Everything you need to know about buying and using the Japan Railway Pass!

Last Updated on by Charlotte van de Sande

The Japan Railway Pass: the ultimate way to travel cheaper by train on the Japanese Railways. In this blog, I tell you everything you need to know about the Japan Rail Pass (also known as the JR Pass). Where you can buy a JR Pass, what the Japan Railway Pass price is and how you use it!


All you need to know about the Japan Railway Pass!

One of the nicest things about travelling in Japan is trains. Japan has a great rail network with super fast trains that always run on time. The Japanese really know what public train transport means! Almost everywhere you can go by train, even the smallest villages have a station.

Those trains are always shiny clean. We have seen once in Kyoto how on arrival of the train, an entire army of cleaners in just three minutes, thoroughly cleaned the entire train. Even the seats were set in the right direction, a great invention (try it, you can just turn the seats on a Japanese train)! Travelling through Japan in these fast, quiet trains is really an amazing experience. Most of the time I was reading in peace and quiet, watching a movie or writing a blog. Unfortunately, trains in Japan are not cheap. But there is a solution for that: the Japan Railway Pass!

What is the Japan Railway Pass?

Travelling by train, however, is expensive in Japan. For a single trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, only 2 hours, you pay at least 13,080 Yen, converted more than €100. Fortunately for tourists, the Japanese came up with the Japan Railway Pass. With a Japan Railway Pass, you can travel unrestricted by train through Japan for a certain period of time. It’s a temporary train subscription. Super convenient, and it saves a lot of money. Depending on your length of stay in Japan you can buy different tickets. You can choose from a pass for 7 days, 14 days or 21 days.

What you can and can’t do with the Japan Railway Pass

How you can travel with the JR Pass in Japan!

  • Unlimited mileage through Japan
  • Reserve seats in the trains of Japan
  • Use high-speed trains in Japan
  • Use the ferry Hiroshima-Miyajima

How you can not travel by JR Pass in Japan!

  • Use the Nozomi or Mizuho trains in Japan
  • Using other public transport (buses or metro)
  • Travel more than 21 days
  • Temporarily pause your JR Pass

JR Pass


How to buy a Japan Railway Pass?

The Japan Railway Pass can’t be bought in Japan. You have to buy it in your home country before arriving in Japan. Do this however within a maximum of 90 days before you want to use the Japan Railway Pass. After ordering, you will receive a voucher that you have to activate within 90 days in Japan itself. This voucher can be purchased through various websites (eg at JRPass.com) or at your travel agency. We bought our passes from To Japan, a Japanese travel agency in The Netherlands that is certified to sell the Japan Rail Pass.

How to retrieve you Japan Railway Pass in Japan?

Upon arrival in Japan, at the airport or in one of the larger stations, you pick up your Japan Railway Pass. This can be done at one of the Japan Railway Offices (here you can find an overview of all locations). You exchange the voucher you have received for the real pass and you choose the start date of your JR Pass. When we arrived, there was quite a long line, so keep this in mind when you are in a hurry. Your Japan Rail Pass is a paper booklet and can’t be obtained digitally. Immediately after you have the JR Pass, you can get train tickets.

When do you qualify for a JR Pass?

You can buy a Japan Rail Pass when you have a tourist visa for up to 90 days. You are also only eligible for a Japan Railway Pass if you purchase it outside of Japan. In Japan itself you can no longer come to Japan Railway Pass.

If you have a different visa, for example, a student visa, it is not possible to buy a JR Pass. It is also not possible for Japanese residents to purchase this train pass.

What is the price of a Japan Railway Pass?

You have three different JR Passes; for 7, 14 or 21 days. The prices are as follows: the seven-day Japan Railway Pass costs € 245. The 14-day Japan Railway Pass costs € 390 and the 21-day Japan Railway Pass costs € 499 (February 2020). Take into account any shipping costs. These prices may sound expensive, but if you travel a lot by train, this is cheaper than single tickets.

Curious about how much money our three-week trip to Japan cost? Here you will find an overview of our budget and spendings in Japan!JR Pass Japan Rail Pass


How do you travel by Japan Railway Pass?

Important: To travel by train, you will need a train ticket, your Japan Rail Pass is not sufficient. To get to the train platform, you have to go to the separate gate where a railway officer will give you entrance to the platform (other travellers go through normal gates). While travelling, you must always have your JR Pass with you.

How do you reserve train tickets with the JR Pass?

It is not necessary to reserve train tickets, but since this is free, we did this quite often. This way you are always assured of a seat. You make reservations by going to the station and order tickets at the desk and showing your JR Pass. In advance, we looked on Hyperdia.com for the itinerary and time we wanted to book tickets.

You can reserve tickets up to a month in advance. We were in Japan in high season and usually reserved tickets a day in advance. Only once there was no availability on the train that we wanted to take so we just took a train later.


Is the JR Pass cheaper than buying traintickets?

Are you curious about whether purchasing the Japan Rail Pass is worthwhile, or whether you better buy separate train tickets? Then I have good news! On this website, you will find a tool with which you can enter your future journeys, after which it calculates what’s cheaper: buy single tickets or a Japan Rail Pass.

For us, the JR Pass was more than worth it. Because we spent three weeks in Japan, we chose the 14-day pass. At the airport, we immediately picked up our JR Pass, where we chose to have it activated only four days later. This suited us perfectly since on that day we would leave Tokyo. Are you curious about our itinerary for Japan with our JR Pass? Here you will find our itinerary.


Click here to view all my articles on Japan.


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