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Japan Rail Pass

When traveling in Japan, buying a ticket for a single train journey can be quite expensive. Good news for foreigners, a Japan Rail Pass is highly likely to save you a lot of money, even if you’re just taking a couple of train journeys. Moreover, the easy-to-use pass can also save you a lot of hassle on your trip. You don't need to worry about buying tickets. Just show the pass to board the available train.

What Is a Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail Pass, also known as the JR Pass, is a discounted rail pass for overseas visitors which allows you to ride any train operated by Japan Railways (with just a few exceptions) at any time without having to pay for tickets for a period of a week, two weeks and three weeks.

The Japan Rail Pass covers the majority of rail routes of the country and gives you unlimited travel on all types of JR trains including shinkansen (high-speed trains), limited express, express, rapid and local trains, even the Narita Express between the Narita Airport and Tokyo. The pass can also be used on certain JR buses and ferries.

japan rail pass

Japan Rail Pass Types

Depending on the class of service, the Japan Rail Pass comes in two varieties, ordinary Pass (for standard class) and Green Pass (for first class). Depending on the duration of the service, the Japan Rail Pass can be classified as three types: 7-day pass, 14-day pass and 21-day pass.

Green Car Pass

  • The green car pass entitles you to ride in the Green Car on JR trains.
  • Green Cars are first-class cars. They are available on shinkansen trains and limited express trains.
  • Green Cars seats have 2+2 (2+1 on some trains) configuration, thus provide more leg room and elbow room than ordinary cars and the seats are of course more comfortable.
  • Green Cars are tend to be quieter.
  • Green Car seats need to be reserved in advance at the JR ticket office. Reserving seats are free of charge.

ordinary seats on shinkansen

Ordinary Car Pass

  • Ordinary cars are the equivalent of second class of high standard. They can be found on all JR trains on shinkansen lines and classic lines.

  • The pice of an ordinary pass is about 75% of a green pass.

  • There are 3 seats arranged in each row. 2 seats in one side and 3 seats on the other side of the aisle. Compared with green car seats, ordinary car seats are slightly cramped. But they are more spacious than seats on an airplane.

  • The ordinary car pass enables you to take any reserved and non-reserved seats on ordinary cars. This gives you more flexibility, as you can just hop on an non-reserved carriage on any available train without having to reserve a seat in advance. In most times, finding a seat on a non-reserved carrigae is not a problem. But during the holidays, it would be better to reserve your seat beforehand.

green car on shinkansen

Japan Rail Pass Prices


Green Car Pass

Ordinary Car Pass






7 days

39,600 yen (US$364)

19,800 yen (US$182)

29,650 yen (US$273)

14,820 yen (US$136)

14 days

64,120 yen (US$590)

32,060 yen (US$295)

47,250 yen (US$435)

23,620 yen (US$217)

21 days

83,390 yen (US$767)

41,690 yen (US$384)

60,450 yen (US$556)

30,220 yen (US$278)

*Children from 6 to 11 years old are eligible for child fares, which are half of the full prices listed in the table.

Eligibility for Use

Who Can Buy Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass is for overseas travelers sold by JR Group. Only those who meet the corresponding qualifications can buy and use JR Passes. If you don't meed one of the qualifications below, even if you have the Exchange Order, you are not able to get the pass.

1. Foreign travelers who are visiting Japan from aboard for sightseeing for a short period of time and have obtained a Japanese Tourist Visa

2. Japanese people who permanently reside in other countries, and have been living in other countries for at least 10 years. Legal proof documents are required when purchasing and exchanging the pass.

Can I Use the JR Pass to Take all Trains in Japan?

You can't use a Japan Rail Pass on trains operated by private rail companies, only lines operated by one of the six JR companies. Japan Rail Pass covers all JR trains except Nozomi and Mizuho trains on Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu shinkansen lines. These are the fastest trains with the fewest stops only at large stations. But the second fastest train that the pass covers, Hikari trains, are just a few minutes slower than Nozomi and Mizuho trains.

How to Buy a Japan Rail Pass

Where can I buy the JR Pass? Is buying the JR Pass complicated? Where can I buy the JR Pass? Can I buy the pass when I was in Japan? Read on to find out more information

Where to Buy the JR Pass?

JR Pass can only be bought in your home country before you arrive into Japan. You cannot buy a JR Pass once you are in Japan.

Travel agencies in many countries sell Japan Rail Pass. It is a better idea to purchase the pass online before leaving for Japan. You can order a Japan Rail Pass online at the official site www.jrailpass.com. The website has choices of multiple languages and easy to use.

Steps for Buying a Japan Rail Pass Online

1. Order your pass online:

Follow the instructions on the website to complete the ordering steps and forward the payment. You need to fill in your passport number and email address to finish the ordering steps. After the payment is completed, a confirmation letter will be sent to your email address. With this email, you can track the delivery status of your Exchange Order.

2. Receive your Exchange Order

You can choose to have the Exchange Order be sent to your hotel in Japan, or your address in your home country. Free delivery applies to a few countries. Please note if there is any extra charge for delivery to your country when you make the booking. Please note that this is not the real JR Pass. You need to obtain the actual pass with this Exchange Order.

3. Exchange your order for the JR Pass

When you are in Japan, go to any of the JR Exchange Offices which are located in major train stations. Show your Exchange Order and your passport (with the touist visa stamp) to exchange your order for the actual JR Pass. There is an exchange counter in Narita Airport for exchanging the pass.

4. Ride the train with the pass

With the actual JR Pass, you can take almost any JR trains at you want. If you have the Green Pass, remember to reserve your seats in advance at the JR Office (you can do this when you exchange your order).

use japan rail pass to take a shinkansen train

How to Use Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass is a great value for money and makes getting around Japan by train easy and convenient. You don't need to queue up to buy ticket for a particular train route, which saves you a lot of time and hassle. With the pass, you don't need to buy any other train tickets. You can travel as often as you want during the validity period.

At each entrance in all JR train stations, there is a separated passage exclusively for JR Pass holders. There you simply show your pass and passport then you can walk through. The pass and your passport might be checked again when you board the train.

You can reserve seat for free with your JR Pass. Whether you have Ordinary Pass or Geen pass, you can reserve your seat in advance. If you are in a hurry, or you simply want more flexibility, take the Ordinary Pass to hop on any available train.

How to validate your JR Pass: You can validate your pass at any JR Ticket Office, which can be found in many major train stations in Japan. You can activate your pass at any time, and the start day of your pass doesn't have to be the day you activate it. You can deside the start date of your pass. But it needs to be within 30 days after the exchange. The day you activate your pass counts as start day.

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