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Have you heard so many great things about the Japan Rail Pass, but are not sure how and where to buy it? Or even the pros and cons of using it? Then fear not, as here, in my ultimate guide to how and where you can buy a Japan Rail Pass, you’ll find out everything you need to know about one of the best, and most certainly fastest, ways to see Japan.
Learning how and where to buy the pass is very simple. However, just as you should with anything before you travel, it’s more than worth finding out what exactly it entitles you to, and how effectively to use it.
For many travelers, moving through the country via train with a Japan Rail Pass elevates their adventure to a whole new level. So, without any further ado, let’s delve in and find out how and where to buy the Japan Rail Pass and everything else you need to know about it.
If you don’t have time to read this article and want to go straight to a place where you can get your Japan Rail Pass, click the link below to go through to JRailPass and get your pass pronto!
Get Your Japan Rail Pass
What is the Japan Rail Pass?
In laymen’s terms, the Japan Rail Pass is a discounted rail pass, only available to tourists and people outside of Japan visiting the country.
Commonly referred to as the JR Pass, it is a physical pass that you will have to show ticket inspectors at the station and on the trains.
It doesn’t exist electronically like many ticket systems, so bear that in mind as you will have to carry it with you.
The pass will grant you unlimited usage of certain trains (more about the specifics later in the article) for a 7, 14, or 21-day period.
The possibilities it will open up for you in Japan, however, are eye-opening. Tourists from across the globe that visit Japan every year travel around the country using this rail pass.
Hence, if you are visiting this beautiful country, it’s definitely worth learning more about what it offers, even if you don’t end up purchasing one.
How Much Does the Japan Rail Pass Cost?
Where to Buy the Japan Rail Pass
If you buy through JRailPass, the cost of it depends on the class of ticket you select, and the timeframe you purchase it for.
In all, there are four options, each available for the three-time periods. This table will give you a snapshot of the options, and beyond I’ll go into specifics.
These prices are correct as of January 2020 (always double-check the price on the JRailPass website before booking).
|Adult Passes||Standard||Green Pass |
|Standard||Green Pass |
Standard JR Pass Prices
As you can see from the numbers, the longer day passes are cheaper per day. This could be something to consider if you only intended to travel by trail for a partial amount of time while you were in Japan e.g., only traveling seven days of the 14 days you’re there.
What is a Green Pass JR Rail Pass?
A Green Pass is JR’s first-class option. More expensive, you will be free to enjoy the following perks and features if you decide to purchase one:
- Increased legroom – Naturally, because there are fewer seats in first class, and they recline further, your legroom is significantly increased. If you’re a tall person or want to lie out more horizontally, this can be far more comfortable than standard class
- Further-reclining, more comfortable seats – picture the difference between economy and business class seating on planes. The first-class seats recline much further back, as they are packed less tightly together. This makes it much easier to get some sleep, or simply enjoy the beautiful scenery as you roll on by.
- Food and beverages – Dependant on the train, some first-class carriages will have a designated food and drink window or trolley, so you can quench your thirst or grab a bite to eat if you’re feeling that way inclined.
- More room for luggage – In first-class, the luggage compartments are more spacious, meaning you have a lot more space to stow your suitcase, backpack, and carry-on.
- Peace and quiet – Generally, all you’ll be able to hear in first class is the calming whir of the train. Naturally, there are fewer people in first class and those who are sitting quietly, minding their own business.
Is it Worth Upgrading to Green Pass?
Generally, I believe the reasons to upgrade are going to come down to how much money you have to spend on your trip.
There’s a reason Japan’s rail system is seen as the standard worldwide, because it is insanely efficient, and the carriages are clean, well-designed, and very comfortable.
I’m from the UK, so I’m used to traveling on old, crowded trains with worn seating beyond the main central lines to and from London.
In Japan, the standard class is widely regarded as excellent. The seating is comfortable, everyone is polite and well-mannered, and there’s still a decent amount of legroom.
If you have money to spare, the Green Pass is a luxurious treat and can definitely enhance your travel experience.
I would definitely consider it if you plan to use the trains during peak hours (work commute), you plan to use them regularly, or you’re just happy to pay for luxury.
It’s also worth purchasing the Green Pass upgrade if you’re traveling to Japan during the following dates:
- April 27 – May 6: Golden Week
- Dec 28 – Jan 6: New Year
During these public holidays, trains can get very busy. Finding a seat will be much harder. Booking first class will give you plenty more room and more opportunities to get a good seat.
Where to Buy the Japan Rail Pass?
Put simply; there are two ways to acquire a JR Pass. Either you order it online and have it shipped to you. Or you can buy it while you’re in Japan.
Where to Buy the Japan Rail Pass Online
Personally, I think this is your best (and soon to be only) option. Having the pass with you before you fly to Japan will go a long way to helping plan your itinerary and making sure you have suitable accommodations in place on the days you plan to visit certain cities.
You can purchase your Japan Rail Pass through JRailPass. Here are some reasons to purchase through them:
- Their price is very competitive. Even though several websites and online resellers exist, the prices are all fairly similar. There isn’t one, in particular, that’s going to save you hundreds of dollars.
- They can ship your pass anywhere in the world. They have a standard 2-day delivery. The delivery is also free if your order exceeds the total sum of 538 EUR. Whether you’re at home, or already on your travels, you can have the pass shipped to that address.
- Their customer service is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they’ll bend over backward to help you with any queries or issues
- You’ll also get a free Japan guide with your JR pass, which is a great way to give you plenty of insight and ideas before you touch down on Japanese soil.
For reference, here are the countries the free shipping applies to:
Many travelers I know have bought through them. In my opinion, it’s a great place to get your Japan Rail Pass.
Get Your Japan Rail Pass
As mentioned, there are plenty of other resellers out there. If you do want to shop around to see if you can get a cheaper deal, always make sure to check their reviews thoroughly.
As the pass is a physical item that needs to be shipped to you, you don’t want to throw money away on a bogus or unreliable service.
Where to Buy the Japan Rail Pass In Japan
For a limited time only, you will be able to purchase your JR Pass in Japan. However, this is only going to be possible up to March 31, 2020.
It seems the Japanese government is keen to move all tourists to purchase beforehand online.
The pass can only be purchased from a selection of airports and train stations, as listed below:
Train stations where you can buy the JR Pass:
Airports where you can buy the JR Pass:
- Haneda Airport
- Kansai Airport
- Narita Airport
- New Chitose Airport
The final day you’ll be able to purchase, as mentioned, is March 31, 2020, which will cover you to April 6, April 13, and April 20, respectively, depending on how many days you purchased.
For peace of mind, and the opportunity to plan your itinerary beforehand, I’d recommend purchasing online regardless.
What is the Process for Buying and Activating My Japan Rail Pass?
Japan is renowned worldwide for its efficiency in everything it does, and true to form, ordering a JR pass is one of the most painless and straight-forward processes you’ll ever encounter.
So, pour yourself a hot tea, coffee, or beverage of choice, and make yourself comfortable in your chair, as I take you through a very simple three-step guide to buying and activating your JR pass.
1 – Buy your JR Pass online
If you don’t know where to buy your pass online, booking it through JRailPass couldn’t be simpler.
You simply select your desired pass type, add the number of adults (or children in the children specific section), and click ‘book now.’
From there, all you have to do is insert your passenger information, an estimated arrival date (not imperative you get this to the day, as you have to activate the pass anyway), your delivery address, and then finally, your card details.
Be sure to double-check your delivery address, as it can be a very expensive mistake to send it to the wrong address.
2 – Receive your voucher
The standard 2-day delivery is across all purchases, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time before you fly out to Japan.
For purchases over 541EUR, the shipping is free but is only available in select countries, so be sure to check the list.
You’ll be given a tracking code with your purchase so that you can keep an eye on your delivery for peace of mind.
It’s worth noting here that what will arrive in your mail is not the JR pass itself, but a voucher that needs to be exchanged, once in Japan, for the physical pass itself.
Once the voucher has arrived, all you have to do is remember to pack it in your backpack or carry-on (keep it close and safe to you) before you head out on your adventure. You can’t move to the next step until you arrive in Japan.
One final thing: it is common to have the pass shipped to hotels in Japan, so if you’d rather pick it up from hotel reception before you arrive, that is an option.
3 – With your passport stamped, go exchange your voucher
This step is a piece of cake. Simply glide through immigration, declare you’re in Japan for tourist purposes, and the customs officer will stamp your passport.
For a large list of nationalities, the standard tourist visa is 90 days on arrival. This isn’t the case for all nationalities, and you don’t need me to remind you to check your visa requirements online before arriving.
But once you have your passport stamped, and your voucher in hand, you’re good to move to the final step.
All you have left to do now is locate your nearest JR exchange office, show both your voucher and visa stamp, and in return, you’ll be handed your pass.
There are just over 60 airports and train stations in Japan where you can locate a JR office.
If you’re flying into the following airports, you can do the exchange there at a JR information desk before you leave and head to your accommodation:
- New-Chitose Airport
- Narita Airport Terminal 1
- Narita Airport Terminal 2
- Narita Airport Terminal 3
- Haneda Airport International Terminal
- Central Japan International Airport
- Kansai Airport
Failing that, there is an extensive list of train stations you can exchange at, too. JRailPass also has an official list of all the designated counters and JR information booths.
What Trains Are and Are Not Included with a Japan Rail Pass?
Okay, let’s try and make sense of this together! You’ll probably read a lot online about how ‘most, but not all’ lines and services are covered.
This can cause quite a bit of anxiety when traveling, so it’s good to know the trains you should be looking for.
According to JRailPass themselves, this is what your JR pass will cover you for throughout your time period:
JR Group Trains
Practically all JR group trains are covered with your pass. These trains are categorized as follows:
- Tokkyū – Limited Express
- Kyūkō – Express
- Kaisoku – Rapid
- Futsū – Local
I’ve provided a breakdown of these trains further along in the guide so that you know what to expect from certain trains, and what they look like.
The only exceptions are as follows:
Amori Railway line: Your pass is only valid on local or rapid services between Hachinohe and Aomori, Aomori and Nojehi, and Hachinohe and Noheji.
Ainokaze Toyama Railway line: Your pass is only valid on local trains, and you need to complete the full journey from Toyama and Takaoka.
IR Ishikawa Railway line: Again, you may only use local or limited express trains, and you must complete the full journey from Kanazawa and Tsubata.
Shinkansen Bullet Trains
The fastest and most celebrated of trains in Japan, and the one you’ve undoubtedly read up about online. In all, there are nine Shinkansen lines that operate in Japan. They are:
As far as your JR Pass is concerned, all Shinkansen trains are covered except the Nozomi and Mizuho fast trains, which operate on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu lines.
Fear not, however, as there will be express, rapid, and local lines that operate alongside those Shinkansen lines.
For 6/9 lines, you’ll be absolutely fine. But for the three mentioned, if you try to board a Nozomi or Mizuho fast train, you won’t be permitted.
Instead, you can catch Hikari and Kodama trains. They aren’t as fast and less frequent, but you’ll still have options every day to catch one.
The JR Pass is valid on some local lines. Speak to an assistant at the bus station to clarify. Some of the lines included in the pass are as follows:
JR Hokkaido Bus; JR Tohoku Bus; JR Kanto Bus; JR Tokai Bus; West Japan JR Bus; JR Chugoku bus; JR Shikoku Bus; JR Kyushu Bus.
With your JR Pass, you have access to both the Tokyo Monorail, the Yamanote line on the Tokyo Metro, and the Osaka Loop line in Osaka. Look for the JR labeling on the line for assurance that your ticket is valid.
Finally, your JR Pass does allow you to use the JR-West Miyajima ferry services, except the ferry between Hakata and Pusan.
It’s also worth noting that for rail lines where the JR Pass is not included, you can still use the pass to book a spot, but you will have to pay for the service at the station.
Whew, that was a lot to get through! As you can tell, train-wise, you’re covered nearly all of the time. It’s only specific lines you may encounter issues with.
Just try to be proactive as possible and double-check in your accommodation or hotel room before you go to the train station.
Is the Japan Rail Pass Worthwhile?
Undoubtedly, you’re going to see this question asked a lot online. And, to be honest with you, whether the JR pass is going to be worthwhile or not very much depends on your itinerary and the places in Japan you intend to travel to. However, I’m going to do my best to break down the scenarios for you.
If this is your first rodeo to Japan, it won’t take you long to realize that Japan is an expensive country.
On a global scale, Japan’s GDP and general standards of living score highly. Tokyo is also notorious for being one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, right up there with the likes of San Francisco and New York.
If you’ve grown accustomed to the cheap daily living in the likes of Southeast Asia, are traveling on a backpacker’s budget, and are considering taking a trip to Japan, I’d advise you to keep your visit to a few days.
Although cost-cutting measures can be taken, Japan is still going to be expensive, as its one of the most developed countries in the world.
However, if you’re aware of the cost of Japan and are budgeting accordingly, let’s take a look at whether a Japan Rail Pass is worth accommodating into your budget.
Scenarios where the JR pass is worthwhile
1 – If you plan to visit at least two of Japan’s major cities
Using trains for singular trips can be incredibly expensive. You’ll not believe this, but one round-trip ticket between Tokyo and Osaka on the bullet train actually costs more than the 7-day JR rail pass. So, if you intend to make at least two stops at major cities, it’s worth getting, just for those trips.
2 – If you plan to move every 2-3 days
Because practically all of the country’s lines and most of the bullet lines are covered, your pass gives you an excellent, hassle-free way to bounce between towns and cities, without having to keep paying for one-way fares each time, which over time will add up, and will be stressful to book each time.
3 – If you want to spend far more time on-location, and not traveling between locations
The beauty of Japanese trains is their speed and efficiency. Via the bullet train, you can get between major cities in 2-3 hours, which gives you so much more time to actually be a tourist and explore all the wonders of those towns, cities, and areas of interest.
Traveling by bus or other routes may work out cheaper, but you’re going to waste hours of your life on the road when you could be seeing amazing things and making lifelong memories. For me, personally, just the efficiency and speed of travel via the JR Pass is worth the money.Get Your Japan Rail Pass
Scenarios where the JR pass is not worthwhile
1 – You’re only visiting one city
The JR pass, bar a handful of exceptions, doesn’t give you access to metro lines and bus routes within cities, so if your stay is largely in Tokyo, or another big city, it’s simply going to be a waste of money.
Also, because Osaka and Kyoto are fifteen minutes by train from each other, the one-way and round-trip fares can be as low as US$13-15, so you wouldn’t have to overspend on the JR Pass.
2 – If you plan to move every week, or longer
With up to 21 days maximum of travel, the JR pass is far more value for money if you intend to travel every few days.
If you plan to stay in Japan for, say, three months and are happy to spend at least a week or two, maybe more, in a city, the time period simply isn’t going to be worth your investment.
Plus, with more time at your disposal, you could look for cheaper options, such as buses and local lines, and take out travel days without eating into your tourism time.
3 – If you’re going to spend most of your time in rural or remote Japan
If your itinerary is taking you far away from the cities, to the villages and delights of rural Japan, your paths and routes between these places are going to be more limited.
In these cases, local railway lines may cause you problems, or there may not be railway lines running this far out. Your best bet here is to use buses and save yourself the money.
Places that would fall into the above bucket would include Hakone, outside of Mt. Fuji, Kamikochi National Park, and the islands of Okinawa.
If you’re visiting these places, rental cars, buses, and flights are going to be your port of call. Again, be sure to do your research beforehand.
How Long is the Japan Rail Pass Valid For and How Do the Days Work?
Are the days consecutive or individual?
Depending on the period of time you purchased, your pass with be valid for either 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days, accordingly.
You won’t be able to split this period and will have to undertake all your travel with the pass during that time period.
It’s worth noting that the JR Pass is also non-extendable, and the remaining days cannot be transferred to another person or passenger. So once it’s activated, be sure to use it and get your money’s worth.
How long do I have to activate it?
Once your voucher has been received, you have three months from the issue date to activate it.
So if you are buying it beforehand, make sure you don’t overcompensate, and buy it months in advance; otherwise, it will expire!
At the JR exchange office, once you receive your pass, you will specify the exact date that it is valid from.
This activation date can be within thirty days of your exchange, so if you’re in Japan for several months, you can have a month to play with before the pass time period kicks in.
When exactly does it expire?
The pass validity is calculated in days, not hours. 7, 14, or 21 days from your activation day, at midnight, your pass will no longer be valid.
If you’re taking an overnight train, as long as the train’s departure time was before midnight, you are eligible to complete your journey through until morning or afternoon of the following day.
How Can I Reserve Seats on a Japan Rail Train?
True to form in the efficiency department, reserving a seat on a Japanese train is as easy as finding a karaoke bar in Tokyo.
It’s worth noting that for local, rapid, express, and limited express trains, you can’t book seats in advance. This shouldn’t be an issue, though, and you should be able to find a free seat with little to no hassle.
On the bullet train, however, you will need to reserve a seat. This is because those journeys tend to have far fewer stops and can cover several hours of travel.
Doing this is straight-forward:
- Firstly, you need to locate the JR ticket office at the train station you’re embarking from. If you can’t find it, the travel service centers or ticket sales offices will be able to assist you too.
- Once located, the assistant will ask you where you’re traveling to, and your preferred departure time. I’ll cover looking up the train times in advance in a second, but assuming you already have your destination and time in mind, kindly let the assistant know.
- From there, very simply, they’ll issue you a ticket for the train that contains your seat number, along with carriage, train type, departure time, and so on. Everything you need to know will be on the ticket.
- You can also book a seat online, through the JR-East Train Reservation Service. However, this service only covers you for certain trains. It is not allowed to change reservations either, so I’d air on the side of caution, and don’t overcommit to an itinerary that far in advance, just in case unexpected things crop up.
- Once you have your ticket in your hand, you’re good to go. It really is that simple, just like everything in Japan!
Where Can I Find a Train Timetable to Plan My Journey
Step forward Hyperdia – Japan’s number one transportation timetable and planning tool.
With this information-station of a website, that is also available as an iOS or Android app, you have access to all the train, bus, and metro timetables and routes. It really is a total lifesaver.
Hyperdia is very simple to use. Just as if you were booking a flight online, you simply input your start and end destinations, and the date you intend to travel.
You’ll also get an option to prioritize Japan Rail Pass routes, which you should click every time. This way, you know the route 100% is cover by your pass, no questions asked, unless stated otherwise.
Once you’re happy with your chosen route, it’s a good idea to make a note of the key information on the screen or to screenshot the journey.
If you don’t have roaming data or a local SIM, you won’t be able to access the app away from your wifi connection.
The last thing you want to do is get to the station, forget a key piece of information, and then check your phone, only for the app to display a blank, disconnected screen.
What are the Different Types of Trains I Can Travel On?
As you can imagine, trains of all shapes and sizes pass through Japanese stations. Sometimes it can be a little nerve-racking, wondering if you have completely messed up and are boarding the wrong train!
Although I can’t physically show you to your platform, which the service assistants most definitely can, this little breakdown of the trains will at least give you a visual reference and give you peace of mind before you board.
Trains Covered by the Japan Rail Pass
Shinkansen – Bullet Train
Gorgeous to look at and elegant in their look and design, the bullet train is arguably the most prolific, efficient, and decorate train system in the world!
Inside this bullet-shaped speed demon, you’ll reach speeds of up to an almighty 200mph as you tear through the gorgeous Japanese landscape from city to city!
With their own platforms and separate lines, they are the easiest of the trains to locate.
You will be assigned a seat on the bullet train, and you’ll go through two checkpoints before boarding.
Bullet trains, naturally, are the fastest way to get around Japan and stop the least number of times. If you’re moving from city to city, this is your best option.
Tokkyū – Limited Express
The second fastest train that operates on the Japanese rail is the limited express. Defined by their sloped front, but more upright carriages, limited express trains will hurtle you along at a steady 80mph.
Admittedly nowhere near the speed of the bullet trains, limited express only stops at the biggest, most popular stations.
So, if you don’t quite catch the bullet, but still want to get somewhere quickly, limited express is still a great option for you.
Kyūkō – Express
The same style of train as the limited express, reaching speeds of 80mph, the express trains will, however, stop at more stations.
When you get to express, you really need to start paying attention to Hyperdia and your travel routes.
If you’re planning to head out to some smaller cities, towns, and places away from the larger cities, you’ll likely take an express.
Kaisoku – Rapid or Semi-Express
Kaisoku trains, slower than express, will not stop at every station, but definitely more than an express train.
At this level, you’ll likely be visiting smaller towns or places more-so off the beaten track.
Futsū – Local
Finally, at the slowest level, we have local trains. These will, naturally, run the most isolated and rural of lines, and will stop at every stop they encounter.
Block-like and compact by design, they’ll still get you from A to B in a decent amount of time.
Just be prepared for a stop-start journey that doesn’t hurtle you through the rural beauty as the bullet trains do.
Trains Not Covered by the Japan Rail Pass
As we covered earlier in the article, some routes, and in very rural areas, your JR pass will not cover you for. Here are trains to look out for that you will need to pay separately for.
Juntokkyū – Semi Special Express
Semi special express trains will run on specific private lines, and are pretty speedy, between limited express and express.
If you use Hyperdia, this won’t be a problem. But be cautious of these trains if you do end up needing to travel on private lines not covered by your pass.
Junkyū – Semi Express
Only a little faster than local trains, again, they will run of selective local lines. As mentioned above, use the Hyperdia website or app to help you avoid this type of train.
Tsūkin – Commuter
Very simply, these block-like trains only run during the rush hours in the morning and evening, taking millions of people across the country to and from work.
Personally, I’d try to avoid these trains, unless you’d really like a local experience!
Another thing to note: when viewing routes on Hyperdia, the type of train you’ll be riding on will be signified with a little icon in the top left of the results box. Those icons will allow you to differentiate between bullet train, express, and local train types.
How Much Money Can I Save with the Japain Rail Pass?
Figuring out whether you’ll save money purchasing the JR Pass all depends on how often you use it.
At the most glaringly obvious level, if you intend to travel between the larger cities, it’s going to be more than worth it.
However, as mentioned previously, if you intend to head to more rural areas, where buses, taxis, and non-JR train lines are the order of the day, then the pass is going to be a waste of money.
In short, if you plan to travel extensively, you’re going to have to do hours of research, figuring out the cost of single or round-trip journeys to each location, or spend a lot more of your precious time on buses and other modes of transport.
And, in the grand scheme of things, if you’re trying to travel on a small budget, I don’t think Japan is the destination for you. It’s an expensive, developed country, at the end of the day.
Putting an exact figure on how much money you’ll save is difficult. Still, if you intend to use your JR Pass multiple times, mainly to move to larger cities, it is in the very least going to save you hundreds of dollars, no matter what way you look at it.
Other Questions About the Japan Rail Pass
What can I do if my Japan Rail Pass is lost or stolen?
If you do suffer the misfortune of misplacing or losing your JR Pass, unfortunately, your options are limited.
The first thing you have to do is contact the provider you booked with, which is another reason to book through jpassrail.com.
However, they cannot reissue the pass and send you a new one. It will all depend on whether you can retrieve it.
If you have an inkling of where it might be, such as left on a train, JPassRail will help out in trying to retrieve it.
When traveling with it, make sure you keep it close and safe. Because, if you lost it, the likelihood is you’ll have to buy a brand new one again, or take the hit and use other means of transport.
Is there a lost and found service I can check with?
There most certainly is. And, you’re in luck, as there’s a great chance you may find your pass or any other item you’ve lost on the train.
Due to the good-will of Japanese commuters, and the staff that works on the trains, most people will hand in unidentified items or items they find lying around on seats.
Lost and found counters are in every station. If an item is handed in, they will keep it there for one week.
After that, the item will be sent to the regional Police Lost and Found Center, which you will have to look up online.
Knowing where you lost your item is always tricky, so your best bet is probably going to be the regional center.
However, if you have an idea of where you lost it, it’s worth checking at the counter.
Failing that, call Japan Rail. They will try to identify whether your item(s) have been handed in. If so, they’ll give you an address to go and collect your item.
- To help the staff as much as you can, you’ll be asked for:
- A description of the lost item, in as much detail as possible
- Your seat, train car, and train number, all of which you’ll find on your reservation
- The station you departed from, and the station you intended to arrive at
- Your boarding time
There’s no guarantee you’ll find your lost item. But, with Japan’s very sound and efficient system, you’ve got a much higher chance than in many other countries. It’s worth a shot, no matter how much of a long shot it may feel.
Can I use my Japan Rail Pass to transport me to and from the airport?
There are certain JR lines that will allow you to use it. Those are:
- The Narita Express, which connects Narita Airport to Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro.
- From Haneda Airport, you can get to Hamamatsucho station in Tokyo via the Tokyo Monorail.
- Lastly, there are a handful of lines on the limited express Haruka, that will take you from Kansai International Airport to either Osaka or Kyoto.
Remember, however, that you’ll need to do your voucher exchange at the airport you land in, in order to get the pass and start using it.
Am I eligible for the Japan Rail Pass?
If you’re traveling to Japan on a tourist visa, then you’ll have no issue whatsoever obtaining your JR Pass.
However, if you’re going under different circumstances, your pathway to the Japan Rail Pass may not be so simple.
Let’s take a look at the concrete conditions you need to match in order to confirm your eligibility.
Criteria that makes you eligible for the Japan Rail Pass:
- You are a non-Japanese national
- You are entering Japan on a ‘temporary visitor’ visa, which is the standard, 90-day tourist visa issued to people of select nationalities arriving in the country
- You can categorically confirm your stay is for tourist purposes only, which you be asked at passport control by a customs officer
Criteria that makes you ineligible for the Japan Rail Pass:
- You are a Japanese national
- You are entering the country under a different visa, or for non-tourist purposes. These would include you having a work visa to work in the country, if you were visiting as part of the military, or if your visit was research-driven and sponsored, among other reasons.
Are there any social or cultural norms I should be aware of while riding the trains?
If you travel a lot, you’ll know the importance of understanding cultural norms and, more importantly, respecting them.
It won’t take you long to see that, in Japan, certain cultural and societal norms are largely followed without question.
It’s important to respect these; otherwise, you may cause offense to regular people.
Many of these tips are largely common sense, but it’s a good idea to be aware of them.
You are a guest in another country, so you don’t want to cause unnecessary disruption or offense by simply not knowing. Be conscious of these tips, and you should have no problems whatsoever.
Queue in an orderly fashion
You often encounter queues, particularly if you’re riding the bullet trains. Don’t panic if the queue is long, as you will get on the train. Don’t try the cut the queue, and instead wait your turn to board the train.
Keep the noise levels down
Japanese people prefer to sit on trains quietly, minding their own business. Be sure to respect this. If you’re traveling with a friend, partner, or group, try to avoid excessive conversation. If you do talk to each other, try to talk quietly.
Don’t put your feet up on empty seats
This is a big no-no. In Japan and many other parts of Asia, feet are considered to be very dirty. If you go to spas and pools in countries such as Thailand as Vietnam, as well as Japan, you’ll always be expected to wash your feet, or someone will do it for you. If you put your feet up on trains, local people could be offended and consider you rude. Someone may even call you out or ask you to put them down onto the floor.
Take your trash with you, and don’t leave it on the train
Japanese football and rugby fans became viral sensations on the internet when footage emerged of them cleaning up litter in stadiums with their own plastic bags. Littering in Japan is a huge no-no, and everyone in the country does their bit to keep the streets immaculate and clean.
Even if you don’t drop it on the floor, leaving a food carton or empty coffee cup on the tray in front of you is still seen as littering. Take all your trash with you, and make sure to throw it into the trash cans provided on the trains.
Be conscious of women-only cars
It’s not common to see women-only cars, but on some trains, they do exist. They’re clearly signposted with the universal female symbol, and pink and red colors on both the carriages and the areas of the station where you wait. Its a shame such a thing had to be implemented due to increasing numbers of women reporting inappropriate behavior on trains.
But, kudos to the government for trying to address the issue. If you’re male, be very conscious of this. They’re well signposted, so just make sure you respect those areas and don’t stray into them.
Do you have any Japan rail maps I can download?
I know of several, indeed. Courtesy of JRailPass, you can download several rail maps in PDF format, that can be opened both on your computer or your phone.
To get these maps, simply go to JRailPass. then navigate to Useful Info > Maps, and everything will be there for you to download.
1 – Nationwide JR Route Map
This excellent map gives you a visual depiction of all of the rain routes covered by the JR Pass, including any additional extras e.g., ferry routes included with the pass. Even more helpful, the map highlights train line segments where you won’t be covered by your pass and will have to pay extra accordingly.
2 – Shinkansen Bullet Train Map
This is a simple, color-coded map that shows you the nine Shinkansen bullet train lines and all their start points, endpoints, and stops. If you’re looking to move between the major cities of Japan, this will give you an excellent visual idea of where cities are. From there, you can plan your itinerary accordingly.
3 – Tokyo Metropolitan Map
An excellent map to take with you to Japan, the Tokyo metropolitan map shows you all the major rail routes that operate through and around Tokyo. If you plan to spend time in the capital city and want to see as much as you can in and around the city, this map is going to be perfect to have downloaded on your phone. Or, you can plan your route beforehand, and not get overwhelmed and lost while you’re at the stations.
4 – Tokyo Metro Map
As above, another map you should not travel to Tokyo without. The metro map covers all the metro and subway lines that run through and around the city. Just as with the London Underground, the map is expertly laid out and color-coded. This way, you should be able to figure out which lines to take and in what direction. Worth having with you, as the Tokyo metro system, despite its efficiency, is known worldwide for being confusing and overwhelming.
5 – Kansai Area Map
The Kansai area covers Kyoto and Osaka. If you’re planning on visiting either of these cities, you should definitely download this map and have it on hand. The map shows all of the rail lines that connect the area and is expertly color-coded. This way, you’ll know if you need to catch a bullet train, express train, metro line, and so on. You will need to zoom in, however, as the English is written smaller beneath the Japanese labeling. It may be worth using this on a larger laptop screen or desktop, rather than a phone screen.
6 – Osaka Metro Map
If you’re planning to spend a few days in Osaka, definitely download this metro line map. The English is much clearer on this map, and all the lines are color-coded. It’s very straightforward to follow and will help you out no-end when navigating Osaka’s metro. Thankfully, it’s much easier to navigate than Tokyo’s metro line!
7 – Kyoto Metro Map
Lastly, we have Kyoto’s metro map. As with the Osaka map, English is a lot more prominent. Kyoto is a much smaller city than Tokyo, and with this map, you should no issue navigating the metro lines. Whether you visit Osaka, Kyoto, or both, be sure to use these maps before you leave your hotel or accommodation to give you a good sense of where you’re going.
Remember: Your Japan Rail Pass will not grant you access to the metro lines, so make sure you get yourself a metro card, easily found at any of the metro stations. The only exceptions with the Japan Rail Pass are the Yamanote line on the Tokyo Metro and the Osaka Loop line on the Osaka Metro.
Whew! We have covered so much in this post. I really hope you found all the information here helpful. As stated earlier, we have covered both the reasons for and against purchasing the Japan Rail Pass. I, personally, believe it’s a worthwhile investment. However, your itinerary should be the biggest factor in deciding whether to purhcase a pass or not. If you have aspirations to visit lots of cities and cultural areas of interest across the country, I would definitely considering purchasing a Japan Rail Pass.
Whatever your plans for your Japan visit, I wish you the most magical of journeys. Japan is such a wonderful, unique, and memorable country, and there’s a reason so many people rave about how much fun they had and how much they enjoyed visiting. To the underground, low-lit sofas of the karaoke bars, right up to the peak of the magnificent Mt. Fuji, so much wonder and splendor await you!
Have a wonderful time in Japan and best of luck on your travels!
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