All you need to know about the Japan Rail Pass!

In Japan, we travelled almost everywhere by train. Travelling by train is super nice, however, Japanese train tickets are quite pricey. Fortunately, there is the option for tourists to purchase a JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass), which makes travelling much cheaper. In this blog, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the JR Pass.


One of the best things about travelling in Japan is the trains. Japan has a great railway network with super fast trains that always run on time. Even the smallest villages have a train station and the trains are always super clean. In Kyoto, we once saw how, on arrival, an army of cleaners in just three minutes, thoroughly cleaned the entire train. Even the seats were put in the driving direction! Travelling in these fast, quiet trains is a really nice experience. Usually, I was able to read, watch a movie or write a blog.

What is the JR Pass?

Travelling by train, however, is expensive in Japan. For a single trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, only 2 hours, you pay at least 13,080 Yen, converted more than €100. Fortunately for tourists*, the Japanese came up with the JR Pass. With a JR Pass, you can travel unrestricted by train through Japan for a certain period of time. It’s a temporary train subscription. Super convenient, and it saves a lot of money. Depending on your length of stay in Japan you can buy different tickets. You can choose from a pass for 7 days, 14 days or 21 days.

What you can and can’t do with the JR Pass

Can

  • Unlimited mileage through Japan
  • Reserve seats
  • Use high-speed trains
  • Use the ferry Hiroshima-Miyajima

Can’t

  • Use the Nozomi or Mizuho trains
  • Using other public transport (buses or metro)
  • Travel more than 21 days
  • Temporarily pause your pass

JR Pass


How to buy a JR Pass?

The JR Pass can’t be bought in Japan, but you have to buy it before departure. Do this however a maximum of 90 days before you want to use it. After ordering, you will receive a voucher that you have to activate within 90 days in Japan itself. This voucher can be purchased through various websites (eg at JRPass.com) or at your travel agency. We bought our passes from To Japan, a Japanese travel agency in The Netherlands that is certified to sell the JR Pass.

Upon arrival in Japan, at the airport or in one of the larger stations, you choose the start date of your JR Pass and exchange the voucher for the real pass. You can do this at one of JR Pass offices (here you can find an overview of all locations). When we arrived, there was quite a long line, so keep this in mind when you are in a hurry. Your JR Pass is a paper booklet and can’t be obtained digitally. Immediately after you have the JR Pass, you can get train tickets. To travel, you will need a train ticket, your JR Pass is not sufficient. To get to the platform, you have to go to the separate gate where a railway officer will give you entrance to the platform (other travellers go through normal gates). While travelling, you must always have your JR Pass with you.

What does the JR Pass cost?

There are three different JR Passes; for 7, 14 or 21 days. The prices are: 7 days – € 220 14 days – € 351 21 days – € 448 (October 2018). Keep in mind any shipping costs. This sounds expensive, but if you travel a lot by train, it is cheaper than single tickets.

Curious about what we spent in total for 20 days in Japan? Here you will find an overview of all our expenses.

How do you reserve train tickets with the JR Pass?

It is not necessary to reserve train tickets, but since this is free, we did this quite often. This way you are always assured of a seat. You make reservations by going to the station and order tickets at the desk and showing your JR Pass. In advance, we looked on Hyperdia.com for the itinerary and time we wanted to book tickets.

You can reserve tickets up to a month in advance. We were in Japan in high season and usually reserved tickets a day in advance. Only once there was no availability in the train that we wanted to take so we just took a train later.


Is the JR Pass worthwhile?

Are you curious about whether purchasing the JR Pass is worthwhile, or whether you better buy separate train tickets? Then I have good news! On this website, you will find a tool with which you can enter your future journeys, after which it calculates what’s cheaper: buy single tickets or a JR Pass.

For us, the JR Pass was more than worth it. Because we spent 20 days in Japan, we chose the 14-day pass. At the airport, we immediately picked up our JR Pass, where we chose to have it activated only four days later. This suited us perfectly since on that day we would leave Tokyo. Are you curious about the route we took through Japan with our JR Pass? Here you will find our itinerary.


* You can purchase a JR Pass if you have a tourist visa for a maximum of 90 days. If you have another visa, for example, a student visa, it is not possible to purchase a JR Pass. Also for residents of Japan, it is not possible to purchase the JR Pass.


Click here to view all my articles on Japan.


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Everything you need to know about the Japan Rail Pass


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