Last Updated: Apr 1, 2023

Upgrade to the Green Car

How to Travel in Japan in Style

Donny Kimball
4 min readJul 9, 2020

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The green car of JR East’s Tokaido Line

This week’s article is going to be a comparatively shorter piece than those I usually put out. Rather than delve into the weeds on some remote area, we’re going to be taking a look at a handy hack that I’ve been meaning to write about for some time now. As evidenced in the title, the following exposé will detail how to take advantage of the so-called “Green Car” when riding on JR train lines. Never heard of this rarely utilized means of travel before? Well, read on to discover how to travel with the rest of your discretionary income holding cohort.

Put simply, the Green Car is JR’s premium class. Though not available on all lines, the Green Car can be found on lines that run great distances and have limited express trains. For example, the upgrade option is absent from Tokyo’s popular Yamanote Loop Line. However, it can most definitely be found on the Tokaido Line and Yokosuka Line as these cover sweeping swaths of Japan. In addition to these lines, you’ll also encounter Green Car options on the bullet trains as well as a more luxurious class of car called the GranClass. As you might imagine, this one is only for the true ballers out there.

Now, you’re probably wondering what amenities you gain by upgrading to the Green Car. Here, it really depends on whether or not you’re talking about regular lines like the Tokaido Line or the bullet trains. In the case of the latter, I actually don’t think it’s worth shelling out for the minor perks. You see, the regular reserved seats on the bullet trains are reasonably sufficient for most of us plebs out there. Unless you’re some sort of oil sheik with bottomless pockets, there’s simply no need to waste hard earned capital on the Green Car when riding the bullet train.

A map for JR East’s green car service

Where the Green Car is really a godsend though is on local lines such as the aforementioned Yokosuka Line that runs to Kamakura (see the above for other lines that offer Green Car service). By paying a minor additional fee, you can grab yourself a guaranteed seat. What’s more, unlike with the peons in the normal…

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Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media. https://donnykimball.com/