How to use the Japan Rail Pass
Japan Rail Pass can be used by foreigners who stay for a short period in Japan for sightseeing purposes and some overseas resident Japanese. It can be used in the following procedure.
Purchase a voucher before departure
First of all, please buy a voucher for Japan Rail Pass in your country. It can be purchased by travel agents such as JTB, JAL, ANA etc. Recently, the Japan Rail Pass has been sold even in Japan, but it is a little expensive in Japan.
As shown in the above table, the Japan Rail Pass has some types.
Green car (first class), ordinary car (economy)
7-day, 14-day, 21-day
Japan Rail Pass can be used throughout Japan.
Receive Japan Rail Pass in Japan
Always bring a voucher when you go to Japan. And please exchange the voucher and Japan Rail Pass at the counter of JR ‘s main station. At that time, you are asked to present your passport.
>> Please refer here for the exchange points of Japan Rail Pass
Book Shinkansen etc.
When you receive the Japan Rail Pass, you can receive designated tickets such as Shinkansen at the JR station. If you present Japan Rail Pass with a counter called “Midori no Madoguchi”, you can receive it without any additional fee. If you use the free seat, you just show the Japan Rail Pass at the ticket gate. In addition, you can use JR ‘s various trains and buses. When you ride the train, please show your Japan rail pass to the station staff at the ticket gate.
Points to note when using the Japan Rail Pass
When you purchase the Japan Rail Pass, please note the following.
There are Shinkansen lines that can not ride
When you use the Japan Rail Pass, you can not use “Nozomi” (Tokyo Station – Hakata Station) and “Mizuho” (Shin Osaka Station – Kagoshima Chuo Station).
“Nozomi” and “Mizuho” are the fastest Shinkansen, so the charge is a bit high. Still crowded all the time. So I understand to some extent excluding them in the Japan Rail Pass. However, I would like guests from abroad to get on “Nozomi”!
Meanwhile, you can get on the fastest Tohoku / Hokkaido Shinkansen “Hayabusa” (Tokyo Station – New Hakodate Hokuto Station) by Japan Rail Pass.
Subways and private railways are excluded
Even if you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can not ride on subways or private railways. If you ride them, you need to pay another fee each time.
If you ride a JR sleeper train, in that case as well, you will need an additional fee.
Advance reservation is difficult
You can not receive the Japan Rail Pass until you come to Japan. You can only receive vouchers. For this reason, before you leave for Japan, basically you can not pre-book Shinkansen etc.
Shinkansen is very crowded in the next period. Shinkansen tickets are released one month before riding. For the next period, it may be sold out simultaneously with release. Then, you have to use the very crowded free seat.
When Shinkansen is especially crowded
April 27th through May 6th
August 11 th through 20 th
December 28th through January 6th
If you travel Japan in the above period, you should reserve Shinkansen tickets in advance. If you use the Japan Rail Pass, it seems better to collect information on how to pre-book.
How to reserve in advance when using Japan Rail Pass
JR ‘s Shinkansen and Regular Express’ s limited express tickets are released one month before getting on board. Recently, several overseas services have started to allow you to book these tickets.
If you use the Japan Rail Pass, you can not basically book in advance. You have to make a reservation after you arrive in Japan. However, for some Shinkansen and Regular Express, even if you use the Japan Rail Pass, you can book in advance by using JR East’s reservation site below.
>> Click here for official website of JT East Japan Train reservation
>> Please also look at this page when using Japan Rail Pass
I will introduce this site at the explanation of the Shinkansen below.
Rail pass that can be used in limited areas
JR is divided into several companies for each area. Each company also offers a rail path that can be used only in its own area. If you travel around only some areas, these rail passes may be more suitable. Child fee is half price as same as Japan Rail Pass (In some cases more discounted). The contents of each company’s pass may be changed. Please check the official website from the links below for the latest information.
Hokkaido Rail Pass
|Flexible 4 days
“Flexible 4 days” is a type that can be used for 4 days out of the 10-day validity period.
>> The official website of Hokkaido Rail Pass is here
JR East Pass
|Nagano, Nigata Area
you can use this pass on any 5 days within a 14-day period starting with the date of purchase or exchange in Japan. This pass is for ordinary car only. It can also be used with some private railways, such as the limited express of Tobu Railway. It is a little expensive if you buy it in Japan.
>> The official website of JR East Pass is here
Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass
JR East and JR West jointly provide Tokyo – Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass. Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass is for people who travel around Tokyo and Osaka using the Hokuriku Shinkansen running on the Japan Sea side. By using this pass, you can ride, for example, on the Narita express regular seat designated seat connecting Narita Airport and Tokyo, the regular car designated seat of the Hokuriku Express “Thunderbird” . You can also ride on the free seats of “Haruka” ordinary car connecting Kansai Airport and Osaka. The fee for this pass is also slightly higher if you buy it in Japan.
>> Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku The official website of Arch Pass is here
JR Central provides the above four types of paths. The validity period is 5 days (only Mt. Fuji-Shizuoka Area is 3 days). In any case, you can get on express train ordinary free seats and regular trains. In “Takayama / Hokuriku area”, “Ise · Kumano · Wakayama area” you can use the designated seat up to 4 times, and in the “Takayama / Hokuriku area” you can get on the Hokuriku Shinkansen (Toyama – Kanazawa). In each case, a separate charge is required to get on the Tokaido Shinkansen. The fee for this pass is also slightly higher if you buy it in Japan.
>> The official website of Tourist Pass is here
JR West Rail Pass
||1 Day, 2 Days, 3 Days, 4 Days
|Kansai Wide Area
JR West offers nine different passes. These passes are for ordinary car only. For details, please see the official website below. With some passes including Shinkansen, you can also ride “Nozomi” “Mizuho” which you can not ride with Japan Rail Pass. The fee for this pass is also slightly higher if you buy it in Japan.
>> The official website of JR West Rail Pass is here
ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass
JR Shikoku offers ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass. This pass is also for ordinary car only. With this pass you can ride on the regular seats and designated seats of express or ordinary trains on JR Shikoku (including Kojima station) and Tosa Kuroshio railway all lines. You can also get on the Asa Coast Railway, Takamatsu Kotohira Electric Railway, Iyo Railway, Tosaden. The fee for this pass is also slightly higher if you buy it in Japan.
>> The official website of ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass is here
JR Kyushu Rail Pass
|All Kyushu Area Pass
||3 Days, 5 Days
|Northern Kyushu Area Pass
||3 Days, 5 Days
|Shouthern Kyushu Area Pass
JR Kyushu offers JR ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass. This pass is also for ordinary car only. This pass has four types, Kyushu as a whole, northern Kyushu, southern Kyushu, Fukuoka. There are restrictions on the number of times you can use the designated ticket.
>> The official website of JR ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass is here
>> The commentary page is here
>> The commentary page of Fukuoka Wide Pass is here
The official website of “Japan Rail Pass” is below. There is a button to select the language on the upper right of the page.
>> Please see the official website for details of “Japan Rail Pass”
Shinkansen (Bullet train)
show: Please click this button to see the detailed contents
The Shinkansen is a super express that runs at over 200 km / h. In some sections such as the Tohoku Shinkansen, the maximum speed has reached 320 kilometers.
In Japan, Shinkansen's railway network is expanding. The total extended distance is about 3000 km. There are about 110 stations in all of the stations where the bullet train stops. And Shinkansen is operating very accurately according to the schedule organized in seconds.
Of course, if you travel long distances such as moving from Tokyo to Sapporo, you'd better use the airplane. However, the Shinkansen runs the stations in the center of the major cities very quickly and accurately. So, as you move from Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka, Sendai etc, you will be able to move comfortably faster by Shinkansen than using an airplane.
How to reserve Shinkansen in advance
As I already mentioned, for Shinkansen, a designated ticket will be released one month before the ride day. If you want to book Shinkansen in English by using the internet in your country before you go to Japan, please try the following two online reservations. However, there are various constraints on both of them.
JR East train reservation
>> The site of JR East train reservation is here
>> Please read these notes
>> Please also read this page when using Japan Rail Pass
By using this website, you can make advance reservation of Shinkansen. However, on this website you can not book the Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen, and the Kyushu Shinkansen.
Once you book in advance, you must receive the ticket by 21 o'clock (Japan Standard Time) the day before the boarding day. Where you can receive tickets are major JR East stations, JR Hokkaido stations, and Kanazawa and Toyama stations on the JR West area.
Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen Reservation App "EX"
>> The commentary page of this application "EX" is here
JR Central and JR West offer "Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen Reservation App EX" which you can pre-book Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen. Unfortunately, the area where this application can be used is limited. This app is currently available in the US, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan. For details, refer to the explanation page above.
How to book and purchase Shnkansen tickets in Japan
If you book and purchase Shinkansen tickets after arriving in Japan, you should use counters such as stations and travel agencies. The main stations of JR have ticket sales offices named "Midori no Madoguchi" (meaning green window in Japanese). You may buy there.
If you use Japan Rail Pass, please see here on this page.
There are also ticket vending machines in addition to the counters at the JR stations. With these ticket vending machines, you can buy tickets in English if you press the button to select English first. Both credit cards and cash can be used with these ticket vending machines. I think that the above YouTube video will be helpful.