- How to make Online Reservation for Shinkansen
- The booking site, Smart EX.
- What to know about Smart EX and “Hayatoku” fares
- What to do at the Shinkansen station
How to make Online Reservation for Shinkansen
#Basics of Japan travel
Shinkansen, also called bullet train is a common transportation to travel between cities in Japan.
In this article, I’ll show you (1) how to make online reservation for Shinkansen from abroad (2) Discount fare of Shinkansen that are available for International travelers, and (3) how to actually get on the Shinkansen at the station with that reservation you have.
This contents are for travelers who are NOT getting Japan Rail Pass, and who want to purchase single tickets with your credit card.
There is no one system that you can book for all Shinkansen with best fares…
Before I explain about online booking system, I need to share a bit about JR’s system in Japan. There are no one system that you can book for all Shinkansen lines for the best prices.
This is because… Shinkansen is owned by 5 different JR companies. JR is former Japan National Railway, and privatized after. Now JR’s rail network is separated to 6 different companies based on different regions.
Today, I’d like to talk about the major website called Smart-EX to make reservation for the most major Shinkansen route that runs Between Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.
The booking site, Smart EX.
This Smart EX can be used to make reservations for the three Shinkansen lines,
the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen, which are in direct service. Tokaido Shinkansen (JR Central) connects Tokyo and Osaka (station name is shin-Osaka), and Sanyo Shinkansen (JR West) connects Osaka and Fukuoka (station name is Hakata), and Kyushu Shinkansen (JR Kyushu) connect Fukuoka and Kagoshima (Kagoshima Chuo).
This system doesn’t work for Shinkansens going to north of Tokyo, as they are operated by JR East based in Tokyo, and they use different system called Ekinet.
Register to become a member of Smart EX
To use Smart EX site, you can start from making a membership first. You need your credit card information to be a member, but your credit card won’t be charged just by being a member. Being member of Smart Ex is completely free.
But when you purchase the tickets, that credit card will be used.
You can purchase with discount fares
With this online booking system, you can access to discount fares called HAYATOKU that you cannot purchase at the station counters or machines. To compare, let’s see the regular fares of Shinkansen from TOKYO station.
From Tokyo, Shinkansen has 3 types of services depends on the number of stops, the fastest one is Nozomi, Hikari with some more stops, and Kodama that stops all stations.
The fare with NOZOMI regular reserved seats from Tokyo to Kyoto is 14,170 yen, Shin-Osaka is 14,720 Yen, Hiroshima is 19,440 Yen, Hakata is 23,390 Yen. * This might slightly change depends on the season and train you travel.
The discount level you can get is different depends on how early you can purchase, and where your destination is. Let me explain four major discount fares good to know, for popular destinations.
Shinkansen’s Online Discount with Smart EX
(1) HAYATOKU 21 WIDE
If you book 21 days before the trip, you can get discount of Hayatoku 21 Wide, which gives you the biggest discount for regular car fare.
The price for Nozomi will be 11,820 yen (to Kyoto) 12,370 yen (to Osaka) 15,000 yen (to Hiroshima). So you save 2350 yen to Kyoto and Osaka, and 4440 yen to Hiroshima.
You can purchase this fare only 30 days to 21 days prior to the traveling date, and the number of tickets are limited. So it can be difficult to get early morning Shinkansen with this fare.
For further destination, there are fare called Hayatoku. You can purchase this fare until 3 days prior to the travel date, and the price is almost same as the Hayatoku 21 for Hiroshima and Hakata (Fukuoka). However, this fare is not set for Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.
(3) EX Green HAYATOKU Wide
You can save on Green Car of Nozomi, which is the “first class car” of JR train too. The fare is called Ex Green Hayatoku Wide
With this fare, the price to Kyoto by Green Car is is 15,400 yen, and Shin-Oaska is 15,940 Yen. Which is about 3,500 Yen cheaper than the regular price.
(4) EX Kodama Green Hayatoku: If you take the service Kodama, which stops all stations, you can get the comfort of the green car for 11200 Yen. That is more than 7000 yen discount.
All these discount fares are available only until 21 days or 3 days prior to your travel date, and the number of ticket is limited. you might want to check the site, as soon as you decided your travel plan.
And Of course you can get these discount fares for seats with oversized luggage space too, if available.
In that case, you check this button, and just search like regular seats.
You can access to those discount fares without any additional charge.
When you are searching, you might find this ”S work seats”.
This S Work seat is a car specially made for passengers who wants to do work. So it has better wifi, and allows
Doing online meeting and Making phone calls at your seat. This seat is only available online, and only allows solo passengers.
All available fares for you comes up in search result
Sounds difficult, but all available fares for your conditions (schedule and direction) comes up to the search result, so I recommend you to check the site. It’s good idea to make account a month before your travel date, and start check the price.
What to know about Smart EX and “Hayatoku” fares
No matter which fares you purchase, you can change trains with out any charge until the time of the departure time. Also you can cancel and get refund with 320 yen fee per ticket.
What happens if you miss the train you reserved
In case you miss the train you reserved, usual Shinkansen tickets allows you to used for non-reserved seats on the same day, but not for the tickets you get with fares named “Hayatoku”. You just lose the tickets. That ticket is available only for the train you reserved. So I recommend you to cancel or change to the later trains before the train’s departure time, if you think you cannot make it.
If you haven’t received paper tickets or entered the Shinkansen gate with IC cards, which I explain after, you can change or cancel on the website or app of Smart EX. (System works only 5:30～23:30 pm Tokyo Time) After you receive your physical tickets or entered the gate with IC cards, you need to go to the counter and ask for refund or change. But it still has to be before the train time. So if I think of this rule, it’s better to receive the physical ticket right before you get on the train.
What to do at the Shinkansen station
To get on the Shinkansen with the reservation you have, you need to either get physical tickets, or tag your seat information to your IC card.
Get physical tickets
To get the physical paper ticket for your reservation, you can scan your QR code to the ticket machine in the Shinkansen station.
You can get this QR code from your app or member page on the website.
1. See your reservation
2. Issue pickup code (QR code)
3. Scan the code at the machine in the Shinkansen station
In case you don’t know how, please talk to the station staff.
Use your IC card
You can tag your reservation information to your IC card, and enter the Shinkansen gate with the IC card. The IC card can be anything issued in the major cities in Japan, such as SUICA, Pasmo, and ICOCA. It’s NOT a special IC card for Shinkansen.
1. On the member page or app, you can register your IC card number to the Smart EX account.
2. After you make a reservation, with a few clicks, you can tag your seat information to the IC card you registered.
3. Your ticket and seat information is in your IC card, so you can just tap the IC card to the Shinkansen gate.
(Important) Small paper comes out from the gate machine, saying your train number and ticket information for your note. Make sure you take this one and keep it with you.
* Even if you use IC card for this, your IC card won’t be charged anything.
* You can not use this Smart EX site to make your reservation with Japan rail pass.
I hope you could get some idea of how to book Shinkansen tickets online.
In case you travel in busy season, you might want to check the seat one month prior to the date of your travel. I hope you enjoy the travel on matter what fare you get.
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