JR Rail Pass

Japan Rail Pass: costs, when it pays, how it works

The Japan Rail Pass is a pass for convenient travel from one city to another in Japan, saving on the high ticket price, of the highly efficient trains.

Who can buy it

It is designed for non-Japanese tourists who travel to Japan as “temporary visitors.”

This wording (“Temporary Visitor”) is very important because the pass will not be issued to those who do not have this stamp in their passport (applied by immigration officers upon arrival in Japan).

Therefore, only those who are traveling without work visas and stay a maximum of 90 days in Japan can take advantage of this useful and convenient pass.

People of Japanese nationality can also purchase the japan rail pass, but under two conditions: they must be residents outside Japan for at least 10 years and they must have a certificate issued by the Italian embassy affirming, precisely, their residence in Italy for the required years.

What the JRP includes: trains and buses included

With the Japan Rail Pass you can use all Japan Railways vehicles, including shinkansen (bullet trains), except for two shinkansen lines: NOZOMI and MIZUHO.

Also included are:

the urban railway lines, thus including the JR Yamanote Line, Chuo/Sobu Line in Tokyo;
JR shuttle bus services to and from the airport;
Narita Express to Narita, Tokyo’s main airport;
Monorail to Haneda;
Haruka train to Kansai (Osaka);
JR ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima and vice versa.
You can also take the following local JR Bus lines for free:

JR Hokkaido Bus;
JR Bus Tohoku;
JR Bus Kanto;
JR Tokai Bus;
West Japan JR Bus;
Chugoku JR Bus;
JR Kyushu Bus (except express buses).
What the JRP does not include: non-JR trains and subway.

All lines of companies other than Japan Rail, unless indicated on the official JRpass website.
The subway in Tokyo, Kyoto (and other cities, if they do not belong to the JR company). In Tokyo, the subway lines are from 2 companies, “Tokyo Metro” and “Toei.” Along with the subway, other JR lines, such as the Yamanote Line and the Chūo-Sōbu Line, these included in the JRpass, also run at the same frequency.
Japan Rail Pass: when it pays off. My opinion.

Purchasing the Japan Rail Pass is recommended for those planning several stops in Japan and long distance.

Here is an example of an itinerary for which the Japan Rail Pass is needed:

Tokyo (4 or more days)
Tokyo – Kyoto (7-day japan rail pass activation)
Kyoto – excursion to Nara
Kyoto – excursion to Hiroshima
Kyoto – return to Tokyo
Tokyo – flight to Italy (last day of jrpass validity, to be used for train to Narita or Haneda)
Let’s examine the costs without the pass:

the Tokyo – Kyoto round trip route costs ¥27,200, about €220;
the Kyoto – Nara a/r route costs ¥1420 with the Jr Nara line, about €12;
the Kyoto – Hiroshima a/r route costs ¥22,180, or about €179
Tokyo – Narita Airport: ¥3,020
Total: ¥53,820, or €434

A 7-day Japan rail pass costs ¥29,110 (currently €209), you would then have a savings of over €190; I say over because I have not calculated the Jr lines you would use within Kyoto and Tokyo.

Another, very simple example is an itinerary that touches Tokyo and Kyoto:

Tokyo (number of days of your choice)
Tokyo – transfer to Kyoto: ¥13,600
Kyoto – visit to fushimi inari + Nara: ¥1520
Kyoto – visit to bamboo forest: ¥480
Kyoto – return to Tokyo: ¥13,600
Tokyo – Narita Airport: ¥3,020 with Narita Express
Total: ¥32,220, or €246 (I save with the pass at least about €30)

What if I arrive in Tokyo and depart from Kyoto?
In this case, the pass is only worthwhile if you have expensive excursions planned, for example:
Tokyo and excursion to Hakone and Nikko, Kyoto and excursion to Nara, or Kanazawa, or Himeji or any other small town.

It is not worthwhile if you only have to stay in one town or Tokyo and surroundings (excursion to Nikko, Kamakura), or if you only have to make a transfer to Kyoto, without returning to Tokyo and without making expensive excursions from Kyoto, such as to Hiroshima.

How much does a Japan Rail Pass cost?

The price in euros varies every week.

For children ages 6 to 11, the cost is less than half.

Cost of shipping to Italy €15.00 by express courier.

🚚 Shipping in 1 business day, delivery 1-2 days, maximum 4 days to Islands.

How to change the Japan Rail Pass

Once you arrive in Japan, you will go to one of the many exchange offices (Exchange Offices), also found at airports, to change the voucher into the actual pass.

Many prefer to exchange it at the airport as soon as you arrive, but I recommend that you evaluate based on the line, fatigue, and the day of first use.

If you don’t have to activate it right away, you can put it off until the next day at a more leisurely pace.

At Narita Airport, find an exchange office in each terminal, but they observe different hours.

There are two offices in Terminal 1:

  • JR EAST Travel Service Center 8:15 a.m.-7:00 p.m;
  • Ticket Office 6:30-8:15 am, 7:00-9:45 pm.

At Terminal 2 and 3 you will find:

  • JR EAST Travel Service Center 8:15 a.m.-8:00 p.m;
  • Ticket Office hours 6:30-8:15 a.m., 8 p.m.-9:45 p.m.

At Osaka Kansai Airport there is only one office and you will almost always find a long line.

The Ticket Office observes the following hours: 5:30-23:00.

In this list you will find all the exchange offices in Japan and their opening hours, so you can plan when to change the exchange order according to your needs.

Vouchers must be exchanged within 3 months of issue.

At the exchange office you will decide the date from which you will activate the JRP (within 30 days of the voucher exchange) by filling out a form given to you by the attendant.

 On the form you will need to indicate:

your first and last name
your nationality
your passport number
the first day of use of the pass (first day of use). 
This can be the same day or another day up to the 30th day from the time of completion.
a contact in Japan, which can be the name of the hotel where you are staying.
Once you hand in the form, you will be given the Japan Rail Pass ready for use.

How the Japan Rail Pass works

To use the trains without a seat, all you have to do is show the pass to the attendant you find at the station turnstiles.

It is not compulsory to reserve a seat and on many trains there is not even a reservation, for example on some “Rapid Service” trains.

Seat reservation is required on the Shinkansen (e.g., the Tokyo – Kyoto route, Kyoto – Kanazawa, etc.), on the Narita Express to the airport, and on the Haruka to the Kansai airport if you want to travel seated.

In any case, seat reservation is free with the JRpass.

To reserve it, you have to go to the Jr Ticket Office or Midori no Madoguchi, which means green counter, and tell the attendant your destination and train schedule.

There will be a monitor where you can also see the departing trains.

You can go to the office before you get on the train (if there is no line), otherwise go to the station 40 minutes before, so you don’t have to rush through everything.

You will be given a ticket that you need to keep with you to eventually show to the conductor.

You can also book them in the days before if you want to schedule the excursions by leaving at set times, planning them through Navitime.

Remember to always carry your passport along with your JRPass.

Pass activation

Pass activation is the date from which the validity of the pass begins.

You will have to choose the activation day when you exchange your voucher at one of the offices.

The activation date of the pass must not exceed 30 days from the date you pick up the JRP.

Why purchase it on japantours-switzerland

  1. Dreaming of Japan is affiliated with an official reseller of the JR pass, one of the leading Japanese agencies in the world
  2. Best price
  3. You can ask me for advice on which pass is best for your trip before you buy it
  4. You will receive complimentary:
    📖 my “Japan in 2 Weeks” pdf guidebook, a detailed itinerary and useful information about your trip to Japan
    🗺 A Map of Tokyo on google maps with restaurants, hotels and points of interest

✅ After purchase, contact me to receive all your itinerary tips, Tokyo map, and PDF itinerary by email.

Frequently asked questions about the Japan Rail Pass

Can I purchase the Japan Rail Pass directly in Japan?

No, it is only possible to purchase it abroad.

Is the pass refundable?

If you have not exchanged the voucher for the pass, returning the voucher within 1 year from the date of issuance will give you a full or partial refund.

Can I make advance reservations for seats on trains?

No. You will only be able to do so in Japan.

Can I also use the Shinkansen trains?

Yes, except for the Nozomi and MIZUHO which are not included.

Is Narita Express included in the JRP?

Yes, Narita Express is included in the pass.

Up to how many days before departure can I purchase the JRpass?

The express courier takes about 2 business days to deliver the vouchers (in the islands 4 days).

The agency ships after receiving credit to the account, within 1 business day.

To be on the safe side, I recommend purchasing passes at least two weeks before departure, but in exceptional cases, even up to a week before.