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JR Pass - Things You Need To Know Before Buying

JR Pass - Things You Need To Know Before Buying

Travelling around Japan may be cheaper and more convenient with the Japan Rail Pass, a joint offering of the six companies comprising the Japan Railway Group (JR Group). Only foreigners, who stay in Japan for 15 days or 90 days with a temporary visa, can purchase the pass online or through an authorized travel agency. The pass can also be used by Japanese nationals with permanent residence outside of Japan or who have a spouse that lives outside of Japan.

You will receive a voucher after purchasing it, and once in Japan, you have to exchange the voucher for your train ticket at JR offices in airports and main train stations. When you exchange for the pass, you don’t need to use the pass right from the same date. You can select any date within a month as your starting date and it will be valid for consecutive days. The pass cannot be shared or transferred.

How much does a Japan Rail Pass cost?

JR Pass - Things You Need To Know Before Buying
Photo by fletcherjcm

There are two types of the pass: first-class (Green) and standard class (Ordinary). Green Pass holders are allowed to sit down in Green cars with spacious seats and advanced board service.









7 days

38,880 yen

19,440 yen

29,110 yen

14,550 yen

14 days

62,950 yen

31,470 yen

46,390 yen

23,190 yen

21 days

81,870 yen

40,930 yen

59,350 yen

29,670 yen

What Are The Advantages of Buying a Japan Rail Pass?

JR Pass - Things You Need To Know Before Buying
Photo by Takashi K. A

The pass really pays off. First, it can save you a lot of money during your stay in Japan. You can use it to get on almost all trains operated in the nationwide network of the Japan Railways (JR), including shinkansen, limited express, express, rapid and local trains. It is also valid on local buses operated by JR.

If you travel around Japan, you certainly need it to save your traveling cost. For example, the regular one-way shinkansen fare from Tokyo to Kyoto is 13,080 yen by non-reserved seat on any train and around 13,500 yen by reserved seat on Hikari bullet train. A 7-day ordinary JR Pass costs nearly the same for a regular round trip ticket. Besides, with the pass, you also can take the Narita Express from the Narita International Airport in Tokyo.

Second, it helps you save much time. You don’t need to queue up to purchase train tickets and looking for small change each time you take a train. There is also a special lane for JR Pass holders so you only need to show the pass to attendants at the turnstiles and board the next train.

Finally, you will get discounts at JR affiliated hotels such as the Metropolitan, Mets, and Granvia hotels, which are often located near or inside train stations. However, the discount rates online may be as good or better.

When the JR Pass isn’t the best option

JR Pass - Things You Need To Know Before Buying
Photo by Tim Adams

The pass can be very cost effective and convenient if you plan to get around Japan for a few days with one night stop in every place. However, it becomes too expensive and less convenient if you intend to stay in and around a city and your itinerary does not involve many bullet train journeys.

Moreover, you cannot make any reservations on trains until you have arrived in Japan. During the busy travel period, some trains are fully booked, so it is difficult for you to secure a seat or sit together if you travel in groups.
You should use the timetable website Hyperdia to calculate regular ticket prices and compare them with the price of a JR Pass.

Can I use the Japan Rail Pass to travel on local trains and city metro systems?

JR Pass - Things You Need To Know Before Buying
Photo by Manish Prabhune

Yes and No. You can ride almost JR trains with the pass including the Hikari bullet train. Remember that it does not work on the fastest Nozomi and Mizuho bullet trains, which make stops at large cities.

There are various companies running subways and private lines along with the state-run lines. You only can use your JR pass in a few trains in big cities. For example, you only can get on all trains on JR Yamanote Line, JR Chuo Line, and JR Narita Express Line in Toko and JR Osaka Loop Line in Osaka. In several cities like Kyoto, subways and buses are more convenient but not covered by the PR Pass.

It is worth to have a JR Pass for long journeys in Japan but expensive for short trips in and around cities. Therefore, consider carefully before making the purchase.


My name’s Catherine, you can call me Kate. I love animals, writing and travelling.I started my Asian journey since 2003; and I have been nearly 20 countries so far. The more I go, the more I fall in love with this incredible continent. It has a unique beauty and distinctive culture that never fully explored. This’s why there are many countries I still keep coming back over and over again. I’m here to share with you my fun, sad or even scared memory on my backpacking trails. Hope it works on you!

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