"To travel around Japan you definitely need a Japan Rail Pass". Sounds familiar? I'm sure you've heard this million times over. Confused? Not surprised, I was too when I kept hearing about the elusive Japan Rail Pass without a clue about what it really is, how it works and what is the point buying one. Going to Japan was one of my coolest (and most confusing) adventures as I've discovered a completely new world, filled with great food, bizarre culture and weird customs. When I first arrived in Tokyo, it all seemed pretty alien, yet I kept an open mind and had a positive attitude, wanting to learn it all and experience everything Japanese.
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My travels in Japan have been fun and made easy by the Japanese trains as they were incredibly clean, fast and always on time. The bullet train (the Shinkansen) is by far the best way to travel around Japan, although I must admit, the Japanese local trains won't disappoint either. Everything has a place, everything is well organised and everything is intuitive... once you understand how it works that is. For the untrained, the JR lines can be confusing and this is exactly why I created this Japan Rail Pass guide. This article will help you understand how everything works and what you need to do so you enjoy an extensive adventure all around Japan.
What is the Japan Rail Pass?
The Japan Rail Pass is a brilliant Japanese invention which allows any foreigner to use almost all Japanese trains for 7, 14 or 21 days for a fraction of the normal price. You just need to show your JR pass before going through the gates to the platforms. You can travel anywhere you wish, and journeys include Tokyo to Kyoto or even Tokyo to Kagoshima or Hokkaidō. If you want to travel around Japan, this is probably the best investment you can make, as otherwise, JR train tickets tend to be quite expensive.
How does the Japan Rail Pass work?
First, you need to decide for how long you want to travel for. You can do 7, 14 or 21 days with your Japan Rail Pass. Second, you need to remember that you must order the JR Pass online as the Japan Rail Voucher will arrive at your doorstep, in your home country. Take the voucher with you and once you arrive in Japan, you can swap it for the real thing at any JR offices in all major train stations.
Once you have your epic Japan Rail Pass, your options are limitless. Travel around as much as you want. The only thing you need to bear in mind is that if you wish to have a seat reserved, you must go to the JR counters and ask them to reserve a seat for your upcoming journey. This is entirely free of charge, included in your Japan Rail Pass cost. It is also hassle-free, as all you have to do is show your Japan Rail Pass and tell them where and when you wish to leave.
Please note that your Japan Rail Pass cannot be used for travel on Nozomi and Mizuho trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines.
Tip: For train journeys towards the Kansai region, make sure you reserve your seat in advance, to ensure you can see Mount Fuji. Nothing better than eating some sushi from a bento box whilst gazing at the beautiful mountain from a Shinkansen.
Should I buy a Japan Rail Pass?
This really depends, are you going to travel at all? If you only wish to go up to Nagano for the Snow Monkey Park, then probably it's not worth you paying for a Japan Rail Pass. If you are planning a return trip to Kyoto though, know that the train tickets cost just as much as buying the JR Pass for one week! Having a JR Pass also allows plenty of flexibility.
How much does it cost?
The JR Pass is quite pricey, but if you end up using the Shinkansen quite a lot, then it's well worth it. I used it for Nagano, going to Kyoto, going around Kyoto and back to Tokyo.
Japan Rail Pass Prices
7 days: ¥29110
14 days: ¥46390
21 days: ¥59350
(Note: These prices have been updated in January 2018)
Where can I get one?
I bought my Japan Rail Pass from this company. My JR voucher arrived in less than 2 weeks, alongside further info about how to use it, a JR line map and a Japanese train timetable. Make sure you allow plenty of time for your voucher to arrive but don't order it earlier than 3 months prior to your departure to Japan.
Can I buy a Japan Rail Pass in Japan?
Unfortunately not! Remember to order it in advance, otherwise, you won't be able to benefit from travelling with a Japan Rail Pass.
I don't want to bother with the Japan Rail Pass, what then?
You can buy your train tickets right at the train station whilst in Japan. Just know that if you want to travel a lot, the train ticket costs might add up and you will end up paying more. Best thing is to plan ahead.
I recommend getting your Japan Rail Pass with worldwide delivery, for unlimited, hassle-free train travel across Japan.
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