Everything you need to know about the Japan Rail Pass

"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.
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. 

Transport 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. 

Pssst...want unlimited train travel across Japan?

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. 

Ueno Park Tokyo Japan Night

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 costs just as much as buying the JR Pass for one week! Having a JR Pass also allows plenty of flexibility. 

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Yoyogi Park Tokyo autumn leaves

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: 29,110 YEN or $261 
14 days: 46,390 YEN or $416
21 days: 59,350 YEN or $532

(Note: Prices in USD may vary depending on the exchange rate. These prices have been updated in June 2017)

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. 

Japan Temple Autumn Leaves

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 worldwise delivery, for unlimited, hussle free train tracel across Japan.

Yoyogi Park Tokyo Autumn Red Leaves

I hope this was useful and comprehensive, but if you have further questions about the Japan Rail Pass, please let me know in the comments section bellow or check out why JuszTravel decided to get a Japan Rail Pass.

Some of these links are affiliate links which means that if you are kind enough to book anything through this website, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This commission allows us to run this website and keep it free and fun for everyone. 

14 Comments

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How many day before I will have to book the tickets? It seems you love the train travel. I don't like much but yes, sometimes. Have you ever heard about Maharajas' Express - The Luxury Train?

Hi Alina, I recommend buying your JR Pass at least one month before travelling to Japan. I really loved the Shinkansen and I am sure you will have a great experience too. I've heard of the Maharajas' Express. It looks absolutely amazing! I bet it's such fun adventure to travel by luxury train, right?

hi cory
thank you for the all the guidance given in your blog posts, it is really helpful, though i m still confused with the train pass, planning to visit japan in end of march and would like to see the snow monkeys and put up a day in the snow mountain as my two young kids seeing snow for first time(aged 8 and 5) and would like to see mount Fiji too. Pleases tell me should i buy the rail pass for 7 days or wide pass? can i use this pass in to subway in tokyo.
thank you in advance

sanji

Hi Sanji,

I'm very glad to hear you found this article useful. It is entirely up to you if you wish to purchase the JR Pass for the duration of your stay. Here is the information I can provide:
Children age 5 and under don't have to pay for the JR Pass.
Adult price for JR Pass (at the date of writing this) is £206 for 7 days.
Child price for JR Pass (at the date of writing this) is £103 for 7 days.
If you want to purchase tickets separately it will cost you:
A return trip with the shinkansen Tokyo to Nagano (roughly £100 per adult and half for your eldest child) + the cost of using the local trains from Nagano to Yudanaka (I don't actually know the price for this I'm afraid)
A return trip with the shinkansen Tokyo to Fuji (roughly £50 per adult and half for your eldest child)
As you can see, you break even with either buying the JR Pass or buying tickets on the shinkansen.

Add a trip to Nikko from Tokyo for one day and you would already save A LOT with the JR Pass.
You can't use the JR Pass for the Tokyo subways but you can use for all JR trains in Tokyo. So for example, if you want to go from central Tokyo to Shinjuku by train, you can easily do this with your JR Pass.

You can also use your JR Pass on the monorail from the Haneda airport.

For the subway, you will need to get a Pasmo card. This enables you to pay as you go for your subway travels. It's very easy to use and it allows you to save money and hassle on a long run, especially when travelling with children.

A few more words of friendly advice:
Please familiarise with some basic customs and manners before going to Japan. Japanese people are super friendly and very willing to help, but please help them by respecting their culture.
If you want to know more about Japan, I'm happy to direct you to more articles or help you with your itinerary.

Do let me know if you have more questions, and do not hesitate to contact me.

Enjoy Japan!

Links to more articles:
Manners and customs: https://www.youcouldtravel.com/2016/05/how-to-behave-in-japan-manners-an...
My journey to the Snow Monkey Pass: https://www.youcouldtravel.com/2016/04/a-rewarding-journey-to-the-snow-m...

Sounds like great trip! Thank you. Hope you will remember it for many years.

Great article - I've never heard of this before but I'm planning a trip to Japan next year so I'll definitely be investing in one. I wish more countries offered passes like this.

This post is so useful! Thanks so much. I've heard some talk about the JR Pass but never actually received any legitimate, useful info. I'll definitely be getting a pass when I finally get to visit Japan!

Ooh, sounds very useful. When I travel Japan I usually island hop, though I've heard the pass is so great for quick easy travel in one place. May have to plan for it next time I go! :)

So helpful! Bookmarking this as we head back to Tokyo and Osaka next month! The rail pass can seem a bit overwhelming so this is great!

Thanks for the boatload of info, Cory! I had dismissed the JR Pass because I wasn't sure if it could be used within certain cities, but after reading this it feels like we should do the math properly. We are going to Tokyo, Hakuba, Kyoto and then Osaka so perhaps a 2 week pass would be worth it!

It seems pretty affordable for a week pass and a great way to get around! I'll certainly bookmark this for when I get to Japan this year.

vishal
vishal

thanks for sharing nice information blog about japan rail pass

Abhishek Mathur
Abhishek Mathur

Thanks for sharing a good post about the Japan rail pass, keep writing and sharing.

Frank Hall
Frank Hall

Thank you for sharing such useful information with us! For those who are planning to have a trip in Japan, they really need to know the railway of Japan beforehand.

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