Japan Transportation Guide: Shinkansen and Express Trains

Shinkansen helps you shorten your traveling time in Japan.

Shinkansen helps you shorten your traveling time in Japan.

Japan’s transportation system is complicated and difficult to understand well as it’s very famous worldwide. This article will beat the problem. Especially, Shinkansen (Japanese bullet trains) and rapid trains are the essential way to move over a long distance from a city to another. They are several times faster than normal trains and buses. With Japan Rail Pass, bullet and rapid trains won’t cost so much.

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

*If you stay in Japan for at least 7 days and travel around Japan like Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima, Japan Rail Pass will save your money for moving.

▼See if Japan Rail Pass is worth for you!▼

How Fast??

For example of the time from Tokyo to Osaka

Shinkansen: 2.5 hours

Bus: 8–9 hours

Overnight express train: 6.5 hours

How to Purchase a Ticket for Shinkansen

You can buy a ticket in three ways. For first time visitors, a ticket office (called “Midori-no-madoguchi” in Japanese) is recommended. Ticket vending machines are also easy to get a ticket. Some vending machines have English menu. Ticket offices and vending machines are located next to ticket gates. They are usually located next to ticket gates. The green sign in the photo below suggests “Midori-no-madoguchi” ticket offices. Also an online reservation is available, too.

▽Did you know you can book your Shinkansen ticket online and receive it at your hotel in Japan??▽

Seats in two classes

Ordinary seat

Ordinary seats are not uncomfortable, personally. This type of seats is roughly as spacious as the one of airplane economy class. The seats are usually arranged in rows of 3 X 2 across the aisle.

Green Car seat

Green Car seats are superior ones. They are more spacious and offer more foot space than ordinary seats, arranged in rows of 2 X 2 seats.

Seat Reservation


Seats on Shinkansen includes a non-reserved seat and a reserved seat. If non-reserved seats are fully occupied, you will keep standing until one of them is available or get to your destination. But some reserved seats are empty it’s possible to have a reserved seat by paying the difference with reserved one.


A ticket for a reserved seat guarantee your seat. It will cost from JPY300–1300. As your budget permits, I recommend a seat reservation for your comfortable trip.

Why do you get “two” tickets for Shinkansen??


Base fare

Everyone pays base fares and gets a base fare ticket to use trains. A base fare depends on your traveling distance. Using Shinkansen requires an additional express fee which is divided into 3 types. Accordingly another ticket of each type is issued. So you hold two tickets for Shinkansen: a base fare and an express ticket. Please insert both tickets together into the ticket gate machine.

3 Types of Express Fees

1. Shinkansen limited express fee with a non-reserved seat

Base fare + Limited express fee

In addition to a base fare ticket, you also get an express ticket.

2. Shinkansen limited express fee with a reserved seat (higher class)

Base fare + Limited express fee + Seat reservation fee

In addition to a base fare ticket, you also get a reserved-seat express ticket. A seat reservation fee will be around JPY500 except high seasons.

3. Green car fee (the highest class)

Base fare + Limited express fee + Green Car fee

You get a base fare ticket and a green car ticket (combined with a limited express ticket) A Green Car fee will be from JPY1,280 to 7,650. For instance, JPY5,300 from Tokyo to Osaka.

Skip such a hassle to arrange the Shinkansen ticket in Japan!

▽You can book useful and budget passes online!!▽

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I'm writing by my motto: helping travelers spend their limited time experiencing something priceless in Japan. My articles won't let you down! Living in Tokyo and traveling many popular and hidden sites all over Japan, I deliver well-selected and latest tourist information to you from the perspective of “100% Japanese local”. My specific interests are island hopping, eating countless bowls of ramen, watching anime and reading manga. Enjoy Japan Web Magazine for recommended food spots, hidden gems Japanese Otaku (geek) culture, and everything about Japan :)