JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) is a special pass that only available for tourists’ usage (non-Japanese*, non-Japanese residents*). This pass is valid for unlimited travel in Japan on Japan Railways Transportation in which includes JR trains such as Limited Express Trains, Tokyo Monorail, Express Trains, Rapid/ Local trains, Shinkansen Bullet trains (excludes NOZOMI and MIZHUHO services), JR Bus company local line (i.e. JR Hokkaido Bus, JR Bus Tohoko, JR Bus Kanto, JR Tokal Bus, West Japan Bus, JR Bus Chugoku, JR Kyushu Bus) and JR Miyajima ferry.
* Please refer to your nearest Japanese Consulate-General or Embassy for complete and updated information as this may subject to change from time to time.
So in conclusion, JR Pass is not valid for below transportation:-
Why do you need JR Pass
It is very expensive for the transportation cost in Japan especially long distance travel with Shinkansen (Bullet trains), JR Pass is used by tourists to save cost if you are traveling for:
1. Long distance journeyExample:
Says today, JR Pass costs JPY29,110 for 7 days Ordinary Class
In this 7 days, you are traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto, Hiroshima and back to Tokyo.
Tokyo – Kyoto [Shinkansen Hikari Service] costs JPY 13,800
Kyoto – Hiroshima [JR Special Rapid Service for HIMEJI & SHINKANSEN SAKURA Service] costs JPY11,290
Hiroshima – Tokyo [SHINKANSEN SAKURA & HIKARI Services] costs JPY 18,760
Total cost for this Itinerary = JPY 43,850
You saved: JPY 43,850 – JPY 29,110 = JPY 14,740
Note that I haven’t even included the return airport Ltd Express/ monorail cost.
2. Travel frequency is high (Plan to travel to many places in a short period of time)
If you are only visit Japan for 7 days and only spend time in Tokyo city, you may just purchase the SUICA card from Tokyo and top up for your usage.
If you are traveling to multiple cities in such Nagano, Nikko, Hokkaido etc then you may want to consider JR Pass.
All these calculation, personally I like to use below website for my reference:
Tips: Please exclude the non-applicable transportation such as NOZOMI, MIZUHO, Private Railways & airplane etc
Note that not all sleeper trains, sleeper express are included in the JR Pass so please check with the official websites for further updated information.
3. Travel period 7 days, 14 days or 21 days
It may not worth buying the pass if you are traveling less than those period of time, more calculations will be needed depends on your travel routes.
How and When should you purchase JR Pass?
JR Pass can only be purchased outside of Japan, in other words you can’t buy it after you arrive Japan. You may purchase it from local or Japanese travel agencies from your countries.
Please purchase it as early as possible before your travel (i.e. at least 1 week prior to departure) to ensure sufficient time for the travel agencies to issue and post the pass to you. The time frame depends on your countries' postage duration and travel agency.
Usually travel agency issues your JR Pass that valid for 3 months (90 days), hence you may want to check with travel agency to change the date if your trip is postponed for more than the period.
Once you have your JR Pass with you, it is not usable until you validate it from Japan. When you want to use it, you may approach Japan Railway Station (locations will be stated in the brochures/ JR Pass ticket) to validate your pass by presenting your foreign passport. Once this process is done, your pass is then valid from that day onward for 7/14/21 days.
In Japan, you can approach the train station counter and ask for reservation tickets for advance usage as long as you know exactly when you want to travel and you can make it at that time. Personally, I would get my research done via HYPERDIA (the website stated above) to know exactly the date, time and shortest routes that I wanted to travel and print it out for the train reservation staff to book it for me. In doing so, you are saving their time and reduce communication problems.
For example, I once used my JR Pass to travel from TOKYO to SAPPORO during one of my trip and it took 369 minutes (6 hours+) and 1,355.9km.
I booked the tickets a few days before and the JR staff was patiently helping us to choose the time and all the connecting reservation tickets to ensure we had sufficient time to travel for this ambitious long distance journey in Winter. We dragged our luggage from one trains to another, from one platform to anther with stairs/ on icy snow in a limited time - that was CRAZY but FUN! That was one of my favourite holiday in Japan!
TOKYO --> AKIRA --> HIROSAKI --> SHIN-AOMORI --> SHIN-HAKODATE-HOKUTO -->
MORI (HOKKAIDO) --> SAPPORO (JR)
*** Please please please carry your passport and JR Pass with you during your travel, train conductor needs verification.
JR Pass Type
There are two types of classes: Ordinary and Green Cabins.
Ordinary Class is for normal seats where most passenger prefer for lower cost.
Green Class if for Business/ Executive/ First Class – the seats are more spacious and hence relatively less crowded (this class is more expensive so not all tourists would spend premium for that) as compared to Ordinary.
I will not disclose the JR Pass prices since it changes from time to time, so please refer to the official website for the latest prices.
Japan Rail Pass VS Regional Rail Pass
Japan Rail Pass is great when you travel to different places in Japan but you may want to consider Regional Rail Pass if below limited locations are where you are heading to.
JR Hokkaido Pass
JR Kansai Pass
Hope this article is useful for some JR Pass information. For more information or latest update, please refer to the official websites.
Japan is easily at the top of my travel list despite I have been there multiple times. I will update some travel information and tips from time to time.