What is a Japan Rail Pass?
The Japan Rail Pass (or JR pass) is a train ticket that allows you to travel on the majority of the Japanese rail network. The pass can be valid for 7, 14, or 21 days and you can travel as much as you want within the validity period.
Who is eligible for a Japan Rail Pass?
The JR pass is designed for foreign visitors to travel around Japan at an affordable price. Therefore, it is available to everyone visiting Japan as a tourist - you must have a temporary visitor stamp in your passport in order to claim your Japan Rail Pass. Using a Japan Rail Pass with another non-tourist visa, such as a student visa, is not allowed. You also cannot use a JR pass if you are a Japanese national.
How do I get a Japan Rail Pass?
To get your JR pass, you need to obtain an exchange voucher. It is recommended that you do this in advance of your trip by purchasing your Japan Rail Pass online. You will be sent a voucher that is then exchanged for a JR pass once you are in Japan.
How do I activate my Japan Rail Pass?
When you’re in Japan, you need to take your exchange voucher and your passport (with the temporary visitor stamp) to a Japan Railway Group ticket office - these can be found in all major train stations. When exchanging the pass, you specify the date you want the pass to start being valid. The start date can be any date within 1 month of the date you collect the pass. Once the validity period is specified on the pass, it cannot be changed.
How do I use my Japan Rail Pass?
When going through the ticket gates at a Japanese train station, look for the manned ticket gates usually located at the edge of the automatic ticket gates. As you walk through, show your pass to the attendant with the validity date showing. You are not able to use the automatic ticket gates with a Japan Rail Pass.
How do I make seat reservations for Japanese trains?
The majority of train journeys in Japan do not require seat reservations, as there will be non-reserved carriages on the train. However, seat reservations are free with the Japan Rail Pass, so you might as well get a reservation to guarantee yourself a seat. You can do this by going to a JR ticket office, which you’ll find in most train stations - just say when and where you want to go and the staff will assist you in picking the right train and reserving a seat.
Which trains does the Japan Rail Pass cover?
The JR pass allows you to travel on railway lines operated by Japan Railway Group - this is a nationwide network that covers most of Japan. The pass covers the Hikari, Sakura, Kodama, and Tsubame bullet trains, but does not cover the faster Mizuho or Nozomi bullet trains. The Sakura lets you travel the same routes as the Mizuho, whilst the Hikari covers equivalent journeys to the Nozomi. The JR Pass also lets you travel on some buses and ferries.