Japan Rail Pass
Should I buy a Japan Rail Pass? | Japan Rail Pass Validity | Types of Japan Rail Pass | Eligibility for the Japan Rail Pass | Exceptions to the Japan Rail Pass | Bus with Japan Rail Pass | Where to buy the Japan Rail Pass | How to Exchange an Exchange Order for a Japan Rail Pass | Japan Rail Pass Refunds | Other JR Passes | Some Japan Rail Pass Reservation Offices | 15 Useful Tips for Train Travel in Japan
Japan Rail Pass
The Japan Rail Pass cannot be purchased inside Japan, so the Japan Rail Pass must be purchased overseas and reserved within 3 months of intended use.
To qualify for this, before coming to Japan, you must show you will be a temporary visitor to Japan. show your passport, containing a Temporary Visitor visa stamp.
Before traveling, buy an Exchange Order online, or at a JR licensed travel agent, and once you get to Japan exchange it for a pass at any Japan Rail Pass Exchange Office in Japan, including at Narita International Airport.
Prices in Japanese yen.
The Japan Rail Pass also entitles the bearer to a 10% discount at JR Group hotels.
Purchase a Japan Rail Pass.
|Period||Green Car (Adult)||Ordinary (Adult)||Green Car (Child 6-11 yrs)||Ordinary (Child)|
Shinkansen bullet train at Nagoya Station
Ordinary shinkansen travelers buy their tickets at the JR ticket office or from a machine
The Japan Rail Pass is also valid on these JR buses: local lines of JR bus companies (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) and some JR highway bus services (Sapporo-Otaru; Morioka-Hirosaki; Tokyo-Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Tsukuba Center; Nagoya-Kyoto, Osaka; Osaka-Tsuyama, Kasai Flower Center).
Should I buy a Japan Rail Pass?
Purchase of a Japan Rail Pass is highly recommended if you are planning to visit Japan on a Temporary Visitor (typically 90 days) visa, and if you are planning to travel considerable distances within Japan.
The Japan Rail Pass gives you almost unlimited use of the lines of the six regional companies that make up the the Japan Rail (JR) Group: JR Kyushu, JR Shikoku, JR West, JR Central, JR East, and JR Hokkaido - covering the whole of Japan, as well as many JR buses, and even a JR ferry (Hiroshima to Miyajima Island.)
The Japan Rail Pass allows you travel around Japan, as you like, at a fraction of the price it would cost to buy a ticket for every leg of your travels. For example, even the most expensive Japan Rail Pass option: the 21-day Green (1st class reserved) pass at 79,600 yen is still much cheaper than if you were to buy the cheapest unreserved shinkansen (bullet train) seats for Tokyo-Sapporo-Kyoto-Fukuoka and back to Tokyo (which comes to over 100,000 yen.) So for even a short stay in Japan, buying a Japan Rail Pass before you come is sure to work out cheaper, not to mention more convenient, if you are intending to travel around the country.
Validity of the Japan Rail Pass
The Japan Rail Pass can be used on all Japan Rail lines and many JR buses, except for two classes of high-speed shinkansen (bullet trains): the Nozomi express (on the Tokaido and Sanyo shinkansen lines) and the Mizuho express (on the Kyushu shinkansen line). Apart from the Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen, all other classes of shinkansen (of which there are many) can be used, and, of course, all regular limited express, ordinary express, rapid, and local trains on JR lines across Japan.
However, with both the Green or Ordinary Japan Rail Pass, surcharges apply if you want a sleeping car, a private compartment, or the "GranClass" (airplane-style business class). More about exceptions to the Japan Rail Pass.
Types of Japan Rail Pass
Eligibility for the Japan Rail Pass
You must have Temporary Visitor immigration status in order to be given a Japan Rail Pass. The Temporary Visitor visa is called tanki-taizai (短期滞在) ("tan-key tie-zye") in Japanese. Please ensure that this is the status by which you will be entering Japan. The Temporary Visitor visa is typically for 90 days, but may be for 15 or 30 days. Other short-term visas, such as "Trainee" or "Entertainer" are not eligible for the Japan Rail Pass; neither is a Re-Entry Permit.
Japanese citizens are eligible to purchase the Japan Rail Pass only if they have the right to reside permanently in a country other than Japan, or if married to a non-Japanese citizen who resides outside of Japan. Documentary evidence of current residential status is required.
On arrival in Japan, the bearer of an Exchange Order must present a passport bearing the Temporary Visitor immigration stamp in order to receive the Japan Rail Pass. A photocopy of a passport will not do. It must be an actual passport bearing an actual immigration stamp.
Exceptions to the Japan Rail Pass
The Japan Rail Pass (Green and Ordinary) cannot be used for:
-the Nozomi express (the fastest train on the Tokaido and Sanyo shinkansen lines) and the Mizuho express (the fastest train on the Kyushu shinkansen line).
-an ordinary private compartment or a Green private compartment on a shinkansen or limited express train, but an ordinary private compartment or a Green private compartment can be reserved upon the payment of a surcharge and the necessary limited express charge.
-the GranClass, but GranClass seats can be reserved upon the payment of a surcharge and the necessary limited or ordinary express charge.
-a limited express or ordinary express sleeping car berth, but a berth on a sleeping car can be reserved upon the payment of a surcharge and the necessary limited express charge.
-a so-called "Home Liner" train. There are few such trains, but they are basically commuter trains designed to ensure that people on long commutes can get a seat, so unlikely to be of much use when touring Japan.
-the JR ferry from Hakata to Pusan (Korea).
The Aoimori Railway Line between Aomori and Hachinohe, being a non-JR line, involves some restrictions. The Japan Rail Pass is only good between Aomori and Hachinohe stations:
-if the passenger stays on the train the whole way between Aomori and Hachinohe stations, or
-if the passenger changes at Noheji Station (on the Aoimori Railway Line) to the JR Ominato Line.
In other words, the Japan Rail Pass is good for non-stop transit only between Aomori and Hachinohe. However, the Japan Rail Pass cannot be used at all for sleeper cars on the Aoimori Railway Line.
Using the Bus with a Japan Rail Pass
Some JR highway bus services can be used with the Japan Rail Pass. They are:
-Sapporo to Otaru, on the Sasson Line of JR Hokkaido Bus Co.
-Morioka to Hirosaki, on the Yodel-go Line, served by four different bus companies: Konan Bus, JR Tohoku Bus, Iwate Kenpoku Bus, Iwate-ken Kotsu Bus.
-Tokyo to Nagoya, JR Tomei Highway Bus
-Tokyo to Kyoto, JR Dream Kyoto-go Bus
-Tokyo to Osaka, JR Dream Osaka-go Bus
-Tokyo to Tsukuba Center, JR Tsukuba-go Bus
-Nagoya to Kyoto, JR Meishin Highway Bus
-Nagoya to Osaka, JR Meishin Highway Bus
-Osaka to Tsuyama, JR Chugoku Highway Bus
-Osaka to Kasai Flower Center, JR Chugoku Highway Bus
Where to buy the Japan Rail Pass
The Japan Rail Pass cannot be purchased once you arrive in Japan, but only beforehand, outside of Japan, in the form of what is called an Exchange Order. A Japan Rail Pass is obtained in Japan by presenting the pre-purchased Exchange Order.
An Exchange Order for a Japan Rail Pass can be purchased only from outside Japan, from a number of Japan-related or Japanese travel agencies worldwide. The Exchange Order for a Japan Rail Pass must be purchased 3 months or less before you plan to start using the Japan Rail Pass.
Vendors of an Exchange Order for the Japan Rail Pass (by definition, outside of Japan):
-JAL offices (however sale of the Japan Rail Pass is limited to passengers on a JAL flight).
-ANA offices (however sale of the Japan Rail Pass is limited to passengers on an ANA flight).
-JTB Corporation authorized travel agents
-KNT (Kintetsu International) authorized travel agents
-Nippon Travel Agency authorized travel agents
-Toptour Corporation authorized travel agents
-JALPAK Group authorized travel agents
How to Exchange an Exchange Order for a Japan Rail Pass
Once you are in Japan, to receive a Japan Rail Pass you must present your Exchange Order, pre-purchased overseas, within three months of the purchase date, to a Japan Rail Pass Exchange Office. At this time, you must show your passport, containing a Temporary Visitor visa stamp. Japan Rail Pass Exchange Offices are typically within a railway station, but also available at several airports. See a list of main Japan Rail Pass Exchange Offices.
Japan Rail Pass Refunds
No refunds are available for the Japan Rail Pass. For example, if you have a Green Japan Rail Pass (a Japan Rail Pass for the first class section or Green Car) and choose to travel in a non-reserved seat, you cannot get a refund for the price difference. If you try to reserve a seat with Green Japan Rail Pass but no reserved seats are available, you may not get a refund for having to travel in a non-reserved seat.
Other JR Passes
If you plan to limit your touring of Japan to a certain area, or to just a few days, consider one of the following.
JR East Area Pass
In other words, it is for travel in Eastern Japan only (Tokyo and areas to the north and east). The JR East Area Pass is available as a 5-day Consecutive, 10-day Consecutive, or 4-Day Flexi Pass.
The abovementioned JR East 4-Day Flexi Pass entitles you to unlimited travel on any four days (consecutive or non-consecutive) during the 30 days after the pass was issued. Which four days you use do not have to be specified in advance. You can use the 4-Day Flexi Pass as you like.
Prices in Japanese yen.
|Period||Green Car [1st class]||Adult [26+]||Youth[12-25]||Child [6-11]|
|4 day flex||28,000||20,000||16,000||10,000|
Read more about the JR East Pass.
JR Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train 700 Series
Entrance to the shinkansen at Nagoya Station and a JR ticket machine which can be used in both Japanese and English
JR West Sanyo Area Pass
Prices in Japanese Yen.
Kyushu Rail Pass
JR Kyushu offers a two rail passes specific to the southern island of Kyushu: these are the Northern Kyushu Pass and the All Kyushu Area Rail Pass.
The All Kyushu Area Rail Pass covers the whole island while the Northern Kyushu Pass does not cover Kyushu south of Oita or Kumamoto, though it does include the main cities of Fukuoka, Oita, Beppu, Nagasaki and Kumamoto.
|Northern Kyushu Area||All Kyushu Area|
|Hakata - Kumamoto||Hakata-Kagoshima-chuo|
|3 DAY PASS||3 DAY PASS||5 DAY PASS|
|7,000 Yen||14,000 Yen||17,000 Yen|
In spite of its name, the Seishun Juhachi Kippu (literally Youth 18 Ticket) is not limited to young people. It is available to people of all ages. The Youth 18 Ticket is an excellent alternative to the Japan Rail Pass if your travel requirements cover a five-day period. The Youth 18 Ticket includes the use of night trains. Read more about the Seishun Juhachi Kippu and night trains.
Some Japan Rail Pass Reservation Offices
AWL Pitt Australia Pty Ltd
Shop RP1.09, The Galeries Victoria, 500 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
TEL 02 9264 7384, FAX 02 9264 8223
USIT CAMPUS (LONDON) TEL 020-7730-7285
Kintetsu International Express (Europe) B.V. (FRANKFURT) TEL (069) 1381-0510
FAX (069) 1381-0570
Intia-Keskus Ltd. (HELSINKI) TEL 096803180
Kintetsu International Express (SPAIN) S.A. Madrid TEL (91) 559-5112
FAX (91) 559-8713
Seoul Travel SVC (SEOUL) TEL 822-755-9696
NTA Travel (HONG KONG) Co., Ltd. TEL 852-2721-1348
Diners World (SINGAPORE) TEL 65-292-5522
JTC Thailand (BANGKOK) TEL 66-2237-7498
Sen Travel (TAIPEI) TEL 8862-2100-1986
JTB International (Canada) Ltd. (VANCOUVER) TEL 604-688-0315
JTB International (Canada) Ltd. (TORONTO) TEL 416-367-5824
JTB Corp. USA Inc. (TORRANCE) TEL 310-618-0961
JTB Corp. USA Inc. (SAN FRANCISCO) TEL 415-986-4764
JTB Corp. USA Inc. (NEW YORK) TEL 212-698-4919
JTB Corp. USA Inc. (NEW JERSEY) TEL 201-288-5007
Bahrain International Travel (BAHRAIN) TEL 253315
Al-Rashed International Travel Co. (KUWAIT) TEL 2461538
Saudi Tourist & Travel Bureau (DHARAN) TEL (3) 8641792
Saudi Tourist and Travel Bureau (JEDDAH) TEL (2) 6674405
U.A.E. Al Futtaim Travel and Tourism (DUBAI) TEL (4) 228-5470
U.A.E. Albadie Travel Agency (ABU DHABI) TEL (2) 632-3142
15 Useful Tips for Train Travel in Japan
Go here for 15 useful tips for train travel in Japan.