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Essential for Traveling in Japan – The Japan Rail Pass (Part 1)

Have you ever heard of the Japan Rail Pass?

It is a specific type of travel card that is provided for tourists in Japan who are non-Japanese nationals. With this pass, you can travel on the 6 JR Group railways and buses throughout the entire country, and therefore can provide quite a significant saving.

This article introduces the multiple ways on how you can purchase the Japan Rail Pass. This article is split into two parts, so be sure to check out part 2 as well!

Japan Rail Pass types and prices

Firstly, we will list the types and price matrix for the types of Rail Pass. The prices vary on the type of train car that they correspond to. For example, there is the “green car” (equivalent of a first class type of train coach) and regular train car tickets. In addition, a pass can be purchased with a validity period of 7, 14 or 21 days.

For prices of the JR Rail Pass when purchased outside of Japan(prices as of April 2017) These prices are as of April 2018 and may be subject to change.

TypeGreen CarOrdinary Car
7 Days¥38,880¥19,440¥29,110¥14,550
14 Days¥62,950¥31,470¥46,390 ¥23,190
21 Days ¥81,870 ¥40,930 ¥59,350¥29,670 

The above table shows the equivalent yen price for the different types of Rail Pass. The price will be converted at the exchange rate of the purchase date (BSR exchange rate). Therefore there may be instances where there is a slight gain or loss due to a difference between the exchange rate of purchase and the date when you arrive in Japan.

The exchange rate based on the date of purchase will be shown on the ticket receipt. The child rate will apply for children between the ages of 6 and 11 years at the time of the issue of the pass as per the purchase receipt.

Where can you use the Rail Pass in Japan?

Below, we will introduce the areas and forms of transport where the JR pass can be used.

The Japan Rail Pass can be used on railways, buses and ferries throughout Japan.

① JR Shinkansen(Japanese Bullet Train)

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All JR Group lines - Shinkansen (excluding "Nozomi" · "Mizuho" issue (including free seats), limited express trains, fast express trains, express trains, regular trains and BRT (cannot be used for certain specific trains). 

・JR pass can be used on the Tokyo monorail as well.
・Blue Forest Railroad (Aomori - Hachinohe) (However, it can only be used for train journeys directly between Aomori, Noheji and Hachinohe, using the ordinary or express train. Apart from these stations, the ticket cannot be used to get off at another station on the Blue Forest Railway Line.
・IR Ishikawa railway (Kanazawa – Tsubata). However, like the above, the pass can only be used for direct journeys between these two stations on this line (ordinary or limited express) and cannot be used for getting off at other stations between these two destinations, nor other stations beyond these two stations on this line. Ai no Kaze Toyama Railway (Toyama to Takaoka) However, when using the ordinary train, it can only be used between these two stations and not any other stations on this line.

※ JR line map for the whole of Japan
※ Shinkansen map in Japan

② JR Buses

Valid for most JR local buses. (There are certain exceptions and can be subject to change. JR bus companies include - JR bus company = JR Hokkaido bus, JR bus Tohoku, JR bus Kanto, JR Tokai bus, West Japan JR bus, Central JR bus, JR Shikoku bus, JR Kyushu bus). The JR pass cannot be used for express buses. *

③ JR Ferry

JR West Nippon Miyajima Ferry [Miyajima - Miyajimaguchi]. JR Kyushu Expressway Hakata Ferry - Busan (Korea) Jetfoil cannot be boarded with the JR pass.

On the next article, we will introduce buying the Japan rail pass. Be sure to read part 2!