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Japan: what you need to know about the JR train pass

by Elisa Flitter Fever
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In Japan travel is easy and fast with the great train network. I loved it! Here are the 10 things you need to know about traveling by train through Japan with the JR Pass. From my own personal experience.

Shinkansen train Japan
Shinkansen high speed train in Japan

JR Pass

Here are the 10 good-to-knows for traveling by train through Japan, ideally by JR Pass.

1. As JR Pass holder seat reservation is for free, yet not mandatory. Reserved cabins tend to be less crowded than the non-reserved cabins.

2. On the other hand, if there are long rows at the service office and little time left before the train leaves, better catch the train without reservation than to miss the train.

3. JR Passes are available for 7, 14 or 21 days. A 14-days pass costs about 340 euro, a price Japanese residents can only dream about. Check with this calculator whether or not a JR Pass is a smart choice for your trip. However I think that even if in your case the calculation says it is not 100% worth it, having the JR Pass in general is convenient I think.

Tokio Station train to Nagano
Tokio Station train to Nagano
Marked tracks on platform train station Japan
Marked tracks on platform to line up for train

4. Purchase the JR Pass 3 months up to a few weeks in advance online. The paper voucher will be send to your address, as long as it’s outside Japan.

5. Upon arrival in Japan, go to an appropriate JR service office (for example Narita for Tokyo) to exchange the voucher for the real pass and your first seat reservation.

6. When you enter and exit the platform, show your JR Pass – and if you made seat reservation also your ticket. Always pass via the staffed gate. Automatic gates do not recognize JR Pass tickets.

Red and white regional train Japan
Regional train at Yudanaka Station (Nagano Prefecture)
Japanese Regional train interior
Regional train interior

7. The bullet trains in Japan are called Shinkansen. You recognize them by a green logo on the signs and a pointy nose. Each Shinkansen train has a name. The Nozomi is the fastest (2018) with 300 km p/h.

8. The Hyperdia app is a useful tool for planning your train trips. Google Maps functions as well (when put on public transport), but has no option to switch off the trains JR Pass is invalid for. Downside of Hyperdia is that you have to know and enter the name of the station you want to go to (not city).

9. The JR Pass cannot be used on the following trains: Nozomi, Hayabusa, Mizuho, Liner, Sleeper, Limited express (surcharge), private railway. There are a few different companies that have trains in Japan.

Shinkansen interior Japanese high speed train steats
Traveling can be exhausting, you kow!
Matsumoto Station
Express train at Matsumoto Station

10. Lost your JR Pass on the way? That really sucks because you will need to buy a new one. Shit! Better keep it safe like your life depends on it.

I love it and would highly recommend traveling by JR Pass in Japan. However, see for yourself and your situation what suits best. The above would have saved me a lot of time searching for the right information, hope you find it useful.

How to get the JR Pass

Go Voyagin is a great, realiable website where you can book all sorts of activities, transfers, etc. for Japan. The JR Pass for 7, 14 or 21 days can easily be purchased online via Go Voyagin. It is clearly described how the order process works.

JR ticket office at Matsumoto Station
JR ticket office at Matsumoto Station
Gekkoji to Otsuki train ticket Japan
Gekkoji to Otsuki train ticket

Going to Japan? I wrote 13 other, detailed articles about it full of tips! Check all my Japan articles in the Japan Blog Archives.

Do you have any further questions on the JR Pass or traveling by train throughout Japan? Please do not hesitate to comment below and I will reply a.s.a.p.

This blog post contains affiliate links to support this website. For more information click here.

Last Updated on 09/08/2020 by Elisa Flitter Fever

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Ann-Sofie 05/23/2019 - 09:28

Bedankt voor alle informatie.
Nu vroeg ik me af, ik ben al even op reis en ga volgende week naar Japan. Hierdoor kan ik dus de voucher niet naar huis laten opsturen, is er een andere manier om deze pass te verkrijgen?

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Flitter Fever 06/10/2019 - 21:34

Beste Ann-Sophie, het spijt me dat ik uw bericht nu pas zie en beantwoord daar ik op reis was. Als je in het bestelproces voor Ticket Pick Up kiest, dan zou je ook een lokaal ophaalpunt moeten kunnen kiezen. Of je laat het versturen naar een plek (bijv. hotel) waar je binnenkort een tijdje blijft voordat je naar Japan gaat, maar dat brengt natuurlijk wel enig risico met zich mee. https://www.govoyagin.com/activities/japan-tokyo-jr-pass-unlimited-rail-travel-across-japan/9775?acode=flitterfever Heel veel succes en plezier in Japan, laat me even weten hoe het gegaan is! Groet, Elisa van Flitter Fever

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Nathan 01/25/2023 - 13:22

Hoi Elisa, kun je op de treinstations uit de voeten met engels? Om een kaartje te halen? Alvast bedankt, groet, Nathan

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Elisa Flitter Fever 01/26/2023 - 19:01

Mijn ervaring is: ja, absoluut. Op wat meer afgelegen gebieden in Hokkaido of zo zou het een keer kunnen tegenvallen, maar dan heb je altijd Google Translate nog toch? 😉 Vooraf offline downloaden, zelf nooit nodig gehad, maar “voor het geval dat”.

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