UPDATED! Japan Rail Pass: The Ultimate Guide (2024 Edition)

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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
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

The N700 shinkansen (at Shin Kobe Station) is included in the pass

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.

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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. However, by paying an additional fee, it is possible to include these services within your pass.

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

Step 1 - Order your Japan Rail Pass

Order your Japan Rail Pass online at JRPass.com.

Step 2 - Receive the Exchange Order

You are sent an Exchange Order via FedEx Express or UPS for fast and secure shipping in advance of your departure to Japan. You will exchange the Order for your Japan Rail Pass once inside Japan.

Step 3 - Activate your Japan Rail Pass

Once inside Japan hand over your Exchange Order for your Japan Rail Pass at a Japan Rail Exchange Counter, and activate it by choosing a start date. There are exchange counters at all major JR Rail stations, and at many international airport terminals - including Tokyo Narita, Tokyo Haneda and Osaka's Kansai International Airport.

Step 4 - Enjoy unlimited rail travel across Japan

The Japan Rail Pass enables you to have an unlimited number of journeys on Japan Rail services, and have the freedom to explore Japan in speed and comfort. The more you use it, the more of Japan you'll see and the more you'll save!

What does the Japan Rail Pass cover?

The Japan Rail Pass is valid on:

  • JR (Japan Railway Group) trains with some exceptions (Nozomi and Mizuho services available for an additional fee)
  • 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 consecutive travel.

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', 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

  • It is possible to add the two fastest services, Nozomi and Mizuho trains, to the pass for an additional fee
  • 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 Jorudan's online timetable site Japan Transit Planner 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.

Ordinary (Standard)

Duration

Adult

Child

7 Days

¥50,000

¥25,000

14 Days

¥80,000

¥40,000

21 Days

¥100,000

¥50,000

Green Car (First Class)

Duration

Adult

Child

7 Days

¥70,000

¥35,000

14 Days

¥111,000

¥55,500

21 Days

¥140,000

¥70,000

Note: the price you pay in your local currency may undergo slight variation depending on fluctuations in currency exchange rates.

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 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 an Exchange Order 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 just in case you 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 rail 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).

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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 the island of 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 Japan Transit Planner 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). 

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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. 

Locations 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 major JR 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 automatically covered, but can be added for an additional fee. All other bullet trains are included within the standard price.

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 official Japan Rail Pass 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 JR Pass suitable for slow travel?

Not as part of the Japan Rail Pass service. 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.

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.


The JR Seishun Juhachi (18) Kippu for slow (and cheap) train travel

Alternatively, if it's really slow train travel you're after then look for the Seishun Juhachi Kippu - loosely translated as 'Youthful 18 Ticket' - and often abbreviated to Seishun 18. This provides five days of unlimited travel, and is specifically designed for hopping on and off JR trains, using non-reserved seats in ordinary cars of ordinary trains (including rapid trains) on any JR line in Japan.

Unlike all the Japan Rail Passes, the five days covered by the Seishun 18 do not need to be consecutive.

In keeping with its name, the Seishun 18 Kippu is only available three times a year during school holiday seasons, is a seasonally available railway ticket, which gives you five days of unlimited, nationwide travel on local and rapid JR (Japan Railways) trains for only ¥12,050. That's just ¥2,410 per day.

This pass can be purchase at most Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines at major JR East stations, JR Ticket Offices (Midori-no-Madoguchi), and JR EAST Travel Service Centers. Learn more about the ticket by visiting the JR East website.

Download my "Essential Japan Rail Pass" checklist:

Conclusion

I hope this Japan Rail Pass 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 post 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 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.

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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/


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Leave A Comment / Ask A Question

  • Hi, I and my husband want to travel to Japan in May 2024 with 2 kids one of 10 and other 15.

    We wish to cover Disney, Fuji, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara deer park and anything more that you can suggest will be good for kids.

    Someone suggested me to stay at Roppongi as that’s the centre?? We need a budget trip and thinking of buying a JR Pass. Will it be worth it??

    • Hi Ritu, thanks for your questions.

      This post on the JNTO website should give you some more ideas to travelling with children in Japan: https://www.japan.travel/en/au/story/10-family-friendly-places-you-wont-want-to-miss-in-japan/

      For Tokyo you’re fine to stay anywhere reasonably central. The transportation system is so good, you’re rarely at a disadvantage if you’re in the centre of the city. Roppongi is in Minato Ward – which is very central, but is also one of Tokyo’s more expensive areas, so if you’re on a budget then you might want to consider somewhere cheaper. Roppongi is also geared towards the nightlife scene, so not ideal for young children.

      It is hard to advise you without knowing more detail, but if your itinerary is built around the main cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara, the JR Pass may not be a good choice for you. All passes run for consecutive days, which is better suited to visiting many locations back to back. You might still benefit though from a Regional Rail Pass. There’s more on those in this blog post: https://www.therealjapan.com/regional-japan-rail-pass-5-best-passes/.

      Take a look at my Travel Planning Calls if you’d like me to go into more detail for you: https://www.therealjapan.com/travel-planning-call/

      Have a great trip!

  • Hi Rob,
    Thanks for all the hard work on the site, I’m sure lots of people are getting lots of useful information for their Japan trips.
    I’m trying to figure out how to pre-purchase a single ticket each for my wife and I to travel from Kyoto to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen.
    After we’ve been in Hiroshima for a couple of days we will use a Kansai-Hiroshima Area 5-day pass to head back to Osaka where we fly out of.
    The West Japan Rail Company website has single use Shinkansen tickets for sale, but only between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima, nothing between Kyoto and Hiroshima, and yet any online searches reveal plenty of services from Kyoto to Hiroshima, either changing in Osaka or Shin-Kobe on the Hikari line.
    So I guess my question is, how do I go about pre-purchasing a Shinkansen trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima?.
    I notice that JR Rail have another ticket called ThunderBird that does cover the Kyoto-Osaka leg but not Kyoto-Hiroshima.
    At this stage I’m thinking it all seems a bit too confusing and we’ll probably pre-book the Osaka-Hiroshima Shinkansen leg and just make our way from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka on a local train and then change trains there.
    Any tips much appreciated.

    • Hello Ross, thanks for the kind words. If you’re taking a shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima the route will take you through Shin-Osaka anyhow.

      It is possible to pre-purchase shinkansen tickets from one of the online platforms such as Klook (https://www.therealjapan.com/klookshinkansenkyototohiroshima) or 12GoAsia (https://www.therealjapan.com/12goshinkansenkyototohiroshima). Of course, you will pay a small service fee on top of the ticket price, but it may be the easiest way to pre-book.

      Or, as you suggest, you can pre-book the Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima leg and just catch a train from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka by purchasing a ticket once you’re inside Japan.

      Have a great trip!

  • Hi! I asked directly even JR but they cannot answer me. I have a permanent residence, but I live in UK and I can show my residence there. An I eligible to use the railway pass? Some say yes, some not. I m going to Japan fur tourism and I don’t live there.

    • Hi Sara, I can’t really answer your question without more detail. What passport do you hold for example? If it’s a Japanese passport then you won’t be eligible for the pass. Also, since you have permanent residency, what visa do you always get when entering the country? If it isn’t a tourist visa then again I can’t see you being eligible. (Not legal advice, just my take on what little you’ve shared.)

  • Jetz-Marion Cruz says:

    Hi Rob. We are traveling to Japan on a temporary visitor visa and are allowed to stay for 30 days. The eligibility criteria states: “Persons permitted entry for sightseeing purposes for 15 or 90 days under Temporary Visitor status”. Are we eligible to purchase a JR pass? We plan to purchase a 21 day pass.

    • Hi Jetz-Marion – thanks for your question. Yes, that is awkward wording (it’s how it is written in Japanese immigration laws) but the key thing is that you are entering on a temporary tourist visa. So your 30 days and wish to purchase a 21 Day pass IS covered.

      Just some extra advice about using automatic passports gates on entry to Japan – avoid them – you must have a stamp in your passport, and the only way to get that is to see a human at the counter and get them to manually give you the necessary temporary entry visa.

      If you’re one for seeing the detail, here’s the full official guidance on that point:

      ・JAPAN RAIL PASS can be exchanged and used only by persons who have a stamp or sticker stating “Temporary Visitor” in their passport.
      ・When you use an automated gate at the airport, no stamp/sticker will be stamped or put on your passport. Therefore, you need to either use a manned automated gate or ask a clerk to apply a stamp/sticker in your passport. However, a customer who has a “registered user card” under the Trusted Traveler Program will be required to show the card to confirm the “Temporary Visitor” status.
      ・If you purchased a JAPAN RAIL PASS online or have an Exchange Order, you cannot pick up or exchange the JAPAN RAIL PASS unless you have a “Temporary Visitor” visa; if you enter Japan under any other official status, such as “Trainee”, “Entertainer”, or “Reentry Permit”, you cannot pick up or exchange the JAPAN RAIL PASS. According to strict interpretation of the Japanese Immigration Law, “Temporary Visitor” status differs from “short term stay”.

      Happy travels!

  • I am traveling to Japan in mid-January and we are looking to purchase the Kansai-Hiroshima Area JR Pass, but I am uncertain of my eligibility.
    I only have a Japanese passport + permanent residency card (lived abroad on a visa for 20+ years, a permanent resident for 4 years).
    I plan to obtain the Certificate of Overseas Residency from the Embassy to prove 10 years of living abroad.
    Will I have success in exchanging the order for the pass? Thank you.

    • Hello Kori – thanks for your question. As far as I can see you would not be eligible unfortunately. The JR West website lists the eligibility criteria and among the rules (including “A rail pass user must be holding a passport issued by a foreign government”) it says: ※外国での永住権を持っているお客様を含め、日本国籍のお客様は使用できません。(*Cannot be used by Japanese nationals, including those with permanent residence in foreign countries.) You can read the full eligibility conditions on their website here: https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/pass/kansai_hiroshima/

  • Help! Planning a trip to Japan April 2024. Need advice about JR Pass and/or Local Tokyo Passes. Will travel with Japanese friends in Kanazawa region, but on our own for week in Tokyo staying in Kita-ku.
    4/12 – Haneda to Kita-ku Tokyo: Monorail to Hamamatsucho and change to JR Keihintohoku Line to Higashijujo
    4/14 Higashijujo to Kodairi-shi Tokyo Seibu Shinjuku line to Hanakoganei Station (Round Trip)
    4/15 Higashijujo to Tokyo – SkyTree and Asakusa (Round Trip)
    4/16 Higashijujo to Tokyo – Azabudai Hills Garden Plaza, Minato-ku Tokyo (Round Trip)
    4/18 Higashijujo to Koganei Park , Tokyo Higashikurume – Seibu Ikebukuro Line Higashikurume (Round Trip)
    4/20 Higashijujo to Kanazawa via Shinkansen (round trip return 4/27)
    4/27 Kanazawa to Higashijujo via Shinkansen
    4/28 Higashijujo to Haneda for departure to U.S.
    Should we purchase a JR Pass for 21 days? 14days?

    • Hello Wanda – thanks for your question.

      If you’re only do long-distance travel by JR operated trains twice (round trip between Tokyo and Kanazawa), the cost would be JPY 28,000.

      Travelling within central Tokyo: it won’t cost as much and also it is only partially covered by the JR Pass (metro in Tokyo is not operated by JR). Since the cheapest JR Pass costs JPY 50,000 for 7 days, unless you plan to travel somewhere like Kyoto or Hiroshima by Shinkansen as well as Kanazawa, it won’t be worth purchasing the JR Pass.

      It would probably better to use SUICA or PASMO IC travelcards when travelling inside Tokyo. There are 24, 48 and 72 travel cards available but they are only for Tokyo metro system and Japan Railway operated lines are not covered (Higashi-Jujyo station is operated by Japan Railway). Whereas both SUICA and PASMO can be used for metro and JR.

      Hope that helps!

  • I want to beat the price increase, but will not start travel till March 11, 2024. I’ve read that the pass must be activated within 90 days. Is there any other option for me and my wife… total of two people???

    • Thanks for the question Tony. Unfortunately, that’s a hard deadline and the 90 day limit will expire before you travel. However, all may not be lost. The Regional Japan Rail Passes did not increase anywhere near as much as the national rail pass so, depending on your itinerary, you might find that using a handful of regional rail passes might actually suit your needs and work out cheaper than the new national rail pass pricing. I have a useful introduction to the Regional Rail Passes with some recommendations here: https://www.therealjapan.com/regional-japan-rail-pass-5-best-passes/

  • Does the JR pass have a limited time to exchange? I’m traveling to japan late march 2024, and I’d obviously like to buy it before october (because of the price increase), but for some reason when I bought a pass in 2019, I had trouble exchanging it because they said it had ‘expired’ even though I’d set the correct dates. Is this still applicable? Can I buy it right now even if I’m going until late march/april?

    • Hello Carmen, thanks for your questions.

      * The pass can be activated 3 months after issue date.
      * At activation time in Japan, a starting date up to 30 days in the future can be selected.
      * Keep your exchange date + 3 month activation window in mind when placing the order.
      * After the updated price goes live, it will no longer be possible to order vouchers at the old rates.

  • I bought a JR Whole Japan Pass 14days, may I know where I can find the timetables of all trains in difference regions? Any all-in-one app to access the timetables?

  • We purchased the JR East Tohoku 5 day pass online from the JR East English website. It was JPY 20,000 for each adult and JPY 10,000 for our under-12 child. The JR East website says that you can only pick this pass up within the Tohoku area. We plan to board from Karuizawa, which is in the Tohoku pass region, but not a pickup location…We are coming from Kyoto originally (via car). JR insists that we can only pick up passes within the Tohoku region (and/or Tokyo). Is there really no way to pick up our pass at Kyoto station? The JR East site says something about the Hokuriku Arch Passes being able to be picked up at JR West machines with passport readers, but doesn’t seem to say the same about the Tohoku pass? Thanks for reading.

    • Hello Chris – as far as I am aware that information is correct. The list of places you can collect the pass is on the JR East website (but I expect you have already seen this): https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/ticketwindow/?selectPass=eastT beyond that list I’m not aware of any other options. (Even when you purchase the pass through a platform like Klook they point out the limited pick up locations – even linking to the same JR East page.)

    • The only reason that you can pick up the Hokuriku Arch Pass at a JR West machine is that pass is a joint pass of JR West and JR East. You may have to purchase an inexpensive train ticket to the closest city that can issue your type of JR Pass. I also found evidence that Nagano and Matsumoto have pick-up points: https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/downloads/pdf/passport_operation_e.pdf . Those are closer to Karuizawa.

  • We’ll be in Tokyo from 4 Dec this year. I intend to buy a JR Pass in September and use the 90 day exchange period to take advantage of the current price (I think that will work?). Question: do you know if the Pass we pick up in December will have the new benefits (despite being the old price)? I recall someone saying that ALL new Passes, regardless of where you purchased them, will be eligible for online seat reservation…

    • Hello John – these are very good questions! As far as I know, you’ll be able to purchase in advance at current pricing for use in December if you get your purchase date right.

      It’s highly unlikely the new benefits will be included in passes issued *before* the changeover to the new system. The main point of the increases is that the new passes will include additional benefits, some of which go beyond just train travel (details still TBC at this time of writing this), so there’s no logic to include those in passes issued prior to the changeover.

      The official JR press release in April did state the price increase was partly due to: “…improved our services by introducing ticket sales, reserved seat reservations…” – via a new dedicated website – so that might be possible from that wording.

  • Hi, we are going to Kanazawa mainly to ride the Bride curtain train. However it doesn’t run often and we need to book if for a certain date. (I tried to book it separately, but although there are dozens and dozens of websites, not one tells you how to book it, other than ‘with your JR pass’). What I’d like to know is there any way you can reserve seats with an exchange order? I believe you can only do that if you buy the online pass. The description is really confusing for the online pass. It seems that if we plan to start travelling by train on 27th July, the earliest we can buy our passes is 27th June. I’ve talked to 2 ‘JR pass sellers, neither of whom can give me a straight answer. I’d really appreciate your help.

    • Marina, I think you are referring to the “Hanayomenoren” tourist train (花嫁のれん) that runs from Kanazawa〜Wakuraonsen (literal translations do not always work, which is why the JR Pass resellers might not have recognized the train you were talking about).

      This train runs most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; and although it is classified as a tourist sightseeing train (Kanko Ressha観光列車) it can be booked the same as any other train (up to 1 month prior to the date of travel). Seats are limited so it is best to book early.

      If you buy your JR Rail Pass through a reseller then you will not be able to make any seat reservations until you receive your JR Rail Pass in Japan, but you should then be able to make the reservation when you collect your rail pass.

      If you buy it directly from the JR JR Rail Pass site then you can book online (again only I month prior to travel) before you receive your rail pass using the booking number you will get with your purchase confirmation. (this is the JR direct sales website: https://japanrailpass.net/en ; and then once you have purchased your rail pass and have the booking number you can make the seat reservation)

      One other point about this train (which also applies to some other tourist trains). You can buy exclusive (high quality) lunch boxes featuring local cuisine, which will be delivered to you on the train. To take advantage of this you need to reserve and pay for the lunch boxes in advance. Details of the meals are on train’s web site page (unfortunately in Japanese only) https://www.jr-odekake.net/railroad/kankoutrain/area_hokuriku/hanayomenoren/ (about halfway down the page) You have to book the meal through the JR West Wester web site / app – which again is only in Japanese (is on the page). Which meals are available depends on the train and can be booked upto 4 days prior to the date of travel. The meals can only be booked after you have booked a seat, or you can use this app to book seat and meal if you are not using a JR Rail Pass (I know it sounds complicated, but these lunch boxes are very exclusive, prepared by famous restaurants and only enough for passengers who have ordered them are made).

      You can however buy drinks and snacks without pre order on the train itself.

    • Thanks for your question Marina. I asked Japan rail expert Stephen Turner to reply.

  • Hi. Thanks for all this helpful information. I’m interested in traveling by train from Tokyo to Hiroshima. From what I’ve found, the only trains available for that trip are Nozomi bullet trains which do not accept the JR Rail Pass. Is there a way to use the Rail Pass to get from Tokyo to Hiroshima? (BTW, I’ll be a first time visitor and don’t speak Japanese so it may be too complicated to navigate!)

    • Hi Scott, it is easy to take shinkansen services from Tokyo to Hiroshima that are covered by the Japan Rail Pass. The problem is that most of the popular websites that show services include Nozomi service by default and it isn’t easy to exclude them from your searches.

      The best way to search for shinkansen services that exclude those *not* covered by the JR Pass is to use the route planner on the Navitime website: https://japantravel.navitime.com/en/area/jp/route/ – when entering your journey details click on the “Tourist Pass” option dropdown box and select “Japan Rail Pass” and all services shown in the results will be covered by the JR Pass.

      If you’re concerned about don’t speaking Japanese you might like to check out my eBook and Audiobook called “How To Travel In Japan Without Speaking Japanese” – it has a section dedicated to using public transport. Details in my Store: https://www.therealjapan.com/store/

  • Is there any technical support for ordering JR pass on line? JR East site kept telling me the information I enter is incorrect and takes no where to continue it does not indicate which information I entered is incorrect??

    • Hi Tomiko, not sure what’s not working on the JR East site there. So frustrating! If you use my recommended ticket agent they definitely do have customer support should you run into any problems (or have any questions before you buy) if you want to give them a try instead, here’s my affiliate link to them: https://click.jrpass.com/SH4r

  • Alex Corsten says:

    Thank you for a very useful guide. There is one question question that I can’t seem to find the answer anywhere. There are some trains that allow use of the JR pass but have a surcharge. How does one purchase a seat reservation on those lines? I would like to make the reservation in advance. Is this possible?

    • Alex, You are correct that for some Regional Passes they do not include or only include a limited number of seat reservations on Limited Express & Shinkansen trains, but do allow you to pay the Limited Express / shinkansen supplement. You basically have to pay the normal seat reservation fee on those journeys (the JR Rail Pass is still good as it covers the basic fare).

      How you can do that in advance really depends on the ticket and where you are travelling. In most cases you can go onto the relevant railway company website and make the reservation there, being careful to only pay for the Limited Express / Shinkansen supplement; or you can do it at any JR ticket office. For the All Japan passes, they are not valid on the faster Nozomi and Mizuho services (on the Tokaido~Sanyo / Sanyo~Kyushu shinkansen lines respectively) BUT the rule is that you are not allowed on those services at all (even paying the supplement for those trains) with a JR Rail Pass.

      This is a very general answer and I emphasize it really depends on the actual ticket you are purchasing and the rules for that ticket. You can find more information on The Real Japan blog on Regional Rail Passes: https://www.therealjapan.com/regional-japan-rail-pass-5-best-passes/ which has a downloadable guide with all the restriction information.

      • Thanks for sharing your expertise on this Stephen. Your knowledge of travelling by train in Japan is far greater than mine – so I’m grateful to you for sharing it here.

  • Hi! I’m curious about the size of the seats and leg room between the regular tickets and the green tickets. We’re on the larger side and my husband is 6’4”, will he be OK to fit in the regular Shinkansen seats? We’re travelling with our 6 year old so in theory we’ll have enough space in a row of 3 to go between Tokyo -Osaka – Kyoto – Tokyo? Thanks for the advice

    • Hi Nic. In short, on the shinkansen trains, I think you’ll be fine on the leg room. The actual measurements do vary a little depending on the model train you are travelling on. But, here’s what you can expect:

      Green Class: Leg space – 1,100 to 1,200 mm, Width – 460 to 490 mm, Seat layout – 2+2 or 2+1
      Ordinary Class: Leg space – 910 to 1,200 mm, Width – 440 to 480 mm, Seat layout – 2+3

      And none of your journeys is overly long either. I think you’ll be OK in either class, but Green will give you additional amenities and benefits.

      Hope this helps! Feel free to subscribe to my free Japan Travel Bulletin: https://www.therealjapan.com/subscribe/

  • Is it possible to buy the Hokkaido rail pass In Japan? I land on January 13th, at Haneda airport. Will travel to Hokkaido in the 20th of the month.
    Thank you in advance,
    Anjali

  • Heather Burke says:

    Your website came up with a 25% discount for rail pass purchases, expiring 31st December. I am trying to buy them but there is no facility to use the code you mention for the discount.

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

  • 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’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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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