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

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 JR Pass

You have three ways to buy JR Pass.

Purchasing at the authorized dealer

Basically only authorized dealers 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 wholeselers:

  • JTB (the 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 Tobu Railway)
  • JALPAK (Same group as Japan Airlines)

You can find many company names on the official website, but most of them are subcontractors who purchase and sell passes from the above major wholesalers.

JR Pass online purchase from wholesalers and subcontractors

In these days, many companies have a contract with these above distributors. And Online sales by wholesalers and subcontractors have been very active these days. In particular, many subcontractors specialize in JR Passes, and we actively sell them by using their websites to send JR Passes to countries around the world.

You can find as many online retailers as you want by googling with the JR Pass. To find out if these companies are official companies, you may check the agent list at the link above. If it’s a company listed there, you can buy a JR Pass from it.

ACP Rail is one of the reliable online retailer because they have a contract with JR East. This company is the official retailer of JR East. Their online purchasing site is connected with JR East official site.

Japan Rail Pass online purchasing at ACP Rail

JR Pass online purchase from the official site

Until now, online sales have been mostly done by subcontractors, but the JR Pass official website has been renewed on June 1, 2020, and you can purchase directly from the official website.

However, the price will be higher than the agent price. As I will explain later, the JR Pass can be purchased now even after arrival in Japan, and the online sales price on the official website will be the same as the sales price in Japan.

e.g.
7-day ordinary pass
Agent price JPY 29,650
Official website online price JPY 33,610

If you buy a pass from the agent’s site, an exchange order will be sent to you by mail, so you will need to pay the shipping fee, but even if you take this into consideration, the agent price will be much cheaper.

However the online seat reservation is available on only JR Pass official site. You can book a seat online before you go with peace of mind. If you buy the JR Pass at the travel agent, you cannot book a seat online.

Please see another post below to find the detailed information on the Japan Rail Pass official online reservation:

In my opinon, if you plan to visit Japan in the busy season, such as the year-end/New Year holidays, you may buy it at the official site.

Purchaing JR pass in Japan

Currently you can purchase JR pass in Japan until the end of March, 2021. 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. And the price varies depending on the agent price and the official website price/domastic sales price in Japan.

Click to view large

The differences between the official site/sales in Japan prices and the agent prices are shown in red. The sales price in Japan and the official site are 10 to 12% higher than the agent prices.

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
Hamamatsucho500 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.

You also can find some more information in my Youtube movie:

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.

You also can find some more information in my Youtube movie:

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 post below to find the detailed information:

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 to get the various tourist places. Please see the post below to find more information:

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 post below to find more information:

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.

1,678 thoughts on “How to buy JR Pass and how to use Japan Rail Pass to its maximum. JR Pass user guide.”

  1. Dear Takeshi-san,

    we plan to do a 14 day trip to Japan mid March 2020.
    Our Stations will be:
    day 1-3: Tokyo
    day 4: Nikko
    day 5: Hakone
    day 6-8: Kyoto
    Sidetrip to Nara
    day 9: Osaka
    Sidetrip to Himeji
    day 10-12: Hirshima
    sidetrip to Miyajima
    day 13-14: Fukuoka

    We will arrive in Haneda Airport Tokyo and I want to know if we can purchase the Rail Pass directly there at the JR EAST Travel Service Center, without buying a voucher before in our travel agency. The information about buying directly is somewhat confusing at times because it is often writen as “limited offer” and I just want to make sure it is possible, before we actually arrive there.
    Reason for not buying the voucher is that we have a slight risk of not beeing able to do the trip at all and our travel agency is not willing to refund the pass at all.

    Furthermore it would be great to hear if you think the 14 day pass is worthwile for our planned trip.

    thank you in advance and best regards
    Markus

    1. Hi Markus san,

      You can buy JR Pass in Japan. But the price is much higher than purchasing outside Japan. Please see the link below:
      https://japanrailpass.net/pdf/JR_PASS_release_ENOct_0920.pdf

      If you buy 14-day pass, the price is about 5,000 yen higher.

      You may be able to get the worth of 14-day pass by your trip plan. But don’t expect a big saving. Especially you will buy a pass in Japan at higher price. The total cost is not much different from 14-day pass price.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi-san,

        thank you very much for your quick reply and confiming that it’s possible to purchase the pass directly in japan (haneda airport in my case).
        I’m well aware that the pass is more expensive when I buy it in Japan, but then I’m save from the hassle of returning the voucher in case I can’t start my Japan trip at all.
        And even if there is no money saving at all with the pass vs buying single tickets, I think the convenience of not buying single tickets all the time is worth it. It would be only a bad decission if the Rail Pass would be significant more expensive than buing single tickets.

        best regards,
        Markus

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    I plan to visit Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara. Which JR Rail Pass should I use? Please advise. Thanks in advance ^^

    Regards,
    Srisin S.

    1. Hello

      I would like to buy the Japan rail pass or regional passes: But i am unsure which ones to buy?

      We are travelling Japan and this is our tour, can you tell me what passes to buy?

      Arrive in Tokyo- 2nd to 8th May
      Hakon-8th to 9th May
      Takayama- 9th to 11th May
      Kyoto- 11th to 15th May
      Nara- 15th to 16th May
      Leaving from Osaka- 16th to 19th May

      Thank you

      1. Hi Jasmine,

        You may use the following deals at each places:

        Tokyo
        https://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/airport_bus/index.html
        The deals above include Tokyo Subway Ticket. But if you want more, you can add subway pass only:
        https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/compare-many-discount-tickets-and-passes-for-sightseeing-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-right-tickets.html

        If you don’t travel lots, Welcome Suica may be better choice:
        https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/welcomesuica/welcomesuica.html

        Hakone
        You should buy a regular ticket for Tokyo to Odawara and add Hakone Free Pass there:
        https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/how-to-build-the-trip-plan-to-hakone-various-sample-itineraries-of-hakone.html

        No deals available for Odawara to Nagoya.

        Nagoya to Takayama are return (or Nagoya-Takayama-Kanazawa-Kyoto)
        You can use Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass:
        https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/takayama-hokuriku-area-pass-perfect-deal-to-get-takayama-kanazawa-toyama-shirakawago-from-nagoya-or-osaka.html

        If you travel to Kyoto via Kanazawa, you can use this pass until you get Kyoto. But if you go back to Nagoya and travel to Kyoto, you have to buy a regular ticket or Platt Kodama for Nagoya to Kyoto. Please find the route for Takayama to Kyoto:
        https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-access-to-takayama-by-trains-and-buses.html

        You can find the info about Platt Kodama in the link below:
        https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/platt-kodama-one-way-deal-among-tokyo-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-by-shinkansen.html

        You may add some local deals in Osaka and Kyoto:
        https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html
        https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html
        https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-access-from-kansai-airport-to-downtown-osaka-kyoto-and-kobe.html

        There is no deals for Kyoto to Nara, Nara and Nara to Osaka.

        Cheers,

        Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi San,

    I would like to inquire what type of JR Pass is applicable for travel from Hiroshima to Fukuoka.

    Regards,

    Cecil

    1. Hi Cecil san,

      Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass covers this trip but you cannot get the worth of it by Hiroshima-Fukuoka one way trip.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/hiroshima-yamaguchi-area-pass-designed-for-the-tourists-who-travel-to-hiroshima-from-hakata.html

      If you use this pass for some more trips, this will be your choice. Otherwise a regular ticket is better one.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi san,

        Thank you for your reply. What if we include the ferry to Miyajima using this pass, and a round trip to Hiroshima-Fukuoka-Hirosima, would it be worth enough to have it? And can we use the pass within Fukuoka area?

        Our Itinerary:

        Day 1 Arrival to Hiroshima
        Day 2 Going around Hiroshima
        Day 3 Miyajima
        Day 4 Fukuoka
        Day 5&6 Going around Fukuoka
        Day 7 Back to Hiroshima

        Regards,

        Cecil

        1. Hi Cecil san,

          You cannot use this pass because it’s valid for 5 days. If you make a round trip between Hiroshima and Fukuoka in 5 days, you can use it. Even if you use the pass for the trip to Miyajima, a regular fare is slightly cheaepr. Please see the link which I gave you in the previous reply. You can find the cost comparison between the pass and the regular fare.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi

  4. Hi Takeshi-San,

    I’m currently having some trouble trying to understand what kind of Pass/Deals can I use for the itinerary below. Would you be able to offer some suggestions ?

    (Sun 26 Apr – 8th May 2020)

    Osaka Airport -> Tokyo 6 Nights
    Tokyo -> Hakone 2 Nights
    Hakone -> Kyoto 4 Nights
    Kyoto -> Osaka 4 Nights

    Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Samuel san,

      First of all, JR Pass does not work. Because 7-day pass is almost equal to your trip plan cost. 14-day pass is too expensive and you cannot get the worth of it. You have to use a regular fare ticket for all city to city transfers and use a local deal in each cities. The following link shows you Tokyo-Hakone-Kyoto-Osaka trip plan. You can add a regular fare for Osaka to Tokyo and follow this sample:
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7to9-days/sample-itinerary-of-tokyo-hakone-kyoto-and-osaka-classic-route-in-7-days.html

      So if you can find a domestic flight from Osaka to Tokyo at an affordable fare, you should take it. The train cost is about 16,000 to 17,000 yen and travel time is about 4 hours. If you can find the flight to Haneda (Tokyo), a travel time is less than 2 hours. You can get downtown Tokyo in 30 minutes from Haneda.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. thank you for this page, its been very informative.

    I would love your opinion on which pass to get for our trip.

    Tokyo 4 nights ( we will have a transfer from the airport to the hotel)
    Takayama 2 nights
    Hiroshima 2 nights
    Kyoto 2 nights
    Osaka 5 nights.also to Haneda

    I am wondering if it is best to get a 7 day pass beginning the last day in Tokyo until the first day in Osaka and then buy tickets as we need them for the other days?
    we will have 2 children with us so need convenience also.
    thank very much!

    1. Hi Narelle,

      If you stay inside Osaka only and do not plann to visit any places outside Osaka, JR pass 7-day and a regular ticket is okay as you think. It costs about 15,000 yen from Osaka to Haneda by the Shinkansen and a locla train.

      But if you are not sure what you will do in Osaka and want to have a flexibility, JR pass 14-day is better choice. The difference between 14-day and 7-day is about 18,000 yen. But if you have 14-day, you can get Haneda by the pass. So the actual difference is 3,000 yen. For example, if you visit Nara, it costs about 1,500 yen for a round trip. It’s not hard to make 3,000 yen value if you travel outside Osaka.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Dear Takeshi-san,

    Please advise me on which pass should I take, as I will be travelling on these dates to Japan :

    – Narita to Asakusa Feb 27
    – Tokyo to Yokohama Feb 28 – March 1
    – Yokohama to Nagoya March 1-3
    – Nagoya to Mount Fuji March 3-4
    – Mount Fuji – Tokyo March 4- 6 ( I will be at DisneySea on March 5 though)
    – Tokyo to Kamakura day trip March 7
    -Tokyo March 8 entire day.

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Brendon san,

      There is no deals to cover whole part of your trip unfortunately. For most travel segments, you have to use a regular fare ticket.

      I recommend you to use the following deals for a few segments:

      For Shin-Yokohama to Nagoya
      Platt Kodama
      https://www.jrtours.co.jp/kodama/english/

      For Nagoya to Mt. Fuji
      Express bus is the best way.
      http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/highway/detail/id/11
      *There is no deals available for either train or bus.

      For the trip to Kamakura
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/yokohama-and-kamakura-access-guide-find-the-right-deal-and-route-from-your-place-to-stay.html

      For the sightseeing in Tokyo
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      For the segments which I did not mention, only regular fare ticket is the choice.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Good day Takeshi San

        After listening to you, I have decided to change my itinery to :

        Feb 27 Narita airport to Yokohama till Feb 29
        Feb 29 depart from Yokohama to Nagoya till March 2
        March 2 Departs Nagoya to Asakusa
        March 3 -4 from Asakusa to Mt Fuji

        Should I buy the JR pass for this trip?

        1. Hi Brendon san,

          JR Pass may be easier choice. But it costs around 24,000 yen for Narita to Yokohama, Yokohama to Nagoya and Nagoya to Tokyo. Asakusa cannot be reached by JR train. You have to take subway from Kanda or Ueno and subway is not covered by JR pass.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/best-way-efficient-how-much-can-we-use-japan-rail-pass-in-downtown-tokyo.html

          You may use JR Pass to get Mt. Fuji partially. Please see the link below:
          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

          It costs around 5,000 yen for the round trip to Otsuki. The total cost at this point, it is almost same cost as JR Pass 7-day. You may take JR local train when you are in Yokohama, Nagoya, Tokyo. I think you can get the worth of it. But you cannot get a big saving. You just get convenience.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Dear Takeshi San

            Many thanks for the important info.
            Which means, you suggest me to buy the JR pass for my one week tour Narita – Yokohama – Nagoya – Mt Fuji? This JR pass will be able to cover the Shinkansen as well ( except for Nozomi) right? However, I checked the shinkanzen website and realized that Hikari shinkanzen is not as frequent as Nozomi. Hikari only will start to function from Yokohama at about 12pm. Which I will waste a lot of time as I will arrive Nagoya quite late at around 230pm. I have booked several activities at Nagoya though, thus I dont think JR Pass Shinkanzen using Hikari will be useful for me.

            Pls give me your opinion. Many thanks

              1. Good evening Takeshi San.

                I am sorry, can you pls tell me how do I interprete the two pdf links that you posted to me?

                I wish to know :
                1) the first train for Hikari from Yokohama to Nagoya on Feb 29th
                2) the first train for Hikari from Nagoya to Tokyo city on March 2nd
                3) whether can JR pass be used for the train / bus from Tokyo city to Mt Fuji on March 3rd

                thanks

                1. Hi Brendon san,

                  Please see the link below and see page 2:
                  https://global.jr-central.co.jp/en/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound_1120.pdf

                  You will see “ひかり 495” at the left in the timetable. The train name is written in Japanese name by a white color text in dark pink rectangle. This leaves from Shin-Yokohama at 6:00 am. This is the fastest one. Shin-Yokohama is about 10 minutes away by JR Yokohama line train from Yokohama. This local train is covered by JR pass as well. So you must leave from Yokohama around 5:30. If you want to leave a bit later, please find the train train by white text in dark pink one. I think now you can find the train by yourself. Just try to find it by same way for Nagoya to Tokyo in the link below.

                  I think I gave you the link below in the previous reply. This post shows you how to use JR pass for the trip to Fuji. Basically JR Pass covers the train between Tokyo and Otsuki only. Please read the post below again to find more info:
                  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

                  1. Good morning Takeshi San

                    Many thanks for your detailed explanations.

                    I wish to know if JR Pass does cover for the direct Fuji Excursion Train from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko?

                    1. Good morning Takeshi San

                      I had tried to understand the Hikari line for Yokohama to Nagoya :

                      – the train 493 Hikari ( pink box) will depart from Yokohama at 600H and arrive Nagoya by 724H. The next subsequent Hikari from Yokohama will be train 495 which will depart at 646H and arrive Nagoya at 818H. Am I correct?

                      – for the trip from Nagoya to Tokyo, these are my findings :
                      1) The first Hikari train from Nagoya departs at 825H and will arrive Tokyo by 1010H via 508 Hikari.

                      2) The next subsequent Hikari train Number 510 from Nagoya will be 836H and to arrive Tokyo by 1040H.

                      Are my interpretations correct for the Yokohama – Nagoya and Nagoya – Tokyo routes for Hikari?

                      Pls correct if I am wrong, Arigato

                    2. Hi Brendon san,

                      You picked a right train mostly.

                      1. The second one from Shin-Yokohama is Hikari 501. Arrival time and departure time are correct.

                      2. The first Hikari from Nagoya is Hikari 500 which depart from Nagoya at 6:00 and arrive in Tokyo at 8:13. I think you skipped the first timetable.

                      But I think now you know how to find the train.

                      Cheers,

                      Takeshi / JPRail.com

                    3. Hi Brendon san,

                      You have to pay the extra fare for Otsuki to Kawaguchiko. The extra fare is 1,740 yen. (base fare 1,140 yen + limited express fee 600 yen)
                      When you book a train for Fuji Excursion at the ticket window, you can pay this extra fare.

                      Cheers,

                      Takeshi / JPRail.com

                    4. Hi Brendon san,

                      No, you can’t. I explained that JR pass covers to get Otsuki in my post. I gave you the link in the previous reply. Please read it carefully. You have to take that route. Any bus routes are not covered.

                      I also mentioned that you must use JR pass for the trip to Fuji to get the worth of JR pass. Otherwise regular fare ticket is cheaper. So if you use JR pass, you have to take the route below:
                      Asakusa (subway) Kanda (JR Chuo line rapid) Shinjuku (JR limited express Fuji Excursion) Kawaguchiko
                      or
                      Asakusa (subway) Kanda (JR Chuo line rapid) Shinjuku (JR limited express Kaiji or Azusa) Otsuki (Fujikyu railway) Kawaguchiko

                      You must pay for the subway and Otsuki to Kawaguchiko on Fujikyu railway. Even if you take Fuji Excursion, you have to pay for Otsuki to Kawaguchiko on Fujikyu railway.

                      Cheers,

                      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hello Takeshi,

    I just need some clarifications. I will be travelling from Tokyo going to Hiroshima and I plan to exchange my JR pass voucher and reserve a seat the day before I travel. So, the Day 1 of JR pass use is the actual date i travel and not the day i reserve the seat, is that right?
    And also, I know that I have a transfer in between, so do I need to get another ticket at the station where i do the transferring or I can get it all together at tokyo station?

    1. Hi Jen,

      You have understood the condition correctly. I have done as follows:

      e.g.
      Arrival in Narita airport on January 31st.
      Exchange JR pass there but start using it on February 4th.
      I traveled Hiroshima, Sendai, Takayama, Nagoya, Kanazawa, Tokyo and Osaka.
      I booked all train tickets when I exchanged the pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com
      But you can book all trains at the time of exchange on 10th.

  8. I will be travelling on Japan this January 2020. I just want to know if JR rail pass would be worth it and do I still need to get ICOCA Card? Please see below itinerary.

    Day 1 – Kix / Half day tour
    Day 2 – Osaka Day Tour
    Day 3 – Kyoto and Nara
    Day 4 – Universal Studios
    Day 5 – Tokyo / half day tour
    Day 6 – Tokyo Day tour
    Day 7 – DisneyLand
    Day 8 – Back to Osaka
    Day 9 – Kix

    Thank you!

  9. Hi Takeshi-San,

    I was just wondering if you could recommend the best rail pass for 4 adults travelling to Japan March 21st – April 1st 2020.

    21st March – Tokyo Narita Airport to Tokyo
    22nd – 25th – Tokyo
    25th – Tokyo to Kyoto
    26th-27th – Kyoto
    28th – Kyoto to Nara
    29th – Kyoto
    30th – Kyoto to Osaka
    31st – Osaka
    1st April – Osaka to Osaka Kansai International Airport

    Look forward to hear from you.
    Best wishes,
    Sandra

  10. Hi 🙂

    I will be travelling on Japan this January 2020. I just want to know if JR rail pass would be worth it. Please see below itinerary.

    Day 1: Arrival at Kansai International Airport then travel to Tokyo
    Day 2: Disneyland
    Day 3: Disneysea
    Day 4: Back to Osaka
    Day 5: Universal Studio
    Day 6:Kyoto and Nara
    Day 7: Dotonbori

    Thank you so much 🙂

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