Travelling in Japan: Where to Buy the Japan Rail Pass and is it Worth it?

JR pass map

Whilst travelling in other countries can be quite daunting, terrifying, confusing and expensive, Japan has made a way for tourists and visitors that can make travelling in this beautiful country a lot easier and cheaper. I’m talking about the JR pass. This pass is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to help you to get around. This short guide will teach you where to buy the japan rail pass, the prices, and how to use it. Let’s start at the beginning.

 

Where to Buy Japan Rail Passes and the Various Types

There are 2 different types of Japan Rail Passes, the Green JR Pass which is similar to a first-class seat on the Shinkansen (identified by a green flower) and the Ordinary Pass which will allow you onto Shinkansen non-reserved seats which are usually located at the front and the back of the train. While the ordinary Pass does allow you onto the non-reserved seating area, I do recommend reserving a seat if you’re travelling with luggage (this is usually at no extra cost with the Ordinary Pass). The Green pass encompasses non reserved, reserved and the Green cars (booking may be required).

Passes can be bought for 7-day, 14-day or 21-day. You will receive your ticket for your pass in the mail and be able to start saving as soon as you touch down in the airport. It’s important to ensure you order with enough time for it to arrive in the mail before you arrive in Japan.

Japan Rail Pass Current Prices

If you’re wondering where to buy the Japan Rail pass, the easiest way to get the JR pass is by purchasing it online in your country before arriving in Japan. These are the current prices for the Pass. But check the website as these can change: https://japanrailpass.net/en/about_jrp.html#anchor06 (following prices are for exchange order. Please check eligibility before purchasing tickets)

price chart for japan rail pass

Once arriving at the airport and you have been granted a “Temporary Visitor” stamp in your passport which will last for 15 days or 90 days. Make your way to the trains where you will also see a JR office. You can go in here and exchange the ticket you got in the mail for your JR Pass. If you are getting your Pass outside of the airport, ensure that you have your passport with you.

How to Use the JR Pass

Learning about where to buy the Japan Rail Pass is half the battle. The next step is knowing how to use it once you’re in the country. Once you have the JR pass you can use it on any transport associated with Japan Rail (identified by the big green JR sign). This includes all JR line trains, Shinkansen (bullet trains), JR buses, some monorails and even some ferries. Once purchased, this Pass can take away a lot of the headaches and worry that go along with travelling. Plus, you save massive dollars! Kaching!

Japan Rail logo
The Japan Rail logo

Whilst the JR Pass encompasses most JR lines, Shinkansen, some monorails, and some ferries there are some train lines that require you to reserve a seat and do not allow non-reserved seats. However, if you have a JR Pass, booking a seat is free and easy. This can be done online through the website, at a ticket box at a station or any JR office, all for free!

When entering the station to catch the train just show your ticket or tickets to the manned gate in order to gain access to the platform. The person will check your Pass and wave you through. The Pass cannot be shared between people and is only to be used by the person whose name is attached to the pass. The guard may request to see your passport, so ensure you have it with you.

Whilst the JR line encompasses many trains and their lines, it does not allow access to the Nozomi and the Mizuho trains. If boarding these trains, you will have to purchase additional tickets for these lines.

Depending on your travel plans you can purchase regional specific passes which will be cheaper than the National Pass (see link below). But if you plan on exploring, the National Pass is recommended and you can explore the entire country!

Now for more savings! Not only does the JR Pass save you money on traveling around but it can also save you money on hotels. The hotel categories’ range includes Luxury, Upscale and Best value!

 

Now for some train etiquette for when you’re in Japan

Pink signs can be seen around the platform and on the trains and these indicate carriages are for women only (during certain times of the day).

Do not talk on your phone whilst on the train. It is considered rude. If you need to take a phone call wait until you get off the train. Some trains, such as Shinkansens (bullet trains), have designated phone call areas. If you must make or accept a phone call whilst on the train make your way to this area. Some carriages require electronics to be turned off in some carriage of trains, often the first carriage.

It can be considered rude to talk loudly on the train so use a quieter voice when talking on the train. If you’re watching things on your phone play the sound through your head phones.

It is ok to eat on Shinkansen trains but make sure you place rubbish in designated bins which can be found between the carriages or on the platforms. Some Shinkansens even offer snacks and refreshments which can be purchased whilst travelling on the train.

You need to be aware of priority seats for elderly, disabled and pregnant women on normal JR lines and offer it to someone who is in need if you are in one of these seats.

Whilst waiting for your train the Shinkansen will have a designated area for your carriage to line up on. All you need to do is follow the numbers on the ground that match your ticket for the carriage. You need to wait behind the lines for your carriage in a line which will also be outlined.
On a normal train there will not be a specific carriage you need to get into (except the women only carriage). It’s important to wait in an orderly fashion behind the outlined area also. It’s best to wait for the people who are disembarking to have disembarked before you get on.

Japanese trains can get very crowded so to avoid feeling like a squashed pancake I recommend catching the trains outside of the peak hours which are around 7.30 am-9.30 am and 4 pm -7 pm.

I found these sites below useful in planning my travels. Enjoy your trip!!

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2025.html

https://japanrailpass.net/en/hotel.html

https://www.traveljapan.com.au/rail-pass

https://m.japan-rail-pass.com/mobile/japan-by-rail/travel-tips/etiquette

https://japanrailpass.net/en/about_jrp.html

https://japanrailpass.net/en/ (different passes information)


We hope this article helped you learn about where to buy the Japan Rail Pass, the various types of passes and the JR Pass prices.

Please note: This article was written by Robert Angus (writer profile coming soon).

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