Figuring out the Green Car in Japan: JR Train Business Class Seats

JR Green Car

JR Green Car is my favorite way to travel. After living here almost 27 years I still almost start to cry when I see the Green Car (premium seat car) slide past and go way down to the other side of the platform when I thought I was standing in the right place to meet it right when it arrives... Even when I stand on the little sticker that has a logo of the green car, I still seem to mess things up and end up running to get on the car that is actually supposed to EASE my mind not give me more STRESS!

So here are a few hints for you as you travel to Yokohama, Odawara, Chiba, or anywhere about an hour or so from Tokyo because instead of standing up on a crowded train with all the sleepy business people, you can get nice service, eat some peanuts have a cool drink and watch the scenery pass by on the Green Sha (or Green Car premium seats).

It may sound a bit pricey to pay an extra 550 to 1500 yen to spend your one to two hours on the green sha, but trust me, when you see how chill it is and how there are so many little snacks to choose from the basket dangling from the Green Attendant's arm, you will be hooked! Then you can enjoy the whole organization of the little green lights above your head to show you've paid and the way the attendant can hold about six different little machines to tally up exactly how much you owe. He or she can deftly pull out 3,926 yen or some crazy change like that when you order your bottled water, chocolate sticks and the green car ticket for your friend who did not have the 1000 yen bill required to "charge" and then pay for the green ticket with his suica back at the platform (his little light above his head will be red until she zaps it green after payment is made).

Well, anyway, once you figure out the intricacies, this is definitely the best way to travel extended distances in Japan. Just look to see if there is a "Green Sha" or "Green Car" on your train and if you will be on that train for an hour or more, I say, splurge!!

Points for the Green Car

- Buy a popular drink before you get on and then another while on the train. The two photos here show two drinks every Japanese business person likes.
One is the power drink in the middle called Oronamin C and the other is Emerald Mountain Coffee by Georgia. You have got to try these. Popular since who knows when, it would be similar to Ovaltine and Twinkies (the nostalgia I feel about those as an American).
- Dont try and figure out the platform markings. Look up for the Green Car sign that is LIGHTED as that will tell you where the green car stops. It is different depending on the length of the train and in Shibuya, Shinjuku, etc., you will be utterly surprised by how far down the platform it can be.
- When you get on, let the person behind you know you will lean the seat back. Just point to the back of the seat and say "Daijoubu?" which is a very short but polite way of letting them know you want to recline. They will think you are super polite and love you for doing this.
- You can snack and eat but not while standing.
- Dont paint your nails (I actually did this) or talk on the phone. If you do, the Green Attendent will suddenly appear like a lightning bolt and ask you to refrain. Even in the hall by the door, talking on the phone is frowned upon.
- Make friends! Particularly at night, business people on the Green Car can be talkative. It is a good chance to strike up a conversation.
- Try to stay awake. Warm, cozy and fun, it is easy to fall asleep and miss your stop. You can actually ask the green attendent to wake you up when you get to your stop. He or She will do their best to oblige but dont get angry if they cant come by for some reason.
- Keep your instruments quiet (everything should be on "manner mode" or quiet setting.
- If the green car is standing room only when you get on, there is a good chance someone will get off some time. My trick is to stand in the middle of the car and get a seat when someone stands up. There is no etiquette rule that dictates standing at either end so be brave and go to the middle.

You also might want to try the Green Car on the bullet train / Shinkansen. Truly first class and once you go green, in a regular car...you will rarely be seen.


Former Deep Japan Writer

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