What’s a JR Pass/Japan Rail Pass?
Its a transportation pass offered by Japan Railways (JR) group which allows users to ride on almost all JR trains in Japan without having to pay individual fares. There are some exceptions such as the Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen/bullet trains or some segments of JR Hashidate train.
How much does the JR Pass costs?
There are two classes on JR trains, which is Green and Ordinary class. Green class is something akin to Business Class in airlines. Most trains has both Green and Ordinary classes. There are some trains that has a third class called the Gran Class.
It is possible to use the JR Pass to ride on a higher class (i.e. JR Ordinary pass to ride Green class) but the JR pass will only cover the ride’s fare, but not the seat fee.
Tokyo – Shin-Osaka on ordinary class costs ¥13,940 which is
Reserved Seat Fee:¥ 5,190.
Both fully covered by the JR Pass
The Green class seat fee for the same stretch costs ¥10,170.
So using an ordinary pass to ride a Green class will set you back ¥10,170
How do I purchase a JR Pass?
JR Passes can only be bought outside of Japan from designated sales offices or agents.
Update: I just found out that JR Pass can be purchased from some offices within Japan until 31 March 2012
The complete list is available below:
You will receive an exchange order which you can exchange for a JR Pass in Japan.
Whats the Validity period of the JR Pass?
There are 3 options, 7 day, 14 day and 21 day. The starting date can be set according your preferred date when you exchange the order at the JR exchange and sales office.
For example, I’m traveling for 9 days (10-18 Feb) and I only want to use my 7 day JR pass on the 2nd to 8th day. I could just inform the sales officer at the exchange office that I’d like to start using the pass on 11 Feb.
How do I use my JR pass?
You must exchange your exchange order into a JR Pass before you can start using it. After receiving your JR pass, you can start using in from the date defined on the JR Pass.
The JR pass cannot be used on automatic ticket gates, so you’ll have to look for station exits that has a manned gate. Stations will have at least one gate with the station clerks.
The first time you use the pass, the station clerk will put a stamp on the JR Pass. Afterwards, you’ll only need to show the pass to the clerk when entering or exiting the station.
Can I use JR pass to get a reserved seat?
Yes you can. There are two options:
1. Go to the JR ticket office at the stations, write down your start and destination, date and time. If you have a preferred train (i.e. Hikari 465 or Hida #3) then present the ticket officer your JR pass and your intended route.
2. If you plan to travel on the JR East route, you can use JR East Train Reservation to book the ticket online. Follow the steps on the website. You’ll need to fill in your credit card details to book the ticket. You’ll later receive an email with your reservation number. You can show the ticket officer the reservation number, JR pass and the credit card used to book the ticket.
In both cases you’ll receive a reserved seat ticket.
You still need to use the manned gates to enter the station.
What is covered by JR Pass?
JR Pass covers:
- JR lines throughout Japan including Shinkansen/bullet trains with the exception the NOZOMI and MIZUHO services, limited express trains, express trains and local trains
- Tokyo Monorail
- Aomori Railway between Hachinohe and Aomori, Aomori and Noheji, or Hachinohe and Noheji
- IR Ishikawa Railway between Kanazawa and Tsubata
- Ainokaze TOyama Railway between Toyama and Takaoka
- JR Bus services (except expressway buses and some local services)
- JR Miyajima Ferry
Some routes are jointly managed by JR groups and non-JR group railways so additional charges will be required such as:
- JR Hashidate – Going further than Fukuchiyama will add 1520 to 2870 Yen
- Odoriko/Super View Odoriko – Going further than Ito or Mishima station
Are there any other passes?
Other than JR Pass, each of the JR Groups offer their own passes such as JR East pass, Hokkaido Pass, Hokuriku Arch Pass. Other train companies also has their own passes such as Odakyu Hakone pass, Odakyu Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass, Kansai Thru Pass, or All Shikoku rail pass Each has its own specific area coverage.
Should I buy a JR Pass?
This question comes a lot. The answer is “it depends.” How much travel will you do in Japan?
Several cases that we have:
- I only want to explore Tokyo for 5 days – No need for JR Pass.
- I only want to visit Osaka and Kyoto and the surrounding area – No need for JR Pass. Kansai pass would be better for you
- I’m visiting Japan for 10 days, 5 days will be in Tokyo the rest will be Osaka and Kyoto. – Get a 7 day pass and set the starting dates when you leave for Osaka/Kyoto
- I’m visiting Japan for 11 days and will be all over the place Tokyo-Takayama-Kyoto-Osaka-Hakone-Niigata – Get a 7 or 14 days pass