Japan’s Gran Class Cars On The Shinkansen (The Ultimate In Japanese Luxury)

Traveling throughout Japan is simple enough with their sophisticated transportation system. Add in the ability to travel luxuriously in a Gran Class car when using their Shinkansen train network, and you’re in for an unforgettable experience. 

The Shinkansen bullet trains are an experience in and of themselves when compared to trains in other countries. If you have the extra yen to try a Gran Class ride at least once, it’s definitely worth experiencing the best in Japan’s luxury train travel. 

Attendant To The Gran Class Car Shinkansen

What Are The Shinkansen In Japan?

The Shinkansen system is the name for Japan’s impressive bullet train system. These trains are called bullet trains for their ability to safely travel at high speeds, getting you to your destination in Japan in much less time than regular trains. 

Vintage Shinkansen

Japan developed its first Shinkansen to be revealed in 1964 when the Tokyo Olympics were set to start. This would allow for people to be able to attend the Olympics while riding in style and move from Tokyo to Osaka more efficiently.

The expansion of Shinkansen lines will not be stopping any time soon, as there are hundreds of millions of bullet train riders each year. 

The Shinkansen has a solid reputation for being able to get you to your destination safely and without incident. It’s an excellent solution that allows you to travel long distances within Japan in a cost-effective manner. 

What Is Gran Class?

This is the top-tier class you can ride when taking a Shinkansen. The plush seating in this special train car allows you to have ample legroom. The seats are made with comfortable faux leather material.

There are only 18 passengers that can book the gran class cabin before it’s considered full, so you shouldn’t have to worry about feeling congested or having high noise levels from a large cabin filled with tourists. 

Each train that has gran class seating available will only have one car that offers this service. When you go to book your seat on the train that you are wanting to ride, be sure to book it in advance as soon as you can if you want to try and ride in the gran class. 

The Shinkansen trains already have a stellar reputation for being well-kept and clean, and offer comfortable accommodation and great amenities as it is.

No matter what class you are traveling in, when it comes to the Shinkansen, you will get great service. If you can only afford to try gran class once, you won’t be disappointed in your other rides in other classes. 

What Are Some Amenities You Get Traveling Gran Class?

If you are catching your Shinkansen from the Tokyo Station and have purchased a gran class ticket, you can actually wait for your train in an exclusive lounge.

This lounge offers a calm and inviting space to wait for your train, with comfortable seating where you can enjoy a coffee or tea, work on your laptop, or read a newspaper during your wait. 

Tokyo Station

The interior elements of the gran class train cars will vary slightly depending on which model your Shinkansen train you are riding.

However, you can generally expect the interior to be clean and sophisticated with modern technology and a calm atmosphere. There is a washroom available only available to gran class riders, and they have also have heated seats for winter travel. 

The seating arrangement is also spacious, as they don’t pack the gran class cars with an excessive amount of seating. You can expect six rows of seating, with three seats in each row.

The seats come with an outlet so you can charge your phone while you’re on your train ride. 

You can recline your chair and put your feet up. Two of the three seats in each row also offer a window to view the countryside or urban environments you pass through. 

The Food 

The cost of any food you order is included in the upgraded price you pay for your ticket, so be sure to order what is on the menu.

You can get fresh fare sourced from the city you are traveling from, sip on an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage, or just get a snack to munch on. Not all trains offer gourmet meal service yet, but the menu continues to improve each year and will most likely have an excellent meal to offer.

You also have the option to purchase a gran class ticket on some Shinkansen that don’t give you the meal option.

If you don’t plan on needing a meal during your ride or have your own food and drinks packed with you, you can choose this option if you’d like to save a small amount on the ticket price. 

The local fare is compiled into a bento box or ekiben lunch that is designed specifically by Mikizo Hashimoto, a Michelin Star chef.

He will change the ingredients or menu every now and then, so it’s worth trying the bento box any chance you get to ride the gran class.

You are also able to get small snacks or a Western-style meal if you would prefer. While it would make more sense to go for this exclusive bento box, it’s good to know you have options in case there are things you cannot eat in the bento box due to preference or food allergies. 

The Gran Class Service

You will experience incredible hospitality from the moment you step on the train until your train ride is complete.

When you take your seat, you’ll be offered a menu if you’re hungry, as well as some upgraded accouterments like slippers and a blanket, as well as an eye mask and a hot towel. 

If you need anything during your train ride, your seat is equipped with a button that will let an attendant know that you need their assistance. 

Do All Shinkansen Have Gran Class?

Unfortunately, not all Shinkansen have gran class available right now. That being said, they do have other classes that are still very similar, their green class is comparable to first-class service. 

The newer Shinkansen models have gran-class upgrades, including the new Hayabusa E5 Series train. There is a goal to expand the Shinkansen gran class capabilities to be available on more trains soon. 

Shinkansen E5

Which Shinkansen Lines Have Gran Class?

The Tohoku Shinkansen was the first train line that had gran class capabilities.

This bullet train will take you from the Tokyo station to the Shin-Aomori station in Aomori City near Hokkaido. The Hokuriku Shinkansen also has gran class available, and this line takes you from Tokyo Station to Kanazawa Station. 

Interior Of Tokyo Station

You can also find gran class if you are planning on riding the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano, or the Yamabiko or Hayate bullet trains. 

How Much Does It Cost To Get A Gran Class Seat?

How much gran class costs depends on the Shinkansen you are taking. One example to look at that will give you an idea of the cost is if you were to take the gran class ride on the Tohoku Shinkansen. 

The ticket would cost over 26,000 yen, with more than 16,000 yen being for the gran class upgrade. One thing to keep in mind is if you have a Japan Rail Pass for your trip, you are only paying to upgrade to gran class. 

Japan Rail Pass Ultimate Guide

The difference ends up being approximately 100 US dollars, so it’s not too bad of a price to get the kinds of upgrades and experience you receive in gran class. 

At the end of your train ride, you’re asked to fill out a survey and are given a leather rail pass holder to commemorate your experience.

Virtual Experience Of The Shinkansen Gran Class

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.