Feb
24
2010

Puratto Kodama: Cheap Shinkansen Tickets

Puratto Kodama: Cheap Shinkansen Tickets

If you’re following me on Twitter, you’ll know that I recently went to Tokyo for the weekend. Living in Nagoya, I frequently get hit with the urge to get out and do something new, but one of the biggest blocks to doing so is the cost of travel. Trains are either slow (local), or expensive (shinkansen), and busses are slow and uncomfortable.

But recently I came across a very interesting deal the JR Tokai Tours offers: ぷらっとこだま (Puratto Kodama). I’m not the first to blog about this discounted ticket program, but it really is a great offer and deserves repeating, and I’ll also elaborate on things a little, since I actually tried out the program myself.

How much do you save?

Here’s a table showing the prices of tickets between stations. Typically you save between 2000 and 4000 yen off the usual fare (2000 to 7000 on the Green car seats), but exactly how much depends on when, where and how you choose to travel.

Note that there are different prices for regular seats versus seats on the “Green” cars (which are roomier and more comfortable, kind of like a shinkansen “First-class”), and also for busier times of year. The busy periods (2010) are from April 27 to May 6 (Golden week), and August 11 to 20 (Obon).

Table for Regular reserved seats
(busy period prices in parentheses)

Departure
/ Arrival
Station
Tokyo/Shinagawa Shin-Yokohama Shizuoka Hamamatsu Nagoya Kyoto Shin-Osaka
Tokyo / Shinagawa X X 4,500
(5,300)
6,300
(7,400)
7,900
(9,000)
9,800
(11,100)
10,000
(11,500)
Shin-Yokohama X X 4,400
(5,100)
6,100
(7,100)
7,700
(8,700)
9,600
(10,700)
9,900
(11,100)
Shizuoka 4,500
(5,300)
4,400
(5,100)
X X 4,500
(5,300)
7,400
(8,600)
7,900
(9,000)
Hamamatsu 6,300
(7,400)
6,100
(7,100)
X X 3,500
(4,300)
6,300
(7,400)
6,800
(7,900)
Nagoya 7,900
(9,000)
7,700
(8,700)
4,500
(5,300)
3,500
(4,300)
X 4,100
(4,900)
4,200
(5,000)
Kyoto 9,800
(11,100)
9,600
(10,700)
7,400
(8,600)
6,300
(7,400)
4,100
(4,900)
X X
Shin-Osaka 10,000
(11,500)
9,900
(11,100)
7,900
(9,000)
6,800
(7,900)
4,200
(5,000)
X X

Table for Green car seats
(busy period prices in parenthesis)

Departure
/ Arrival
Station
Tokyo/Shinagawa Shin-Yokohama Shizuoka Hamamatsu Nagoya Kyoto Shin-Osaka
Tokyo / Shinagawa X X 6,400
(6,600)
8,300
(8,500)
8,900
(10,000)
11,300
(12,600)
11,500
(13,000)
Shin-Yokohama X X 5,700
(5,900)
7,900
(8,100)
8,700
(9,700)
11,100
(12,200)
11,400
(12,600)
Shizuoka 6,400
(6,600)
5,700
(5,900)
X X 6,400
(6,600)
10,200
(10,400)
10,800
(11,000)
Hamamatsu 8,300
(8,500)
7,900
(8,100)
X X 5,000
(5,200)
8,300
(8,500)
8,900
(9,100)
Nagoya 8,900
(10,000)
8,700
(9,700)
6,400
(6,600)
5,000
(5,200)
X 5,700
(5,900)
6,400
(6,600)
Kyoto 11,300
(12,600)
11,100
(12,200)
10,200
(10,400)
8,300
(8,500)
5,700
(5,900)
X X
Shin-Osaka 11,500
(13,000)
11,400
(12,600)
10,800
(11,000)
8,900
(9,100)
6,400
(6,600)
X X

Note that because this offer is given by JR Tokai tours, you can’t use it outside of their section of the Shinkansen (bullet trains). Basically, you have to get on and off somewhere on or between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka.

Where do you get Puratto Kodama?

You can buy them online or at your nearest JR Tokai Tours office.

Buying online, you need to reserve your seat at least 5 days in advance. Why? Because they need to send you the tickets via postal mail (to a Japanese address). You also need to be able to navigate through a Japanese website.

a puratto kodama shinkansen ticket

a Puratto Kodama ticket

If you buy the tickets from a tour office, you can purchase them up until the day before. Important: You can’t buy same-day tickets. Also, these tickets are quite limited, so consider availability and plan ahead as much as you can. If you dilly-dally getting your ticket, you might end up with a smoking or non-smoking seat that you didn’t want, or you not be able to get a seat at all. Personally, I got my tickets 4 days in advance and from a tour office, and they were already running out of regular non-smoking seats, and that was for a train well outside their busier hours.

How do you use them?

Actually, the Puratto Kodama isn’t a “ticket” per say, you can’t just put it in the ticket wicket and walk on through; you have to show your Puratto Kodama “boarding slip” (乗車票) to the staff at the gate, who will stamp your pass and let you through, and you have to show it to the staff at the gate again when you get off at your destination.

When you get your tickets they will come in a little envelope with a map of each station showing which entries have staff available who can check your slip. In reality, you don’t need to worry about the station layouts unless you’re really pressed for time either to catch your ride or connect to the next one.

After you get on the train the staff will sooner or later come down the isle and ask to see your ticket, so show them the Puratto Kodama slip just as you would a regular ticket. They’ll check your seat and move on.

What’s the catch?

There are a few major drawbacks to using Puratto Kodama tickets as opposed to regular shinkansen tickets.

  • You have to use the slower, older Kodama-class trains. They’re still much faster and more comfortable than buses, but they do take a bit longer than the other shinkansen (mostly because they stop at more stations).
    • Tokyo to Shin-Osaka via Nozomi : 2 hours, 36 minutes
    • Tokyo to Shin-Osaka via Hikari : 2 hours, 57 minutes
    • Tokyo to Shin-Osaka via Kodama : 3 hours, 57 minutes
  • You have to be on the right train at the right time. JR has a rule that allows people who miss their train to get on a free-seat (自由席) on a later train. But if you’re using a Puratto Kodama ticket and you miss your train, you’re screwed.
  • You have to get on and off at one of the major stations along the JR Tokaido Shinkansen line. So for example, you couldn’t buy a ticket from Osaka to Atami or Fuji-Shi (even though the train stops there), you’d have to buy it to Shizuoka, and then ride a different train from Shizuoka.

So basically, to save on money you’re sacrificing some flexibility and speed.

Perks

a Puratto free drink coupon

a Puratto free drink coupon

One neat perk of using the Puratto Kodama tickets is that you get a free drink out of the deal! Be sure not to confuse the drink coupon with your boarding slip, since they look almost identical. You can use the free drink coupon at most of the kiosks at the station or on the platforms, or at the on-train service cart that goes up and down the aisle every so often.

You get either a free 500ml soft drink (a 20-ounce bottle), or a 350ml can of beer. For a 100 yen extra you can have a glass of wine.

Bonus Shinkansen Tip

If the train looks empty, don’t be shy to move around. The worst that could happen is the staff asks you to go back to your assigned seat, or someone gets on the train with a reservation for the seat you’re using and you have to give it up to them. When I rode with the Puratto ticket, I sat a few rows off where I should have been since the train was really empty (my assigned seat was next to a chubby Japanese guy who was munching loudly on potato chips and playing Nintendo DS). When the staff came to check my ticket he didn’t say anything.

If you want to be extra sneaky about changing seats, wait until after they come and check your ticket.

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