New updates to the Japan Rail Pass for 2020: what you need to know and how you’ll benefit

If you’re going to Japan and thinking about travelling around it, you’ll want to get a Japan Rail Pass. Also known as the JR Pass, this handy pass will allow you to travel around the country whilst benefiting from a great discount. You’ll also be able to enjoy unlimited travel on a range of trains (including Japan’s notorious bullet train network), on buses and on the ferry. 

In 2020, there are some exciting and significant new changes that will make it even more convenient – from simplified bookings for reserved seats to automatic ticket gates and an easier online booking system

Here’s a little more information about the changes:

At the start of spring 2020 (estimated to be around April), upgrades to the JR pass system will start to take place. Long-awaited, they align with the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics which are taking place between July and August of this year. Intended to make it easier for international customers to buy tickets through the website and have an easier journey in general, it’s a welcome change.

Automatic ticket gates 

Designed to make your journey as simple as possible, you’ll now be able to go through the automatic ticket gates. Whether you want to catch a local JR train or a bullet train, you’ll now be able to do so without having to queue up. Before this upgrade was made, people had to wait to show their pass to a staff member working at the station before they were let through.

This will now become a thing of the pass and you’ll be able to quickly get through in order to get to your destination. This small change will make all of the difference throughout the next 12 months and beyond!

Reserved seat booking made simpler 

For those intending to use the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet trains) when there, it’s important to know that there are two types of seating options to choose from – either reserved or non-reserved. Although during quieter periods it’s easy to not reserve a seat and jump on and off the train, if it’s busier, it might be worth reserving one.

Even though it’s an extra surcharge (the price will depend on how far you’re travelling), many think that it’s worth it. You don’t want to be standing up for a long journey after all. If you’re travelling with a group and you don’t reserve seats, you might also have to split up over several carriages because it’s so busy. 

However, currently the system makes it quite difficult to reserve a seat in the first place. Currently, you would have to go to a ticket window that specifically caters to customers catching the JR train to book a seat. But from spring of this year, this will become a thing of the past. In the next few months you will be able to reserve a seat either online and still be able to do so at the bullet train station.

You no longer have to exchange orders

Previously, the exchange system on the JR pass website tended to cause some issues. For those who simply wanted to buy the pass it was a step that made the process longer than it needed to be.

From spring 2020, those looking to buy a JR pass can do so directly on the website without having to exchange to the order via their home address or buy it at a travel agents. Once this step is complete, you will then be able to go to a JR ticket office and pick up the tickets directly.

General website improvement 

Many people opt for the Japan Rail Pass because of the incredible discounts and benefits it offers – including unlimited travel. However, the current website is very confusing to international visitors due to its overload of information. 

Throughout this year, however, it will become far simpler with general improvements taking place across the website. Making each customer’s online experience far more pleasant, they will be able to book a ticket and navigate through the site with little to no problems! 

Final thoughts

So, there you go! Those are some of the exciting new updates to the Japan Rail Pass that you should know about. Very beneficial for those travelling to Japan in the next year, you’ll love the simplicity of the website and the amazing deals that you can get with the pass – no matter how long you’re travelling to the incredible country for. 



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