All you can ride ticket for the shinkansen! You’ll gravely regret not getting the Japan Rail Pass!
The most essential means of transportation while traveling within Japan is without a doubt the railways. Especially convenient are the ultra-fast Japan Railways (JR) shinkansen that run through stations in Japan’s most famous cities for sightseeing such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka, connecting the country all the way from Hokkaido in the north down to the southern reaches of Kyushu.
Furthermore, the services, facilities, and seats of the shinkansen are incredibly comfortable!
But the problem is the price! If you spend a week using the shinkansen to tour around Japan, then you’re going to run out of money! So, we’ve reached quite a problem here. What a waste to come all the way to Japan without going exactly where you want to go!
The answer to these worries is none other than the Japan Rail Pass. This is the ultimate train ticket available exclusively for foreign travelers that is such a bargain that it has many Japanese locals saying, “I wish I was a foreign tourist!” After making the decision to fly across the sea, the next step is to get your hands on this remarkable ticket which will allow you to travel smart and comfortable throughout Japan.
The Japan Rail Pass is an all-you-can-ride train ticket you can use on various modes of transportation from the six joint companies of the Japan Railway Group (JR Hokkaido, JR East Japan, JR Central, JR West, JR Shikoku, and JR Kyushu) which run all the way from Hokkaido to Kyushu. The pass allows you to ride most JR trains and even some buses for free making it far cheaper in the end than the average fares one would usually pay individually. However, acquiring the pass is slightly troublesome. So read the explanations that follow carefully to make the purchasing process as smooth as possible!
The Japan Rail Pass can be used on the following lines:
・All lines on the JR Group (excluding the “Nozomi” and “Mizuho” shinkansen)
・Tokyo Monorail (from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsu-cho)
・Various stations on private railways that are also used by JR (unable to disembark at stations other than those cooperatively used by both JR and the concerning private railway)
・Local JR buses excluding express bus routes
・JR West Japan Miyajima Ferry (from Miyajima to Miyajima-guchi in Hiroshima Prefecture)
You cannot use the Japan Rail Pass on private railways. If you have any questions or concerns while in Japan, go ahead and inquire at a travel center or green JR ticket office. You can also download a detailed route map from the Japan Rail Pass Official Website.
Those eligible for acquiring the Japan Rail Pass are foreign visitors to Japan with the entry status of Temporary Visitor qualified by Japanese law. Japanese nationals with a right of permanent residence in a country outside of Japan as well as Japanese nationals living outside of Japan that are married to non-Japanese living outside of Japan can also use the Japan Rail Pass.
For those who will only visit two places on their trip like Tokyo and Hokkaido, or Osaka and Okinawa for example, airplane travel will be faster and cheaper. The Japan Rail Pass is also unnecessary for those who will mainly stay in one spot with the exception of a small trip to perhaps a rural hot springs area. People who should definitely buy the Japan Rail Pass are those who during their stay want to travel the whole breadth of Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu, those who want to fully enjoy both the Kanto and Kansai areas, those who may want to travel around the Tohoku region and then Hokkaido, those who want to be free to travel as they like on a whim, or anyone who wants to go around famous tourist spots in various areas around Japan.
（Source：tomos / PIXTA）
Of course, you can use the express trains to access your destination directly from the airport, so as long as you have the Japan Rail Pass you won’t have to worry about finding cheap transportation from the airport! Your trip can be comfortable from the very start when traveling on the Narita Express Train from Narita Airport or the Haruka Express Train from the Kansai International Airport.
Let’s say you’re going to take a trip around Japan lasting two weeks starting off by heading north from Tokyo. You first head to Sendai which is the gateway to one of the Top Three most Scenic Spots of Japan in Matsushima and famous onsen (hot spring) areas, then go to Aomori famous for apples and the Nebuta Float Festival, then Hokkaido full of delicious food and great Mother Nature, and then return back to Tokyo. Next you head west to the historical atmosphere of Kyoto, foodie capital of Osaka, Himeji which is famous for the national treasure of Himeji Castle, World Heritage Site Peace Memorial Museum and Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima, and finish in the entertaining food stall culture of Hakata.
The transportation costs of the first leg of your trip through north eastern Japan will amount to 61,780 yen. The second leg to western Japan will cost 34,750 yen. In total, that’s 96,530 yen! That’s crazy!
Using the ordinary Rail Pass for only 46,390 yen, you can make the trip in less than half the price! If you pay a little extra for the 62,950 Green Japan Rail Pass, then you can take the trip on the high class green cars of the trains. Unbelievably cheap, isn’t it?
（Source：ふじよ / PIXTA)
You cannot buy the Japan Rail Pass in Japan! Before leaving your country you’ll need to purchase an “Exchange Order” from an officially recognized JR sales office or agency. For more information on specific locations in different countries where you can buy an Exchange Order check here ⇒ From buying to using your Japan Rail Pass
When you go to buy the Exchange Order from a sales office or agency, you’ll get a lot of in depth explanations, so if there’s any points that are unclear or if you have any questions be sure to ask before making the final purchase.
Different kinds of Exchange Orders
7 Day Pass: Valid for 7 consecutive days since you begin use
Green Pass: 38,880 yen (Children / 19,440 yen)
Ordinary Pass: 29,110 yen (Children / 14,550 yen)
14 Day Pass: Valid for 14 consecutive days since you begin use
Green Pass: 62,950 yen (Children / 31,470 yen)
Ordinary Pass: 46,390 yen (Children / 23,190 yen)
21 Day Pass: Valid for 21 consecutive days since you begin use
Green Pass: 81,870 yen (Children / 40,930 yen)
Ordinary Pass: 59,350 yen (Children / 29,670 yen)
Prices listed are for the current year, 2016. Details may be subject to change.
So now you’ve brought your Exchange Order with you to Japan. Just like this you can’t start using the pass for transportation on JR. First, take your Exchange Order and your passport which has been stamped with your current “Temporary Visitor” stamp/sticker received upon entry to Japan, and any further required proof of eligibility (for Japanese nationals living outside of Japan, proof of permanent residency in a country outside of Japan, or proof of marriage with a non-Japanese national living outside of Japan and proof of your spousal’s permanent residence outside of Japan) to the nearest Japan Rail Pass exchange office. Check here for locations of exchange offices ⇒ Japan Rail Pass exchange offices
If you decide your travel times beforehand and want to be absolutely sure you’ll have a seat to relax in then you will want to get reserved seat tickets. Head to a travel center or green JR Ticket Office, or JR approved tour company and get your tickets straightaway! For Japanese residents, there is an additional fee required for reserved seat tickets, but not with the Japan Rail Pass. In Japan, there are many types of trains including shinkansen, limited express, express, green car, and local trains. The trains you can ride will vary with the type of Exchange Order you have purchased, so please take care. If you don’t need reserved seat tickets then all you need to do is show your Japan Rail Pass to a station attendant when passing through the ticket gate. You cannot ride the “Nozomi” or “Mizuho” shinkansen trains with the Japan Rail Pass, so before riding a shinkansen train please check with a train station attendant to confirm your boarding eligibility.
◎The Exchange Order must be turned in for a Japan Rail Pass within three months of the date the Order was issued.
◎There may be long lines at the exchange centers so allow for a lot of time! Exchange offices slightly differ in hours and holidays so be sure to check before you go!
◎Even if you have obtained a Green Japan Rail Pass, extra fees will be incurred when riding in shinkansen GranClass private rooms and cars, private rooms and private green room cars on limited express and express cars, and sleeping cars.
◎Most shinkansen and express train local stations in big cities have automatic ticket gates. You are not able to use the Japan Rail Pass at stations with only automatic ticket gates, so please be sure to use stations with station attendants. The red arrow below marks a station attendant manned ticket gate.
Many stations in regional areas of Japan have only station attendant manned ticket gates.
There is a lot of helpful information on stations and conditions inside of trains on the official website. Check it out!
Japan Rail Pass
Official Website (available in various languages)
I am writing about a variety of topics regarding Miyazaki and Kyushu such as foods, tourism, travel, sports, and interviews with key people in the local industries and areas. My hobbies are making an eating tour, going around some castles, and visiting historic sites.