JAPAN RAIL PASS

Japan Rail Pass - When is a Japan Rail Pass value for money. Where and how to purchase Japan Rail Pass. Japan Rail Pass Restrictions.

Japan Rail Pass

By far the best option for visitors who plan to do a lot of travelling is the Japan Rail Pass, which allows unlimited travel on almost all JR trains, including all but the fastest class of Shinkansen, for a fixed period of either one, two or three weeks. (see also article on JR Pass Restrictions).

When is a Japan Rail Pass Value for Money

There are two factors in determining if a Japan Rail Pass is worth getting: comparative cost and convenience. (see pricing here)

Comparative Cost:
The comparative cost is simply how much it would cost to buy the same train tickets. This is obviously complicated to work out prior to travel, but some estimates can be made.

Rail Pass Main Destinations Recommendation
7 Day Tokyo - Osaka/Kyoto - Hakone - Tokyo Marginal - No
7 Day Osaka/Kyoto - Tokyo - Osaka/Kyoto Marginal - No
7 Day Tokyo - Osaka/Kyoto - Hiroshima - Tokyo Yes
7 Day Osaka/Kyoto - Hiroshima - Nagasaki - Osaka Yes
14 Day Tokyo - Nikko - Nagoya - Osaka - Kyoto - Hiroshima - Nagasaki - (Osaka or Tokyo) Yes

The "Marginal - No" recommendation is based on convenience out weighing cost. The cost of the Japan Rail Pass may work less, but the difference may not be great. The above comparison is based on "Second Class" adult pricing.

Convenience
There are several different convenience factors:

With a Japan Rail Pass you just show the pass at the station without needing to buy a ticket for each day or trip. This of course assumes that you can use the Japan Rail Pass on the service. Many trains within cities and between some cites are run by other train companies and do not accept the Japan Rail Pass.

Frequency of Service - this has become a bigger issue in the last couple of years. Japan Rail has increased the ratio of Nozomi - (the fastest type of Shinkansen) and reduced the number of Hikari (second fastest service) on the Tokyo to Osaka/Kyoto service. The Japan Rail Pass is not valid for travel on the Nozomi service. This means there are longer waiting periods between services, but more importantly it restricts the earliest and latest times you can catch the Shinkansen.

Where to Purchase Japan Rail Pass

Japan Rail Passes can only be purchased outside of Japan. You can purchase your Japan Rail Pass online here. Upon purchase, you are given a receipt, which can be exchanged at Japan Rail Offices at most stations in Japan (including all of the stations nearest to airports), for the Japan Rail Pass itself.

When you make any rail journeys, you will need to show the Japan Rail Pass at the manned ticket barrier.

Japan Rail Pass

Japan Rail Pass - JR Network
Japan's railways are fast, highly efficient and cover the majority of the country. The JR network is extensive as one would expect from what used to be the national rail system (now privately owned). If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you will almost certainly figure out that even in large cities such as Tokyo or Osaka, there is a JR station fairly near where you want to go. In the countryside JR also runs bus services to connect places that don't have a rail service. However, the JR network is not a monopoly and particularly within major conurbations there are other private rail networks.

Japan Rail Pass Network
Shinkansen Network - Use the Japan Rail Pass over these routes

Click on the above map to see a larger version.

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