How to Use Smart EX Shinkansen Site to Book a Ticket

How to Use Smart EX Shinkansen Site to Book a Ticket

Buying Shinkansen tickets last-minute can be stressful.

And the online ticket service Smart EX isn’t the easiest site to use. But this article will help you learn how to reserve a bullet train seat without needing to rush or wait in line at the ticket office. 

So, if you couldn’t get to a midori madoguchi at a station (where you buy shinkansen tickets), you’ll still be able to book an after-hours reservation request after reading this guide. 

If you must travel today, you can arrange your ticket purchase immediately on your phone and will have time to plan and organize your work on your way to the destination. 

What is Smart EX?

Smart EX is an online ticket service for Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines bound for major cities such as Nagoya, Osaka (Shin Osaka), and Kyoto located west of Tokyo.

One of the advantages is that you can reserve your seat before arriving in Japan. Note: The service is unavailable for Tohoku, Akita, Yamagata, Hokuriku, Joetsu, and Hokkaido Shinkansen lines.

You must register with Smart EX and become a member to buy a ticket. There is no membership fee.

Lighten your mental load
Spend less time struggling with language barriers. Get all your Japanese mail handled with Japan's #1 bilingual virtual mail service. Starts from only $25.✨
By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and Handling of Personal Information.

Which areas of Japan does the Smart EX cover? 

If your destination is west of Tokyo, for example, Shizuoka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka (Shin Osaka), Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and Kagoshima, Smart EX can make Shinkansen seat reservations online.

Again, Smart EX is available only on Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen. If you frequently travel to major cities like Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka (Shin Osaka), this ticket service is very convenient.

Smart EX cannot book online if you need to go north or northwest of Tokyo, such as Takasaki, Kanazawa, Niigata, Fukushima, Morioka, Akita, Aomori, and Hakodate. Smart EX is unavailable on Tohoku, Akita, Yamagata, Hokuriku, Josetsu, and Hokkaido Shinkansen as of July 2023.

How to book your Shinkansen ticket using the Smart Ex website

Follow these steps to register your Smart Ex account so you can make a Shinkansen reservation online. 

Step 1: Membership registration

Register with a credit card or transit IC card for payment. You should be able to book a ticket right after the membership registration. Keep in mind, the card's name needs to match the registered member’s name.

You can register on your smartphone at or the Smart EX app “EX” which is also available to download for membership registration.

Press the orange registration button to start the process.

Step 2: E-mail address

Type your email address twice and press the “OK” button. Ensure the email doesn’t go to the junk mailbox, and set up your inbox to receive email from “” 

Step 3: Terms and conditions

Check your email, and read the Membership Agreement and Privacy Policy. If you don’t have any questions, press the “OK” to agree. Please check its specific supplements for customers from the EU and the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Thailand.

Click on the check box and press the agree button. 

Step 4: Membership information

Fill out the required fields for your name, phone number, date of birth, login password, credit card information or IC card, email address, and one-time password-receiving method, and press the OK button. IC card information is optional.  

If you’re unsure which IC card you use and how to register, MailMate’s bilingual virtual assistant service will gladly assist your trip. 

Want bilingual support while you’re in Japan?
Get access to bilingual concierges—exclusively available to users of MailMate's virtual mail service.
By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and Handling of Personal Information.

Step 5: Credit card information and one-time password

Input your card number and expiration date, then press the OK button.

The following credit cards are available: VISA, Mastercard, JCB, American Express, Diners Club, J-WEST CARD, and DISCOVER. The valid credit card holder must match the member's name and must be 18 years or older.

Go to ID Verification Process (3D Secure). Smart EX requires this process and pre-requisite setting with valid credit card companies for Identity Verification Process; you might need help to use the credit card. Small-size credit cards or "virtual credit cards" will be difficult for refund reservation.

If you have an IC card or Suica, please register IC card with the 17-digit ID. Then write your email addresses. Now you can record up to three email addresses and pick one address for primary use. Registering more than one address is recommended to ensure Identity security.

Select a method to receive a one-time password, SMS message, or Automated Phone System. When you change your password or information, the system will send you a one-time password.

Finally, press OK to confirm your membership registration.

The registration is completed when you receive the member ID in your email.

How to make Shinkansen seat reservations on Smart Ex

Step 1: Log in

Go to or EX app and enter your membership ID (10 digits) and password (4-8 characters), and press “Login.”

Click on the Reservation and search. Start with the departure date, time, departure and arrival station, and number of passengers. If you are traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto, select Tokyo or Shinagawa for departure, Kyoto for the arrival station.

Oversized baggage (overall dimensions of 160cm or more and 250cm or less) area needs to be reserved.

In the search conditions area, the system will ask about non-reserved seats on KODAMA/TSUBAME when transferring and ask if you search only direct trains without transit.

Then press the continue button.

Step 3: Train name designation and enter number of passengers

To use Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen, Japan's golden route, select one of the following:

  • NOZOMI: stops at the least amount of stations.

  • HIKARI: stops only at the most important stations.

  • KODAMA: makes all the stops, most frequent trains.

To use the Kyushu Shinkansen, select one of the following:

  • MIZUHO: stops at the least amount of stations

  • SAKURA: stops only at the most important stations

  • TSUBAME: makes all the stops, most frequent trains

Select the train name designation, enter the number of people, and press the continue button.

Step 4: Select train and facility

Check the available seat and press the select button of your preferred train. The “Discount” mark will be displayed for a special “Hayatoku” advance ticket. Green cars are for reservation only

○: Available

▲: To some extent, all seats in a row are sold out

✖️: Not available

-: No information available

Step 5: Select fare

You can select your preferred fare, facility (green car or non reserved car), and seat.

To see seat availability, select a fare and click “view seat map.” You can choose a window or aisle seat on the “seat location” pulldown menu. Then press the continue button. 

Step 6: "Round-trip discount fare"

For the distance of no less than 601 kilometers one way, "round-trip discount fare" will be displayed.

Press the continue button and check the conditions for the return trip. If you need to make an extra stop on your way back to Tokyo, we’d suggest not using Smart Ex Shinkansen site. And instead booking via a Midori madoguchi (Shinkansen ticket window). Or use Mailmate’s bilingual assistant service to help you complete your booking in Japanese. 

If you choose a free seat reservation it will notify that “you have chosen a non-reserved seat.”

Step 7: Confirm reservation

 The screen will say, “Your reservation is not yet complete.”  Then press the “OK Purchase” button to confirm reservation. When you receive the email with reservation details, your reservation is complete. 

What type of boarding methods do I use with Shinkansen tickets?

  1. Scan QR code ticket—This can be printed or added to Apple Wallet for iOS users to display the QR ticket.

  2. Scan your IC card—Your registered IC card can be used to board Shinkansen.

  3. Pick up paper tickets at the station—At EX ticket vending machines or ticket counters at main stations.

How to pick up your Shinkansen tickets using your Suica card 

This process is optional, but if you have Suica or another IC card, please register IC Card with the 17-digit ID so you will not need a ticket to pass shinkansen gates.

The great benefit of an IC card is that once you register, you can travel ticketless, and you don't need to worry about a paper ticket.

  • For Suica, the 17 digits starts with JE.

  • For PASMO, the 17 digits starts with PB.

  • For IOCA, the 17 digit starts with JW.

To enter a Shinkansen gate, place your card on the screen of the ticket gate machine, and a receipt with your reservation information will come out for you with your “seat information.”

To enter a Shinkansen gate from a regular train, you can use the same IC card to exit the train's entrance and then enter the Shinkansen gate with the card.

If you pass the conventional lines concourse, the fare will not be deducted from the IC card.  Please get “seat information” to enter the Shinkansen ticket gate. 

How to read your “Seat Information” ticket

Shinkansen seat information ticket

Smart EX Shinkansen ticket information

① Boarding date/fare

② 早特: Hayatoku: A early-bird discount for reservations made before the departure date.

③ Boarding sections/departure and arrival time/train and seat reservation.

④ If you change trains, the transfer information will be described.

⑤ “Seats with oversized baggage area” needs to be reserved if there is oversized baggage with dimensions of 160cm or more and 250cm or less.

Frequently asked questions 

What is “S Work seat”?

“S Work seat” is only available for EX service members who can use PCs on reserved seat (Car No.70) for NOZMOMI Shinkansen and Tokaido Shinkansen only.

It is available only for one adult and not for some holidays and long weekends. You can reserve a seat up to 4 minutes before the departure time. The fare is the same as reserved seats if you are a member of this service. 

If I forget my Smart Ex membership ID, what should I do?

The 10-digit number will be received by email once you have completed registration. So you can check your email, or you can check your ID on your EX app screen.

Can I change my Shinkansen reservation?

The boarding date, boarding area, and seat reservation can be changed within three months of your initial ticket purchase date. The change can be made if you have not picked up your paper tickets.

Where can I pick up my reserved Shinkansen ticket?

Tickets can be picked up at the EX ticket vending machines, a Shinkansen ticket machine, and a ticket counter in the main stations of JR Central, JR West, and JR Kyushu.

Can the Japan Rail Pass be used with Smart EX?

Smart EX service cannot be combined with other tickets such as Japan Rail Pass, JR Pass, or other tickets for public transportation.

Will the ticket price be lower by using Smart EX?

 For an easy free seat reservation, the price is the same as the price you can purchase tickets. However, for a reserved seat, Smart EX offers lower prices.

In closing

Buying a ticket and traveling to local cities in Japan by bullet train can be more challenging than flying to other Asian cities because there are so many signs and instructions you may not understand and very few people you can ask for directions or instructions in English at stations.

The English Smart Ex site is good enough to book simple routes from Tokyo to Kyoto for example. But for smaller details, such as more complicated transfer or refund, Japanese assistance will likely be needed.

About MailMate! 📬
Get a Japanese address—for business or personal use—and all your Japanese mail handled (we’ll even pay your bills if you want). Starts from only $25/mo.✨
By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and Handling of Personal Information.

Spending too long figuring out your Japanese mail?

Virtual mail + translation services start at 3800 per month. 30-day money-back guarantee.

By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and Handling of Personal Information.
Mailmate mascot