How to Refund a Shinkansen Ticket
Explanation of when and where to apply to get a refund for a shinkansen ticket
Shinkansen tickets are one of the most expensive expenses on a trip to Japan, and it’s normal for you to worry about what would happen if you had to cancel your trip due to unforeseen circumstances. Can Shinkansen tickets be refunded? The short answer although it’s possible to cancel a Shinkansen ticket, depending on the conditions it may not be possible to get a refund.
In this article, I’m going to explain the circumstances in which refunds are possible, the procedure, and the necessary handling fees. It’s very important when to cancel in order to obtain a refund, so please read this article to minimize the loss caused by the cancellation of Shinkansen tickets.
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Can Shinkansen tickets be refunded?
Whether or not a Shinkansen ticket can be refunded depends on the situation and the type of ticket you have purchased. Also the reason for the refund (if you have not been able to get on the train, or is a situation external to you such as weather conditions, etc). Below we will explain the situations in which a refund is possible and those in which it’s not.
Refundable cases (minus a handling fee)
In case you have to cancel your travel plans for any reason, Shinkansen tickets can be refunded minus a handling fee for the boarding ticket and the limited express ticket in the following cases.
Cases in which refunds are possible
Non-reserved seat: Refundable up to the day of departure.
Reserved seat: Refundable up to the departure time (even if the departure time has passed, a refund may be issued for the portion of the ticket).
Tickets purchased in the form of coupon tickets: Refundable only if all tickets haven’t been used.
The major difference is that if you have a non-reserved seat ticket, even if you miss your train, you can get your money back as long as you request it on the same day. For reserved seats, no refund is possible after the departure time.
Now let’s take a look at the fees for train tickets and limited express tickets that can be refunded.
List of fees
|Up to the day of departure
|One day before or on the day of departure
|Up to 2 days before departure
|Limited express ticket
|30% of express charge
(minimum 340 yen)
|220 yen + 30% of express charge
*All prices include tax.
If you have a reserved seat and cancel the day before or the day of departure, the fee will be significantly increased. If you want to get a refund, you should complete the procedure at least two days before departure.
Full refundable cases
In case of delays or cancellations due to accidents, typhoons, earthquakes, etc., you can receive a full refund without incurring any fees. However, in the case of a delay, please note that you may not be able to receive a refund for your ticket and green ticket, based on the fact that you were able to travel to your destination.
As a general rule, once the expiration date of a Shinkansen ticket has passed it cannot be refunded.
Cases in which refunds are not possible
Non-reserved seat: Refund cannot be made after the day following the scheduled departure date.
Reserved seat: No refund after the departure time.
Tickets purchased in the form of coupon tickets: No refund even if only one ticket has been used.
Where and how to get a refund for Shinkansen tickets
The procedure for receiving a refund depends on where you purchased your Shinkansen ticket. The following is an explanation of how to get your refund depending on where you bought the ticket.
If you purchased your ticket at the station
If you purchased your ticket at the ticket counter, you can also get a refund at the ticket counter (not necessarily the same as the one you bought it from). If you purchased the ticket in cash, you don’t need to worry about it, but if you paid with a credit card, you will need to get a refund through your credit card company. To ensure that the procedure goes smoothly, take the credit card you used to pay for the ticket with you to the counter.
If you purchased the ticket from a reserved-seat ticket machine at a station, refunds are generally not available. However, it’s good to keep in mind that refunds may be available for some tickets so it’s better if you go to the ticket counter and ask for your situation.
If you purchased your ticket online
If you purchased your ticket online, each reservation site has its own refund policy. So now we will explain how to get a refund for each service.
Smart EX and EX Reservations (Tokaido Shinkansen)
If you purchased tickets through Smart EX or EX, you can apply for a refund online at the respective reservation websites. After receiving the ticket as a paper ticket, you can get a refund by bringing the credit card with which you paid to the ticket counter.
Ekinet (Hokkaido, Tohoku, Joetsu, Hokuriku, Yamagata, Akita Shinkansen)
If you purchased tickets through Ekinet you can apply for a refund online at the same website where you made your reservation. After receiving a paper ticket, you can also get a refund by bringing the credit card with which you paid to the ticket counter.
e5489 (Sanyo & Hokuriku Shinkansen)
If you purchased your ticket via e5489, you can apply for a refund online at the JR Odekake website. Note, however, that e5489 will not accept refunds once you receive a paper ticket.
JR Kyushu Internet Train Reservations (Kyushu and West Kyushu Shinkansen)
If you purchased your ticket via JR Kyushu Internet Train Reservations, you can complete the refund procedure online at the website where you made your reservation. After receiving your paper ticket, you can get a refund by bringing the credit card with which you paid to a counter at a major JR Kyushu station.
If you purchased your ticket through a travel agent
If you purchased your ticket at a travel agency, please note that refund availability and methods differ depending on the plan. If you purchased a Shinkansen ticket that was bundled with a domestic tour, you can get a refund at the travel agency where you purchased the ticket after getting a stamp of proof of cancellation at the ticket counter.
In many cases, if you purchased the Shinkansen ticket separately, you may not be able to get a refund. So if you want to buy Shinkansen tickets at a travel agency, it’ss recommended to check whether or not refunds are available before making a reservation.
How do I get a refund for shinkansen tickets paid by credit card?
If you want to get a refund for the purchase price of a ticket paid by credit card at the ticket counter, the full amount will be refunded once through the credit card company. However, the refund doesn’t take into account the handling fee. So you need to make a separate payment for the handling fee at the ticket counter.
How to book Shinkansen Tickets online?
If you prefer to buy your tickets in advance, the most recommended option is to buy Shinkansen tickets online. In Japan there are different online platforms depending on the area and the Shinkansen line you want to book, and some of these platforms offer discounts if purchased in advance. However, most of them are only in Japanese and may not accept foreign cards.
Japan Bullet Train is a new service launched by our partner company, which offers bullet train and express train tickets in Japan for tourists. All the service is in English (and 3 other languages), including customer service. They accept payments with all major credit cards, and the process is very easy and simple, especially compared to Japanese websites.
After your purchase, once your ticket is confirmed you will receive a QR code. You simply have to scan this QR code in the vending machines available at the main stations from where the bullet train departs and you will get your physical ticket, with which you can access the platform. All from the comfort of your smartphone.
Buy shinkansen tickets at a travel agency
Although it’s often thought that travel agencies only sell packages that includes tickets and accommodation, they also offer separate Shinkansen tickets. However, there may be a handling fee, so check the travel agency’s website or ask them to see how much it will cost before making a purchase.
Is there any discount for unreserved seats?
Even for unreserved seats, you can use the round-trip discount offered by JR and get 10% discount if you travel more than 601km one way round trip. If you meet the requirements, you can also apply for a student discount.
If you want to save money, check the highway bus option
If you are concerned about the loss in case you need to cancel your ticket, we recommend using an express bus, which costs way less than the Shinkansen. If you don’t have much information about highway buses in Japan, the following articles may be useful.
From Tokyo to popular destinations: Train os Bus?
If you are not sure which is the best option to get from Tokyo to some of the most popular cities, and want to compare different options as train, bus, plane or private transport, here you have a few complete guides for the most touristic destinations.
Also how to get to Tokyo from the two main airports, Narita Airport and Haneda Airport.
If is your first time in Japan and don’t know where to go, this article may help! ▶︎Shinkansen: A Complete Guide to the Japanese Bullet Train
▽For more Shinkansen Information▽
Thanks for reading this far! In this article, we have explained the circumstances in which Shinkansen ticket refunds are possible and how and where to get it. I hope it has been helpful 🙂 For more tips and information about traveling in Japan, you have these articles too. And even more information in Japan Web Magazine!