Incredible service in “Gran class” of the bullet train
First class of Shinkansen, the bullet train, which is one-hundredth of the price of first class on airplanes
If you like to travel the world, I’m sure traveling first class is one of the items on your lifetime checklist.
But the tickets for first class are way too expensive! If you wish to spend the same amount of money traveling in Japan, here is some good news! Why don’t you take Gran class, the first class on Shinkansen, for one-hundredth the price of first class on airplanes? With the Japan Rail Pass, which only foreign tourists can purchase, you can ride Gran class with only a certain extra charge.
Here is how to purchase a Japan Rail Pass
All you can ride ticket for the shinkansen! You’ll gravely regret not getting the Japan Rail Pass!
It is great only foreign tourists like you can purchase Gran class ticket for one-hundredth price! Let’s treat yourself to a special trip!
Gran class started on Hayabusa, Tohoku Hokkaido Shinkansen E5 series. Green car was the highest class of Shinkansen up until then, but they added Gran class for the first time. Now Gran class is available on Tohoku Shinkansen “Hayate”, “Yamabiko” and “Nasuno”, and also Hokuriku Shinkansen “Kagayaki”, “Hakutaka” and “Asama”, so there are more chances to ride Gran class!
(Source：ニングル / PIXTA)
The quality and size of the seats are just as great as the first class on airplanes.
Of course, their service is also as good. Doesn’t it get you excited?
Tohoku Hokkaido Shinkansen:
Sendai Station in Miyagi prefecture near Matsushima, one of the three Japanese famous views, and Akiho Onsen (hot spring), Shin-Hanamaki Station famous for onsen in Iwate prefecture, Shichinohe-Towada Station famous for Lake Towada and Nyuto onsen, Shin-Aomori Station near Hirosaki castle with beautiful cherry blossoms and famous for Nebuta festival, and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station where you can access Hakodate in 15 minutes, just to name a few.
Karuizawa Station in Nagano prefecture where you can enjoy stylish highland resort loved by John Lennon, Kurobe-Unazukionsen Station in Toyama prefecture famous for Kurobe gorge and Unazuki onsen, Kanazawa Station in Ishikawa prefecture which is famous for its castle town atmosphere, along with others.
Fee: With the Japan Rail Pass, you will only be charged for the difference. If you don’t have it, the whole fee will required. And the fee depends on the distance.
*For details about train stops and fee, check the JR EAST Official Website! Available in various languages.
You can relax at airport lounges if you book first class on airplanes. Surely there can’t be a lounge for Shinkansen? But there is! There is a lounge where the passengers who have Gran class tickets can use in JR Tokyo Station! Ask the JR staff for the location, the lounge is near Tokaido Shinkansen Yaesu central south exit. Although this is a common lounge with some special members of JR, it is very elegant!
You can drink as much as you want from 10 kinds of soft drinks. The snacks are also free to eat. Since the staff of the lounge is from Tokyo Station Hotel, you can experience good service and indulge in an elegant atmosphere before departure!
Finally it’s time to board. Usually a cabin attendant welcomes you on an airplane… it’s no different on Gran class! This service is only for the guests of Gran class! It will make you feel special.
The seat will remind you of shell-shaped seat on airplanes, and is made with classic leather! Almost artistic.
There are seats for two or one, and they kindly prepare a partition for the two-seater. You can keep you privacy! Let’s enjoy the highest rank of service until you get to your destination!
There are cabin attendants who serve exclusively for Gran class. They will come to your seat when you push the call button. Call them if you need anything.
Each seat has slippers, a blanket and an eye mask. Just like first class, don’t you think?
◆Don’t drink too much! You can drink as much alcohol and soft drinks as you want.
On Gran class, cabin attendant comes to your seat for your order. Of course, a menu in English is available, so no need to worry. You can enjoy free drinks from a selection of soft drinks and alcohol until you reach your destination, just like airplanes!
◆Sake, with the feature of each area!
Tohoku Hokkaido Shinkansen and Hokuriku Shinkansen both have wine and beer, and also sake, Japanese rice wine, unique to each area. It is your chance to order local sake for your memory!
Tohoku Hokkaido Shinkansen
Toko, the great sake produced in Yonezawa city, Yamagata prefecture, located in Tohoku area, won the gold prize in Annual Japan Sake Awards. And they also have cider made with apples from Aomori prefecture, in Tohoku area as well, which is the number one producer of apples in Japan.
（Source：Left 鉄道の動画と写真, Right findtravel）
“Sogen”, made with 100% rice label called “Okunoto san mai” which is a World Agricultural Heritage in Ishikawa prefecture where Kanazawa is. The Sogen company made an original sake for Gran class. It means you can’t have this sake anywhere else! And the other one is “Kaga-Umeshu sparkling.” It is made with Benisashi-ume, special plum breed, grown in Hokuriku area, where Ishikawa prefecture is and water from subterranean river of Mt. Hakusan.
（Source：Left 蒸・旨・酔 Right 4travel）
Choice of light meal from Japanese or Western style
In Gran class, even the light meal is free! You can choose from Japanese or Western style. And we recommend the Japanese meal. Since a sandwich is the main item in the Western meal, it may not be something new for you. The Japanese meal is a beautiful bento that features local tastes of Tohoku and Hokuriku. If you like Japanese food, you should choose this one. Menu depends on the season, Shinkansen and line, and may differ from the picture. You can ask JR EAST directly, if you would like to know!
Example of a Japanese meal
Example of a Western meal
On some trains of the Hokuriku Shinkansen and Tohoku Hokkaido Shinkansen, there is no service like the one we introduced in this article even in Gran class. These cars are called “Seat only tickets”. It offers you Gran class seats for cheaper price, but there is no service. To be honest, if you can’t get the service, green car is better even if it’s the lower class. …Honestly, since the distance is short, it is enough to take the normal reserved seats or even non-reserved seats. If you wish to have the service, don’t reserve Gran class on train cars below!
The list of the train cars which sells “Seat only tickets”
◆ Hokuriku Shinkansen (E7,W7 series)
・All the cars on “Asama”
・“Hakutaka 590 and 591” which goes from Nagano Station to Kanazawa Station
◆Tohoku Hokkaido Shinkansen (E5, H5 series)
・All the cars on “Nasuno”
・All the cars on “Yamabiko” which goes from Tokyo Station to Sendai Station
・“Hayabusa 95 and 96” which goes from Sendai Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station
・“Hayate 93 and 98” which goes from Morioka Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station
・“Hayate 91 and 100” which goes from Shin-Aomori Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station
*There are some temporary trains which have “Seat only tickets”. Check the official JR EAST website or call to make sure that the seat you are going to reserve is with service before purchasing the ticket.
Phone number: +81-50-2016-1603
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IKIDANE NIPPON Editor Senior Travel Writers