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I arrive at Narita airport in early October at about 9am but need to get to Sendai. I thought of booking the Shinkansen from Tokyo (or Ueno?) for some suitable time (say, 11am), but I would like to know what would happen if my flight is delayed – is my ticket still valid and if so, how do I obtain a new seat reservation, since the JR East Hayabusa service apparently requires it?

I have read this excellent question but it doesn't seem to address my specific situation.

If I just turn up in Ueno to buy a ticket in the morning, are the prices significantly higher than buying e.g. a week in advance?

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TL;DR: Don't bother booking in advance, just show up and take an unreserved train.

The fastest & easiest way from Narita to Sendai is to fly. However, schedules have been cut due to COVID and ANA currently only flies 2x/week (!), which is unlikely to work for you.

Historically, no discounts were given for booking in advance on JR, the only thing this got you was a guaranteed seat. However, outside peak periods like holidays, there are always unreserved seats available. You could make a reservation and change it for free if it looks like you're not going to make it, but this change has to be done in person at a station and before the original train departs, so you'd be out of luck if the flight is delayed.

These days, some discounted fares up to 30% are available, but the discounted fares typically have zero flexibility, so they are not a great fit for your situation.

So my recommendation is, just show up at the station and take the next unreserved train, they run every 20 minutes or so from Tokyo to Sendai.

Pro tip: instead of the obvious choice of JR Narita Express to Tokyo Station, take the Keisei Skyliner to Ueno and board the Shinkansen there. This is cheaper, faster, and Ueno is a smaller and more navigable station too compared to the 3D labyrinth that is Tokyo Station.

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    Thank you – klar! That's what I'll do.
    – user13190
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 18:49
  • @user13190 Tell us how it went! Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 23:30
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    It went very well, thanks for asking: I did exactly as you suggested and the trains were frequent and not busy. Thanks again!
    – user13190
    Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 6:34
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Depends on what you use to take the train:

  • if you are using a regular ticket: according to the rules, if you are late for a Hayabusa train, you will still be able to use any train on the same day, but technically you may not take a seat. In practice you may sit in any empty seat;
  • if you are using a JR Pass or JR East Pass: of course, you just pretend you didn't reserve anything and just make a new reservation, which is for free anyways.

But a round trip between Tokyo Sendai + round trip Narita Express is already more expensive than a JR East Pass (Tohoku area), so I would suggest using the pass anyways.

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