Japan Rail Pass user guide. How to use JR Pass to its maximum.

New look of JR Pass (Year 2018) (C) JR Rail

Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass) covers all JR lines throughout Japan. This is only rail pass that covers throughout Japan. If you travel even a round trip to Osaka from Tokyo, the price of 7-day pass almost equal to normal fare. I think this pass gives the greatest deal to the travellers who wants to travel in Japan.

Japan Rail Pass Official site is very informative. But some points are not clear. And it does not show you how to get the worth of this pass.

In this post, I tell you about this pass as simple as possible. I compare a regular fare and JR pass, how to choose the retailer, additional charge and many more.

How to buy

Basically only the authorized agents are allowed to sell JR Pass. You can find the agent list at this page of Japan Rail Pass official site. These following companies are major distributors:

  • JAL (Japan Airlines / National flagship)
  • ANA (All Nippon Airways / one of two major airlines)
  • JTB (Biggest travel agency in Japan)
  • NTA (Nippon Travel Agency / third biggest and the oldest travel agency in Japan)
  • KNT (Kintetsu International / same group as Kintetsu Railways. Second biggest travel agency)
  • Top Tour (Same group as Tokyu Railway)
  • JALPAK (Same group as Japan Airlines)

JAL and ANA sell the pass to the passenger who take their flight. You cannot purchase only the pass from them.

In these days, many companies have a contract with these above distributors. And they sell the pass online as a retailer. If you find the name on the list at the above link, it is an official retailer. If you cannot find it, you should check that company before you buy.

Currently you can purchase JR pass in Japan until the end of March, 2019. Please see the link below to find the details:

Official announcement about JR pass by JR group (PDF)

Types and prices

There are two types, Green and Ordinary, and three duration, 7, 14 and 21-day.

Type7-day14-day21-day
Ordinary29,110 yen46,390 yen59,350 yen
Green38,800 yen62,950 yen81,870 yen

*Child (6yrs to 11yrs) rate is 50% off.

When you purchase it, the rates are adjusted by your country’s currency.

Tokaido Shinkansen
If you have a round trip to Kyoto from Narita airport by the Tokaido Shinkansen and Narita Express, you can get the worth of 7 days JR pass.

This pass is eligible for a train, a few JR bus and a ferry services which are provided by Japan Railways Group with a few exceptions. I will explain these exceptions later.

In my opinion, JR Pass is most unbeatable deal if you travel in some of regions of Japan. There are many kinds of the rail passes in Japan, such as JR East Pass, JR Hokkaido Pass, JR Kyushu Pass and many more. But JR Pass is only rail pass that covers throughout Japan. And of course it covers both Tokyo and Kyoto. But if you need the detail information about other passes, please access to the list of the train pass. I wrote about many other rail passes in the posts.

How to find that you can get the worth of JR pass. Tips for using JR pass efficiently.

Once you decide the first day of use, you have to complete your trip in the fixed day. If you intend to use 7-day JR pass and stay in Japan for 7 days or less, you can start using it right after you arrive in Japan. However if you stay in Japan for the longer period than Japan Rail Pass duration, you have to find which JR pass you should buy and which day you should start using it.

Airport access

You can take JR trains at Narita airport, Kansai airport and New Chitose airport. These airports are covered by JR pass. And Haneda airport is connected to downtown Tokyo by Tokyo Monorail. This is covered by JR pass too. Please see the table below how much the fare of these airport access:

AirporttrainDestinationfare
NaritaNarita
Express
Tokyo
Shinagawa, Shinjuku
Yokohama
2,820 yen
3,190 yen
4,290 yen
HanedaTokyo
Monorail
Hamamatsucho490 yen
KansaiLimited Express
Haruka
Tennoji
Shin-Osaka
Kyoto
2,230 yen
2,850 yen
3,370 yen
New
Chitose
Rapid AirportSapporo
Otaru
1,590 yen
2,300 yen

*All fare include the base fare and the reserved seat fee.

Other airports, such as Chubu (Nagoya), Fukuoka are not covered by JR pass. You cannot start using JR pass right after arrival in these airports and the additional fare is required to take the other transportation to get to the nearest JR station first.

Using JR pass in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo

If you start using JR pass after arrival in Narita, Haneda, Kansai or New Chitose, you will stay in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto or Sapporo. You can use JR Pass to take the JR local trains in these cities. But it is not very efficient to use JR pass for sightseeing inside these cities. Because the train fare is not big enough to help getting the worth.

Please see the one way fare for the major segments in these cities in the table below:

SegmentOne way base fare
Tokyo to Shinjuku200 yen
Tokyo to Yokohama470 yen
Osaka to JR-Namba190 yen
Osaka to Kyoto560 yen
Osaka to Nara800 yen
Osaka to Sannomiya (Kobe)410 yen
Kyoto to Saga-Arashiyama240 yen
Kyoto to Inari (Fushii Inari)140 yen
Sapporo to Otaru640 yen

As you see the table above, the train fare in these cities are inexpensive. It does not help to get the worth of JR pass. If you can get the worth by the other trip(s), you can use JR pass in these cities. But it is not recommended to use it in the cities.

If you intend to start using JR Pass right after arrival in the airport but you will stay in one of these cities, please think again when you should start using JR Pass.

I explain about how to use JR Pass in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto in these following posts:

The nearest place to get the worth of JR pass 7-day from Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka

You may have heard that you can get the worth of 7-day JR Pass by Tokyo to Osaka round trip. It is true. The round trip fare and the Shinkansen seat fee are slightly less than 7-day JR Pass price. If you use JR Pass for the airport to Tokyo (or Osaka), and/or making some local train trips in the city, you can get the worth of it.

You have to use JR pass for a long train ride as much as you can, such as Tokyo to Osaka round trip. I would like to show you not only Tokyo to Osaka round trip but also more trips to get the worth of 7-day JR Pass. You can find the nearest place to get the worth of 7-day JR Pass from Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.

7-day pass is sold at 29,110 yen. If one way base fare and the reserved seat fee are more than 14,560 yen or more, you can get the worth of 7-day pass by only one round trip.

From Tokyo

As the map above, these following round trips fares are higher than the price of 7-day JR pass.

  • The round trip to Shin-Kobe
  • The round trip to Morioka
  • The round trip to Komatsu
  • The round trip to Takayama

Shin-Kobe is one station away from Shin-Osaka on the Shinkansen. As I mentioned above, if you use JR Pass to make a few local train trips, you can get the worth by the round trip to Shin-Osaka.

Komatsu is a bit away from Kanazawa. It is same thing as the round trip to Shin-Kobe. You can get the worth of 7-day pass by the round trip to Kanazawa and some local train trips.

From Osaka

As the map above, these following round trips are enough to get the worth of 7-day JR pass.

  • The round trip to Omiya
  • The round trip to Ueda (via Kanazawa)
  • The round trip to Hakata
  • The round trip to Tsuwano

If you go east from Osaka, Omiya is the nearest destination to get the worth of 7-day JR pass. Omiya is just outside Tokyo. But as I mentioned above from Tokyo to Shin-Kobe, you can get the worth of it by Osaka to/from Tokyo round trip and some local trips.

Ueda is one station away from Nagano by Hokuriku Shinkansen. You also can get the worth of 7-day JR pass by round trip to Nagano and some local train trip.

If you go west, the round trip to Hakata (Fukuoka) is okay to get the worth. You also can get the worth of it by the round trip to Tsuwano too.

From Nagoya

As the map above, these following round trips are enough to get the worth of 7-day JR pass.

  • The round trip to Utsunomiya
  • The round trip to Tokuyama

If you go east from Nagoya, the round trip to Tokyo is not enough to get the worth. Utsunomiya is the nearest destination to get the worth of it. Utsunomiya is the gateway to Nikko. If you intend to visit there, you can get the worth of it easily.

If you go west, the round trip to Tokuyama is the nearest destination to get the worth of 7-day JR pass. Tokuyama is two stations away from Hiroshima on the Sanyo Shinkansen line. If you make a round trip to Miyajima from Hiroshima by the local train and take the ferry to Miyajima, the total fare is very close to JR Pass 7-day price.

Tokyo to Osaka (or versa) one way trip is not enough to get the worth of even 7-day JR Pass.

If you will have only one way trip between Tokyo and Osaka, the regular fare ticket is your choice. I wrote about using single ticket at the post, For non JR pass travellers. Guide to use JR single ticket, basic rules, validity and stopover.

You also can find some sample itineraries in the links below:

Tokyo – Osaka one way trip sample itinerary

Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo one way sample itinerary

Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka one way sample itinerary

The faretable of the major segments

I would like to show you the fares for your convenience. If you have a multi-city travel, the fare may be cheaper. But you can use this faretable to find that you can get the worth of JR Pass or not. These following fares are based on the Shinkansen and/or daytime limited express train reserved seat fee, and the base fare.

stationTokyoOsakaNagoya
Sapporo26,820 yen37,100 yen34,350 yen
Hakodate23,420 yen33,700 yen31,060 yen
Aomori17,350 yen27,370 yen25,210 yen
Akita17,800 yen27,820 yen25,440 yen
Sendai11,200 yen22,620 yen20,240 yen
Niigata10,570 yen22,310 yen19,930 yen
Nikko5,580 yen18,530 yen16,030 yen
Echigo-Yuzawa6,670 yen19,500yen17,110 yen
Nagano8,200 yen11,790 yen7,330 yen
Odawara3,470 yen12,620 yen8,940 yen
Nagoya10,880 yen6,930 yen
Takayama14,710 yen10,600 yen6,030 yen
Toyama12,730 yen9,430 yen11,350 yen
Kanazawa14,120 yen7,650 yen8,020 yen
Osaka14,140 yen6,350 yen
Kinosaki Onsen16,340 yen5,600 yen9,520 yen
Okayama16,820 yen6,600 yen10,870 yen
Hiroshima18,560 yen10,810 yen13,810 yen
Fukuoka (Hakata)22,330 yen15,580 yen18,020 yen
Kumamoto26,500 yen18,540 yen22,080 yen
Kagoshima29,860 yen21,900 yen25450 yen

Please use hyperdia to find the fare for other segments.

Hyperdia perfect guide

How to choose Green seat pass or Ordinary seat pass

Green seat on Super Ozora by 283 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Green seat on Super Ozora by 283 series in Hokkaido (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Green seat is like business class seat. It was the first class in all Japan Railway’s trains. But since Tohoku Shinkansen introduced Gran class, Green seat is no longer the first class seat.

If you take Gran Class by JR Pass, both Ordinary pass and Green pass cover only a basic fare. You have to pay Limited Express surcharge and Gran Class fee. Please see the post, Japan Rail Pass can be used for Hayabusa to get details.

Advantages of Green class seat are space and atmosphere. Green class seat is much more spacious and quieter than ordinary seat. Shinkansen and most of Limited Express have this class. Even some local trains, such as Rapid trains in greater Tokyo area have Green seat too. Please read one of my post, Worthwhile buying Japan Rail Pass Green Pass?. I explained the details about Green class seat in this post. I hope it may help you to decide which pass you purchase.

If you are sensitive about your budget, the ordinary class is fine. I am sure you will be satisfied with the ordinary class seat too. It is way better than economy seat on the flight. My height is 6’1″ (184 cm). But the leg space at the ordinary class seat is totally fine for me.

How to exchange

Exchange order

You receive “Exchange Order” at the time of purchasing of JR Pass. It is not the actual pass but the voucher. You have to exchange for the actual pass after you arrive in Japan. The validity of exchange order is three months from the date of issue. The pass never be sold out.

Exchange place
English signage of JR exchange office at Tokyo station

Exchange Order can be exchanged at the designated station. Narita airport, Kansai airport, Tokyo, Shinagawa, Osaka, Kyoto and more than 40 major stations throughout Japan are on the list. Please find the list of the exchange places in the link below:

JR Pass exchange and sales office list, Japan Rail Pass official site.

When you turn in, go to the exchange place and tell the staff that you will exchange JR pass. You will receive the application form and fill in. After that, you will proceed the window and show your passport and exchange order to get the actual pass.

When you turn in the pass, you can choose the first day of use within one month from this day.

e.g.
If you exchange a pass on June 1st, you can choose the starting date from June 1st to 30th.

The start and finish dates will be stamped on your pass. Once the dates are stamped, you cannot change it.

Definition of one day

It means 00:00 to 23:59.

e.g.
If you start to use 7 days pass on April 1st, your pass is expired at 23:59 on April 7th.

There are an exception. If you are on board at 23:59 on the last day, you still can continue to travel by train. Your pass cover until you get off the train. After you get off the train, as long as you don’t exit the station, your pass still cover basic fare.

e.g.
Day 7 Tokyo 22:53 (Limited Express Tokiwa) 00:24 Mito

Even though your arrival time is 00:24 on 8th day, this trip is covered until you get Mito by JR pass
If you do not exit Mito station, you still can take local train because the base fare is covered by JR pass until you exit the station

e.g.
Day 7 Tokyo 22:53 (Limited Express Tokiwa) 00:24 Mito
Day 8 Mito 00:33 (local train) 00:39 Katsuta

You can take a local train only. You cannot take any limited express trains after you get off it at Mito.

Validity

JR Pass covers most of the railway service and the ferry service by Japan railways. You can go almost anywhere throughout Japan except Okinawa. (Any JR companies do not offer a train service in Okinawa.) Please see the Japan Railway’s route map and the Shinkansen (bullet train) route map in the links below:

Nationwide JR route map, Japan Rail Pass official site
Shinkansen (bullet train) route map, Japan Rail Pass official site

But there are a few exceptions when you use JR pass. I would like to show you which services are NOT covered by Japan Rail Pass.

Nozomi and Mizuho on the Tokaido, the Sanyo and the Kyushu Shinkansen lines

The Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen runs between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Hiroshima and Hakata.

I think this is the biggest thing that you have to know.

Nozomi is the fastest and most frequent train service on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen between Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and Hakata. Mizuho is the fastest train between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-Chuo. JR Pass is NOT valid for these trains. Even a basic fare to take Nozomi and Mizuho are not covered by JR Pass at all. If you take Nozomi or Mizuho, JR Pass does not help you at all. You have to pay a full fare beside JR pass.

JR pass covers Hikari between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, and Sakura between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-Chuo which are the second fastest trains. The difference between Hikari and Nozomi are the following:

Trip time between Tokyo and Shin Osaka — 3 hours by Hikari / 2.5 hours by Nozomi
Frequency — 2 trips of Hikari per hour / 5 to 6 trips of Nozomi per hour
*There are some more trips of both Hikari and Nozomi in a peak hour.

Please refer one of my post, Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to get the details abut the difference between Nozomi and Hikari.

Mizuho is the fastest train on the Sanyo Shinkansen and the Kyushu Shinkansen. Sakura is the second fastest but Sakura runs more than Mizuho. You cannot take Mizuho by JR Pass but this is not an issue.

All Shinkansen trains on the Tohoku, the Hokkaido, the Akita, the Yamagata, the Joetsu and the Hokuriku Shinkansen are covered by JR Pass fully.

Gran Class of Tohoku, Hokuriku and Hokkaido Shinkansen

The seat of Gran class (C) Asacyan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

JR Pass covers Tohoku, Hokkaido and Hokuriku Shinkansen trains fully. Gran class that is the highest class seat is available on these Shinkansen lines. This is a higher class than Green class. If you take this Gran class, both Japan Rail Pass Ordinary and even Green cover a base fare only. You need to pay all amount of surcharge beside JR Pass. This extra charge is not the difference between Green class and Gran class. You must pay Gran class full amount fee.

Delux Green on JR Kyushu trains

Some limited express trains in Kyushu have Delux Green Class. If you take this class, you have to pay both Limited Express surcharge and Delux Green surcharge. Even Green Pass does not cover both surcharge.

Green Private Compartment

Green compartment on Super View Odoriko (C) Sonic Rail Garden

These following trains have Green seat compartment.

If you use this type of seat by Japan Rail Pass, your party must be 4 persons because it is based on 4 person. If you use this by 3 persons or less, you have to pay surcharge for insufficiency.

The overnight train and sleeper car

There are only two scheduled overnight trains in Japan now. Those are Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo. If you use a compartment on these trains, JR pass covers only a base fare. However this train has the ordinary class which is called, “Nobi Nobi seat”. This ordinary class seat is covered by JR pass fully. Please see the links below to find more information:
Sunrise Izumo (Tokyo – Izumoshi)
Sunrise Seto (Tokyo – Takamatsu)

Trains run through Non JR lines

Some of limited express trains go through Non JR lines. You have to pay some extra for the section where your train goes on Non JR line. Because Japan Rail Pass cover only JR lines. The following list shows you the trains which go through Non JR lines. Please refer each train’s page to get the details about the extra charge.

Bus services

There are 8 bus companies in JR Bus Group. But these bus companies are different from train service companies now. These eight companies operate local bus service and highway bus service. But Japan Rail Pass covers a few local bus services only.

JR’s local bus services are a sort of commute service. I pick up some lines for the tourist.

Japan Rail Pass may cover some more bus services. But even official site does not provide any detailed information. As far as I know, I can confirm that JR Pass covers only these bus services at this point.

Ferry Service

Miyajima ferry service is operated between Miyajimaguchi and Miyajima. Japan Rail Pass is valid for this route. Miyajima is UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most popular destination for foreign travellers. This ferry cruise is very short trip. It takes only 10 minutes. Please refer one of my post, How to get Miyajima to get the details about Miyajima.

JR Kyushu operates the international ferry service between Hakata and Busan (Korea) But this is NOT valid for Japan Rail Pass.

Other train services

Japan Rail Pass does not cover any NON JR train services, such as the subways (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Yokohama, Sendai, Fukuoka), other train services by private companies, city bus services, local bus services and ferry services. The following list shows you major train services that Japan Rail Pass does not cover.

  • Sapporo Subway
  • Sendai Subway
  • Tokyo Subway
  • Yokohama Subway
  • Keihin Kyuko Railway (a.k.a. Keikyu, Shinagawa-Haneda-Yokohama)
  • Keisei Railway (Narita airport-Chiba-Ueno)
  • Tobu Railway (Asakusa-Nikko/Knugawa Onsen)
  • Odakyu Railway (Shinjuku-Hakone/Enoshima)
  • Izu Kyuko Railway (Ito-Shimoda)
  • Fuji Kyuko Railway (Otsuki-Kawaguchiko)
  • Nagoya Railway (a.k.a. Meitetsu, Chubu airport-Nagoya-Gifu)
  • Nagoya Subway
  • Kyoto Subway
  • Osaka Subway
  • Nankai Railway (Namba-Kansai airport/Koyasan/Wakayama)
  • Kintetsu Railway (Namba-Nara/Kyoto/Ise/Nagoya)
  • Hankyu Railway (Kobe-Umeda-Kawaramachi,Kyoto)
  • Keihan Railway (Yodoyabashi-Sanjo,Kyoto)
  • Hanshin Railway, Sanyo Railway (Umeda/Namba-Kobe-Himeji)
  • Fukuoka Subway
  • Nishitetsu Railway (Tenjin-Dazaifu)

Tokyo Monorail between Hamamatsucho (Tokyo) and Haneda airport is not JR train but this is owned by JR East and it is covered by Japan Rail Pass.

The following trains and segments are non JR lines. But those are covered by JR Pass.

  • Local and rapid trains on Aoimori Railway between Hachinohe and Aomori. But you cannot make a stopover except Hachinohe, Noheji and Aomori
  • Local and rapid trains on Ainokaze Toyama Railway between Toyama and Takaoka. But you cannot make a stopover except Toyama and Takaoka (after March 14, 2015)
  • Any trains on IR Ishikawa Railway between Kanazawa and Tsubata. But you cannot make a stopover except Kanazawa and Tsubata. There are direct trains from Kanazawa or Osaka to Wakura Onsen. These trains are go through this segment and then go on JR Nanao line. If you take these trains, extra charge is not required on top of JR Pass.

How to use JR pass in major cities and tourist spots

You can get most places in Japan by JR pass. JR pass covers most of JR trains which include Shinkansen, limited express trains, and other rapid commute trains and local trains in the cities.

But as I explained above, JR pass does not cover Non JR trains, subways and city bus. I also would like to explain the coverage by major places and you can find the detailed coverage of JR pass.

Sapporo

Subway, tram (street car) and city bus are not covered.
Subway and tram route map

You can walk to get Odori Park or Clock tower from Sapporo station if you want. But subway is better way.

Hakodate

Tram and city bus are not covered. You need to pay extra to get some tourist spots, such as Hakodate mountain.

Nikko

You can take Tohoku Shinkansen to get Utsunomiya and take Nikko line local train to Nikko. All trips to Nikko is covered. Please see the link below to find more information:

How to access to Nikko from Tokyo. There are three ways from Tokyo, Shinjuku and Asakusa.

But JR pass does not cover any local transportation, such as a local bus in Nikko area.

Tokyo

You can take any local trains in Tokyo to access to many places. But some of places cannot be accessed by JR pass, such as Asakusa, Tsukiji market, Tokyo Skytree. Please see the link below to find the detailed information:

Guide to take trains in Tokyo. How to choose the best deal and the best route by train to get the major spots?

You also can access to/from both Narita airport and Haneda airport. JR pass covers Narita Express and Airport Rapid train to/from Narita. Tokyo Monorail is covered by JR pass to/from Haneda airport.

Lake Kawaguchi

You can use JR pass to get Otsuki but you have to pay extra for taking Fuji Kyuko railway from Otsuki to Kawaguchiko station. Please see the link below to find more information:

Japan Railways is the best way to access Mt. Fuji? How much can we use Japan Rail Pass to go to Mt. Fuji?

Hakone

You can get Odawara by Shinkansen but after arrival Odawara, JR pass does not help you. Please see the link below to find more information:

How to access Hakone from Tokyo. Compare Japan Railway and Odakyu lines

Nagoya

Subway and other Non JR trains, such as Meitetsu railway is not covered. You need to pay for access to/from Chubu airport (Centrair).

Chubu (Nagoya) airport transportation guide. Find info about airport station and access to Nagoya
Transportation Bureau, City of Nagoya

Snow Monkey Park in Nagano

You can get Nagano by JR pass but you have to pay for bus and/or train to get Snow Monkey Park. Please see the link below to find more information:

Trip to Tohoku, Chubu and Chugoku in 2016 winter – Part 9, Visit Snow Monkey Park in Nagano

Shirakawago

You can get Kanazawa, Takayama, Toyama and Takaoka by JR pass. But you have to take a bus from one of these stations and need to pay for the bus. Please see the link below to find more information:

How to access to Shirakawago from Takayama, Kanazawa, Takaoka and Toyama.

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

You can access to Nagano, Shinano-Omachi or Toyama by JR Pass. After arrival in these cities, you need to pay for local transportation. Please see the link below to find more information:

Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, one of most spectacular sightseeing route in Northern Japan Alps

If intend to go through whole part of Alpine Route, you can use Tateyama Kurobe option ticket. Please see the following link:

Tateyama Kurobe Option Ticket (one way)

Kyoto

You can get Arashiyama, Nijo, Fushimi Inari and Uji by JR pass. But you need to take subway, city bus and/or other Non JR railways. Please see the link below to find more information:

Guide to take trains in Kyoto. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Osaka

You can take any local trains, such as Osaka Kanjo line (Osaka loop line). You can access to Universal City (USJ) too. But JR-Namba station is not very convenient and some places in the city cannot be accessed by JR pass, such as Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium. Please see the link below to find more information:

Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

You also can take Limited Express Haruka and Kansai Airport Rapid Train by JR pass to/from Kansai airport. Nankai railway is not covered.

Kobe

Actually many places can be accessed by JR station. You can get Kobe by JR pass easily. You may not add any additional deals. Please see the link below to find more information:

Guide to take trains in Kobe. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Nara

You can get Nara by JR trains from either Kyoto and Osaka. Most of tourist spots in Nara can be accessed by walk from JR Nara station. Please see the link below to find more information:

How to access to Nara by Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t use JR Pass, Kintetsu Railway is more convenient.

Mt. Koya (Koyasan)

You should take Nankai railway from Namba or Shin-Imamiya. Nankai railway is not JR and you need to pay extra. Please see the link below to find more information:

How to access World Heritage Mt. Koya. Japan Rail Pass can be used to get Mt. Koya?

Hiroshima

You can access to Hiroshima by Shinkansen and it’s covered by JR pass. And also JR pass covers Hiroshima sightseeing loop bus “Meipuru-pu” fully. This bus covers most of tourist spots in Hiroshima. Please see the following link to find the detailed information:

Hiroshima sightseeing loop bus Meipuru-pu official site

Miyajima

You can take JR local train to Miyajimaguchi and then take ferry to Miyajima. Both train and ferry are covered by JR pass. Please see the link below to find more information:

How to access to Miyajima from Hiroshima by local train. No extra charge for Japan Rail Pass user.

Fukuoka / Hakata

JR Pass does not cover Fukuoka city subway and Nishitetsu railway. Only subway connects Fukuoka airport and Hakata. But you cannot use JR pass to get airport because subway is not covered. Some places around Fukuoka is covered by Nishitetsu railway, such as Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine. But Nishitetsu railway is not covered by JR pass either.

Who is eligible?

If you are the foreign tourist, you have to be “Temporary Visitor”. This entry status will be stamped at immigration on your passport. Other status cannot be acceptable. You have to show your passport at the station when you pass your exchange order to get actual pass.
If you are already in Japan as other status, you have to change your status first. Otherwise you cannot buy Japan Rail Pass. Please see “How to buy and exchange”.

If you are Japanese citizen who have permanently status in foreign country, or who married to a non-Japanese, you are qualified.

How to refund

You can refund within one year from issue date before you turn in for the actual pass. Simply bring or send your exchange order to the agent where you purchased it. They will subtract a handling fee and refund to you. The handling fee is usually 10% of the amount. Contact to your agent and make sure it before you refund.
You can NEVER refund after turned in the actual pass.

Lost or Stolen

Once you lost it, it’s over. Either an exchange order or an actual pass cannot be reissued.

1,572 thoughts on “Japan Rail Pass user guide. How to use JR Pass to its maximum.”

  1. Hi Takeshi, thanks for your website:

    I am planning to do a trip in Japan from 23rd of Dec to 14th of January. I am planning to buy the JR 21 day pass for this and was wondering whether it would be possible to arrive in Sapporo overnight using JR pass on the 9th? Here is a detailed summary of my itinerary:

    23rd – 27th Dec: Tokyo region
    28th – 30th Dec: Nozawa Onsen
    31st – 1st Jan: Hakuba Happo One
    2nd Jan: Hakuba Goryu
    3rd Jan: Hakuba Iwatake
    4th Jan: Hakuba 47
    5th – 9 th Jan: Madarao Kogen
    10th of Jan: Shinkansen to Niseko Hokkaido
    11th – 13th Jan: Niseko
    14th Jan: Niseko – Narita by domestic flight

    Would you know whether there are free shuttles that go to different ski fields?
    Do you have any transport recommendations and whether buying a 21day JR pass would be worth it?

    Your inputs are greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Ted

    1. Hi Ted,

      You cannot get the worth of JR pass 21-day. Because the fare for Tokyo to Iiyama (nearest station to Nozawa) and Iiyama to Sapporo is about 40,000 yen. But you can use JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass.
      http://www.jreasthokkaido.com/easthokkaido/e/

      You can use the pass for any 6 days in 14 days period. So if you can start using it on 28th, 14 days period is 28th Dec to 10th Jan. It will cover most part of your trip and the cost is much lower than 21 days JR pass. Even though you have to add the fare for Tokyo stay and Niseko to New Chitose airport, this choice is much cheaper.

      By the way, travel from Nozawa to Niseko is quite long. It will take at least 10 hours. Your route is the following:
      Iiyama (Hokuriku Shinkansen) Omiya (Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen) Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (limited express Super Hokuto) Oshamambe (local train) Niseko

      You can find the timetables of Hokuriku Shinkansen and Hokkaido Shinkansen in the link below:
      http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/index.html

      Please see the link below to find more info about the train route in Hokkaido:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/hokkaido-area/hokkaido-train-guide.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thanks for your prompt reply. If I buy the JR East-South Pass, it is not able to go to Nagano ski fields right? And therefore the train fare would be additional costs. For the Tokyo region, it maybe possible that I will visit Mt. Fuji so I will still need to use JR pass for during this time from 23rd to 27th.

        1. Hi Ted,

          JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass gives you 6 days train ride. You still have four days. I think it is enough to cover to travel among ski areas.

          For the trip to Fuji, you can take an express bus. You don’t need JR pass. It is more convenient and cheaper choice.
          https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/how-to-build-the-trip-plan-to-fuji-area-various-sample-itineraries-of-fuji-five-lakes-and-5th-station.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hello Takeshi !
    First of all, thank you for sharing this kind of information. It’s very usefull
    By the way, I will go to japan this november for prewedding photo session. I bit confused about the jr pass, is it worth it to buy or not ? And which one jr pass should i buy ? I’m very thankful if you can help me
    Here’s my itienary :
    Day 1 : haneda airport – tokyo
    Day 2 : tokyo – shibuya / shinjuku / asakusa temple
    Day 3 : tokyo – osaka
    Day 4 : osaka universal studio japan
    Day 5 : osaka (or from tokyo) – sapporo
    Day 6 : sapporo
    Day 7 : sapporo- tokyo
    Day 8 : tokyo disneysea / disneyland
    Day 9 : tokyo
    Day 10 : tokyo – haneda airport

    Thank you very much. I hope for your positive responses

    1. Hi Devina,

      If you take a train for Osaka (or Tokyo) to Sapporo and Sapporo to Tokyo, JR pass 14-day is your choice. You can get the worth of it very easily. However trip to/from Sapporo is a long trip. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/hokkaido-area/how-to-get-sapporo.html

      If you want to shorten the trip time, you may take a domestic flight for Osaka to Sapporo and Sapporo to Tokyo. I cannot compare the cost between flight and JR pass because the flight fare is varied by the availability.

      Anyway if you take a domestic flight, JR Pass does not work. You will use a local deal in each cities, such as one day subway pass. And you have to use a regular fare ticket for Tokyo to Osaka.

      Before choosing the deal, please make sure that you are okay with the long train trip to/from Sapporo.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,
        Thank you for your kind reply. It really helps me.
        However, I wanna ask about the money value.
        If I take the Jr Pass 14 days, that means almost all of my trip at Japan already cover by the jr pass right ?
        But if I take local deals, regular fare ticket, and flight from osaka to sapporo and sapporo to tokyo, are they will be cost more than jr pass 14 days ?

        Thank you very much. I hope for your responses 🙂

        1. Hi Devina,

          If you use JR pass, most of your trip will be covered. You may add small amount on JR pass because JR pass does not cover subway, city bus and non JR railway. Please refer the chapter of “How to use JR pass in major cities and tourist spots” in the post above.

          As I mentioned in the previous reply, I cannot compare the cost of JR pass and flight+local deal. Because the flight fare is varied. But roughly speaking, JR pass will be cheaper.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    I’m a foreigner who lives in Japan, do you know if it’s possible for me to get a JR pass, or any sort of pass deal with Shinkansen only? My friend is visiting me and he will have a JR pass when we go travelling from Tokyo to Kansai so having a pass just for the Shinkansen would be enough for me.

    Thanks

    Tom E

  4. Hi,

    I’m traveling first time to Tokyo ~ Sapporo end November. What’s the best JR pass for me to get to travel from Tokyo Airport to Sapporo (Otaru) – Hakodate – Tokyo?
    Planning to Disneyland too.

    Thank you.
    From Singapore

      1. Dear Takeshi San,
        I bought the JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass and registered with JR East Train Reservation for seats. Can I collect my seats reservation from Hakodate Station a day before travelling.

        Thank you

      2. Dear Takeshi San,
        With a JR pass in hand, please advise whether is necessary to reserve seat for trip to Nikko. If is yes, how to do the reservation.

        Thank you

        1. Hi Sue san,

          It is not required. But you can book a seat for the Shinkansen to Utsunomiya. You cannot book a seat for Utsunomiya to Nikko. If you want to reserve a seat, you can book it at the reservation window in any major JR stations.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi,
    I will go to Nagano from Haneda Airport at 0500 as my flight’s arrival time is 0500. Will use JR pass.
    Then from Nagano, will take bus to Shiga Kogen. Is that bus include if I use the JR pass? Any oher way to go from Haneda to Shiga Kogen??
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Alice,

      JR pass does not cover the bus to Shiga-Kogen from Nagano. If you use JR pass, take the monorail and Yamanote line to get Tokyo station. And then take the Shinkansen to get Nagano. And you have to pay for the bus to get Nagano station. This is the best way bu JR pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi, appreciate if you can advise if I should get the Japan Rail Pass (14 days) or other passes which are more worthwhile. Thank you for your advice.

    Day 1: Reach Narita Airport, to Tokyo (Ryogoku)
    Day 2: Tokyo (Ryogoku)
    Day 3: Kurobe Gorge Railway
    Day 4: Tokyo (Shinjuku)
    Day 5: Hakone
    Day 6: Hakone
    Day 7: Hakone
    Day 8: Takayama
    Day 9: Shirakawago
    Day 10: Gunma
    Day 11: Tokyo (Shibuya)
    Day 12: Tokyo Disneyland
    Day 13: Tokyo (Harajuku)
    Day 14: Tokyo to Haneda Airport

    1. Hi Florentina,

      At this point, 14-day JR pass is the best choice. But if you can change the order to visit the places, you may use 7-day JR pass and other local deals to save your cost.

      In your trip, you need JR pass for Kurobe Gorge, Takayama, Shirakawago and Gumma. So if you gather these places in 7 days period, you can use 7-day pass.

      If you use 7-day JR pass and you can visit the places above in the first 7 days, you may include Narita to Tokyo in 7 days coverage period.

      If you don’t include Narita to Tokyo in 7 days period, you can add the deal in the link below:
      https://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/airport_bus/index.html

      And you need Hakone Free Pass even if you use 14-day pass. You can get Odawara by JR pass but after that, JR pass does not help at all. So if you use 14-day JR pass, you can use Hakone Free Pass Odawara version. If you use 7-day pass and don’t include the trip to Hakone, you can use Hakone Free Pass Shinjuku version:
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/how-to-build-the-trip-plan-to-hakone-various-sample-itineraries-of-hakone.html
      https://www.odakyu.jp/english/passes/hakone/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi Takeshi,
    Can you help me which pass should i buy? and when should i activate it?
    I was planning to buy the expensive JR pass.
    is it worth the money to this trip? or any better idea
    Day 1 NRT- Tokyo
    2 Tokyo strolling the city
    3 Tokyo-Nagano
    4 Tokyo-Mt Fuji and around
    5 Tokyo disneyland/sea
    6 Tokyo-Kyoto
    7 kyoto
    8 Kyoto
    9 Kyoto-Osaka
    10 Osaka
    11 Osaka KIX

    Thankyou very much Takeshi

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