About MARS

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics opened the age of mass transit in the period of rapid economic growth in Japan. With the rapid increase of travel passenger, the traditional manual procedures for ticket sales could no longer keep up.

MARS, Japan’s first online real-time system, was the answer to the demands of the time. Thereafter MARS (Magnetic-electronic Automatic Reservation System) was a driving force in Japan’s history of system development.

Replacing mechanical calculation to computerized operations, MARS enabled fast, large-scale processing and multiple functions, while evolving from reliance on mainframe computers toward distributed systems.

MARS always at the forefront of each age, while looking ahead to the next generation of computing technologies. And today our eyes are on social infrastructure designed for even greater resilience and convenience.

The themes at the root of our pursuits are greater security and ease of use.



Offering convenience to the rapidly increasing customers from outside Japan

As Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics, the number of tourists from abroad is growing sharply.
Providing Japanese hospitality to those tourists, enabling them to travel readily to all parts of the country and become familiar with Japan’s culture, is also a mission of MARS.
Our aim is a system that is easier to use and more convenient than ever.


Progressing along with the Shinkansen route expansion

The Shinkansen network continues to advance as it expands its coverage. One ticket connects this complex route efficiently and promises smart transfers.
Embedded in a ticket and designed for travelers, this is the best solution to access, which has been developed the ongoing advancement of MARS.


Multifaceted support for ticket sales by JR companies

Responsible for the mission critical systems that power the JR Ticket Offices (Midori no Madoguchi), we respond immediately to ever-changing needs on the user end.
We are always working to strengthen the system connections with JR companies and travel companies, enabling reservations to be made or seat availability to be checked any time, both directly at offices and over the Internet.


A solid rock of security in earthquake-prone Japan

Drawing on the important lessons learned from frequent disasters, as well as the sense of responsibility and pride that comes from handling big data day and night, we continue to ask ourselves, “What is true security?” This stance remains unchanged after a half century of MARS.


MARS continued evolving for 50 years.

MARS became the representative of the on-line real-time system and pulled history of system development of our country.

1960 MARS1MARS 1 MARS 1 was introduced as a means to computerize a conventional manual reservation system based on telephones and log books. As a trial system it could handle 2,320 seats of four Kodama limited express trains on the old Tokaido line.
1964 MARS101MARS 101 This was the first system designed for practical use, featuring a built-in program. The system performed reservations and issued tickets immediately.
1965 MARS102MARS 102 Incorporating the functions of MARS 101, this system was developed in response to an increasing number of limited express trains causing schedule changes, and coincided with the opening of a new type of ticket reservation counter. The system could also make seat reservations and issue tickets for the new Shinkansen bullet trains that came into operation the year before.
1968 MARS103MARS 103 The CPU was changed from a dedicated computer to a general purpose computer for the first time. System size was expanded, with the CPU featuring an improved operating system. At the time, both MARS 101 and 102 continued in operation.
1972 MARS105MARS 105 Plans for an extension of the Shinkansen bullet train to Hakata and the new Shinkansen lines in the Tohoku and Joetsu regions were expected to increase reservation demand markedly in the coming years. In response, MARS 105 was developed to handle 700,000 seats with an expansion capability of 1.4 million seats. The biggest feature of this system was the extension of reservation booking up to two months in advance, the simultaneous issue of tickets, and an alternate train/route display for greater operator and passenger convenience. Moreover, consolidating ticket sales at counters and other work-simplification measures were achieved. In 1975, MARS 150 went online for reservations by touch-tone telephone, while MARS 202 was introduced for group and planned tickets.
1985 MARS301MARS 301 This system was developed to replace the aging MARS 105, 150, and 202 systems and to cope with various new business plans. The 301 system consisted of a Communication Control Subsystem (CCS), a Seat Reservation System (SRS), and a Data Management Subsystem (DMS). In addition to ordinary tickets, this integrated sales system was also capable of handling computer tickets, series tickets, special excursion tickets, and group/planned tickets.
1993 MARS305MARS 305 The MARS 305 was developed to ensure sufficient processing ability for the rapidly increasing traffic, and more flexibility to handle the business plans of individual JR travel companies and offices. The hardware configuration is centered around two super mainframe computers, with all the CCS, SRS, and DMS subsystems installed in one computer. In addition, it features a sensitive monitoring system, an integrated drive system to enable system switching in case of emergency, and the possibility of hot standby for each subsystem.
2004 MARS 501MARS 501 To meet the rapidly diversifying customer requirements and telecommunications needs of the new information age, a radical revision of the system was implemented. MARS 501’s field of operation was rapidly expanded with the spread of vending machine type MV terminals and other new types of terminals and in response to JR passenger rail companies’ use of IC-card passenger tickets and commuter passes.
Today MARS 505MARS 505 Even as we maintain an uptime rate of 99.999%, we are constantly working to upgrade the system functions. These upgrades are needed to handle annual train schedule revisions and changes such as new train line and station openings, along with new services, from online sales by each of the JR companies to ticketless boarding.

What’s more, to meet growing inbound tourism demand and achieve greater efficiency of station operations by JR companies, we are upgrading the ASSIST MARS functions that connect customers using MV terminals at local ticket offices to call center operators. We are also enhancing information provision functions making use of big data from past sales to support JR seat reservation planning.

MARS 505 in Use

JR Ticket Office and Travel Agency

MARS is connected to the terminal of JR ticket office and the computer of the travel agency online. MARS sells a staying ticket and an event ticket as well as the ticket of the train.

Ticket vendor corner of the station

We have also developed MV terminals that are operated by customers themselves, enabling them to purchase special express tickets and commuter passes without lining up at a counter.

Personal computers of home and the office

We are now linking together the reservation systems of companies connected to MARS and expanding the ability to make reservations and payment from personal computers and mobile devices.

System Configuration

The functional and cost advantages of aggregation servers

Central to the system configuration is the advance seat reservation management system, key to reservation and ticketing operations. This along with such logical functions as terminal management, fare calculation, and train guidance are aggregated in servers. The system also includes related subsystems such as terminal control FEP.
Hardware aggregation enables downsizing and by promoting software structural improvements, high flexibility and lower cost are achieved.

Diverse sales network

In addition to MARS terminals at train station ticket and reservation counters, connections are made to host computers serving travel service systems of each JR company, major travel agency systems, credit card systems, and others, for a diverse sales network.
A revenue clearing system, moreover, which accurately distributes sales revenue from ticket sales across JR companies, is operated based on the accumulated data.

Enhancing MARS terminals

MARS terminals include MR terminals operated by staff at the JR Ticket Offices, MV terminals operated by customers, and MD terminals displaying seat availability, all contributing to the sales operations of JR companies. These terminals continue to evolve, for example with multi-language displays enabling use by visitors from outside Japan, as we pursue greater ease of use, visibility, and ease of understanding by both customers and station staff.


Raising the security level of the entire building

The System Center where MARS 501 is located is under 24- hour on-site supervision, with strict room access control using smartcards and biometric authentication. A seismic isolation structure is adopted for the building as a whole, able to withstand shaking of 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale; and the facilities have earned the highest reliability rating (Tier 4 level) from the Japan Data Center Council (JDCC).

Full-time operations management

The System Center's operations are managed 24 hours a day. Operations are automated to improve their efficiency and reliability, while the readiness is in place for promptly responding to system trouble, such as switching over to backup equipment and isolating faulty equipment.
In case of a problem in terminal equipment or communication links, dispatchers provide backup support so troubleshooting and recovery can be carried out quickly.

Total hardware redundancy

System hardware
As preparedness for any possible trouble, a highly robust configuration is adopted in which all subsystems are in hot-standby, cold-standby, or load-sharing state depending on the nature of their operations. Network equipment and disk devices and other peripherals are also duplicated.
Power supply equipment
Power is supplied separately by two substations, with battery backup and diesel generators among the measures taken to ensure continued power supply even in case of an outage. Stable operation is further supported by use of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems and even backup electric power supply cables.
Our robust network centers on JR-NET. Multiple routes are available for all trunk lines. Main communication equipment is duplicated, and service continues to be provided even in case of line breaks or equipment trouble.

System Scale

Handles calls from 10,000 terminals
The average daily number of tickets sold about 1.9 million
Responding to 250 calls per second, issuing a ticket in 6 second

The number of transactions accommodated by MARS is increasing year by year.
Currently MARS 505 processes sales of around 1.9 million tickets per day on average. Even when requests arrive from approximately 10,000 terminals at the same time—including those for checking seat availability and selling tickets in the JR Ticket Offices, travel agents, and other locations—the system is able to respond to peaks of 250 calls per second, issuing tickets in 6 seconds on average.
What’s more, it has the scalability and flexibility to support needs for travel products as they become increasingly diverse and advanced.