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Can I Buy Shinkansen Ticket on the Day?


Can I Buy Shinkansen Ticket on the Day?

Introduction: Shinkansen – The Pinnacle of Japanese Transportation

Japan is home to one of the most efficient, speedy, and reliable railway networks in the world, with the Shinkansen, or bullet train, as its star. The Shinkansen network spans across most of Japan’s main islands, offering unparalleled convenience and speed for domestic travel. But as a traveller, you might be wondering: can you buy Shinkansen tickets on the day? The short answer is, yes, you can. But the longer answer warrants a deeper look at your options and the implications of last-minute ticket purchases.

Buying Tickets on the Day: Immediate Travel Plans

Should your travel plans be immediate or spontaneous, rest assured that purchasing Shinkansen tickets on the day of travel is entirely feasible. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket counters (Midori-no-madoguchi) found in every major station, or from automated ticket vending machines. English language options are available, making the process smooth for international travellers.

Do keep in mind that popular routes, particularly during peak travel times (like holidays and weekends), can get busy. While the Shinkansen services are regular, securing a seat for your desired departure might be challenging if you’re buying a ticket just before the train’s departure.

Buying Shinkansen tickets on the day

Purchasing Reserved Tickets: Ensuring a Peaceful Journey

For those who prefer certainty, reserved seating is an excellent option. Reserved seats, as the name suggests, guarantee you a specific seat on a specific Shinkansen service. You can buy these tickets on the day of your journey as well, from the same ticket counters or machines mentioned earlier.

The caveat is that these tickets are subject to availability. On busier routes and times, these might sell out. If you’re planning to travel during peak times or on highly frequented routes, it’s best to book your ticket in advance to ensure you get a reserved seat.

Non-reserved Tickets: Flexibility at its Best

An excellent alternative to reserved tickets are non-reserved tickets. These give you the flexibility to board any non-reserved car on any Shinkansen service on your chosen route that day. They offer a perfect blend of spontaneity and assurance. However, these do not guarantee a seat and during peak times, you might end up standing. You can purchase these tickets on the day of your travel from the ticket counters or vending machines.

Japan Rail Pass: A Boon for Frequent Travellers

If you’re going to travel extensively across Japan, consider the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass). It offers unlimited travel on almost all trains operated by the Japan Railways Group, including most Shinkansen trains. The pass must be purchased before your arrival in Japan, but once you have it, you can reserve seats or travel in non-reserved cars on the day of your journey without any additional cost.

Cancellation fees associated with Shinkansen

Principles of JR’s Ticket Refund

Firstly, JR rarely uses the term “cancellation”. They use the term “refund” (払いもどし). What we might refer to as “cancellation fee” in English corresponds to what JR terms as “refund handling fee” (払いもどし手数料).

For Shinkansen tickets, JR has set the refund handling fees as follows. This is applicable for cancellations made within the ticket’s validity period and before the start of its use:

Shinkansen Refund Handling Fee Principles

Cancellation Date Base Fare Ticket (乗車券) Express Ticket (特急券) Total
Unreserved Seat (自由席) up to the day of departure 220 yen 220 yen 440 yen
Reserved Seat (指定席) up to 2 days before departure 220 yen 340 yen 560 yen
Day before and day of departure 220 yen 30% of express fare 220 yen + 30% of express fare

To provide clarity for those unfamiliar with Shinkansen ticketing rules, the “Shinkansen fare” is the sum of the base fare ticket (乗車券) and the express ticket (特急券) prices. JR sets refund handling fees for both the base fare and express fare portions, and the combined amount will be deducted during the refund.

For unreserved seats on the Shinkansen, if the ticket is refunded on the day of departure, a total of 440 yen will be deducted. For reserved seats, if the ticket is refunded up to 2 days prior to departure, a total of 560 yen will be deducted. However, the fee increases for reserved seat cancellations made on the day before and on the day of departure.

Conclusion: Shinkansen Tickets – Accessibility and Convenience

The Shinkansen system is designed to be convenient and accessible for both residents and visitors. So yes, you can certainly buy Shinkansen tickets on the day of your travel, but it’s essential to understand the different types of tickets and their availability during peak times. Whether you choose to buy on the day or in advance, the Shinkansen is sure to provide a unique and efficient way to experience the beauty and diversity of Japan.

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