Green JR Pass vs ordinary JR Pass: What is the difference?

Green Class car train in Japan.

The Japan Rail Pass comes in two main types of passes: the Green (first class) and the ordinary pass. Both passes offer unlimited travel across Japan, but they come with different levels of comfort, convenience, and amenities.

On this page, we break down the key differences of the Green JR Pass vs the ordinary option, ensuring you make the best choice for your trip.

Key differences between the ordinary vs the Green JR Pass

The choice between an ordinary and a JR Green Pass depends on your budget, travel style, and what you value most in your travel experience.

While the Green Pass offers superior comfort and services, the ordinary pass still provides excellent value and convenience for exploring Japan.


Ordinary JR Pass

Green JR Pass (1st Class)

Unlimited travel



Available for 7, 14 or 21 days



Access to bullet trains (Shinkansen)*



Seat reservations



Access to First Class compartment



Spacious reclining seating



More space & comfort



Extra luggage space



Privacy and quiet



Free amenities (including complimentary drink and Oshibori wet towel)



* Extra charge applies for Nozomi and Mizuho services. See the Unlimited Travel section below for more details.

First Class compartment

Interior of a Shinkansen Green Class car.
Interior of a Shinkansen green class car.

The Green Car on JR trains serves as the first-class compartment. They are easy to find because they are usually at the very front of the train.

They also stand out due to a large Green Clover symbol (above) painted on the side of the carriage next to the doors.

The main difference between an ordinary car vs a Green Car is that the latter offers a more spacious and serene, air-conditioned environment with larger windows.

There is a smaller passenger capacity in these carriages, meaning fewer people have to share a restroom.

The Green Car is also an ideal choice for business travelers, as the table room and extra space make it easier to work on your laptop. Many of the seats also have charging sockets.

Nevertheless, you may find even the ordinary cars are of a much higher standard and more spacious than economy class seating in other countries.

Unlimited travel all over Japan

Both the Green and Ordinary JR Passes offer unlimited travel across more than 20,000 km of the extensive JR rail, bus, and ferry network.

This includes unlimited access to most of the famed bullet trains (Shinkansen) in Japan. Express and limited express trains, and airport transfers, are also included.

There are only a few exceptions, such as the Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen. JR Pass holders looking to use these services must purchase a special complimentary ticket.

Access to bullet trains (Shinkansen)

Unlimited access to Japan’s iconic bullet trains (Shinkansen) is a significant benefit of both passes, allowing for fast and efficient travel between major cities.

These include the majority of Shinkansen services in the country, including:

Free seat reservations

Shinkansen green class seats.
Shinkansen green class seats.

Both the Ordinary and Green Japan Rail Passes offer the benefit of free seat reservations.

This is an invaluable feature during peak times, including:

Opting for the Green Pass can be particularly advantageous during these periods, as Green Cars tend to be less crowded, enhancing your chances of obtaining a seat reservation.

Green Car seats must always be reserved ahead of time, adding a step to your travel preparations. Conversely, the Ordinary Pass allows more flexibility, letting you board unreserved cars without prior booking.

During most of the year, you can make your Green Car seat reservations shortly before your train departure by visiting a ticket office or using a ticket machine.

You can also make them upon your arrival in Japan, as you have the option to book seats up to a month before your train journey.

In peak travel seasons, it’s wise to arrange your seat reservations at least a few days in advance.

Spacious and comfortable seats

The Green Cars offer more spacious and comfortable seating options compared to ordinary cars.

There are fewer seats per row, increased legroom, and the ability to recline further (up to a 40° angle). You also get a multi-angle footrest.

Extra luggage space

Travelers with the Green JR Pass enjoy the convenience of extra luggage space, a perk not available in ordinary cars.

The additional space allows for a more comfortable and less cluttered environment, ensuring your belongings are securely stored and easily accessible throughout your journey.

Privacy and quiet

The design of Green Cars focuses on ensuring privacy and a quiet atmosphere. Therefore, they are ideal for passengers looking to work, read, or simply enjoy a peaceful ride.

The compartments are often less crowded and designed to minimize noise, offering an environment conducive to relaxation.

Free amenities

Oshibori is hot/cold towel served in selected restaurants or green class car trains.
Oshibori served in a green class train in Japan.

If you ride in a Green Car, you have access to complimentary amenities that enhance your travel experience.

For example, most Green cars are equipped with personal reading lights and power sockets so you can read/work with ease!

Depending on the service, the perks can also include:

  • Oshibori wet towel -either hot or cold depending on the season
  • Free coffee/tea or other beverage
  • Complimentary candy/snacks
  • Current magazine/newspaper selection

Both ordinary and Green Class passengers can access Wi-Fi on the Shinkansen services (when it is available). If you want to use your own personal connection, we suggest getting a Japan Pocket Wi-Fi.

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