Posted: 1/9/23 | January 9th, 2023
Japan is one of my favorite countries in the world. The serene eyeful of the mountains and temples, the hustle and precipitance of the sprawling cities, the exquisite food, and its long history make for a fascinating place to visit.
However, Japan has a reputation, expressly among upkeep travelers, as stuff too expensive. “Better skip Japan and throne to Southeast Asia, where your money goes further,” they say.
Yet you can travel Japan on a budget. Food, attractions, and plane walk-up (it’s the land of sheathing hotels!) can be found for a relatively low forfeit if you know where you look.
Yet one speciality of traveling in Japan that does live up to its plush reputation is transportation — particularly train travel.
Japan’s iconic bullet trains (called shinkansen) are beautiful, comfortable, convenient, and fast. They are world-class wonders of transportation, racing virtually at speeds up to 320 kilometers (200 miles) per hour. They run on special tracks separate from the other trains and are an impressive feat of engineering.
They’re super expensive. There’s just no way virtually that fact.
Thankfully, there is one easy thing you can do to cut your train ticket prices in half (or more): buy a Japan Rail Pass. You really shouldn’t be traveling virtually the country without one (and I’m pretty sure they price the pass and regular tickets out in a way that really forces you to buy one).
In this post, I’ll introduce the JR Pass and explain how it works, how much it costs, and wordplay worldwide questions I get well-nigh the pass.
Table of Contents
What is the Japan Rail (JR) Pass?
The Japan Rail Pass (also known as the JR Pass) was created to help travelers get virtually the country (similar to the Eurail pass in Europe). JR is the largest train operator in Japan, and the pass provides unlimited wangle to all its trains for a set price.
The pass comes in 7-, 14-, and 21-day options. Note that these are consecutive days, not travel days. So, if you want to travel virtually Japan for two weeks, you’ll need to purchase the 14-day option, plane though you won’t be taking the train every day.
Several JR trains are included in the pass. The most popular is the shinkansen (bullet) train, which is the fastest train and goes to nearly every destination and region. The next fastest is the tokkyu (limited express). The kyuko (express) train comes next, followed by the kaisoku (rapid) and kakueki-teisha or futsu-densha (local trains that make every stop).
In short, this ways that there are JR trains that rapidly travel between regions, some that go between cities with multiple stops, and local commuter-style trains that are slow (but cheap).
Additionally, JR trains moreover serve some metropolitan areas, so they can be used within cities. For example, on my last visit, I used my JR Pass to get virtually Kyoto and Tokyo instead of ownership local metro tickets.
The JR Pass needs to be purchased before you victorious in Japan and it has to be mailed to you so you’ll want to order it well in whop (more below).
How the JR Pass works
The JR Pass is very easy to use — you just need to remember to purchase it beforehand, while in your home country, as the pass is only misogynist to visitors. (While you can purchase it at select ticket offices in Japan until March 2023, in-person passes forfeit significantly more, so it’s largest just to order it in advance).
The pass has several options (each valid for subsequent days, not just travel days):
- 7 days: 29,650 JPY (39,600 JPY for a Untried Pass)
- 14 days: 47,250 JPY (64,120 JPY for a Untried Pass)
- 21 days: 60,450 JPY (83,390 JPY for a Untried Pass)
The Untried Pass is the first-class option. Since the trains in Japan are once amazing, you likely don’t need to buy the Untried Pass unless you really want some luxury. Additionally, traveling in untried cars can be increasingly of a hassle if you like to be spontaneous, as you must unchangingly reserve a seat in whop in untried cars, requiring you to visit the ticket office or will-less reservation machines superiority of time to do so. In ordinary cars, you can just hop on and take any misogynist seat.
In wing to the standard and untried JR passes, there are regional passes in specimen you are not traveling wideness the unshortened country. These options can save you plane increasingly money since they are cheaper than the regular JR passes. Each region has several pass options, usually ranging between one and seven days.
You can buy JR passes for six regions:
- JR East (for the main island)
- JR West (for the main island)
- JR Central (for the main island)
- JR Hokkaido (for the northern island)
- JR Kyushu (for the southwestern island)
- JR Shikoku (for the southeastern island)
If you’re just going to be focusing on one region of the country, consider ownership a JR regional pass. If you want wangle to the unshortened country, get the regular JR Pass.
If you’re a first-time visitor to Japan, you’ll likely want the regular JR Pass, as it covers all the major destinations.
In sum, to get a pass, you need to:
- Pick the time elapsing for your pass (7, 14, or 21 days)
- Choose your matriculation (Green or standard — again, standard is increasingly than sufficient for most travelers)
- Decide what geographical zone you want to visit (all of the country or a single region)
- Pay the fee and order the pass surpassing you leave home
Getting and using Your JR Pass
The easiest way to get a Japan Pass is by ordering it online (there are many official online providers but I recommend this one as it’s been selling passes for the longest time).
Once you purchase a pass, you’ll receive an “exchange order” in the mail, stamped with a date, that you’ll turn in to pick up your very pass in Japan. Don’t forget your mart order at home, as you must bring this document to pick up your pass in Japan!
Once you get to Japan, you will mart your mart order (hence the name) for a JR Pass at a JR office. Make sure you have your passport on you (not a photocopy) when you go to collect it, as they will trammels to make sure that you have a temporary visitor stamp in your passport. The JR Pass is only misogynist to visitors and they are pretty strict well-nigh verifying you’re a tourist.
You have three months from the stage printed on the mart order to pick up your JR Pass, but you do not need to start using the pass on the same day that you pick it up.
For example, say that you want to pick up the pass once you victorious but you want to spend some time in Tokyo surpassing heading on to see the rest of the country. You can select any stage within one month of exchanging the order as your starting date. (But once the pass is issued, you can’t transpiration the starting date.)
Once you’ve got your pass in hand, you don’t need to worry well-nigh getting tickets, as you simply use your pass to go right through the will-less turnstiles.
In wing to using the shinkansen and other trains, the JR pass gives wangle to:
- Local buses operated by JR (such as the tourist loop bus in Hiroshima or JR buses virtually Sapporo)
- Ferries operated by JR (such as the one from Hiroshima to the island of Miyajima)
- JR lines running through metropolitan areas (such as Tokyo and Osaka)
- Free seat reservations (otherwise, seat reservations forfeit virtually 330-930 JPY)
The JR Pass is not valid for:
- The Nozomi and the Mizuho shinkansen lines
- Japanese citizens or residents, such as foreigners working in Japan (only those with a tourist visa can use the pass)
Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?
Absolutely! Plane though you might get sticker shock initially when purchasing a pass, you’ll save hundreds of dollars during your trip with one — plane if you just visit 2-3 cities. For example, without a rail pass, a ticket from Tokyo to Osaka financing virtually 27,000 JPY (round-trip), yet you can get a seven-day rail pass that includes unlimited travel on JR trains for just 29,650 JPY. So for the price of one round-trip ticket, you get unlimited travel. It’s a no-brainer!
Here are some increasingly examples of one-way train tickets on the shinkansen trains with non-reserved seats in the “ordinary” (non-green car) class:
- Tokyo-Hiroshima: 18,380 JPY
- Tokyo-Kyoto: 13,320 JPY
- Tokyo Fukuoka: 23,390 JPY
- Kyoto-Hiroshima: 10,570 JPY
- Kyoto-Osaka: 4,230 JPY
- Hiroshima-Fukuoka: 9,000 JPY
- Nagano-Kanazawa: 8,440 JPY
- Tokyo-Yokohama: 3,210 JPY
- Hakodate-Tokyo: 23,500 JPY
As you can see, it only takes one longer-distance journey from Tokyo (such as to Hiroshima or Fukuoka) to justify the forfeit of the pass. And you’ll likely use it much increasingly than that!
And plane if you aren’t taking the bullet trains, the pass still makes sense. For example, a trip on a local train from Kyoto to Tokyo financing virtually 8,360 JPY — instead of 13,320 JPY for the bullet train. However, the local train journey takes nine hours and requires several transfers, instead of a uncontrived three hours, making it a less than platonic nomination for most travelers (especially if you’re tight on time). It’s often simply not worth the forfeit savings.
You’re largest off using the bullet trains and reveling in the high-speed wits as it whisks you from one incredible destination to another!
Japan Rail Pass Frequently Asked Questions
Is JR Pass only for tourists?
Yes. Only people visiting on a tourist visa can use the JR Pass.
Can Japan Rail Pass be used on the Tokyo subway?
Yep, some of the subway lines (though not all) in Tokyo are run by JR, which ways you can wangle them for self-ruling with your JR Pass. This is true for the unshortened country. Metro lines and local subway lines are excluded from the pass.
Can I transpiration the days on which I wish to use the Japan Rail Pass?
No. Once the pass has been activated, the dates are set in stone.
How do I vivify the Japan Rail Pass?
To vivify the JR Pass, bring your mart order and your passport to a JR office in Japan. Once they verify your identity and visa status, they will vivify your pass.
Can I use JR Pass from Tokyo to Kyoto?
Yep! The loftiness is 445 kilometers (283 miles), and the trip takes under three hours on the bullet train.
Are buses included in JR Pass?
Yes, JR does run some bus lines, which are included in the JR Pass. Some destinations where JR has buses include Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu.
Can I cancel my Japan Rail Pass?
You can cancel your pass as long as it has not been activated, but once it is activated, you can’t.
Train travel is the weightier way to see Japan. The trains are clean, fast, and the scenery gorgeous. I love traveling the country by train. While ownership a rail pass might seem like a plush choice, it will save you a ton of money — and it’s a uniquely Japanese wits that you won’t forget!
Book Your Trip to Japan: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a unseemly flight. They are my favorite search engine considering they search websites and airlines virtually the globe so you unchangingly know no stone is left unturned!
Book Your Accommodation
You can typesetting your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and weightier deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they unceasingly return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and unseemly hotels. Some of my favorite places to stay in Japan are:
- K’s House (Tokyo)
- Len Kyoto (Kyoto)
- Roku Hostel Hiroshima (Hiroshima)
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you versus illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in specimen anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the weightier service and value are:
- Safety Wing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for spare evacuation coverage)
Looking for the Weightier Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the weightier companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Be sure to trammels out the Japan Rail Pass if you’ll be traveling virtually the country. It comes in 7-, 14-, and 21-day passes and can save you a ton of money!
Want Increasingly Information on Japan
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Japan for plane increasingly planning tips!
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