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A Great Deal for Using Railway Services in Japan! How to use the Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass is a must-have item for using railway services throughout Japan in the most economical way. Get to know more about it, and make your journey in Japan more comfortable.

What is the Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail Pass is a special fare ticket, offered by six companies of the JR group, that provides railway services all around Japan. This ticket is only available to sight-seeing travelers visiting Japan from abroad. While the ticket is valid, an applicant may use other transportation services including city buses and ferries in restricted areas, in addition to railways. The Japan Rail Pass is very beneficial as both long distance trains like the shinkansen, which links major cities in Japan, and local trains that you won’t be able to avoid in each city are covered.

The scope and period varies with the ticket, and there are two types of Japan Rail Pass. One is Green, a ticket available for green cars (higher class seats), and the other is Ordinary. The available durations of validity are 7 days, 14 days, and 21 days. Depending on the type of ticket, the areas of validity might also be limited.

What is the Japan Rail Pass?

3 things to keep in mind before purchasing

1. Eligibility

To be able to purchase this pass, one of following two conditions must be met:
(1) You are a foreign tourist visiting Japan from abroad for sight-seeing, under the entry status of “temporary visitor”.
(2) You are a Japanese national living outside of Japan who meets the following conditions.
a. You have the right to permanent residence in a foreign country.
b. You are married to a foreign national residing in a country other than Japan.

A “temporary visitor” stamp or sticker is required for those applying under condition (1) when entering Japan. This stamp or sticker cannot be obtained if an automated gate is used at immigration, therefore you must go through a manned gate, or ask a clerk to apply the stamp to your passport.

2. Terms of use

In addition to the condition that the Japan Rail Pass is only available to those with the entry status of “temporary visitor”, there are also other restrictions such as:
・ The period of validity of a Japan Rail Pass is the consecutive 7, 14, or 21 day period beginning on the date the pass is first used.
・ The pass is valid for JR lines only (while Tokyo Monorail can be used, other private railways cannot be used).
・ The pass cannot be used for travel on the NOZOMI and MIZUHO trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu lines.
・ The pass is not valid for travel on express bus routes operated by the JR Bus companies.
・ The Hydrofoil ferry service operated by JR Kyushu Railway Company between Hakata and Busan (Korea) is not covered.
・ Additional fees may apply to specific trains, seating grades, etc.

3. The PASS must be purchased before entering Japan

One last thing to be aware of is that the Japan Rail Pass is not available for purchase inside Japan. An Exchange Order for the pass must be bought at a JR designated sales office or agent (JTB, Nippon Travel Agency, Kinki Nippon Tourist, Tobu Top Tours, JAL, ANA, JALPAK), before traveling to Japan. *Purchase through JAL or ANA is only available for those who are traveling with JAL or ANA.

How to use the Japan Rail Pass

1. Collect the Japan Rail Pass

An Exchange Order is available for purchase at JR designated sales offices and agents in each country. Transportation services cannot be used before exchanging this order for the actual pass. When you arrive in Japan, make sure to turn in your Exchange Order with your passport to obtain your Japan Rail Pass at an exchange office in a major airport or JR station. This process is smoothest at the airport immediately after entering the country. *An Exchange Order must be used within three months of the date the order was issued.

* JR EAST Travel Service Center at Narita Airport

2. Make a Seat Reservation

Once the exchange process is completed, you are ready to use the transportation system. Unreserved seats can be used simply by showing your Japan Rail Pass at ticket gates. Automated gates cannot be used with this Pass, only manned gates can be used. To make a seat reservation, go to any Travel Service Center or Reservation Office (midori-no-madoguchi) at a JR station to obtain a seating ticket. Although a reservation can be made immediately before boarding, it is recommended that you complete your reservations at least a day in advance.

The Japan Rail Pass is a great tool to keep your transportation costs low. You do not have to feel hesitant to visit many places, and you can enjoy shopping with the money saved. Your journey in Japan will definitely be better with the Japan Rail Pass.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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