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Japan Rail Pass: Which Pass is Right for You?


Most travelers and prospective travelers to Japan are familiar with the popular pass that allows visitors to see more of the country for far less cash. The handy passport that opens up transportation, taking curious travelers from one end of the country to the other has grown rapidly in popularity and is now considered to be an invaluable piece of any planned trip to Japan. But with so many options, it can be easy to get confused. Do I need regional or national pass? Should I upgrade to Green Car? Will I need 7, 14, or 21 days? While you can always consult with a Japan Travel Specialist, here are some tips to help decide which pass is right for you.



What is the Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail Pass is a joint offering exclusively for international visitors to Japan from the 6 companies that make up the JR Group and translates to the most economical way to travel through the country. Passes can be purchased from a designated sales office for either 7, 14, or 21 day durations during which time, unlimited rides can be enjoyed on JR line trains, buses, and ferries with few exceptions. If you find that your travels are more confined to a specific area in Japan, there are also regional passes available in varying durations.
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Who Can Purchase the Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail Pass can be used by a "tourist visiting Japan from abroad for sight-seeing, under the entry status of 'temporary visitor.'" Please note that your stay must be for sightseeing and your passport must be stamped as a "temporary visitor" in order to successfully convert your exchange order into the usable Japan Rail Pass. Japanese people who meet the following requirements may also purchase the Japan Rail Pass.



Which Pass is Right for Me?


It is important to consult your itinerary when selecting which Japan Rail Pass is right for you. To get the most for the money, consider the individual fares for your longest rail trips and compare this with the cost of the pass. This information can be found on the individual websites for JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Shikoku, and JR Kyushu. For example, a good rule of thumb for the 7 day Japan Rail Pass is if your itinerary includes train travel comparable to a round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, then purchasing the rail pass is sensible. If your travels will stay only within a particular region, you might instead consider a regional pass which you can see represented on the map here. You can also consult with your local designated sales office or Japan Travel Specialist for further advice.



To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade


In addition to the Ordinary Class of the Japan Rail Pass, there is also the Green Class for a superior seating section similar to business or first class. Green Pass holders can enjoy added personal space aboard limited express and bullet trains and all seats are reserved. For those looking for an ultra-luxurious rail experience, try the Gran Class aboard select bullet trains. Green Pass holders, for example, can upgrade to Gran Class by paying the difference of the ticket and seat reservation. Consult a JR travel service center or bullet train ticketing window for more information.



Not Just a 'Rail' Pass


Despite bearing the name "Rail Pass," the Japan Rail Pass can be used on other modes of transportation beyond rail including JR buses and even ferries. For example, a traveler can use the JR Pass to travel by bullet train to Hiroshima and from there, they can use the same pass to board the Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus and travel between Hiroshima's major sightseeing spots such as Hiroshima Castle and Peace Memorial Park. The very same JR Pass can then be used to board the JR West Miyajima Ferry to travel from mainland Hiroshima to the famed Itsukushima Shrine.


Japan Rail Pass Best Practices


There are some important dos and don'ts to remember when purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. Do purchase your rail pass from only designated sales offices to ensure that you receive the genuine article. Don't lose your exchange order, you will need to present it with your passport once you get to Japan in order to activate the rail pass. Do make sure that you meet the requirements to use the Japan Rail Pass prior to purchasing it. Don't forget to make seat reservations on limited express trains and Green cars where there are no non-reserved seating options available. Do remember to take advantage of all that the JR Pass includes such as JR bus and ferry rides. Finally, do remember to peer out the window and enjoy the views of Japan's beautiful natural scenery as you travel.

Visit the official website of the Japan Rail Pass for more details:

Information is provided as a courtesy to users of this website. Though the JNTO endeavors to ensure the information is accurate, users of the information are to act on such using their own judgement and at their own risk. Neither the JNTO nor any holder of copyright to the information shall be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any loss or misunderstanding, either direct or indirect, that is incurred as a result of utilizing the information.

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