Japan Travel: Your Japan Rail Pass Guide


Shinkansen and Mount Fuji. (Photo: Getty Images)

If you’re traveling around Japan this spring to see the cherry blossoms, you’ll find that owning a Japan Rail (JR) Pass can save you a lot of money. But before you get your hands dirty, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.

1. What is JR pass?

The JR Pass is your personal transportation pass that you can use in Japan. Generally, it applies to trains such as the Shinkansen and local buses operated by Japan Railways (JR). This means you cannot use the pass on train lines operated by other transport companies, such as the Yurikamome train to Odaiba, Tokyo.

However, JR has the most complete and complete transportation network in Japan. You can get to most places by train or bus operated by JR.

2. Who can use the JR pass?

To use the JR Pass, you must be a non-Japanese national visiting for tourist purposes. If you are traveling to Japan for work or military related reasons, you cannot use the JR Pass. Only those with “Temporary Visitor” status (which most tourists receive) allowing you to stay in Japan for less than three months are eligible to apply for the JR Pass.

3. Which JR pass should I buy?

There are two main types of passes: the All Japan Rail Pass and the Regional Pass. As the name suggests, the All Japan Rail Pass gives you unlimited use of almost all JR transportation throughout Japan. This pass is valid for 7 days, 14 days and 21 days.

On the other hand, the Regional Pass only provides unlimited access in specific regions of Japan. Depending on the pass, it can be valid for as little as one day.

The more popular Regional Passes include the Hokuriku Arch Pass for traveling around Tokyo, Kanazawa, and Osaka; the Kansai Travel Pass for Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara; and the Kyushu Travel Pass for traveling around Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima.

To determine which JR Pass to get, you’ll need to see which areas of Japan you’ve visited and how long you’ve stayed.

JR ticket offices in Japan.  (Photo: Klook SG)

JR ticket offices in Japan. (Photo: Klook SG)

4. Where can I buy JR pass?

You can buy JR passes at JR ticket offices at airports and major train stations in Japan. But it is more cost-effective and efficient to book passes online through authorized agents like Klook. After purchasing online, you will receive an exchange order in the mail, which will be mailed to you within 7 days of purchase (Singapore delivery), or electronic exchange order, which will be dispatched immediately – in the case of Klook to your account.

Get your JR Pass on Klook

5. Where and how can I redeem the JR Pass?

For those with a Mail Exchange Order, you must go to a JR Ticket Office to exchange your JR Pass. For electronic exchange slips, you can exchange your JR Pass at the green ticket machines at major train stations in addition to JR ticket offices.

Keep an eye out for these green ticket machines at major train stations in Japan.  (Photo: Klook SG)

Keep an eye out for these green ticket machines at major train stations in Japan. (Photo: Klook SG)

When redeeming a JR Pass, you must bring your exchange slip and passport for verification, which should have a “Temporary Visitor” stamp. The information on the exchange form should match the information on your passport. Otherwise, the voucher may be deemed invalid.

It is important to note that exchange certificates expire within 90 days from the date of issue. In other words, if you go to Japan in December, you should start buying JR passes online from September.

6. How do I activate my JR Pass? Can I activate it later?

When redeeming a JR Pass, you can choose the pass’s start date. The start date can be any date within 30 days of the exchange. Pass validity is calculated on a calendar day basis, starting at midnight and ending at 11:59 pm. This means that even if you activate your day pass at 3pm today, it will only be valid until 11:59pm tonight, not 2:59pm tomorrow.

Timetable for redeeming and using the JR Pass.  (Photo: Klook SG)

Timetable for redeeming and using the JR Pass. (Photo: Klook SG)

7. What are the different carriages and seats on the train?

Your JR Pass allows you to travel on Shinkansen or limited express trains in ordinary cars, similar to economy class. However, for an additional fee, you can upgrade to a green car similar to business class. You can expect larger seats, footrests and better service in the green car.

Some JR trains provide reserved seats to guarantee seats, which saves you a lot of trouble when traveling during peak hours. Your JR Pass may limit the number of seats you can reserve. After deciding on a route and time, you can use your JR Pass to reserve seats at JR ticket offices or green ticket machines.

8. How to use JR pass?

After redeeming your JR Pass, you will receive a ticket that you can use to pass through the automatic gates. A reserved seat ticket may look like your JR Pass. But you still have to use your JR pass to go through the automatic gates.

JR Passes and pre-booked tickets may look similar, but serve different purposes.  (Photo: Klook SG)

JR Passes and pre-booked tickets may look similar, but serve different purposes. (Photo: Klook SG)

9. Is the JR pass worth it?

It’s definitely worth it if you’re using the Shinkansen to travel from one city in Japan to another. Most JR passes are cheaper than buying two shinkansen tickets with reserved seats.

Want to check out the best routes and travel fares in Japan? Download the Japan Travel by Navitime app from the App Store or Google Play. You can also filter routes based on your JR Pass type.

Get your JR Pass on Klook

Check out the tickets here: Skyscanner | Ctrip | Zhiyou.com
Book accommodation and activities here: Agoda | reservation network | Klook | KK day | Union Hotel
General info here: TripAdvisor
Affordable data plans are here
When you do, be sure to get your travel insurance!

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