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Suppose that I have a basic fare ticket (regular, non-discounted ticket) for JR. After I start using the ticket, if, for some reason, I need to change it, is this possible? How would it be handled?

This sounds like a simple question, but it gets more complicated when one dives beneath the surface.

  • Specifically what types of changes are you allowed to make?
    • JR Central's website says that it's possible to ride past the stop shown on your ticket, to change the route to the destination, or to change the destination itself.
  • When such changes are made, how is the fare adjustment amount calculated?
  • Are changes made after the start of travel essentially the same as fare adjustment at the arrival station, just that fare adjustment at the arrival station is an ex post facto change?
  • Somewhat in relation to the previous question, if the original basic fare ticket allowed for stopovers, would you be able to make stopovers with the post-change basic fare ticket?
  • How many times are you allowed to make changes after the start of travel? (Note that passengers can make one free change before the start of travel. Can passengers make changes after the start of travel even if they've already made the one free change before the start of travel?)
  • Where will the changes made after the start of travel be handled? (If you're making a change before the start of travel, this would typically be done at a JR Ticket Office as far as I am aware. But I could envision cases where someone would need to make a change whilst on-board a train, perhaps one that does not have a conductor, or at a station without a JR Ticket Office.)
  • At stations with a Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machine inside the ticket gate, when can and cannot such changes be made at those vending machines?
  • Are the staff allowed to refuse changes?
  • In the question statement, I assumed that I am using a regular, non-discounted basic fare ticket. If, on the other hand, I were using special services like the smart-ex service or the Shinkansen e-ticket service, would I be able to make changes in a similar way?

Context

Note: This is adapted from a comment that I made on Reddit.

I'm asking these questions because I got caught up in a somewhat confusing situation some time ago, and I was hoping to gain clarity on this, and understand more about the general case.

A few weeks ago, at Chugoku-Katsuyama station, I purchased a "single journey basic fare ticket for Chugoku-Katsuyama → Urayasu (Tottori prefecture) via Kishin line, Hakubi line, Sanyo line, Hatabu station, and San'in line". With the ticket I just bought, I boarded the Kishin line local train from Chugoku-Katsuyama to Niimi. But around 20 minutes into the ride, I decided that I wanted to go to Shinjuku station instead of Urayasu station. Up until Kurashiki, the route stays the same, but from Kurashiki I would take the Sanyo line to Okayama, then the Shinkansen to Tokyo then the Chuo line to Shinjuku. To reiterate, I wanted to change my original ticket to a "basic fare ticket for Chugoku-Katsuyama → Shinjuku via Kishin line, Hakubi line, Kurashiki, Sanyo line, Okayama station, Shinkansen, Tokyo station, Chuo line".

I didn't ask the train driver on the Kishin line local train nor the staff at Niimi station, but I did ask a conductor on the Yakumo train who told me to ask at Okayama station because he couldn't figure out how to do it with his handheld device. I was hoping to make a stopover at Okayama station with the post-change ticket, however since the Yakumo conductor couldn't actually do the change, this was troublesome. Probably because Okayama is not on the route of the original ticket, I was not able to use the original basic fare ticket to exit the automatic ticket gates at Okayama, so I had to explain to the staff that I wanted to change my ticket and make a stopover with the post-change ticket. The two staff members at Okayama station told me that because making « ticket changes after the start of travel » at the station entails writing a handwritten ticket, I should instead ask the conductor on the Shinkansen. (They let me make an exceptional stopover with the original ticket.) Then, after two hours, I showed the staff at the Shinkansen staffed ticket gate my original basic fare ticket and a non-reserved seat limited express ticket (which I bought at Okayama station) and told the staff the same thing to enter the Shinkansen ticket gates. After getting on the Shinkansen, I asked two conductors on the Hikari train who told me to ask the conductor who comes on from Shin-Osaka or the fare adjustment booth at Tokyo. Then another conductor on the same train (who boarded from Shin-Osaka) was finally able to make the change.

All in all, I was told to ask someone else three times.

I spoke to a staff member at JR East Koriyama station regarding my questions, however there were many things he said that he was uncertain about. I sent an email to JR West a couple weeks ago and I am awaiting their reply as they stated that they might take a while to respond. I cannot answer the above questions for the general case, but I'll try to say some things that I know for this specific case.

  • This change falls into the category of changing the destination, which I believe is allowed by the rules.
  • I believe that the change was originally supposed to be done by the Yakumo conductor when I requested it. I am not sure if the Kishin line local train driver would have been able to handle the change. (Admittedly, there were language difficulties, which I think may have been a reason why the change was so troublesome.) Since the Yakumo conductor couldn't handle the change, I believe that, then, the change should've been handled by the staff at Okayama station. The change was ultimately handled by a conductor on the Hikari train whilst the train was somewhere between Shin-Osaka and Tokyo.
  • I believe that the post-change basic fare ticket allowed for stopovers, except in the Tokyo Ward Area, based on what was printed on the ticket.
    • I actually rode past Shinjuku and got off at Musashi-Sakai station on the Chuo line, where I paid ¥170 at the staffed ticket gate. The post-change basic fare ticket was collected, and I exited. I wonder if, had I presented my post-change basic fare ticket (to Tokyo Ward Area) at the fare adjustment office at Tokyo station, would I have been able to change the fare ticket for a second time such that the arrival station is Musashi-Sakai? In this case, with this second-time changed basic fare ticket, would I have been able to make stopovers at intermediate stations like Yotsuya, Shinjuku and Kichijoji?
  • I did not attempt to change my original basic fare ticket at the Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machine inside the ticket gates at Okayama station, but based on what the staff at Koriyama station told me as well as a comment from Reddit, I do not think that this would've been possible.

Response from JR West

I received the following response from JR West. It is unedited, except to occlude my name.

Dear (my name) ,

Thank you for choosing JR West.

We are terribly sorry for our overdue response. Please allow us to respond to your valuable feedback.

We apologize for the inconvenience caused to you when changing tickets.

We confirmed what happened that day, and we found that the conductor of Ltd. Express YAKUMO No.18 could not provide the assistance you requested because he took too long to change the tickets.

Furthermore, the conductor of Shinkansen HIKARI No.522 Car No.8 was unaware that you wanted to change the tickets and informed you to make a fare adjustment at Tokyo Station. As for the conductor of Car No.5, he was trying to change the tickets but noticed he did not have enough time to finish making the change before train arrives in Shin-Osaka Station where he had to switch shifts with another conductor, so he explained the situation to the next conductor and passed your information.

We sincerely apologize that our conductors could not assist you and provide you with the information as you requested.

In the future, if we are unable to issue a ticket as requested, we will do our best to explain the situation to the customer and provide information that is satisfactory to the customer, even when the time available to respond to the customer's request is limited.

If you are boarding a train from an unmanned station and cannot change your ticket before boarding, please explain the circumstances and provide the detailed route to the train conductor or the ticket gate staff at the station you are transferring and change your ticket.

Please note that when the train is getting close to the arrival station, the conductor may not be able to provide sufficient customer service as they have to make safety checks and announcements at the time of arrival. In addition, depending on the situation of the conductor or station staff, it may take some time for them to assist customers with their request, such as ticket changes, etc. We ask for your understanding in this matter.

At the risk of repeating ourselves, we apologize for the great inconvenience caused to you. Thank you very much for your valuable feedback.

We hope you continue using the JR-West services.

Sincerely,

JR West Customer Service Center Customer Satisfaction Strategy Department Customer Satisfaction Promotion Office West Japan Railway Company

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  • 2
    In general, I'd say that Japan is usually very flexible with tickets, in the sense that you simply pay the difference if there's any discrepancy between the ticket you have and the train you're on/want to go on. There are probably rules for what can be changed where and what can't, but in practice it's mostly a matter of asking. Now, your particular case simply seems very convoluted, and that some random local conductors simply couldn't disentangle that knot, I'm not too surprised about.
    – deceze
    Jan 23 at 12:57
  • I only buy tickets for shinkansen. Any others I just use my IC card which eliminates all the guesswork.
    – findwindow
    Jan 23 at 17:51
  • @findwindow not all lines are rideable with IC cards
    – xuq01
    Jan 30 at 8:11
  • @xuq01 for 99% of tourists, IC card will suffice. I used it in Tokyo, Hakone, Yokohama, Kanazawa, Nagoya. Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kagoshima.
    – findwindow
    Jan 30 at 15:52

1 Answer 1

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First things first: you can make any change to your ticket even after travel has commenced, but it will cost significantly more than if you'd bought tickets for the new itinerary beforehand. In general, it is a very costly thing to do.

The method of calculation is simple: all segments that are changed from the original itinerary are considered, the price difference between the full fare on new segments and the old segments are charged. If there are completely new segments on the new itinerary, then you are charged the standard fare for these segments in full. No refunds, however, will be made, unless it is for an unused section over 101 kilometers.

Say you are going from Tokyo to Akita. You change your mind halfway, and decide to go to Shin-Aomori instead. If you change your ticket beforehand, you pay for Tokyo to Shin-Aomori, but if you change halfway, you'd have to pay (Tokyo~Akita) + max(Morioka~Shin-Aomori - Morioka~Akita, 0) = 10,780 yen (as opposed to 10,340 for a ticket from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori).

For certain short trips, you're simply charged the price difference between the old itinerary and the new itinerary (meaning that it is effectively the same as refunding the ticket and buying a new one).

Your case is convoluted, but there is nothing wrong with the change whatsoever. I would just ask the Midori-no-madoguchi at your destination (if there exists one), because they have access to the unified JR MARS ticketing system. Not all other counters, much less conductors on trains, have access to that system, but a staff with access to the MARS system can make any change of travel segment. If no station on your intended route have a midori-no-madoguchi (very rare case), I guess you may be out of luck.

Are changes made after the start of travel essentially the same as fare adjustment at the arrival station, just that fare adjustment at the arrival station is an ex post facto change?

Yes. In fact, fare adjustment (norikoshi) is just the most common form of change after commencement of travel.

How many times are you allowed to make changes after the start of travel?

I don't think there is a limit, and no limit is given in the Conditions of Passenger Carriage (Article 249 deals with such changes). But considering that essentially you are just giving them extra money, I don't see why they will set a limit; if you make more changes, you simply spend more money.

Where will the changes made after the start of travel be handled?

There is no specification, but I think a Midori-no-madoguchi would be the best bet.

At stations with a Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machine inside the ticket gate, when can and cannot such changes be made at those vending machines?

I don't think you can make any changes on automated machines. You'd have to see a JR employee.

Are the staff allowed to refuse changes?

Yes. Although very unlikely (e.g. they might refuse it if they suspect the purpose of your fare change is fare evasion).

If, on the other hand, I were using special services like the smart-ex service or the Shinkansen e-ticket service, would I be able to make changes in a similar way

No, special tickets do not generally allow changes. But in case of doubt, ask a staff member.

I wonder if, had I presented my post-change basic fare ticket (to Tokyo Ward Area) at the fare adjustment office at Tokyo station, would I have been able to change the fare ticket for a second time such that the arrival station is Musashi-Sakai?

You should be. But you will still be charged 170 yen (the fare from Nishi-Ogikubo to Musashi-Sakai), as changing the ticket at the fare adjustment office is the same as norikoshi.

In this case, with this second-time changed basic fare ticket, would I have been able to make stopovers at intermediate stations like Yotsuya, Shinjuku and Kichijoji?

You should be, as the destination is not within the Tokyo Special Ward Area.

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  • Thank you for the detailed answer. I received a response from JR West (see edited question) and according to them, you should be able to do make changes after commencing travel by asking the train conductor or ticket gate staff.
    – naoya2020
    Feb 2 at 15:09

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