Easily recognized by its green logo in a shamrock shape, the first class of the national train company Japan Railway (JR) is known by its name Green.
This denomination has no relation to any "green" ecological measure.
Benefits of the Shinkansen
The main figure of the Green class naturally happens to be in the Shinkansen range, the Japanese bullet trains. JR has made numerous efforts to favor this superior class in the fastest trains. All Shinkansen have one to three Green cars per train, and it is usually located in the middle of the platform to provide ease of access to exit stairs.
Obviously, these first-class cars have the same basic benefits as the ordinary ticket in terms of cleanliness and maintenance, service (i.e., a cart selling drinks and food), and well-designed ideas such as placing the seats in the direction of travel.
Inside the Shinkansen, the Green class has numerous benefits compared to ordinary cars, such as the following regarding seats:
- more space in width (47.5 cm instead of 43 cm)
- more depth (from 91 cm in ordinary and up to 116 cm in Green)
- bigger incline (up to 40°)
- more comfortable foam on the seat and back
- more spacious tray table
- armrest that is about four times bigger
- larger and adjustable footrest with carpet
- headrest that has more coverage on the sides
- individual light and plug
- heat control under the seat
- free oshibori (warm towel)
- personal radio (with earphones) and magazines
… and the whole car itself:
- only four seats per row (arranged in 2-2 instead of 2-3 in ordinary cars)
- wider windows to enjoy the landscape
- larger middle corridor
- more space to store luggage during travel (which is a real fear for travelers not using the takkyubin service)
As a whole, the notable increase of comfort is important between the two classes.
Why choose Green over ordinary?
Besides the interior design of these cars, traveling in a Green car happens to be neatly more quite because there are fewer passengers in these cars compared to ordinary cars. This provides a much more pleasant experience, especially in the two following cases: for long travels and during high touristic periods in Japan (e.g., Golden Week, O-bon, New Year’s Eve) when the ordinary class becomes very crowded!
Obviously, such services come with a higher price. Planning a budget on individual tickets can become quite costly, which is why the Japan Rail Pass is always advised. The Green JR Pass provides a better value, even more so than the already invaluable ordinary version.
Besides the Shinkansen, numerous limited express trains, as well as some rapid and a few local or night trains, also benefit from this. On non-bullet trains, Green cars are located close to the head of the train, and the view is much more rewarding from the first car. Attention for the Green class: It is mandatory to reserve seats in all Shinkansen and in most of the other trains!
Note that a luxurious Gran Class has been created in 2011 in a few rare Shinkansen, with a higher price and quality of services (not covered by the JR Pass).