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Japan Rail Pass – Frequently Asked Questions

Japan Rail Pass – Frequently Asked Questions2015-01-26T15:12:18+00:00

[accordian class=”jrp-faq” id=”jrp-faq”][toggle title=”Is it worthwhile to get a Rail Pass?” open=”no”]
It depends on how much rail travel you are planning to do, and within what period.
If you are just intending to travel on the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and back again, the 7-day Japan Rail Pass is not really worthwhile.
But if you are travelling Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka-Hiroshima-Tokyo within a 7-day period, it’s definitely worthwhile. is a useful website for checking fares, to see whether it would be more cost-effective to buy individual tickets or get a Rail Pass.
The website also shows train times and journey durations.

Narita Express train from Airport to Tokyo: Yen 2,820
Tokyo – Kyoto by Bullet train: Yen 13,400
Kyoto – Tokyo by Bullet train: Yen 13,400
Narita Express train from Tokyo to Narita: Yen 2,820
Total Yen 32,440
7-day Japan Rail Pass (valid for all above journeys): Yen 29,110

[/toggle][toggle title=”Can I use my Japan Rail Pass on the new Hokuriku Shinkansen?” open=”no”]
Yes, you can.
From 14 March 2015 you can use the nationwide Japan Rail Pass on the newly-opened bullet train line from Nagoya to Toyama and Kanazawa.

From 14 March, the local trains along the line Nagano – Kanazawa on which the Rail Pass was valid are regarded as “legacy lines” and the Rail Pass is no longer valid on some of them.

Information from the Japan Rail Pass official website,
[/toggle][toggle title=”Do I need a Rail Pass for an infant?” open=”no”]
Japan Rail state that you need a child Rail Pass for children aged 6-11 years only.
Children under 6 years do not need a Rail Pass, but without a Rail Pass they may only occupy a seat if it is not required for a fare-paying passenger.
If you want your infant aged under 6 years be able to occupy their own seat, you should buy a child Rail Pass for them. This is particularly recommendable at busy times.

Please note that at busy times, you should always try to reserve seats in advance in the particular trains on which you wish to travel. With the Japan Rail Pass, seat reservations are free of charge, so it’s always worth doing if you can plan ahead enough to know which trains you are going to take.

[/toggle][toggle title=”Can I buy a Japan Rail Pass when I arrive in Japan?” open=”no”]
No, you cannot buy a Japan Rail Pass in Japan.
A Rail Pass Exchange Order MUST be purchased outside Japan, prior to your trip.
You then present the Exchange Order at a major station in Japan in order to obtain the actual Rail Pass, which is valid for the designated period (consecutive days).

Information about locations in Japan where the Rail Pass Exchange Order can be exchanged for the actual

[/toggle][toggle title=”My child is 11 now, but will be 12 while we are in Japan. Can she have a child Pass?” open=”no”]
The eligibility for child price (up to and including 11 years old) is taken from the date on which the Rail Pass Exchange Order is presented in Japan: not the date on which the Rail Pass Exchange Order was bought, or the date when the Pass will start, or the date on which the child is actually travelling on the train.
So if your child will still be 11 on the day you present the Rail Pass Exchange Order in Japan and receive the actual Rail Pass, you can buy a child Pass. If she will have her 12th birthday before that day, you need to buy an adult Pass.
Example: Rail Pass Exchange Orders are bought in April, and will be presented in Japan on 15th May, for use in June. If the child’s 12th birthday falls before 15th May, an Exchange Order for the child fare can be bought and used. If the child’s 12th birthday falls on or after 15th May, an Exchange Order for the adult fare must be purchased.
[/toggle][toggle title=”Do I need to reserve my seat?” open=”no”]
If you are going to use a “Green” pass, you will need to make seat reservations, as Green carriages do not have unreserved seats.
If you are going to use an “Ordinary” pass, you can choose to reserve seats on specific trains, or just take “unreserved” seats. It is particularly advisable to get seat reservations during busy times, eg. 28 December – 6 January, 27 April – 6 May (“Golden Week”), and 11-20 August (Obon season).

You can’t make seat reservations before arriving in Japan and presenting the Exchange Order. Once you do so, and get the Rail Pass itself, you can make these reservations immediately, or at any rail station ticket office.

[/toggle][toggle title=”What happens if I have to delay/cancel my trip?” open=”no”]
If you cancel your trip, you should send the unused Rail Pass Exchange Order to us. We will refund it less a 10% cancellation fee.
The Rail Pass Exchange Order is valid for 3 months from the date of issue.
So if you delay your trip, and the date you are able to present the Exchange Order in Japan still falls within the 3-month limit, you will still be able to use it to obtain your Rail Pass.
If the new dates for your trip mean that the validity of your Rail Pass Exchange Order will be expired, you will need a new one. In most cases of travel delay of just a month or two, if you let us know and return the original Exchange Order to us, we will be able to void that original one and re-issue with a date valid for your delayed trip. If you trip is delayed for 6 months or longer, you will need to return the original Rail Pass Exchange Order for a refund, and buy a new one.
[/toggle][toggle title=”Can I use all types of trains?” open=”no”]
The Rail Pass is valid on all train services operated by JR (Japan Rail Railways)*
It is not valid on other privately-operated railways.
Examples of private railways:
Keisei Express service from Narita airport to Tokyo
Nankai Express service from KIX airport to Namba (Osaka)
Odakyu Express service from Shinjuku(Tokyo) to Hakone
But for all the above, there is also a JR service – which may be slower or less frequent – for which the Rail Pass can be used.
* There are a couple of exceptional cases where the Rail Pass cannot be used, even though the services are operated by JR:
– “Nozomi” bullet trains on the Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka (Tokaido) line
– “Mizuho” bullet trains on the Kyushu Shinkasen line

Full details are in the leaflet we provide with the Rail Pass Exchange Order, or on the Japan Rail Pass official website

[/toggle][toggle title=”Can I buy a Japan Rail Pass for somebody who is already in Japan?” open=”no”]
It depends on the immigration status of the person who will use the Pass.
Japan: examples of Temporary Visitor stamp
The person using the Japan Rail Pass has to have entered Japan with the status of “Temporary visitor”. This is given in the case of a short stay for business or tourism.
If the person is already living (and perhaps, working) in Japan, they will not have “temporary visitor” status stamped in their passport. SO they will not be able to get a Japan Rail Pass.

When you take the Rail Pass Exchange Order (bought overseas) to a Travel Service Center in Japan, you will have to complete a form and show your passport for checking. JR staff check the immigration status in your passport (temporary visitor stamp) before they will give you the actual Japan Rail Pass.

[/toggle][toggle title=”Can I buy a Japan Rail Pass for somebody else?” open=”no”]
Yes, you can, as long as they are eligible to use the Pass (ie. they satisfy the conditions mentioned in “Who is eligible for the Rail Pass?” topic elsewhere in these FAQ).
They will need to receive the Rail Pass Exchange Order and take it with them when they travel to Japan.
[/toggle][toggle title=”What are the advantages of a Green pass?” open=”no”]
The seating and facilities in “Ordinary” or “Tourist” class carriages of JR trains, particularly the Bullet trains, is quite roomy and comfortable. “Green” or first-class carriages offer more room (eg. 2 + 2 seats across a carriage, compared to 2 + 3 seats in Ordinary class). But bear in mind that in Green class, seat reservation is compulsory – non-reserved carriages do not exist in Green class.
[/toggle][toggle title=”How do I travel on trains with the Rail Pass?” open=”no”]
The main (whole country) JAPAN RAIL PASS is valid on JR trains including Shinkansen services (Bullet trains); However, the JAPAN RAIL PASS is not valid for any seats, reserved or non-reserved, on the “NOZOMI” and “MIZUHO” type Bullet trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines.
These types of Bullet train should be used instead: “HIKARI,” “SAKURA,” “KODAMA,” and “TSUBAME” trains.

Do not use an automatic ticket-reading gate with a Japan Rail Pass. Please show the Pass at a manned ticket gate – preferably with the validity date of your Rail Pass showing – and the staff will let you through.

Busy times

Please note that during crowded periods you cannot be guaranteed a seat on a specific train.
The periods when seat reservations are particularly difficult to secure are as follows:
December 29 to January 5
The New Year holiday period is the most popular travel time for Japanese people, for vacations and returns to their hometown or family.
April 29 to >May 5
Due to consecutive holidays in a comfortable travel season, there is large – scale travel throughout Japan for leisure and recreation.
August 13 to 15
The “O-bon” season, another traditional time for Japanese to travel to their hometown or family.
[/toggle][toggle title=”Where can I find timetables?” open=”no”]

Train routes, timetables and fare information in English can be found at:

[/toggle][toggle title=”How long is the Rail Pass Exchange Order valid?” open=”no”]
Within three months from the date the Exchange Order was issued, you must present your Exchange Order at a Japan Rail Pass exchange office to obtain your JAPAN RAIL PASS. At that time, you have to specify the date that you want to start using the Pass. It can be any date within one month from the date the PASS is received.
The validity period of a JAPAN RAIL PASS is the consecutive 7, 14, or 21 days beginning on the start date specified on the Pass.
Once the Pass has a starting date written on it, the date cannot be changed.
On or after the specified start date, the Pass is not refundable.
[/toggle][toggle title=”Can I make seat reservations on particular trains?” open=”no”]
Shinkansen (Bullet trains) and most Limited Express and Ordinary Express trains have reserved Green Car seats (First class) and both reserved and non-reserved Ordinary Car seats (Standard class).
For a non reserved seat, simply show your Japan Rail Pass to board.
To make a seat reservation, visit any Travel Service Centre or reserved-seat ticket office called “Midori-no-madoguchi” at a Japan Railways station in Japan.

Normally, seat reservations cannot be made from outside Japan. For users of the Japan Rail Pass, seat reservations are free of charge BUT you cannot reserve seats until you have presented the Exchange Order in Japan and obtained the actual Rail Pass.

However, JR East now have an online seat reservation system. This allows travellers to make advance seat reservations for all JR East Shinkansen (Bullet trains) as well as certain JR East Limited Express trains.
This system allows JR Pass holders, JR East Pass holders and also non-pass holders to make seat reservations.
To make a reservation, travellers have to enroll as a member (sign-up is free). Then check the types of trains and specific times, and reserve seats. Travellers just need to pick up the tickets when they arrive in Japan (at any location specified by East Japan Railway Company within the JR East area).
JR East Shinkansen Reservation website
[/toggle][toggle title=”How do I buy and use a Rail Pass?” open=”no”]

    This will help you decide whether a 7-, 14- or 21-day pass will be best for you, or one of the regional passes.
    at our “buy” page
    Present the Exchange Order at any Exchange Office (see photo) to get your actual Japan Rail Pass issued.
    You can start using the actual Rail Pass from that day, or you can specify a start date up to one month in the future.
    Enjoy exploring Japan by rail, including local lines of JR bus companies. Special discount rates are available at JR Group Hotels too!

[/toggle][toggle title=”Who is eligible for the Rail Pass?” open=”no”]
TOURISTS (ie. non-Japanese visitors) visiting Japan from abroad for sightseeing, under the entry status of “temporary visitor“.
Your passport must be shown at the time of presenting the Exchange order for the Rail Pass, so that your immigration stamp can be checked.
JAPANESE NATIONALS: The main Rail Pass for travel throughout Japan can be bought and used by Japanese nationals who can show they have residency abroad, or are married to a non-Japanese.
Valid documentation of eligibility should be provided to JTB UK, and presented in Japan on request.
eg. Person married to non-Japanese must provide written proof:

  • that they are married to a non-Japanese
  • that their spouse is living outside Japan


  • 永住許可を持っている場合
  • 外国人の配偶者で及び日本国外に居住している場合

Please download and use our eligibility and document check(pdf)
But the Regional Passes, only valid for certain parts of the Japan Rail network, are not available to Japanese nationals, even if they are resident outside Japan.
[/toggle][toggle title=”Until when is my Rail Pass valid on the last day?” open=”no”]
The Japan Rail Pass validity is calculated in days, not in hours. So if you have a 7-day Rail Pass and you start using it on 1st October, whatever the time, this will count as day 1, and you will be able to use until MIDNIGHT on day 7 (7th October, in this example).
If you are travelling on a train at midnight on that day, it’s OK until the end of that journey.

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