Japanese High-Speed Train Travel Classes

What might come as a surprise is the fact that not all Japanese trains provide an option of traveling first class.

​Local and Rapid trains, for example, usually boast only one travel class, but almost all trains serving the Shinkansen railway offer two (some even three!) travel classes to choose from. If you are new to train travel in Japan, you clearly want to know what's the difference between them all and which one is the best value for money.

​Of course, we can't give you the "correct" answer that works for any situation, but we can talk you through the pros and cons, which hopefully will help you decide what works best for you.

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Shinkansen: Ordinary Car

Let's start with the simplest option available on all Shinkansen trains, no exceptions here - Ordinary Car. Although the name doesn't sound very exciting or promises much, don't get disappointed just yet. Japanese railway is just so good that even the second-class ticket promises great travel conditions.

​As it usually is when it comes to the second class, the comfortable seats in Ordinary Cars are arranged according to the "3+2" scheme. Moreover, such carriages provide a relatively ample elbow room and plenty of luggage space to take advantage of. This class offers both reserved (come with allocated seats) and unreserved (the seats are not allocated) cars, so you are free to choose the best option according to your preferences.

Shinkansen: Green Car

Green Cars offer a bit more comfort, comparing to Ordinary Cars, and are an equivalent of first-class travel in Japan. Nowadays, the Green Cars are marked with a four-leaf clover and are easily recognized.

The difference between Shinkansen First Class and Second Class is not as big as one would expect but still is rather tangible. If some people can find the elbowroom in ordinary cars a bit tight, Green Cars provide more than enough for anyone to feel comfortable. The seats arranged 2+2 and boast a bit cozier headrests.

All green-car tickets come with allocated seats (aka first-class cars are always reserved), which offers a bit less flexibility than an Ordinary Car. On the other hand, as first-class tickets tend to be more expensive, Green Cars are usually less crowded and perfect for those who seek quiet.

Shinkansen: Gran Class

If you are seeking a truly remarkable experience, the luxurious Gran Class might be exactly what you need. Just a few Shinkansen trains offer this option, but it makes it even more exclusive.

It boasts white spacious leather seats arranged 2+1 (6 rows per car), offering so much elbow and legroom that you won't know what to do with it. But luxurious seating is not all to it. A ride attendant will make sure to give personal attention to all travelers, making sure that their needs and wishes are catered for.

Upon boarding, passengers of Gran Class are guided to their seats by a host or hostess and offered such pleasantries as a blanket, warm towel, slippers, and eye mask. ​What is more, travelers enjoy the benefit of unlimited food and drink during the ride! And you can rest assured, that no matter what you order, local gourmet dishes or western-style lunch, the food will be mouthwatering and come absolutely free of charge.​
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