Now that we’ve covered the basics of getting to Nagano on the shinkansen (bullet train) including the different JR Pass options available to you, let’s tackle how to actually buy tickets and use the train.
This page will cover:
- Purchasing a ticket online
- Purchasing a ticket in-person
- Booking a reserved seated using a Japan Rail (JR) Pass
- Boarding & riding the shinkansen to Nagano
It follows on from HOW TO: GETTING TO NAGANO FROM TOKYO BY SHINKANSEN which covers:
- Overview of getting to Nagano by shinkansen
- Obtaining a Japan Rail (JR) Pass
- JR Pass options covering Nagano
- JR Pass vs buying individual tickets
For guests headed to Nagano, we are also happy to provide additional information regarding recommended dining and activities including tours and ski packages (as below).
Purchasing a ticket online
You can purchase a shinkansen ticket online up to 30 days in advance of your date of travel through the JR East Train Reservation website. To do so, you will need to register your details with JR East and enter credit card details in order to purchase your ticket.
You have several options to start the process. One of these three is likely to apply to you:
- Travelers with a full JR Pass
- Travelers with a JR East Pass (Nagano/Niigata)
- Travelers without a rail pass
The steps for booking online are simple to follow:
- Once you have chosen the option applicable to you, select the Hokuriku Shinkansen (Tokyo-Joetsumyoko), departure station, arrival station, and departure date/time.
- You are then shown the services available on your nominated date and time. Select the train that best suits your needs.
- The next step requires you to select where and when you will pick-up your ticket, including the option of doing so at the airports or Tokyo Station. Select the office and date that best suits your needs and note that it must be done before the day you will use the train.
- You can select the number of tickets (including adults and children), class, location (window/aisle), and whether you are willing to sit separately (if the train is busy).
- Finally, you will need to agree to a series of terms and conditions and register an account or log into an existing one.
- Once that is done you can complete the transaction with your credit card details.
This generates a receipt which is used to collect the tickets at your nominated ticket office.
Purchasing a ticket in-person
Many if not most people choose to purchase their ticket once at the station using either the:
- ticket machines
- JR Ticket Office (or ‘midori-no-madoguchi’).
You can purchase tickets at any station with shinkansen ticket machines and office and do not have to wait until the station you are departing from.
Ticket machines can be switched to English and allow you to buy same day tickets or in advance including single or return fares, different classes, and reserved or non-reserved seating.The machines are very easy to use – accepting both cash and credit cards – and typically have station staff in attendance to assist you.
Alternatively you can also buy tickets at the JR Ticket Office, usually located immediately next to the ticket machines. The queues for these offices can be long, so if you are confident to use the machine they are usually faster. However, if you prefer to do so through the ticket office simply line-up and JR staff will assist issue tickets for you.
While English ability will vary greatly between staff, language ability is always adequate to book tickets with minimal fuss.
Booking a reserved seated using a Japan Rail (JR) Pass
Holders of the full JR Pass or JR East Pass can reserve seats on specific shinkansen (at no additional cost) through the JR Ticket Office. This step cannot be completed using the ticket machines and must be done in the office.
Simply line-up and then explain to staff which train you want to reserve. They will issue you with the additional reserved ticket which can then be used in conjunction with your pass to ride the Kagayakai (reservation only) service or reserved carriages on the Asama or Hakutaka services.
Boarding & riding the shinkansen to Nagano
Most guests headed to Nagano on the shinkansen do so from Tokyo Station. With your tickets or pass in hand, the final step is actually getting on the train, which at Tokyo Station, can be confusing as hundreds of other commuters rush past and between you. It really can be frenetic!
Our previous blog article ACTIVATING A JR PAIL PASS AND TRAVELING TO NAGANO FROM TOKYO STATION breaks down the process of boarding the train at Tokyo Station. Most importantly, the shinkansen access gates are divided by region into those servicing the lines running to the north/east and those running to the south/west. The Hokuriku Line and services headed to Nagano Station are accessed via the gates marked Shinkansen North Transfer.
- For tickets holders, simply pop your tickets in the gates and walk through, remembering to take your tickets as they pop-out the other side.
- JR Pass holders can’t go through the gates and should pass through the windowed area to the side with station attendants. Show your pass and they will waive you through. It’s important that you go into the correct area – Shinkansen North Transfer – as the attendants won’t check where you are headed, and will simply waive you through.
Once through the gates, simply check the overhead boards for your train’s departure platform. On the platform itself, there are stickers on the ground instructing you where each carriage will stop.
Non-reserved carriages (1 to 4) are at the rear of the train headed to Tokyo and at the front for services headed to Tokyo from Nagano. It’s a good idea to line-up for these around 10 minutes in advance to make sure you get a seat. For travellers with reserved tickets, there’s no line-up. Just make sure you are onboard the train on time as they don’t wait.
Now that you’re onboard sit back and relax, you’ll be in Nagano soon!
For information including an overview of getting to Nagano by shinkansen, obtaining a JR Pass, your JR Pass options, and the benefits of purchasing a JR Pass vs buying individuals tickets, please refer to our page: HOW TO: GETTING TO NAGANO FROM TOKYO BY SHINKANSEN.
Nagano Travel Recommendations
Nagano City is the gateway to the region and most convenient access point when visiting central Japan. Known for its high mountain peaks and farm-filled valleys and their abundant produce, many visitors are draw by the region’s food and in winter, numerous ski resorts.
While in Nagano City, we recommend Monzen Terrace Enya to enjoy some of Nagano’s best produce, meat, and seafood sourced from the nearby coastal markets on the Sea of Japan. Enya’s menu is a blend of traditional Japanese with a modern twist, and Western staples including vegetarian options to keep all tastes indulged and satiated.
Located only minutes walk from the city’s most famous attraction, the near 1400-year old temple complex to Zenko-ji, Monzen Terrace Enya is a great option for lunch, drink, or quick snack and drink between the sites. With English menu and speaking staff, Enya has quickly established itself as a favorite with both locals and international visitors.
In winter, many international visitors will head to Nagano en-route to is numerous mountain resorts. As host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano is blessed with abundant powder and some of the best resorts in Japan, Nagano attracts visitors from all over the world.
Snow Monkey Resorts Ski/Snowboard Packages in Japan’s Largest Resort – Shiga Kogen
Nagano’s No.1 tour operator, Snow Monkey Resorts offers a range of ski packages and charter services for visitors wanting the ease and comfort of private transport from Nagano Station to the resorts (and in between).
As Japan’s largest ski resort and blessed with Nagano’s best powder, we recommend Shiga Kogen and offer a range of ski packages including transport to and from the resort, accommodation in the central village of Ichinose, lift passes, along with participation in our No.1 rated Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple and Sake Tour and fine dining experience at Hotarutei, one of the region’s most acclaimed restaurants.
With different multi-day packages – including our 3N/4D SKI/SNOWBOARD & SNOW MONKEY PACKAGE TOUR – and additional options of ski/snowboard rental and lessons available, our convenient packages are a great way to save both time and money and book everything you need to get the best out of Nagano and Japan’s largest mountain resort, Shiga Kogen!