Japan is one of the most exciting destinations in the world and for people traveling to the country to see all of the sights, the JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) is the easiest and most convenient way to discover Japan!
When planning a trip to Japan and wondering how you’re going to get around, a Japan Railway Pass (JR Pass) is valid for not just Tokyo but the whole of Japan too.
These JR Passes are only available to visitors to the country and offer unlimited travel on all of the Japan Railway networks, bus and ferry routes, and can be personalized to suit your holiday duration and travel needs while there.
The only downside to the JR Pass can be the complications in acquiring one, there are some limitations in place and lots to think about when looking to purchase one, however, because the benefits of these far outweigh the process of purchasing one, this JR Rail Pass guide is here to make it all a little bit easier and a little clearer to help you on your travels.
Have you got travel insurance for Japan? I know that nobody likes to talk about this stuff but accidents can happen and having World Nomads Insurance can save you thousands of dollars if something goes wrong.
JR PASS – WHAT’S INCLUDED
Japan’s extensive railways and bullet trains mean you can now explore the country in a very fast and easy manner, moving from city to city in a relatively straight forward way.
Japan Railways has over 15,000 miles of railway lines that cover nearly all of the country.
A JR Pass gives you unlimited access to these railways during your visit to Japan and can be personalized for the length of your stay, the areas you are looking to travel in and whether you want Ordinary or Green Car travel (Green Car being a 1st class equivalent).
A JR Pass gives access to nearly all trains that operate on Japan Railway lines as well as some buses, the JR ferry to Miyajima, Tokyo monorail and selected non-JR trains in the more remote areas.
The full list of what can be included in your JR Pass are:
- All JR Shinkansen, Limited Express, Express, Rapid, local trains and the BRT (with some exceptions).
- Tokyo Monorail
- Aomori Railway between Aomori and Hachinohe, Aomori and Noheji, and Hachinohe and Noheji.
- IR Ishikawa Railway between Kanazawa and Tsubata.
- Ainokaze Toyama Railway between Toyama and Takaoka.
- Local JR Buses: JR Hokkaido Buses, JR Bus Tohuku, JR Bus Kanto, JR Tokai Bus, West Japan JR Bus, Chugoku JR Bus, JR Shikoku Bus, JR Kyushu Bus.
- JR-West Miyajima Ferry.
RELATED ARTICLE: 7 DAY JAPAN ITINERARY
Japan Rail Pass
How to use your JR Pass
WHICH JR PASS TO BUY
JR Passes can be ordered to suit you, customizing the length of your stay, the areas in which you wish to travel and the level of comfort you want onboard.
The most common Japan Rail Passes to purchase are for 7 days, 14 days or 21 days.
CHECK NOW → JR PASS PRICE
The Ordinary Car or Green Car option is the difference between standard travel and first-class travel, however, the standard cars are comfortable for long-distance travel with plenty of room and come with a charge port and Green Car JR passes can cost up to 50% more.
You can also purchase for your area of travel – they offer a JR Tokyo Pass for just Tokyo and also regional ones such as; JR West Rail Pass for West Japan, JR East Rail Pass for East Japan, JR Kansai Pass for Kansai, JR Pass Hokkaido for Hokkaido, JR Passes for Central Japan and Shikoku, or you can buy a whole Japan Rail Pass to access them all.
Shinkansen (Bullet Train) in Japan
Underground trains in Japan
WHERE TO BUY THE JAPAN RAIL PASS
You can purchase a JR Pass online through an official Japan Rail Pass reseller and I recommend using Klook.
Klook tends to have some great discounts and the best deals for purchasing a Japan Train Pass.
Klook also offers a voucher scheme where you can collect your Exchange Order from a Klook Office in Japan, however, it is recommended that you have an Exchange Order delivered to your home before you travel as it saves the hassle of having to find the Klook office once in the country as well as the JR Office to obtain your actual pass.
Klook can mail exchange orders to Australia, USA, United Kingdom, Canada, India and most European countries.
There are three steps to purchasing a JR Pass, these are:
- Purchase JR Pass online before you travel.
- Receive an Exchange Order in the post before you travel.
- Trade your Exchange Order for a JR Pass once you arrive in Japan.
One of the main things to remember when ordering your JR Pass online is that the details you enter must match your passport exactly. When changing your Exchange Order for your pass they will require your passport as proof of ID and if the two do not match exactly you may be denied your pass.
The other piece of documentation you will need to obtain your Japan Rail Passes is proof of your tourist visa, this is easily proved with the stamp in your passport when entering the country. Just make sure you use a manned gate when entering the country rather than the electronic gates or ask a clerk to stamp your passport for you.
With all of this in place, your JR Railway Pass can be collected from any JR ticket office, a list of their locations can be found on japanrailpass.net but please check the opening times as they are not 24 hours.
JR Pass Ticket Office
Exchanging the voucher for a JR Pass
PURCHASING YOUR JR PASS ONLINE WITH KLOOK
Here is a quick guide on how to buy JR Pass online with Klook:
- Select your pass type, seat, class and exchange order collection preferences.
- Select ‘date of departure to Japan’ if you are choosing to have your Exchange Order delivered to your home, or ‘date of pick up’ if you are choosing to collect your Exchange Order from a Klook office.
- Select your ticket quantity. A child is classed between ages 6 and 11. Children under 5 are free if they are with a ticket holding adult and will sit on the lap of said adult, if you would like your child to have a seat to themselves a child pass will need to be purchased for them.
- Review your booking details. Once confirmed click ‘more info required’.
- Enter shipping address and name/contact details of the recipient.
- Enter the information of each traveler who will use the JR Japan Pass – remember that the info entered here must match your passport details exactly to obtain your pass once in Japan.
CHECK NOW ON KLOOK → JR PASS PRICE
REDEEMING YOUR JR PASS IN JAPAN
To redeem your pass once in Japan, see these easy to follow steps:
- Make sure you have purchased your JR Pass
- Collect your Exchange Order (either delivered to your home or from a Klook Office in Japan)
- Get a temporary visitors stamp at Japan immigration when entering the country.
- Go to any Japan Rail-Pass office and present your Exchange Order and passport to get your actual JR Pass.
- Select your start date (this must be within 30 days from redemption date) and reserve your seats if you require this service.
- Use the JR Pass on the date you selected. Please be aware that you cant use the JR Pass on the automatic gates, you must go through manned gates when entering the station and it is advised to carry your passport with you as you may be asked to provide ID to go with your pass.
Clear signage at the JR Pass Ticket Offices
Fill in this JR Pass Form in Japan
Receiving the JR Pass
JAPAN RAIL PASS – THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR ORDER
JR Passes have to be purchased online before you travel, these can not be bought once in the country and you need to allow enough time for your Exchange Order to be mailed to you before you depart on your travels.
Your Exchange Order is the document you need to exchange for your actual pass once in the country so it is vital that you receive this document.
These usually take around 7 business days to arrive but some travelers have received theirs in as little as 3 business days.
Your train pass for Japan can be paid for online up to 90 days before you travel, however, the Japan JR Pass has a 90-day expiry so you are best to look into ordering them between 6 and 8 weeks before you travel to allow some leeway on collection dates once arriving in Japan.
The main things to think about before ordering your JR Pass are;
- Do you have enough time to receive your Exchange Order in the post? (takes at least 7 business days)
- Are you traveling to Japan within the next 90 days? (vouchers can only be redeemed within 90 days of confirmation date, it is recommended you book these about six weeks before your travel date)
- Are you eligible for a JR Pass? (you cant purchase one on a business or work visa or if you are a Japanese citizen)
- Do you have a temporary visitor visa? (proof obtained from Japanese immigration when entering the country when they stamp your passport)
Train station scene in Japan
IS A JAPAN RAIL PASS WORTH IT?
The Japan Rail Pass is definitely worth it and it’s the best ticket to have when planning your Japan itinerary!
Japan is one of my absolute favorite countries to visit, and definitely the kind of place you could spend months exploring. But don’t worry – if you only have a short time frame to visit, seeing Japan in a few weeks with the use of a JR Railway Pass is totally possible!
Whether you’re looking for a diverse range of amazing food, beautiful scenery, or unique cultural experiences, every region in this breathtaking country has something different to offer!
I hope this guide of how to use your railway pass in Japan has made the process a little easier to understand and make sense of.
If you have any questions at all about how to use your JR Pass, where to buy a JR Pass or anything else of the like, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can!
CHECK NOW ON KLOOK → JR PASS PRICE
Bamboo Forest Kyoto – JR Pass
VISA FOR JAPAN
Japan is visa-free to travelers from over 65 countries and you can stay in Japan for up to 90 days on a tourist visa.
Click Here to see the full list of nationalities that are eligible for the free 90-day tourist visa.
You don’t need to apply online for this as you will be granted a 90-day tourist visa at the airport when you arrive.
BEST TIME TO VISIT JAPAN
The best time to visit Japan depends on what you plan to do. I personally prefer the spring and summer months in Japan (April – September) when temperatures are warm and the landscapes are vividly green.
However, visiting Japan in winter (December – March) is absolutely magical because the landscapes are completely covered in glistening white snow. Visiting Japan in winter also means you have to opportunity to go skiing and snowboarding in Japan’s alpine regions.
Visiting Hiroshima with the Japan Rail Pass
HELPFUL TIPS FOR JAPAN
The currency in Japan is Yen (¥) and the exchange rate is approximately $1 USD = 100 ¥.
Purchasing a sim card in Japan is very simple. You can do this at the airport on arrival or find a convenient store close to your accommodation. For approximately $40 USD, you can get a local sim card that comes with 10GB of data.
There are plenty of ATMs in Japan located in most convenient stores, in front of banks, inside hotels, etc. where you can easily withdraw cash to have with you during your 7 days in Japan.
I recommend purchasing a Hidden Money Belt to keep your cash out of sight, although the Japanese are the friendliest and most genuine people I have come across and the chances of being pick-pocketed are next to none.
Most Japanese people can speak English, so if you are ever lost or need help with something you will be able to converse in English. Also, all the signs at the airports, train stations, shopping malls, etc. are written in both Japanese and English.
Traditional Onsen bath in Japan
A great option when searching for accommodation in Japan is to stay in an Airbnb which generally has some great deals throughout the country!
WANT TO SAVE $$$ ON AIRBNB? GET MY AIRBNB MONEY SAVING GUIDE
MORE JAPAN TRAVEL GUIDES
- Japan: 7 Day Japan Itinerary
- Kyoto: 1 Day Kyoto Itinerary
- Tokyo: Tokyo Skytree Observation Deck
- Tohoku Region: 5 Days In Tohoku
- Tokushima Prefecture: 4 Days In Tokushima
- Hakuba: Best Hakuba Ski Resorts
WHAT TO PACK FOR JAPAN
Everyday Backpack: One of the best backpacks on the market! The Nomatic 20L Backpack is perfect for on the go adventures. Featuring multiple storage spaces for valuables, drink bottles, chargers, notebooks and more. This sleek backpack was designed for you.
Universal Power Adapter: Don’t leave home without one! I highly recommend getting this Universal Power Adapter so that you are able to charge all of your electronics when you’re on the road. Compatible in Asia, UK, Europe, Africa, USA, SA and Australia.
Hidden Money Belt: I never go on a trip without one! The best thing is they are always out of sight, hidden beneath your clothing. With RFID blocking, they are perfectly designed to keep your credit cards, cash and other valuables safe when you’re out adventuring!
Waterproof Phone Case: A waterproof phone case is a must-have item! This universal case will keep your phone safe from water damage, sand and scratches during your adventures. Suitable for all smartphone models.
Portable Charger: One of the best portable chargers on the market! The Anker Power Bank keeps your phone and accessories charged on those longer adventures. Featuring 2 USB charging ports, rechargeable battery, works with iPhone, iPad, Samsung, Oppo and Android.
Microfibre Travel Towel: To pack a towel or not to pack a towel? A standard bathroom towel can take up a lot of space in your travel bag. Get your hands on a quick-dry Microfibre Travel Towel which is perfect for the beach, backpacking, camping and general traveling.
Rain Jacket: A light-weight rain jacket is an absolute must when traveling! North Face waterproof rain jackets come in both men and women sizes, featuring a breathable mesh lining and adjustable hood that can be tucked away inside the collar.
Kindle: The best alternative for books! Kindle e-readers are perfect for long haul flights, reading on the beach or a quiet evening away from the bars. Kindle’s are waterproof with rechargeable batteries and adjustable light settings to suit indoor/outdoor conditions.
Packing Cubes: My favorite item in my backpack! Perfect for organizing your shirts, pants, jackets, socks, underwear and more. This 5 Set Packing Cubes makes packing easier and more efficient, adding extra space in your bag for your next trip.
Activated Charcoal Tablets: Want to avoid food poisoning? Most of us have been a victim of travelers diarrhea from eating street food. Organic Activated Charcoal Tablets are fast-acting and will rid your system of the bad bacteria that causes stomach upset.
MY CAMERA GEAR
Everyday Camera: The most affordable mirrorless camera on the market! I personally use the Sony A7ii Mirrorless Camera on all of my adventures. It’s compact, lightweight and super easy to use for all levels of photography. A 28-70mm Sony lens is also included.
Drone Camera: Take your photography to new heights! The DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone is at the top of the game when it comes to high-quality images and video, easy to control functions and traveler-friendly capabilities. I guarantee you won’t regret purchasing one.
GoPro Hero 8: One of the most popular cameras on the planet! I love using the GoPro Hero 8 for all of my underwater shots and fast-paced adventures. The GoPro Hero 8 captures the best moments with its wide range of functions that are very simple to use!
Camera Bag: My favorite camera bag I have ever owned! The Lowepro Protactic 450 AW II Camera Bag features a waterproof rain cover, drink bottle holder, padded compartments for cameras, drones, lenses, accessories and it also has a laptop pocket.
Selfie Stick: Everyone loves a good selfie, right!? The Sandmarc Metal Edition Selfie Stick is sleek, stylish and can extend to 1.2m. I find it much easier to take photos and videos with the GoPro when it is mounted to the Sandmarc Selfie Stick!
Camera Tripod: The Joby GorillaPod is suitable for all cameras. This tripod is easy to use and perfect for setting up a time-lapse video or even using it as a selfie stick. The legs are flexible so you can wrap it around a tree or a pole to get creative with your shot.
GoPro Dome: Have you ever wanted to capture those under/over water shots with the GoPro? This epic underwater GoPro dome housing is the best camera accessory to have to create the perfect 50/50 shot. I use mine every time I am in the ocean!
Memory Card: The best thing about SanDisk Extreme Pro is that it delivers maximum speed for images and videos. Having 64GB of storage means that you can store hundreds of files on this SD card for 2-3 days and not have to worry about running out of space.
External Hard Drive: As a photographer, my images and video files take up a lot of space on my MacBook so I use the WD Elements External Hard Drive to store everything. With 4TB worth of storage space, this is more than enough for 1 years worth of content.
ONLINE ENGLISH TEACHING
Do you want to travel full-time and get paid along the way?
Teaching English online is one of the easiest and most flexible jobs out there! Become a Digital Nomad, choose your own hours and work remotely from anywhere in the world by teaching English online. All you need is a laptop, good WiFi connection, a TEFL certificate and you’re good to go!
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