Japan Rail Pass
What the Japan Rail Pass is
It is a special railway pass issued only to foreing tourists, sold by JR (Japan Railways), the main railway company in the country.
By purchasing this pass you can travel on any train of JR for free whenever you want, including high-speed trains connecting all major cities in the country (with a few exceptions listed further down on this page).
Where to buy the Japan Rail Pass
Where to buy the Japan Rail Pass in your country
There are authorized agencies selling the Japan Rail Pass in almost country in the world.
to check the full list.
Where to buy the Japan Rail Pass in Japan
From 8 March 2017 you can purchase the Japan Rail Pass directly in Japan at the JR ticket offices of the following stations:
Sapporo, Sendai, Niigata, Tokyo, Shinjuku, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, Takamatsu, Hakata, New-Chitose Airport, Narita Airport Terminal 1, Narita Airport Terminal 2-3, Haneda Airport International Terminal, Kansai Airport.
It should also be said that, if you are sure you want to buy a Japan Rail Pass, you'd better buy it in your country
because the sale prices in Japan are higher. For more information on prices looks at the paragraph just below How much the Japan Rail Pass is
How to activate and use your Japan Rail Pass
Once you have purchased your Japan Rail Pass, then you'll have to pick it up and activate it in Japan (you decide when to activate it), and from that moment it will be valid for 7, 14 or 21 days, depending on which one you have bought. You can get it in one of the offices of this list
From that moment onwards, you can ride JR urban lines (such as the Yamanote line
in Tokyo or the Osaka Loop line
), or more generally all that trains without reserved seats, simply showing your Japan Rail Pass.
If you are planning to take a train where seat reservation is needed, before riding the train you have to go to any ticket office and get your free train ticket.
Prices of the Japan Rail Pass
The Japanese Rail Pass fares are fixed in japanese yen
, therefore the real price is strongly related to the current exchange rate of your currency at the moment you are buying it.
Since 8 March 2017 it has being sold also in Japan, where it is applied a different and slightly more expensive price list. Here below the official tables in japanese yen for both cases.
Japan Rail Pass prices if it is bought abroad
Japan Rail Pass prices if it is bought in Japan
The Green car
is the first class.
is applied to children aged 6 to 11 years, children under 6 can get a free pass.
Validity of the Japan Rail Pass
Since it is a pass issued by JR
, it can be used all and only
for JR railway lines, so it cannot be used for railways of other companies. as well as for JR trains, it can be used also for the boat to the island of Miyajima
(Hiroshima), and some bus lines too. You can find the complete list at this link
of the official website.
The only JR trains where you can not use the Japan Rail Pass are two particular shinkansen, the Nozomi
. Except for these two, you can ride every other shinkansen or normal JR train
Pros and cons of the Japan Rail Pass
It is worth to buy a Japan Rail Pass only if you're planning a tour
In some cases it could be a limit, for example if you have bought the 7-days pass, then, when you activate it you are forced to travel as much as possible within 7 days because then it will be expired.
If you want to stay a few more days in a place that you particularly liked or that you couldn't visit well insted?
In addition, it doesn't cover all transport expenses, you will surely need to spend other money for transportation during your travel.
For example, let's suppose you have in mind to do the canonical tour Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto-Hiroshima-Tokyo, of course you will activate your pass on the day of departure to Osaka/Kyoto, so for the first days in Tokyo you must pay all the trains (the train from the airport to the city, any metro ticket, any trains for trips outside Tokyo).
If you buy the 14 or 21 days pass you may solve all this problems, but I want to bring to your attention that these pass cost almost like a discounted airline round ticket from Europe to Japan.
However, if you haven't any specific budget limit for your trip, the Japan Rail Pass is definitely a very good alternative to tour the country, and it is a must
if you want to tour Japan by train, since train tickets purchased individually on the spot are incredibly expensive.
The inexpensive alternative to travel in Japan is to use long-distance buses
(and especially by night bus), Anyway you cannot take into consideration this option if for example you are traveling with children or you are that kind of people who always needs a real bed to fall asleep.