If you haven’t already read through the other articles in the Japan series by clicking here.
1. JR Pass is the cheapest way to get around Japan if you want to travel to multiple reasons.
Before you continue reading this article, check out this trip calculator to figure out which pass might work best for you. On my recent trip to Japan, I purchased the 14 day pass because we were there for 11 days.
2. The national rail network is managed by 6 companies that span 8 regions the pass covers. The regional passes make sense if you’re only going to 1 or 2 places.
To learn more about the regional nuances, check out this blog post.
3. It is more common that the passes can only be purchased outside of Japan by non Japanese Residents.
As of 2019, the Japanese tourist office is trialing the ability to purchase in the country. It will be sold at a higher price and on a trial basis in Japan from March 8, 2019 through March 31, 2020 at major stations and airports.
This type of trial pass can be purchased at:
- Stations in Japan where the Japan Rail Pass will be sold: Sapporo, Sendai, Niigata, Tokyo, Shinjuku, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, Takamatsu, Hakata.
- Airports in Japan, where the Japan Rail Pass will be sold: Narita Airport, Terminals 1-2-3; Haneda Airport – International Airport; Kansai Airport.
4. If purchased outside of Japan, a voucher will be mailed to your address. This voucher will be exchanged in Japan for the physical pass you will eventually use.
5. You must turn in your voucher for the pass within three months of the purchase.
6. The pass is sold is 7, 14 or 21 day increments. Your travel dates will have to be consecutive. You can’t block the days or space them out. Once you start the clock, it’s running.
7. There are 2 tiers of tickets: Standard and Green Pass First Class.
Obviously, pricing varies! I ended buying our passes from Japan Rail Pass. I don’t recommend them. There customer service was 100% unresponsive. They charged me $20 for shipping and $30 processing fee which came out to $20 more than JTB Travel.
8. Use it when traveling from the airports to Tokyo. I used it when going from Narita Airport to Tokyo. Took about an hour.
9. Seat reservations are done only while in Japan.
This is annoying but it’s the policy. However, when you arrive in Japan you can reserve a seat by going up to the booth (WHAT IS THE NAME) and show the pass.
10. Shipping of the pass can vary by vendor. My passes arrived within 48 hours but some say up to a month. So plan ahead! You can also have the pass sent to a temporary address in Japan.
11. The pass can be used on “all JR Group Railways-Shinkansen”bullet trains” (except any reserved or non-reserved seat on “NOZOMI” and “MIZUHO” trains) limited express trains, express trains, and rapid or local trains, and the BRT”. (Source: JapanRailpass.net)
12. Other ways to use the pass:
- Tokyo Monorail
- Aoimori Railway services between Aomori and Hachinohe – full segment only, can’t get off in between
- The IR Ishikawa Railway Line between Kanazawa and Tsubata – full segment only, can’t get off in between
- Ainokaze Toyama Railway Line between Toyama and Takaoka – full segment only, can’t get off in between
- Certain buses and ferries are included. Find out more here: http://www.japanrailpass.net/sphone/en/about_jrp.html
13. There are places where the pass can’t be used:
- Intra- city travel, like a metro or subway
- for travel on NOZOMI and MIZUHO trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines.