The Shinkansen or bullet train is by far the most comfortable and convenient way to travel between Japan’s major cities. Unfortunately with great convenience comes great costs; the Shinkansen is far from being the most budget-friendly option. Furthermore, many travelers who are intent on staying longer than a just week or two may also be hesitant to fork out a lot of money for a Japan Rail Pass (which are now much more expensive as of Oct 2023).
Luckily though, JR East offers some great deals on shinkansen tickets, a fact that is still relatively unknown among international travelers. If you’re willing to forgo the lightning fast speeds of the Nozomi trains for the slower Kodama, there’s a great deal called the “Platt Kodama.” For those on a budget, this hack can sometimes mean the difference between seeing another city or not!
You’ll end up adding some travel time to the trip but the fare is about 3,600 yen cheaper than normal prices. Furthermore, you can also upgrade to the Green Car for only an additional 1,500 yen! This means you can travel in comfort all the way to Osaka on the Green Car for a lot less than the normal price. You’ll even get a drink voucher to enjoy a beer or soft drink en route.
The Plat Kodama option is also great for travelers who wish to explore some of the lesser-known destinations in between Tokyo and Osaka. With just a simple transfer, destinations like Odawara, Hakone and the Izu peninsula are all easily within reach. If you’re sick of dealing with crowds of tourists, I highly suggest checking some of these spots out on your next trip!
English information on how to purchase the Platt Kodama tickets is available online at JR Tokai Tours’ official website. Note that tickets are only valid on the Tokaido route from Tokyo to Osaka and must be purchased at least one day before the date of travel.
For those exploring western Japan, JR West also has some discounts for Kodama Shinkansen. While it’s no comparison to the Platt Kodama, parents traveling west of Osaka are eligible for 1,500 yen children seats. Furthermore there are also adult deals for mom and dad too but they come with a catch; the tickets are not available for solo travelers. You’ll need at least two people in your party to buy.
Like with the aforementioned deals, these must also be purchased at least a day in advance. You can reserve any time within one month of your date of travel via the website . The code name for the ticket is e5489 but unfortunately their website is only in Japanese. Instead of relying on Google Translate, I suggest you instead visit a major JR Station and ask them to make the reservation for you.
Be forewarned that not all routes are available for a discounted fare. If you are departing from Osaka for example, you will not be able to get discounted fares to relatively close stops such as Kobe, Nishi-Akashi, or Himeji. Put another way, the only routes departing from Osaka which are available for the discount are the stops between Okayama and Hiroshima.
Lastly for those traveling even further west, there’s one more hack you can use. While it is possible to just buy an onward Shinkansen ticket departing from Hiroshima to Hakata, the travel agency KNT offers an even better 7,300 yen deal on Osaka to Hakata Shinkansen fares. The catch is that the reservation must be done no less than 4 days in advance and again the website is all in Japanese.
If you’re already in Japan when trying to book these, your hotel or hostel staff may be able to assist you. Alternatively, there is also always the option of walking into a KNT office should there be one nearby. Usually travel agencies have offices in or around major train stations. The Kansai region for example has shops in Kyoto, Kobe and Himeji as well as several in Osaka.
If you do decide to make a visit in person, be sure to check out some of their other deals. They often have a number of offers at excellent discount that you might want to consider as well!
Until next time travelers…