Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)
The Japan Rail Pass can be purchased online from many authorized travel agencies outside of Japan, including Japan Experience and Klook. One benefit of purchasing the pass through a travel agent is that some allow you to combine it with other travel goods and earn points and/or discounts.
When you buy your pass from any of the outlets, you will first receive an exchange order that you must exchange for the actual pass inside Japan. The Exchange Order will be delivered to you within 3–5 days. Take your exchange order to any major JR station or airport in Japan to collect your JR Pass within three months of purchase.
At the time of exchange, you will need to have your passport (photocopy not accepted) with you and know the date upon which you will want the Rail Pass to start. Dedicated counters specifically for Rail Pass exchanges exist at some stations, such as Tokyo Station, but most stations issue passes from the travel center or, occasionally, the main information desk.
Who Can Purchase JR Pass?
The JR Pass is offered exclusively to international tourists with tourist visas. Short-term visitors to Japan who have a passport with the "Temporary Visitor" entry status can purchase JR Pass.
Also, Japanese nationals who can prove that they have been living abroad for at least ten years can use the pass. Residents of Japan cannot purchase the JR Pass.
JR Trains: Green Cars Versus Ordinary Cars
The Japan Rail Pass comes in two varieties: Ordinary car (image) and the green car (image), which is the equivalent of a first-class seat. This includes extra leg room and seats that recline further.
Also, seats are positioned in each row such that there are only four in total (two on each side) for increased comfort. Green Cars are available on most Shinkansen and limited express trains, as well as on a small number of local trains.
Japan Rail Pass Prices
The Ordinary Class 7-day Rail Pass costs 50,000 yen. Ordinary passes for 14 days and 21 days cost 80,000 yen and 100,000 yen, respectively. Green Car Rail Passes for 7, 14, and 21 days cost 70,000 yen, 110,000 yen, and 140,000 yen, respectively.
Children aged 6 to 11 pay 50%, and kids below the age of 6 generally travel for free unless they occupy a reserved seat (12 and older are considered adults).
The pass is valid for travel on Japan Railways transportation throughout the country for the services mentioned on the pass, including:
Japan Rail Pass Exceptions
An additional special ticket must be purchased when riding the following Shinkansen services.
The additional special ticket can be purchased at the ticket office at major JR stations across Japan. Some popular sections are:
Select The Starting Date
After you receive your pass, you need to activate it within 30 days and select a date as your starting date. Keep in mind that a day starts and ends at midnight. That means, for example, if you activate your pass for immediate use on July 1 at 12 noon, your pass will expire at midnight on July 7, not July 8 at 12 noon.
Japan Rail Pass holders can only make seat reservations after receiving the actual pass. Seat reservations are possible shortly before departure time, up to one month before the travel date. Shinkansen tickets can be purchased in JR train stations at ticket offices (known as Midori-no-Madoguchi) and ticket machines. The reservations are free, so even if you are not entirely settled with your plans, you can reserve everything at the start and make changes later at no cost. Note that many trains fill up far in advance, particularly around holidays.
Using Automatic Ticket Gates
Starting in June 2020, JR Pass holders can enter train stations using automatic ticket gates. The pass (image) acts as a ticket. Simply insert it at the automatic ticket gates. Previously, pass holders needed to go through a manned gate and show the staff their train pass.
Discounts For Hotels & Tourist Sites & Services
The JR Hotel Group operates large numbers of hotels all over Japan. Discounts are available at some locations. When making a reservation, simply mention that you have purchased a Japan Rail Pass. JR Pass holders can receive benefits and discounts at selected shops, tourist sites and facilities across Japan.
Japan Regional Rail Passes
Regional JR companies also sell their own passes that cover different regions or routes in the country. They often cover private lines in the covered area. So, if you are spending several days in a particular area, then they may be a better deal than the national JR pass. Unlike the national Rail Pass, many of these can be purchased in the country at any major JR station, but they're still mostly limited to individuals with visitor visas.
Similar to the main rail pass, Japan regional rail passes can also be purchased online from authorized travel agencies outside of Japan, including Japan Experience and Klook. When you make any rail journey passing through the manned ticket gate, you will need to show the Rail Pass to the attendant so that the period of validity is clearly visible.
Does the Japan Rail Pass pay off?
For visitors who plan to travel to multiple cities in Japan within a short timeframe, the Japan Rail Pass can be a cost-effective option.
It also offers a convenient way to explore Japan, especially for first-time visitors or those who feel intimidated by the country's complicated rail ticket system. Having a single train ticket saves a significant amount of time and convenience when compared to buying separate tickets for each train trip.
The pass may be more expensive than flights for most itineraries. But there are also a few advantages to taking the train rather than domestic flights: