Japan Rail Pass
Travel in Japan is extremely convenient. Train lines connect every major city making it easy to get around. Trains, buses, and subways are reliable and rarely late. For example, if your train is scheduled to depart at 1:53 pm, it will actually leave at 1:53 pm.
Many tourists take advantage of the Japan Rail Pass (or JR Pass), which offers unlimited use of the Japan Railways (JR) trains, including the Shinkansen, or bullet train. It can save you a lot of money, but it’s best to buy the pass before you enter Japan.
Should You Buy a Japan Rail Pass?
If you’re going to be on a tourist visa and plan to do any long-distance travel while in Japan, then it is probably worth it to get the Rail Pass.
For example, a round-trip ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto is 27,700 yen. To compare, the cost of the Rail Pass (7-day Ordinary) is 29,650 yen. That’s nearly the same price!
Add in the cost of the train from Narita airport to Tokyo station (3,070 yen one-way), and the Rail Pass has already paid for itself.
Types of Rail Passes
The JR Pass is available for 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days, Ordinary or Green Car. The Green Car is considered the first class cabin. It offers more space and is less crowded than the Ordinary cars.
Where to Buy
The passes are available to purchase online up to three months before your trip. When you order the pass, you will receive a voucher in the mail.
It is also possible to purchase the passes in Japan or on the JR website, but the cost is a bit higher.
How to Exchange Your Voucher
When you arrive in Japan, you can exchange your voucher for the Rail Pass at the airport and at most major train stations. Take your voucher and passport (with a Temporary Visitor stamp) to a ticket counter and you will receive your Rail Pass.
You don’t need seat reservations on most trains, but they offer peace of mind and convenience on the high-speed trains. All seat reservations are free with the Rail Pass. Just show your Rail Pass at a ticket counter to get your tickets.
Local trains do not offer seat reservations. To ride a local train, all you have to do is slide your pass through the automatic ticket gates. You do not need to stand in line for a ticket or show your pass to the staff at the ticket gate.
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Becki and Shawn
Japan Travel Specialists
Hi, we’re Becki and Shawn! We love Japan and are truly passionate about Japan and Japan travel.
We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for 20+ years, so we know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Join us in Japan for an adventure of a lifetime!