🇯🇵 Japan Rail Pass: The Complete Guide

When travelling in Japan, you would be crazy not to purchase a Japan Rail Pass. There’s so much more to Japan than Tokyo.
japan rail pass

When travelling in Japan, you would be crazy not to purchase a Japan Rail Pass.

There’s so much more to Japan than Tokyo.

I used to travel there at least 3 times a year for business and I visited last year as a tourist.

The rail system is very advanced, which makes it extremely easy and comfortable to use.

Here’s a complete guide on what the Japan Rail Pass it, how to buy one and how to use it.

What is the Japan Rail Pass?

This is an “all-you-can-ride” rail pass specifically for foregin tourists to Japan.

Basically it allows you to explore the whole of Japan at a much cheaper cost.

You can purchase  7, 14 or 21 day passes and the pass is valid for those consecutive days so you can’t pick and choose individual days.

The pass works on all JR lines and JR trains, including the Shinkansen bullet train and Narita Express.

There are two different class cars to choose from: Ordinary Car and Green Car.

The Green Car is the equivalent of first class.

Who Can Buy a Japan Rail Pass?

japan rail pass

The only people who can buy a Japan Rail Pass are foreign tourists.

Buying the pass will save you an incredible amount of money if you plan on travelling around.

Giving this discounts for Japan railways to tourists makes visiting the rest of Japan more accessible.

Different Kind of Passes and Prices

There are three different lengths of passes available: 7, 14 or 21 days.

And for those, you can either choose to travel in ordinary cars or green cars.

Ordinary cars are fairly comfortable and are sufficient for traveling long distances.

However, if you’re looking for a little more comfort and space, you’ll enjoy the green cars.

Here’s how much these cost:

7 days $273 $365
14 days $435 $591
21 days $557 $769

Prices converted from Japanese Yen. Prices shown are for a standard adult ticket. (Correct as of January 2020).

How to Buy a Japan Rail Pass

japan rail pass

The best way to purchase a Japan Rail Pass is from outside of the country.

There are plenty of reputable sellers online from who you can buy this pass.

My preferred seller is, who are official partners of JR Rail.

Once you purchase your pass, they’ll send you an Exchange Order to you via mail.

You then take this to Japan with you and exchange it for the rail pass either at the airport when you arrive or at any JR Rail station.

It’s as simple as that!

It’s important to note here that you must redeem your Exchange Order for a rail pass within 3 months of it being issued.

How to Use Your Pass

When using your pass, there are two types of tickets: reserved and non-reserved.

Reserved Tickets

The first thing you’ll want to do is reserve your seat and ticket.

It is free to make a seat reservation and you can do this at a JR Rail ticket office or by using one of their machines.

I find the machines not that hard to use. 

You just need to make sure you change the language to English and go slowly so you don’t make any mistakes.

Things in Japan are set up to be convenient.

If you do reserve your seat, you’ll get a ticket that looks like this:

They can be a little daunting when you first look at them but they’ll become easier to read.

Hopefully this little guide above will help.

Non-Reserved Tickets

Rail pass holders don’t have to reserve a seat to be able to ride on a train.

Most trains have cars for reserved and non-reserved seating.

If you just want to hop on the JR network, you just have to show your ticket to an inspector at one of the ticket gates.

When actually in a station trying to board your train, you will not be able to use the automatic ticket gates.

You will have to pass through the gates (normally at the end of the row) that is manned by a ticket inspector.

Just show your ticket and you’ll be let through.

Trains That Require Seat Reservations

  • Narita Express
  • Hayabusa and Hayate trains along the Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen
  • Komachi trains along the Akita Shinkansen
  • Kagayaki trains along the Hokuriku Shinkansen
  • Sunrise Seto/Izumo night trains

Where is the Pass Valid?

Here’s a list of options where you can use your Japan Rail Pass:

  • JR Trains (the most common)
  • Tokyo Monorail (to/from Haneda Airport)
  • JR Ferry (to Miyajima)
  • Local JR Buses
  • Select Non-JR Trains
    • Aoimori Railway (between Aomori, Noheji and Hachinohe to access the JR Ominato Line to the Shimokita Peninsula).
    • IR Ishikawa Railway (between Kanazawa and Tsubata to access the JR Nanao Line to the Noto Peninsula).
    • Ainokaze Toyama Railway (between Toyama and Takaoka to access the JR Himi Line and JR Johana Line).

There are certain places that you can’t use your rail pass. They are:

  • Nozomi Trains (along the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen)
  • Mizuho Trains (along the Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen)
  • JR Trains using non-JR Tracks
  • Special Compartments and Berth (night trains)
  • Trains requiring Liner Tickets
  • Highway Buses

If you want to buy a Japan Rail Pass, I recommend trying

This isn’t a sponsored post but I had a great experience using them.

japan rail pass


Hello! I'm Chef Tariq.

I’m a food, travel & lifestyle blogger who is passionate about creating recipes from my Arab American background. I love to travel and share my experiences and top tips along the way.

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