I learnt today that the JR pass doesn't allow one to travel using the fastest type of Shinkansens, namely Nozomi and Mizuho (running in the Tokaido-Sanyo-Kyushu lines). For reference see this webpage. I am very surprised to know this because I do not understand how do they manage to enforce this restriction. If you don't need a reservation then you can simply use the JR pass as an entry ticket into the shinkansen area and then you are free to ride any shinkansen (which has a non-reserved car). In my 2+ years of living in Japan I have never seen any officer in shinkansens manually checking tickets. So how do they manage to ensure that the tourists who are using JR pass are not traveling in the non-reserved cars of Nozomi and Mizuho? Is it just based on trust?

  • 2
    I think I vaguely remember that they do occasionally check tickets in the non-reserved cars, but I'm not entirely sure.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 17:59
  • @Hilmar Thanks for the comment. I never thought about that possibility because strangely I never had my tickets checked by the conductor. But since I mostly travel using reserved seats I might be unaware of what's happening in non-reserved cars. Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 23:16
  • 1
    Yeah, I had my tickets checked in non-reserved cars a couple of times. But I believe it's mostly an honor system, very typical of Japan.
    – dda
    Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 7:12
  • If you have a reserved ticket, abide by it. They will know.
    – findwindow
    Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 15:01
  • I've routinely had ticket checks in non-reserved cars (granted, the last time I've travelled as such was pre-pandemic so it's possible things have changed.) They check in reserved cars too, but since they already know which seats are supposed to be occupied they won't bother passengers for the actual ticket unless someone is in an unpurchased seat.
    – Gene
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 19:28

1 Answer 1


The comments by Hilmar and dda helped me get to the answer, so let me add a proper answer to my question.The thing is, the train conductors randomly checks tickets in the non-reserved cars to ensure such things don't happen. Yes, it's true that it is not a full proof mechanism to prevent such activities and some tourists can get away with it. To be fair, some of them might not be even aware of such restrictions in the first place. But if you have a JR pass then make sure you do not get on the Nozomi and Mizuho trains. These trains help the locals get to their destinations efficiently during business hours whereas tourists usually can spare a few more minutes during their leisure activities.

Also I would add that they are restructuring the JR pass prices and usage from October 2023. According to the new rule tourists can then avail the Nozomi or Mizuho with their JR pass with an additional fee.

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