Japanese trains are some of the best in the world, always on time and efficient. The best way for tourists to travel within the country is to buy a Japan Rail Pass (also known as JRail Pass).
Japan has several different train companies, each with different fares and specific routes. You can divide them into 2 categories: private and public. The public one is known as Japan Railway Group (JR), which is composed of 7 former companies that were privatized by the Japanese National Railway. In addition, there are 16 major private companies, as each region has its own private railway.
This can make trains in Japan a little confusing, so the Japan Rail Pass truly is a blessing. In short, it is a discounted rail ticket which grants you unlimited access to all JR Trains, ferries and buses.
However, there are some restrictions: you cannot use your JR Pass on the Nozomi and Mizuho trains (even though they are from the JR Group) which are on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen Lines. If you want to use those trains, you will have to pay the normal fare. Sometimes, the route you will take will not be operated by the same company. You may start with a JR line, but you can end the journey with another company (depending on the length of the journey). If that happens, you will have to pay the difference.
The JR pass isn’t available to Japanese citizens, so in order to be eligible for the JR Pass, you must be of foreign nationality. This means that you have to be able to provide an Overseas Residential Registration or a Certificate of Overseas Residence which is issued by the Japanese Embassy in your country.
You have to be visiting Japan with as a Temporary Visitor (15 to 90 days). There are also only a few places in Japan where you can buy a JR Pass so it would be easier to purchase it in your home country.
If you lose you pass or if it has been stolen, your pass cannot be reissued. You cannot extend the validity period of you pass after you start using it, and you won’t be refunded in case of transport delay or cancellations (that includes natural disasters).
Here is the main information about the use and eligibility of the JR Pass. For further information, we invite you to go directly on the website.
We strongly recommend you purchase you pass BEFORE travelling to Japan. If you intend to buy it in Japan, you must be aware that it will be more expensive, and you will only be able to do this up to March 31st of 2021. You can do so in certain train stations and airports in Japan.
You can buy it online, which is really convenient as there’s only a handful of places in Japan where you can buy the pass. You will then receive your exchange order (receipt). Make sure you take it with you to Japan.
One of the first things you’ll need to do when you arrive in Japan is to exchange the “exchange order” for the Japan Rail Pass in an exchange office in one of the major JR Stations.
You can find these offices almost anywhere: if you land in Narita Airport you have 3 offices in Terminal 1, and 2 offices in Terminal 2 & 3. New Chitose Airport has only 1 office, which is the JR Information Desk located not far from the Ticket Gate. If you land in another airport in Japan, have a look at the list of available offices right here.
Once you’ve exchanged the Order for your JR Pass, you can make all the seat reservations at any Travel Service Centre or Ticker Office at a JR Station, or even in the sales office of a JR-associated travel agency.
Bear in mind that all seats should be booked before boarding the train. You won’t be allowed to change to a reserved seat once you have boarded the train.
You can book a seat reservation up to 1 month before the travel day, so you can make all the reservations at the same time if you have your itinerary full planned out.
Not all trains have compulsory seat reservations, but we recommend you book a seat before boarding any train during the following peak seasons:
– April 27th through May 6th
– August 11th through 20th
– December 28th through January 6th
Green Pass holders (first class) are also advised to book a seat in advance to guarantee traveling on a green car, or first class carriage. Without this, they may be relocated to a standard car.
Finally, JR Passes have a consecutive travel day system, which means you’re not limited to a specific number of journeys per day. As long as all the journeys are run by the JR Company, you can use it for day trips around the city you’re staying in!
1: Original Station
2: Departure Date
3: Train Name
4: Departure Time
6: Arrival Time
7: Non-smoking Seat
8: Seat Number
9: Car Number