Anyone visiting Japan and intending to travel extensively should buy a Rail Pass before going to Japan. A one week pass cost NZ$350 (it fluctuates according to the exchange rate. We bought it at NZ$1 = 83yen.) Once you activate it at the airport or at major railway stations, you can take as many trains as you like for the whole week. That includes Shinkansen.
I can never stress enough the convenience of using Shinkansen to get about in Japan. Yes, it is expensive, but with a rail pass you get more than what you pay for. It reaches to the southernmost city in the southernmost island Kyushu, and now Hokkaido Shinkansen will take you to the northernmost island. You don’t waste any time going to and waiting at the airport. You just hop onto a train, without booking. You can’t take Nozomi in Tokaido line or Mizuho in Kyusu line, both the fastest of the express trains, and certain types of shinkansen such as Kagayaki in Hokuriku line, which are for reserved only, and on peak times they are booked out, but all you have to do is to wait for another one with non-reserved cars.
We managed to squeeze into a non-reserved car of Hakutaka that arrived next at the platform. We had to queue, though, and I was a bit stressed wondering if we would make it into the car. In the train we stood about an hour before a couple of passengers left their seats. After all, it takes only three hours from Tokyo to Kanazawa, the terminal station, and it is not a great effort to stand on the isle as the train runs so smooth.
Tip 3: Buy a Rail Pass and make the most of it.
Tip 4: Just hop onto a non-reserved car. If you want to sit down, ask for an available reserved seat at the ticket office.