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I'm planning a Hakodate-Tokyo journey this summer after the Hokkaido Shinkansen opens, but it's a four-hour journey even on the fastest service and I'd like to take a break, stretch my legs and eat some sushi somewhere along the way. (Yes, I'm familiar with ekiben train bentos, but despite the convenience they're not nearly as tasty.)

Can I stop over along the way, and if yes, do I need to indicate this when buying my ticket? Or am I best off just buying two entirely separate Hakodate-X, X-Tokyo tickets?

Note that I'm planning on using unreserved seating and not buying a Japan Rail Pass.

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    You need a stop over on a FOUR hour train journey? Make sure you never do a serious one. 48 hours on a train is worth traveling for. You can stretch legs on trains. Take fresh sushi on board, on ice if you want to keep it cool, and you will not need to get out. – Willeke Feb 21 '16 at 12:42
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    I've always wondered this myself. I wouldn't be surprised at all if it "just works", i.e. the gate at the middle station spits out new tickets for the unused portion of your superexpress and base fares when you feed in your paper tickets, which you then use later. But I've never needed to try... Certainly the safest is to buy tickets from 函館 to X and X to 東京 – Celada Feb 21 '16 at 13:38
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    @Willeke When you're traveling with hyperactive preschoolers, even an hour can be a very long time indeed... – jpatokal Feb 21 '16 at 20:26
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    @Willeke The question says "I'd like to take a break" not "I need to take a break." – David Richerby Feb 21 '16 at 20:50
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    Shinkansen trains are very spacious with room to walk around, and you can take food and drink on-board without issues. Unless you plan to stop-over for some sightseeing, I wouldn't bother. - even with young children, its much more comfortable than say on a plane – EdmundYeung99 Feb 22 '16 at 2:25
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  1. If you buy separate tickets for the journey:

    With reserved seats it's quite obvious: you have to buy two tickets for two legs of the journey. With Shinkansen express tickets it will be more expensive than buying a single ticket from Tokyo to Hakodate.

    Example with Tohoku Shinkansen:

    Tokyo - Shin Aomori: 17,150 yen
    Tokyo - Sendai - Shin Aomori: 11,000 + 11,010 yen

    With non-reserved seats you can leave the train and continue your journey on a different train, but you cannot leave the Shinkansen area of the station. If you do, it will either invalidate the express ticket (if you change to regular JR trains called "zairaisen") or will invalidate the whole ticket (basic fare + express ticket) if you leave the station (ie. ticket area).

    If your basic fare ticket was issued for a distance over 100 km you can ask for a refund for the unused part of the basic fare (but you would have to ask for it in a manned gate before leaving the ticket area).

    Mind that the fastest trains on Tohoku Shinkansen and probably on Hokkaido Shinkansen provide all-reserved seats.

    There's basically little value in leaving the train, but staying inside the Shinkansen area of the station. You can either buy a box of food (bento) or cheap soba noodles at the platform.

  2. If you travel with JR Pass, then it's up to you how you split your journey.

    With non-reserved seats you can leave whenever you want, with reserved seats you would rather have to ask for the appropriate reservations upfront. Although technically you could get a Tokyo-Hakodate reservation, leave and get another reservation for example from Sendai-Hakodate, I guess JR is trying to prevent this (as well as overbooking and no-shows) by stamping or making notes on the JR Pass.

  • Worth noting that if you are paying the base fare with an IC card then you wouldn't lose anything by exiting early. You'd still lose the unused portion of the superexpress fare, based on what you're saying. Sounds like a good reason to always pay the base fare with Suica if possible, just in case you need to change your plans due to unforeseen circumstances! – Celada Feb 21 '16 at 13:55
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As macraf notes in his answer, all Shinkansen services north of Morioka (Hayabusa and Hayate) have only reserved seats. Between Morioka and Tokyo, you can take a slower Yamabiko train, which will have unreserved seating.

If you want to exit the ticket gates at the intermediate station

This is the JR definition of a "stopover" (途中下車). Basically, base fare tickets allow stopovers (unless it's for a very short trip inside an urban area) but limited express tickets (either for reserved or unreserved seats) do not.

So in this case the best strategy is to buy a single base fare ticket from Hakodate to Tokyo, and two separate limited express tickets. When you exit at your intermediate station, your base fare ticket will be returned, and you can use it again to re-enter. Also, since this is a very long trip, your base fare ticket will actually be valid for several days (the validity period will be printed on the ticket), so you could even make several overnight stopovers.

If you do not exit the ticket gates at the intermediate station

If you are using reserved seats, the above also applies because reserved seat tickets are only issued for a particular train on a particular day, and are not valid on any other train.

If you are using unreserved seats, you can get off a train and on another one with a single limited express ticket because unreserved seat tickets are valid on all trains on a particular day. (For example if I buy an unreserved seat ticket from Morioka to Tokyo valid today, I can stop in Sendai for a bowl of udon, and again in Koriyama to buy the excelent senbei they sell there.)

So in your case, for maximum stopover flexibility you can buy a reserved seat ticket from Hakodate to Morioka (since trains on this section have no unreserved seats), and then an unreserved seat ticket from Morioka to Tokyo (and you can make as many stopovers as you want on this section as long as you don't exit the ticket gates).

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