A Japan Rail Pass, also known as a JR Pass, is a discounted ticket that allows travelers to use most of the trains operated by Japan Railways Group (JR Group) throughout Japan, including the shinkansen (bullet trains) and local trains. It is available to foreign tourists visiting Japan on a temporary visitor visa, and it is designed to make travel around Japan more convenient and affordable. To use a Japan Rail Pass, you will need to follow these steps.
You can purchase a Japan Rail Pass online through Getjrpass, an authorized travel JR Pasas agent before you leave for Japan. You will need to choose the type of pass you want (e.g., 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day), as well as the class (e.g., standard or green car). Once your order is placed, we’ll ship out your JR Passes with UPS Express, which will reach you in a couple of days.
After you purchase a Japan Rail Pass, you will receive a physical MCO exchange voucher in the mail, which you have to bring with you to Japan. You will need to exchange this voucher for a physical Japan Rail Pass at a JR Exchange Office in Japan within 90 days of purchase. Your passport is needed upon exchange with the stamp “Temporary Visitor Visa” unless you are a Japanese Citizen who has been living abroad for more than 10 years.
Once you have your physical pass, you will need to activate it by writing your name, passport number, and the dates you want to use the pass on the pass itself. You can activate the pass at any JR Exchange Office or at a major train station in Japan.
You can use your Japan Rail Pass on most JR trains, including the shinkansen, local trains, and express trains. Use the automatic ticket gates by inserting your JR Pass and pass into the station. (Dont’ forget to pick it up on the other side). You will not need to purchase separate tickets when using the JR Pass, unless you want to. Seat reservation is free of charge with a JR Pass and can done by scanning the QR code found on your JR Pass or with help of the JR staff at any JR desk.
Note that there are some trains and services that are not covered by the Japan Rail Pass, such as the Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines as well as some private railway lines across Japan. You will need to purchase separate tickets for these trains if you intend to use them. Japan Rail Pass holders can after October 1st 2023 use the Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen trains for a extre fee.
However, you don’t have to worry – there are trains such as the Hikari Shinkansen line, running on the same route, with the same speed but just a few extra stops. The total time difference between Nozomi and Hikari between Tokyo and Kyoto is 17 minutes, on a 2h 47m ride. The extra stops along the way makes the Hikari Shinkansen a few minutes slower from point A to B.
You will need to purchase separate tickets for any sleeper trains if you decide to take a train of this sort, even if you are using a Japan Rail Pass. We hope this helps! If you have any more questions about using a Japan Rail Pass, please don’t hesitate to ask.