How to Use the Japan Rail Pass

How to Use the Japan Rail Pass


2018.09.12

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

How to Use the Japan Rail Pass

The four main islands of the Japanese archipelago are relatively well connected by a network of trains whose veins spread to the farthest corners of the country. While budget buses are also available, trains are the quickest and most comfortable way to get around, especially if you find yourself speeding down the country on an iconic bullet train—or shinkansen—past Mt. Fuji. Any traveller planning to make multiple stops around Japan is advised to check out the Japan Rail pass, or JR pass, which lets you hop on and off JR trains and shinkansen as and when you wish for a period of one, two, or three weeks.

  • 01

    Buy in advance

    Created as a means of encouraging holidaymakers to travel to as many places around Japan as possible, the JR pass is available only to non-residents and must be purchased before you arrive in Japan. Make sure to order your pass at a travel agency or online within three months of when you plan to travel. You will receive an “exchange order”, a slip of paper proving your order, which can be exchanged for the JR pass once you arrive in Japan.

    You can purchase you ticket at Voyagin, an online ticket booking service in Japan.

  • 02

    Choose your type of pass

    Choose your type of pass

    Choose your type of pass

    Japan Rail offers a number of different types of pass that vary depending on the length of your stay, the areas you’re planning to visit, and the type of seating. The standard JR pass is available for 7 consecutive days at 29,650 YEN, 14 consecutive days for 47,250 yen, and 21 consecutive days for 60,450 yen. For first-class seats in the green car, you’ll pay an extra third on top of the standard price, but earn the benefits of bigger seats, more legroom, a radio set, and extra services including a free drink and hot towel.

    While the standard pass offers almost unlimited access to trains across the country, there are more affordable region-specific passes for those planning to visit just one area; for example, the JR Hokkaido rail pass, which starts at 17,400 yen for three days.

  • 03

    Picking up your JR pass

    Picking up your JR pass

    Picking up your JR pass

    The JR pass itself cannot be acquired until you’ve arrived in Japan. Make sure to print out the exchange order sent to you before you arrive in Japan, as this will be exchanged for the shiny JR pass at a JR desk, and take your passport along when picking up the pass. There are a number of stations at which you can receive your JR pass, at both airports and major city train stations including Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, Kyoto Station, and Osaka Station. The pass can be picked up anytime before or on the date of activation, so don’t hesitate to pick it up as soon as you arrive.

  • 04

    Set your start date

    Set your start date

    Set your start date

    As the standard JR pass must be used on consecutive days, it is best not to activate it until the most travel-heavy part of your trip. Although it is not necessary to activate the pass on the day you receive it, you will need to state the date from which you wish it to be activated, so make sure that you’ve planned at least a section of your trip to get the maximum use out of the pass.

  • 05

    Plan your train journeys

    Plan your train journeys

    Plan your train journeys

    Although it comes at a price, the JR pass provides the flexibility to explore Japan to your heart’s content. Active pass holders can jump on almost any JR train, bus, or ferry with a few exceptions including the high speed shinkansen Nozomi and Mizuho, and highway buses. Trains rarely book up in Japan, so there is usually no harm in turning up on the day and hopping on any train. However, if you have specific seat requirements or you’re taking a popular route, seat reservations can be made at the station and online for certain routes. Once you’ve got the hang of the pass, you’re bound to reap the benefits as the whole country opens up to you.

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