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Seat reservations and JRP early April 2019/3/13 22:13

My husband and I will be travelling to Japan early April. We will spend several days in Tokyo then start travel through other parts of Japan.
Wednesday: Tokyo - Hakone
Thursday: Hakone - Kyoto
Sunday: Kyoto - Tokyo

We had not planned on getting a JR pass, but now we are thinking that we might get one. If we were to reserve seats on each of our trips, those individual tickets are about the same price (actually a little bit more) as the JRP and the JRP includes seat reservations as well. I also like the flexibility of adding in a day trip last minute if we wanted.

I have seen conflicting advice on whether or not making seat reservations is necessary. Are seat reservations really needed on the days we will be travelling? There are two of us, and if we are able to buy tickets without seat reservations that would be cheaper than the JRP (based off my research).

Long story short: if we need to make seat reservations, I think buying the JRP is the best option. If we don't need seat reservations and can just buy regular tickets, that would be the cheaper option since we are not travelling to too many places.

Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated!
by Sayne (guest)  

Re: Seat reservations and JRP early April 2019/3/14 08:24
I am the gnon reserved seat advocateh on this forum. I know many others donft agree and do understand their reasons.

For your situation I would go unreserved because:
-you can ride Nozomi (quicker and more frequent) only outside of the JRP
- you donft need to wait or hurry to catch your train, just take the next Nozomi from Kyoto to Tokyo (note: I think there arenft any Nozomifs that stop in Odawara) but you can obviously still hop on the next passing Shinkansen.
- you are only 2
- you are not traveling in a high peak season
- not all the way to Hakone is JR and depending where you stay in Tokyo actually Odakyu line may be more convenient to get to Hakone rather than JR
- you can more freely choose the best train line instead of feeling restricted to JR. Eg if you want to make a day trip to Nara, potentially A local private railway, Kintetsu, might be more convenient.

The only caveat is, that you donft do too many daytrips. If you start going to Himeiji, Nikko, Nagano , Kanazawa of other places slightly more far flung then the benefit of the JR pass kicks really in.

I personally would only reserve: (on the Tokaido Shinkansen)
-last (or near to last) train of the day
- larger groups
- GW, obon, new year , silver week...
- catching train in Nagoya or Shin Yokohama (simply because I have no experience about situation of free seats at those stations)

But obviously there are advantages to reserved seats, not the last peace of mind if you are worried about getting a seat.

Enjoy your trip to Japan!

by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Seat reservations and JRP early April 2019/3/15 00:20
Thank you so much for such a thorough answer. That really helps and also alleviates many of my worries that we wouldn't be able to get on the trains if we just showed up without reservations. I also like that it is more budget friendly than the JRP :) Thanks again!
by Sayne (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Seat reservations and JRP early April 2019/3/15 04:07
I want to stress, I actually like having seat reservations when possible, but sometimes it just isn't possible.

I have had a Japan Rail Pass and because either: no seats were available, I missed the train I had seat reservations on, or I tried to change my plans hoping to get somewhere faster but the original way was faster, and lost seat reservations in the process. In all those examples, I was a party of two and was able to find two seats together without too much hassle in non-reserved. I did line up early, because not all trains run as frequently. One of those times was specifically Odawara to Kyoto, where I lined up about ~20 minutes in advance. I don't know of any Nozomi that go to Odawara. The Hikari stop there about once every hour to hour and a half. If you take a Kodama, you want to catch another Hikari as soon as possible because that's going to be a 4+ hour trip to Kyoto assuming your Kodama goes all the way to Kyoto.

I've been to Hakone 3 or 4 times at this point and I've never gotten there via shinkansen from Tokyo. (I have taken the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka though.) I have used the Odakyu line 2x and it's quite nice. (Once I took JR post visiting Kamakura and just transferred at Ofuna.)

From Shin-Osaka or Kyoto back to Tokyo it's a lot more straightforward because there is a Nozomi nearly every 10 minutes so if the first one is too full, just wait for the next. Lots of people get off at Shin-Osaka and Kyoto.

I've also taken non-reserved from Koriyama to Tokyo (when I missed my train because I missed my earlier connection and the next reserved seat was 3 hours later!) and from Hiroshima to Shin-Osaka (again the next reserved seat was 3 hours later) In the case of the Hiroshima shinkansen, had I not been using a JR Rail Pass I would have had a lot more options.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Seat reservations and JRP early April 2019/3/15 06:46
You can reserve seat "without" a JR pass also. You can just pay for a reserved seat ticket as normal.

And if the pass seems too expensive. That is probably because you are not riding enough long distance trains to make it worthwhile value.

Nothing wrong with non-reserved seating. I use a combo of both reserved and non-reserved. But be aware of the risks involved in using non-reserved.

If you are getting on a starting location for a train, ie Tokyo or Hakata etc. You'll have no issue getting a non-reserved seat. Arrive 30 minute early. Que up in correct location, walk in when allowed.

Get on somewhere like Hiroshima, Kyoto etc, and you might no get a seat. You may have to stand until the next stop, and when people get up to exit, then you can take their seat/s.
by hakata14 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Seat reservations and JRP early April 2019/3/15 09:56
For you trip I wouldn't bother with a JRP, and I might not bother with reserved seats either, but knowing how quick it is to reserve a seat, I would simply do that on arrival at the station at a ticket machine, just before getting on a train.

As an example, yesterday I was out on a day trip with an uncertain finish time. On arriving back at the shinkansen departure point I reserved seats in about 3-minutes and fortunately the next train wasn't sold-out, although for the three of us we all sat solo (no two adjacent seats on the entire train).

For your journeys (Odawara to Kyoto and Kyoto to Tokyo) it's pretty simple.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Seat reservations and JRP early April 2019/3/15 15:43
That really helps and also alleviates many of my worries that we wouldn't be able to get on the trains if we just showed up without reservations. I also like that it is more budget friendly than the JRP

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by it is more budget friendly than the JRP. What do you mean by it?

You can always get on an unreserved carriage of the train without a reservation. You may not get a seat (in which case you're standing..) but you can always get on the train.

On a Shinkansen between, for example, Kyoto and Tokyo, the difference in cost between a reserved seat and an unreserved seat is Yen 830 (about U.S. $8). If you don't have a JR Pass, you're better off catching a Nozomi Shinkansen (which you can't use with a JR Pass), of which there are about 110+ / day between Kyoto and Tokyo. If you can't get a reserved seat ticket for the train you want ... or the next one or the next one etc, then stand in line for the unreserved cars ... and if the first one is full, wait for the next one or the next one....
by tt7 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Seat reservations and JRP early April 2019/3/19 21:39
All of this input is very helpful - thank you! It's nice to know that we shouldn't have issues getting on trains either way - whether we end up choosing reserved or non-reserved.

tt7- In regards to "it" being more budget friendly than the JRP, I meant non-reserved seats. I had been looking at the train schedule on HyperDia and just realized I was doing it wrong. I thought if we did non-reserved seats, we only had to pay the Fare, and that the Seat Fee was only paid if you reserved seats. Wouldn't that be nice?! I now realize you pay the seat fee regardless. Thank you for pointing that out. I would've been very confused when we got to Japan and bought our first non-reserved ticket.
by Sayne (guest) rate this post as useful

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