Up to now, it has been a real hassle making advance reservations for Japan’s bullet trains from overseas. JR East finally set up an online reservation system a while back, but that was only for trains heading north from Tokyo. If you wanted to head south along the so-called “Golden Route” to Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and Osaka, you had to wait till you arrived and cross your fingers.
Well, JR Central and JR West have finally got their act together. This week, they announced that they are launching an English-language reservation app for the popular Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen line, which connects Tokyo and all points south.
Users just download the free SmartEX app and register their credit card information. Then, they can use it to buy shinkansen tickets and reserve seats. Once in Japan, they can pick up their tickets at the station by swiping their registered credit card at special dedicated machines. Or, if the rider has an IC card such as Suica or Pasmo, they can register that and use it for ticketless travel. The app can also be used to make changes to a reservation.
The app will initially be available for download beginning on October 30 at 10 a.m. Japan Standard Time to users in America, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, with a more extended roll out slated to follow.
At the moment, it does not appear that the app can be used in conjunction with the Japan Rail Pass.
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