Japan Rail Pass: The Ultimate Guide (2023 Edition)

Planning

16  comments

Rob Dyer The Real Japan

I hope you enjoy reading this post.

If you want help planning your Japan trip click here.

The Japan Rail Pass (also known as the JR Pass) is the #1 most popular travel option for foreign visitors to Japan. 

It’s a joint offering from the six companies comprising the Japan Railways Group (JR Group). It is the most economical means of travelling throughout Japan by rail, and includes most of the famous shinkansen - or bullet trains. 

Travelling by shinkansen isn’t necessarily cheap but it can be fantastic value if you purchase the Japan Rail Pass. 

In this Ultimate Guide I'll answer all the most frequently asked questions about the JR Pass, give you a free "Essential Japan Rail Pass" checklist and my recommendations on where to purchase.

Download my "Essential Japan Rail Pass" checklist:

Japan Rail Pass Ultimate Guide The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Japan Rail Pass Ultimate Guide 2022 Edition
by Rob Dyer


Japan Rail Pass - Quick Summary

Passes are best bought in advance outside of Japan. Buying passes outside Japan will always be the cheapest option.

The options are passes running for 7, 14 and 21 consecutive days. What’s more, the savings get proportionally greater if you can buy a longer pass. Simply choose the duration that best fits with your plans.

Passes can be purchased around the world from a number of authorised local travel agents. A complete list of authorised agents can be found on the official JR Pass website: www.japanrailpass.net.

They will cost more to buy inside Japan, than buying in advance outside of the country. 

N700 train nose The Real Japan Rob Dyer

N700 shinkansen at Shin Kobe Station

You’re actually buying something called an Exchange Order which you must exchange for the tickets themselves when you are in Japan. This can be done at JR Travel Service Centres located in most major JR train stations.

Conveniently, Centers are located in the major airports including Narita and Haneda (Tokyo) and Kansai (Osaka).

As JR Passes are primarily used by foreign tourists travelling in Japan, all information and services are in English (and multiple other languages as well). Key staff at counters where you exchange your vouchers for the passes will speak English.

There are some restrictions on use; for example, the pass cannot be used for travel on Nozomi or Mizuho trains (the two fastest services) on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu shinkansen lines.

Foreign visitors can save money by minimising their trip cost through the use of the Japan Rail Pass. This article will help guide you to make a choice of which length of Japan Rail Pass is suitable for you, based on the length of your stay, itinerary and use.

The Japan Rail Pass makes it possible to travel an unlimited amount of times on the entire JR rail network, including many high speed bullet train lines.


How does the pass work?

STEP 1

booking confirmed Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan

Order your JR Pass

STEP 2

exchange order Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan

Receive the Exchange Order

STEP 3

activate Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan

Active your JR Pass in Japan

STEP 4

unlimited travel Japan Rail Pass The Real japan

Enjoy unlimited travel

What does the Japan Rail Pass cover?

The Japan Rail Pass is valid on:

  • JR (Japan Railway Group) trains (with some exceptions such as Shinkansen Nozomi and Mizuho (the fastest services)
  • Tokyo Monorail to/from Haneda Airport
  • JR Ferry to Miyajima in Hiroshima
  • Local JR buses
  • Some non-JR trains to access isolated JR lines
Japan Rail Pass old new designs The Real Japan Rob Dyer

A couple of my Japan Rail Passes, newer design on the left, older pass on the right

The Japan Rail Pass is an excellent way to travel throughout Japan and without having to worry about extra costs incurred while using the local JR lines. It's worth it if you are planning on travelling throughout Japan using public transport and staying at least a week or two.

The pass is available in two versions, the Ordinary (standard) car pass and Green car pass. Each type can be purchased for 7 days, 14 days or 21 days.

SEE ALSO: Using Public Transport in Japan


What specific services are covered by the Japan Rail Pass? 

The pass covers railways, buses and one ferry. Here’s the complete list:

1. Railways

  • JR lines throughout Japan, including shinkansen ‘bullet trains’ (except for Nozomi and Mizuho services), limited express trains, express trains and local trains
  • Tokyo Monorail
  • Aomori Railway between Hachinohe and Aomori, Aomori and Noheji, of hachinohe and Noheji (valid only for use on ordinary trains)
  • IR Ishikawa Railway between Kanazawa and Tsubata
  • Ainokaze Toyama Railway between Toyama and Takaoka (valid only for use on ordinary trains)
  • NOTE: On Aomori, IR Ishikawa, and Ainokaze Toyama Railways, valid only for travel extending through the indicated segments without stopover)

2. Buses

  • JR Bus services (except for expressway buses and some local services)

3. Ferry

  • JR Miyajima ferry

4. Trains and services requiring additional basic fares and charges

  • Travel on JR Group trains that connect directly with non-JR Group railways will require additional payment (at stations or on the train) of basic fares and charges for the sections operated by the other company
  • There are some JR trains that connect directly with subway lines, etc that require additional fares for the sections of those lines.

SOURCE: based on information found on the official Japan Rail Pass website.


JR Pass Route Map

JR Route Map Nationwide The Real Japan

CLICK MAP to download printable PDF

A Nationwide JR Route Map is available for free download as a PDF file from the official website here: Nationwide JR Route Map. The same map is reproduced on the inside of the current pass design.

You can use the Hyperdia online timetable site to determine whether or not the journey you wish to make is covered by the pass.

Download my "Essential Japan Rail Pass" checklist:

Who can buy the Japan Rail Pass?

In summary, anyone entering Japan on a 15 or 90 day tourist visa can buy the JR Pass. Only tourists and those on holiday in Japan are eligible. If you are a business traveller, you will not be allowed to use it on your travels. Japanese nationals can also use them if they can provide the eligibility documentation JR requires. See the official website for more eligibility information.

You can’t game the system either as you are required to show your tourist visa or stamp in your passport at the JR Exchange Office when seeking to exchange your order voucher for a pass. Therefore, at the airport on arrival if you use an automated gate, it is important that you get a member of staff to stamp your passport.

Japan Rail Pass exchange order

Example of an Exchange Order, issued by JTB in the USA

Passes can only be purchased by foreigners in Japan who have a passport issued by a country other than Japan and are granted temporary visitor status and Japanese nationals residing abroad who meet certain conditions.


How much does a Japan Rail Pass cost?

The cost of the Japan Rail Pass is determined by how many days you are planning on staying and the version of the pass that you choose. 

A price guide for both Ordinary (Standard Class) and Green Car (First Class) passes from an authorised agent outside Japan are shown in the tables below. The exact price you pay will vary - depending on where you choose to purchase and the exchange rate at the time of purchase. Although the base price is set in Japan, authorised agents outside of Japan will often include extras (such as Japan travel guides, express delivery, etc.) to differentiate their service from others, and this affects the price charged. 

The prices shown below are based on the Japan-set prices using the exchange rate at the time of publication. The exchange rate as of December 2021 is approximately US$1 = JP¥110.


Ordinary (Standard)

Duration

Adult

Child

7 Days

$262

$131

14 Days

$417

$209

21 Days

$534

$267

Green Car (First Class)

Duration

Adult

Child

7 Days

$349

$175

14 Days

$566

$283

21 Days

$736

$368

Example cost of train journeys without the Pass

It's helpful in deciding if you need the Japan Rail Pass or not, if you take a look at the cost of a typical train journey. For example, here's the breakdown of the cost of a round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto and Hiroshima and back:

Tokyo > Kyoto > Hiroshima > Tokyo 13,650 yen + 11,100 yen + 18,710 yen = 43,460 yen or around $383 (as of December 2021).


What is a Green car?

Green cars are essentially first class cars (I’m not sure where the naming convention comes from). As you’d expect, opting to travel via Green car brings with it a few extra benefits including: larger seat, greater foot space, and enhanced onboard service. There are fewer seats in Green cars compared with standard class so there are fewer passengers too.

green car Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Green Cars (First Class) are identified by a green four leaf clover

Green cars are available on most shinkansen and limited express trains, as well as on a few local trains. Green car Pass holders can also use Ordinary cars if they wish, they're not restricted to travelling only in Green cars.

If you are a wheelchair user then note that not all Green cars are accessible. You can read more about accessible travel in Japan using trains and the JR Pass in our guide: 12 Best Tips For Accessible Travel in Japan.


The 3 ways to buy your Japan Rail Pass


1. Online

The most common way of buying a Japan Rail Pass is through an authorised website. Some of these are dedicated to the Japan Rail Pass, others (such as Klook) offer a broad range of tickets and experiences. You will receive a voucher that needs to be exchanged for an actual pass once you are inside Japan and within three months of purchase.

JR started selling passes online in 2020, but their prices are around 13% more expensive. You may just prefer the peace of mind of booking through the official Japan Rail Pass Reservation website, and the site does enable you to make seat reservations online.

You can also collect your pass using just your passport and not a voucher that needs to be exchanged.

It’s worth noting that Japanese expats living abroad cannot buy passes through the JR Reservation website (even though they are eligible for the Japan Rail Pass).

seat reservation Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan

Japanese shinkansen are always clean, quiet and comfortable

2. Travel agent outside Japan

Accredited travel agents outside of Japan are authorised to sell the Japan Rail Pass.

What you’re actually buying is a voucher which will be sent to you. After receiving the voucher, and once you are inside Japan you have three months to exchange it for your actual Japan Rail Pass. It's advisable to place an order well in advance as you may experience delays in delivery.


3. Major stations inside Japan

The Japan Rail Pass can be purchased at a range of major train stations and airports including Narita, Haneda and Kansai airports

A complete list of the sales offices (including service hours) can be found on the official Japan Rail Pass website here: https://japanrailpass.net/en/exchange.html. Note: you will pay approximately 13% more per pass if buying inside Japan.


start date Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan

Selecting a start date for the Pass

When you exchange your voucher for the actual pass, you can select any start date provided it is within one month from the day you exchange. Note: once the actual pass is issued, the start date cannot be changed. 

If you purchase passes through the official JR website you will need to select the start date of the passes at the time of purchase, and again, the start date cannot be changed later.


Where can I activate my Japan Rail Pass?

For Japan Rail Passes purchased in advance outside of Japan, you need to activate them at an exchange office after arriving in Japan. Exchange offices can be found in several major train stations and airports.

The official JR Pass website has a complete list of exchange offices here: https://japanrailpass.net/en/exchange.html


How to make seat reservations

Seat reservations are free with the Japan Rail Pass. After exchanging your voucher for the actual pass, you can make seat reservations for JR trains for free at ticket machines or ticket offices across Japan. Note: reservations cannot be made on board trains.

ticket machines Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan

Seat reservations are free and can made at ticket machines (in English) in train stations

Seat reservations are optional in Ordinary class cars, but all seating in Green cars is reserved so you will need to reserve in advance.

Most non-shinkansen and local train services do not offer seat reservations. You can read more details on how to make seat reservations on the JRPass.com website here.


Recommended Travel Accessories

Pocket WiFi

Portable WiFi is essential for getting online and keeping in touch

Meet & Greet

For stress-free travel and help with activating your Japan Rail Pass

Guide Book

Japan by Rail guidebook, includes rail route guide and 30 city guides

oversized luggage Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan

Luggage restrictions

New rules concerning oversized luggage were introduced in 2020. Oversized luggage is defined as the total measurement of the three sides (length, width and height) is over 160cm and within 250cm.

If your luggage is oversized, on some shinkansen you must make an advance reservation for both the seat and baggage area.

This applies to the following shinkansen: Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu (routes: TokyoNagoyaKyoto – Shin-Osaka – Hiroshima – Hakata – Kagoshima-Chuo).

NOTE: Luggage where the three sides measure over 250cm is not allowed to be brought onto shinkansen at all. (If you have luggage over 250cm and are travelling by shinkansen consider using a luggage forwarding service instead.)

If you bring oversized baggage on board shinkansen without making an advance reservation, you will be charged a carry on fee of 1,000 JPY (inc. tax) and be required to store your baggage in a space designated by the train crew.

Full details on the luggage restrictions are available to download in a free PDF on the official Japan Rail Pass website here: Japan Rail Pass - Oversized Baggage (Instant Download PDF).

Need help planning your Japan trip?
Take my Japan Travel Quiz

Accessible travel using the Rail Pass

For tips on accessible travel in Japan using the Japan Rail Pass and trains in general, please read our dedicated guide: 12 Best Tips For Accessible Travel in Japan.


Why use a Japan Rail Pass?

While some visitors to Japan will not need a Japan Rail Pass, it can be an excellent travel tool for those looking to maximise the use of their time, while saving money over multiple train tickets and journeys. 

Perhaps the best thing about the Pass is that it offers unlimited shinkansen journeys. Think about that for a moment. You can travel as much as you want on services. The more you use the pass, the more you are saving.

Mt. Fuji shinkansen The Real Japan

There are some great views of the iconic Mt. Fuji from the windows of shinkansen

To get the most out of the rail pass, you need to consider your length of stay, itinerary, and budget of travel. The pass can save you money if you are willing to invest a bit of time in planning your itinerary around its uses.

If you need some ideas for itineraries, the JRPass.com website has a number of suggested itineraries from 3 to 14 days.


Is the Japan Rail Pass worth buying?

It all depends on your rail travel plans and itinerary. The Japan Rail Pass is convenient, but its use requires a certain amount of planning. 

The most important thing to consider about purchasing a Japan Rail Pass is the length of your stay in Japan and how many places you plan to visit using the train (especially JR trains), how you are planning on travelling throughout the country, and how the rail pass can make that easier, faster and cheaper.

If you’re not sure that the Japan Rail Pass will be worth buying for your travel plans then you should total up the cost of buying individual train tickets for each of your journeys (or regional rail passes) and then compare that with the cost of the Japan Rail Pass. 

Kohji Asakawa Aso Kyushu The Real Japan

With unlimited travel, the Japan Rail Pass can take you as far south as Kyushu

Just remember, the pass offers unlimited travel, so you might well want to add in extra trips than you originally planned as the more you travel on a Japan Rail Pass the better value you get out of them.

You can use a site like Hyperdia.com to calculate the total cost of individual tickets.

One approach to maximising the value of your pass is to book accommodation in a location at the centre of a region you want to explore. Hotels typically allow storage of large suitcases (sometimes for a small fee). You can then use the pass to make day or short overnight trips to surrounding areas taking only a day or overnight bag with you.

Can the Japan Rail Pass be used on the Tokyo Metro?

One of the questions most tourists have is whether or not the pass can be used on the Tokyo Metro system. The answer is no. It can only be used on Japan Railway (JR) lines during your travels in Japan.

The Tokyo Metro is very convenient and easy to use, but if you plan on using this system, you will need to pay for each trip separately. A good option for travel on the Tokyo Metro is to buy a pre-paid travel card such as the Suica Card. And if you stay in Tokyo and only do some short day trips around Tokyo for sightseeing, using the Japan Rail Pass won’t be cost effective.

Hikari train screen The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Exterior screens in carriages provide service and car information in both English and Japanese

What regional rail passes make good alternatives to the Japan Rail Pass?

Since the Japan Rail Pass operates on consecutive days only, it is best suited to itineraries that are built around moving frequently within 7, 14 or 21 day periods. It also offers the best value for the longest distances travelled.

If you are visiting only one region then you might want to consider one of the many regional rail passes. These are offered by different railway companies. Some regional passes cover areas (e.g the Kansai Area Pass, Hokuriku Area Pass), others cover entire islands (Hokkaido Rail Pass, Kyushu Rail Pass). 

Also, depending on your travel plans, the Japan Rail Pass and regional rail passes can also be used in conjunction with each other. 

For example, if your itinerary included periods of frequent rail travel and then none for a while and then resumed but only in one area, then it might be better to buy a 7, 14 or 21 day Japan Rail Pass for the period of intense travel and later pick up a regional pass just to cover an area that you plan to spend an amount of time in.

I have an in-depth guide to regional rail passes in Japan HERE. It includes 5 recommendations for the best-value regional passes.

Download my "Essential Japan Rail Pass" checklist:

Is it possible to change dates of the Pass?

Yes. Should you decide that you want to change the dates or the area where your pass is valid or should you lose your pass, then it is possible to exchange it for an official receipt. You would need to get a refund of the pass you have purchased and then purchase a new pass. This can only be done before the starting date of periods of use.


How many times can I use the Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail Pass can be used for unlimited rides for the duration of your pass (7, 14 or 21 consecutive days). The valid period is based on full calendar days (midnight to midnight) rather than 24 hour periods. For example, if you start using a 7-day pass at midday on day 1, it will expire at midnight at the end of day 7, and not at midday of day 8.


Japan Rail Pass FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions


Can you buy a Japan Rail Pass in Japan?

Yes, you can buy the Japan Rail pass at a ticket office in Japan, but it is more expensive to buy it inside the country than outside of the country in advance. 

Location of the ticket offices in Japan can be found on official JR website here: https://japanrailpass.net/en/exchange.html


Where can I activate The Japan Rail Pass?

To activate your Japan Rail Pass, you must exchange your voucher at an exchange office after arriving in Japan. There are offices in airports and at majorJR train stations; opening times will vary. Fill out the form with your details and present your passport and your "Temporary Visitor" stamp/sticker.

The official Japan Rail Pass website includes a list of all of the exchange offices: https://japanrailpass.net/en/exchange.html.

Tokyo Station The Real Japan

Tokyo Station is the main shinkansen terminal in Tokyo, and the busiest station in Japan

How can I get a refund on the Japan Rail Pass?

If you decide that you do not want to use your pass or if it is not valid in the areas where you are travelling, then it can be returned for a refund as long as the pass has not been activated.

If you have an actual Japan Rail Pass (i.e. you have already exchanged the voucher for a pass), it can be turned in at any exchange office for a refund, but only if this is done before the start date of the pass.

If you still have the voucher (i.e. it hasn’t yet been exchanged for a pass), you need to contact the retailer you originally purchased it from for a refund. The terms and conditions will vary.

If there are any issued reserved-seat tickets, it is necessary to cancel all the issued reserved-seat tickets.


Is The Japan Rail Pass transferable (to another person)?

No - the pass is only valid for the person named on the pass. You cannot lend the Japan Rail Pass to another person, or use it if you have not activated it.

Japan Rail Pass inside map The Real Japan Rob Dyer

A handy (if small) rail network map can be found inside the pass alongside the terms of use

Is it cheaper to buy your Japan Rail Pass in Japan?

No - the opposite in fact. Buying the Japan Rail Pass in Japan will be more expensive than buying it in your home country before you travel. Passes can be purchased in many countries through officially authorised travel agents. Prices are controlled so do not vary by much between agents. However, you might want to shop around before buying one as agents often include free extras (like Japan guides) to entice you to buy through them.

A list of authorised global agents can be found here on JR official website.


Are all shinkansen bullet trains covered by The Japan Rail Pass?

Not quite. However, the vast majority of services (including the Hikari, Sakura, Kodama and Tsubame services) are covered. However, Nozomi and Mizuho trains running on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu shinkansen lines are not covered. All other bullet trains are included. 

Full details of the shinkansen services covered by the pass can be found on the official Japan Rail Pass website (Instant Download PDF).


Is the Narita Express (N'EX) covered by the Japan Rail Pass?

Yes. The Narita Express, also known as N'EX, is a Limited Express train operated by JR East that runs between Narita Airport and central Tokyo. You can ride the Narita Express for free using the Pass, but seats must be reserved in advance. 

Narita Express N'EX Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan

The Narita Express (N'EX) is covered by the Japan Rail Pass, but seats must be reserved in advance

Stops include many popular places to stay including: Narita (town), Chiba, Tokyo Station, Shinbashi, Hamamatshucho, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Yokohama and Ikebukuro.


Can I use the Japan Rail Pass on local trains?

Yes, provided those local trains are part of the JR network. The pass isn’t limited exclusively to using shinkansen (‘bullet trains’). A Japan Rail Pass can be used on almost all JR (Japan Rail Group) trains. 

local JR train Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan

Local JR trains are also covered by the Japan Rail Pass

How long is a Japan Rail Pass valid for?

The period of validity of a Japan Rail Pass is 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days. All three versions offer unlimited travel during their period of validity.


Is the Japan Rail Pass valid on non-JR railways?

Generally speaking the answer is no. However, the pass is valid on a small number of non-JR trains. Agreement has been reached with some train companies to provide access to remote JR lines that otherwise would be inaccessible. 

A complete Nationwide JR Route Map is available to download from the JapanRailPass.net site here: https://japanrailpass.net/pdf/Nationwide_JR_Route_Map_web_1112.pdf


Some more specific questions about using the Pass

Before publishing this guide, I asked subscribers if they had any questions about using the pass. Most questions are covered above, but there were a few specific questions that weren't. So here they are:


Are you able to buy an additional regional pass if you have purchased a 3 week Pass and are staying longer? i.e. Any limit on passes within a 90 day tourist visa?

There is no limit on the number of passes (Japan Rail or regional) you can purchase within a 90 day tourist visa. This gives you great flexibility when planning your itinerary, especially given that further passes can be bought inside Japan once you are already here.


Are discounts on the price of passes available to seniors?

No, as the pass is already being heavily subsidised, no special discount for seniors is available.

Kyushu Limited Express Japan Rail Pass The Real Japan

Kyushu's stylish Kamome Limited Express is included in the Japan Rail Pass

Is there a pass suitable for slow travel?

No. You just need to plan your itinerary in advance and think about how you could utilise the Japan Rail Pass within that. For example, you might use more than one pass during your travels but not use them back to back. Think about how you might get the best value out of the three different durations (7, 14 and 21 days) and then order passes to complement your preferred travel style.

Alternatively, depending on your itinerary, consider using the Japan Rail Pass in combination with a number of regional rail passes, or only use regional rail passes.

Download my "Essential Japan Rail Pass" checklist:

Conclusion

I hope this Ultimate Guide has been useful and has helped you decide if you need to use the Japan Rail Pass or not. If it has been useful please share this with friends.

I've used the pass many times since first coming to Japan in 2000. The design may have changed a little but the value it offers only ever increases.

Relatively speaking, the price of the passes hasn't increased a great deal down the years, whereas the shinkansen network has, and continues to, expand. And as the pass offers unlimited journeys the value you can derive from it just gets better and better.

Don't forget to download your free "Essential Japan Rail Pass Checklist".

Rob Dyer The Real Japan

About the Author

A writer and publisher from England, Rob has been exploring Japan’s 6,800 islands since 2000. He specialises in travelling off the beaten track, whether on remote atolls or in the hidden streets of major cities. He’s the founder of TheRealJapan.com.

Japan Rail Pass Planning Services

Still have some questions about how best to use the Japan Rail Pass? Want help planning a Japan itinerary? The Real Japan offers some services that you might like to take a look at.

My Travel Planning Calls are ideal if you have a few unanswered questions about a trip you are planning, or would like feedback and suggestions on an itinerary you are building.  Learn More HERE.

If you'd rather hand over all the hard work for planning an entire trip then my Travel Planning Service is tailor-made for you. Learn More HERE.

Further Japan travel guides, books and checklists are available in The Real Japan Travel Store.

If you enjoyed this article please share this image online:

Japan Rail Pass JR Pass The Real Japan Ultimate Guide Rob Dyer

Resources

Order your Japan Rail Passes HERE:

JRPass.com


Official Japan Rail Pass information website

https://japanrailpass.net/en/


Official Japan Rail Pass Reservations website

https://www.japanrailpass-reservation.net/


Japan Rail & Travel website (JR Group)

https://japanrailandtravel.com/


More Planning Resources

Planning Travel Hub

My List of Recommended Japan Travel Resources

Resources


The Real Japan Store

Travel Planning Services & Travel Guides


Leave A Comment / Ask A Question

Black Friday deals The Real Japan

Book Your Trip: Japan Travel Essentials

Book Your Flight
Find the best flight by using Skyscanner. It's my go-to flight search engine because has the most comprehensive global search options.

Book Your Accommodation
I always use Booking.com as they consistently offer the cheapest rates and most flexible cancellation options for hotels and guesthouses. Use Hostelworld if you're looking for budget-priced options.

Book Your Japan Rail Pass
The best official agent by a country mile is JRPass.com. Clear and easy to use website. Excellent customer service.

Book Your WiFi
I never travel in Japan without pocket WiFi. Get Ninja WiFi for unlimited internet everywhere, use Google Maps, supports up to 10 devices.

Ready To Book Your Trip?
Check out my Recommended Japan Travel Resources. The list covers all the essentials. It’s filled with carefully selected travel resources. And I only include the best travel resources - those I use myself or recommend to my clients.

Need Help Planning Your Trip?
Want feedback on your travel ideas? Need help building an itinerary? Or maybe you just want to hand over the entire trip planning to me? Then my Travel Planning Services are tailor-made for you.

You may also like

Leave A Comment / Ask A Question

  • Eric Larsen says:

    I love all of the links to resources. I’ve downloaded the country-wide map, and will use Klook for my voucher. I look forward to your updates on the Regional Passes — I’ve used the Tohoku 5-day non-consecutive pass and saved a lot of money over the full JR pass. Planning which days to activate the pass to get the most out of it takes some advice and forethought.

    • Good to hear you found the guide helpful Eric. I know you’re a subscriber so you’ll be the first to hear when the regional passes guide is published. And you’re right to point out that if well-planned they can be a better solution than the Rail Pass itself.

  • Good and concise article Rob! Cannot emphaise the value for money these passes are; to the extent that us residents in Japan are envious….

    For those who want to travel around by train or are rail fans wanting to see Japan’s trains (or have clients who are) TS Japan Rail can help you with ideas and itinerary planning including working with Real Japan so you can get the most out of your ticket and trip to Japan!

    • Thanks for the praise Stephen – it means a lot coming from a Japan train expert such as you.

      And delighted to work with TS Japan Rail to help folks get the most out of their rail travel throughout Japan.

  • We used this in 2017 and it helped us a lot!!
    I would say in the 17 days we spent there, we traveled around Chiba prefecture, over to see Kyoto and back, and up in Gunma. I think we only needed to pay for like, 2 small train tickets somewhere, but this got us on all kinds of trains and buses.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience of using the Pass Ashlee. As you say, if you plan its use well you can get fantastic value out of it and rarely have to buy extra tickets.

  • Travel pass can be good value but you need to make sure you’re taking advantage of it. I found myself trying to use it too much when in cities to my own detriment as the other networks were more convenient.
    A mixture of highway bus, ferry and train can be a fun and more economical way. If your plan is to take the shinkansen to go all over the place them it’s hard to beat.

    • Good points Darryl. It certainly isn’t always the best option.

      It very much depends on HOW you intend to travel using the train. Regional rail passes are often a better solution if you’re not travelling long distances.

  • Jill Allen says:

    We have used the Japan rail pass 3 times on our visits to this wonderful country .
    It is so convenient, so easy to use and fantastic value for money. You can travel the length and breadth of the country , using Shinkansen and JR locals for those harder to reach places.
    The package that comes with your tickets is invaluable, with so much great information , ideas for travel and sights to see on your way.
    Very easy to use at Rail stations and also it’s easy to book ahead for your onward journeys with your pass whilst in Japan,
    We travelled Kyushu , Shikoku, Tokyo etc . We travelled around 23 prefectures in all using the pass.
    I would really recommend the JR Pass, it’s such great value when wanting to see more of Japan.
    It enables you to get out of the cities and discover so much more of this amazing country .

    • 23 prefectures! You clearly love travelling by train in Japan as much as I do!

      Thanks for sharing your expriences of usng the Japan Rail Pass Jill. I couldn’t have put it better myself!

  • I’ve used it once, but it’s just not worth it for me. Plus it’s way more convenient to tap on/off easily with a Suika or other card, rather than waiting ages in the gaijin line for the rail official to sight your pass.

  • I use the pass every time I go to Japan. I have found there is a difference in price from different approved vendors when buying in the US. I assume it is because they use different exchange rates. Some add for shipping and others it is included. myjrpass.com is the cheapest I have found.It is around $15 cheaper for a 1 week regular and almost $50 less for a Green Car 3 week pass than most other sites. They do charge for shipping, but it is still cheaper and a lot cheaper if buying multiple passes.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences of using the Pass Brek.

      Yeah there’s always a slight price difference. I think a lot of it is simply about differentiating the service (such as free or express delivery worldwide) and the extras that some agents include.

      The core price of the pass is the same the world over, so the buyer can simply choose where based on which service best meets their needs (and the reputation of the seller).

  • I have never felt confident in purchasing the Japan Rail Pass until your Ultimate Guide post. Thank you Rob!

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    >