave for Kyoto on Thursday and return on Sunday, this is either 4 or 11 days. If you get the 7-day pass you could use if for your trip and additionally use it for day trips with JR, e.g. to Nikko or Sendai (Matsushima coast). Or extend you Kyoto trip to also visit Hiroshima/Miyajima. Yes, the pass is not usable on Nozomi, but Hikari is only slightly slower.
JR's 'Suica and Nex' is a cheap option to get from/to the airport.
Also check hyperdia.com for prices for individual tickets and train schedules if you have not done so already.
Aug 31, 2011 3:41 PM
9Here is a tidbit no one covered.
Worst case if you cannot find an unreserved seat just wait in the area between carriages. After the train leaves the station wait a few minutes and go find an empty seat in the reserved section. You will not be at risk at getting bumped as no one will be getting on till the next station. You might have a risk of a conductor asking you to leave. No foul though in being asked to leave.
One thing you need to watch for is the smoking car, but I can't remember seeing them the last time I was in Japan (June 2011) maybe they got rid of the smoking cars.
Aug 31, 2011 8:11 PM
10I just recently returned from a trip to Japan. I stayed in Tokyo for most of the trip, but traveled to Kyoto using the bullet train for a long weekend. I had non-reserved seating and had no problem finding a seat with my travel partner. The first three cars (1-3) are for non-reserved tickets. We arrived at the platform ten minutes before the departure and still had no problem getting seats. The seats eventually became filled as we stopped at smaller towns but I never saw anyone standing. There is a smoking section on the train between the reserved and non-reserved cars. It's an enclosed area so you don't have to worry about being stuck in a smoking section if you don't smoke.
I also recommend getting a Suica card. They are refillable cards that you use for the JR line. You can also use them as a debit card in a lot of stores and vending machines. I took the JR line to Narita- it was very easy and convenient.
Aug 31, 2011 8:18 PM
11Thanks everyone for the great replies, I feel better about the non reserved seats now as I was considering paying the extra for seats, but $200 is $200... And with the Japanican tickets you cannot pay extra to reserve a seat. I am happy to get to the platform early and wait.
I am also getting the N'ex - Suica card for the airport run to Tokyo and getting around.
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