Home How to Purchase Japanese Train Tickets

How to Purchase Japanese Train Tickets

Japanese train tickets can be purchased in four ways:

  1. Buy tickets at a manned ticket counter at a local train station.
  2. Buy tickets at a self-service ticket machine at a local train station.
  3. Use prepaid IC cards.
  4. Use a Japan Rail Pass.

How Many Days in Advance Should I Buy Tickets?

Generally speaking, Japanese train tickets can be purchased 1 month prior to departure but the presale dates vary according to the rail operator.

In most cases, you don’t have to buy tickets in advance unless you coincide with one of the holiday periods or require a reserved seat for popular shinkansen lines, such as the Tokaido Shinkansen.

1. How to Buy Japanese Tickets at a Ticket Counter

  1. Search train timetables and ticket fares on Train Spread.
  2. Choose your preferred train and seat class.
  3. Write down the information: the date of travel, departure and destination stations, seat class (ordinary or Green Car), reserved or non-reserved seat(s), and the number of passengers.
  4. Find the ticket office at the train station and give the staff member the information for the train of your choice.
  5. If the tickets are available, make the payment with cash or a credit card. Your tickets will be printed.
  6. If the tickets of your choice are sold out, ask what alternatives are available.

2. How to Buy Train Tickets at Self-Service Ticket Machines (Only for Short-Distance Trips)

  1. Find the ticket machines inside the train station — they are usually beside the entrance gate.
  2. There is a big network map showing the train lines and ticket fares above the row of self-service ticket machines. Find your departure and destination stations and corresponding ticket fare on the map.
  3. Press “English” on the touch screen.
  4. Follow the instructions to select the seat class, rail route, departure station, destination station, travel time, and number of passengers.
  5. Choose a one-way or round trip.
  6. Check all of the information — if correct, press “confirm”.
  7. The total fare will be shown on the screen.
  8. Insert the money into the ticket machine. Coins and notes (10, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 yen) are accepted. Some machines also accept credit cards for payment.
  9. Collect your ticket(s) and change from the machine.

3. Use Prepaid IC Cards

What Are Prepaid IC Cards?

Prepaid IC cards are transportation cards issued by a variety of rail operators. They look like bank cards with a chip inside that allow you to pass through ticket barriers. Prepaid IC cards can be reloaded and recharged with money at any train station.

Prepaid IC cards can be used as train tickets. They can also be used in ticket machines to simplify the process of buying tickets for trams, subway trains, and buses. Some convenience stores and shops also accept prepaid IC cards.

There are a variety of prepaid IC cards issued by different operators. The most common ones are: Suica, Pasmo, PiTaPa, TOICA, SUGOCA, Kitaca, Manaca, Loaca, and Nimoca. They are all compatible.

How to Buy Prepaid IC Cards

Prepaid IC cards can be bought at any major train station in Japan. You can go to the manned ticket counters or self-service ticket machines.

How Much Does a Prepaid IC Card Cost?

The card usually costs 2,000 yen, with a 500 yen deposit and 1,500 yen for your use.

IC cards are rechargeable at ticket machines in all train stations throughout Japan. Please find a ticket machine with the corresponding mark according to your card type.

How to Return a Prepaid IC Card

You can return your IC card and get your deposit and remaining balance back at the corresponding ticket counters in a train station. The ticket counters vary according to the issuing company.

4. Use a Japan Rail Pass

What Are Japan Rail Passes?

Japan Rail Passes are issued by six companies belonging to JR Group. It is the most cost-effective way of traveling around Japan by rail.

You can use your Japan Rail Pass to take trains (including shinkansen, limited express trains, express trains, rapid, and local trains), buses, and ships that are operated by JR Group, with unlimited rides during its validity period.

Exceptions: Your Japan Rail Pass cannot be used on Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen trains.

Japan Rail Pass Types and Prices


Green Car

Ordinary Car

7-day pass

44,000 yen

33,000 yen

14-day pass

71,000 yen

52,000 yen

21-day pass

90,000 yen

65,000 yen

  • Children from 6 to 11 years old are eligible for child fares, which are half of the full prices listed in the table.
  • The validity period of a Japan Rail Pass begins on the first date that the pass is used.

How to Buy a Japan Rail Pass

A Japan Rail Pass can be ordered online at official websites of JR Group, for example: www.japanrailpass.net/en/. After placing an order online, you will receive an Exchange Voucher. The voucher can be exchanged for a Japan Rail Pass at any time within 3 months.

How to Use a Japan Rail Pass

  1. You can take as many JR trains as you like with your Japan Rail Pass, including shinkansen with the exception of Nozomi and Mizuho trains.
  2. A Japan Rail Pass can be used as a train ticket. You don’t need to make a reservation if you plan to take an unreserved seat. You just hop on and show your pass to take the train.
  3. For reserved seats, or Green Car seats, you can reserve your seat at any JR ticket office. It is free of charge. Reservations can be made at any time prior to departure.
  4. A Japan Rail Pass cannot be used on trains that are operated by private rail companies.

The pass gives unlimited travel on all JR trains across the whole of Japan, including high-speed shinkansen (bullet trains), the local, rapid, express, and limited express trains on the classic network, and even the Narita Express between Narita Airport and Tokyo as well as the monorail to and from Haneda Airport.

You Might Like

tokyo station
Tokyo Station

Tokyo Station is one of the largest and busiest train stations in Japan. Over 3,000 trains stop at this station per day.

Read More
sanyo shinkansen
Sanyo Shinkansen

Sanyo Shinkansen is a high-speed rail route in Japan connecting the cities of Osaka and Fukuoka.

Read More
japanese train ticket
How to Buy Japanese Train Tickets

Japanese train tickets can be purchased via 4 ways.

Read More