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Endless discovery awaits you in the Land of the Rising Sun, thanks to the Japan Rail Pass! If you’re planning to spend the majority of your time travelling around this spectacular country, then we’d absolutely recommend buying a Japan Rail Pass. The JR Pass includes more than just travel on Japan’s Shinkansen (‘bullet trains'). In fact, some bus lines and even a very special ferry route are covered if you’re a pass-holder – more on that below.

On this page, you’ll find everything you need to know about travelling in Japan – from details about the JR pass and how to use it, to FAQs and much more. Pick up your Japan Rail Pass today and get ready to say Konnichiwa to Mount Fuji, thousands of historic shrines, sprawling high-tech cities and sweet-smelling cherry blossom gardens!

Heading to Japan?

Hello intrepid explorers! Looking to buy your Japan Rail Pass for this summer? Please bear in mind that you can only book your JR Pass Exchange Order if you are travelling within the next three months. Once ordered, the JR Pass Exchange Order is only valid for three months, so if you want to book for July, make a note to come back to this page in April or May!

For more general info, head to our trains in Japan page. 

What is a JR Pass Exchange Order?

As stated previously, a JR Pass Exchange Order is a type of receipt/proof of purchase for your Japan Rail Pass. You need to physically take this with you to Japan and exchange it for your actual JR Rail Pass at any JR Exchange Office. At the exchange office, you'll need to present your Exchange Order and your Passport, with proof that you are a temporary visitor (this should be a stamp in your passport). If you don't have these items with you at the exchange office, you won't be able to get your Japan Rail Pass.

How to get a Japan Rail Pass

  1. Follow the link to our official partners, JTB (Japan Specialist) who have partnered with us to help grant our customers access to easy travel across the country.
  2. Choose either a 7, 14 or 21-day pass and order online (make sure you’re ordering within three months of your travel date, and no later than 10 days before you head to Japan).
  3. Enter your delivery address (UK and international addresses accepted) – You’ll be sent an Exchange Order. This is a type of receipt/proof of purchase for your Japan Rail Pass.
  4. Take your Exchange Order with you to Japan and exchange it for your Japan Rail Pass at any JR Exchange Office (you can find these offices at airports and major stations in cities, but please check office opening times ahead of travel).

Japan Rail Pass prices

Have a look at the prices below for the 7, 14 and 21-day Japan Rail Passes. Keep in mind the number of days you want to travel vs the total amount of days you’ll have in Japan. It might be that you’re visiting for a month, but only travelling for two weeks, in which case the 14-day pass might be better for you.

Type Adult Price Green Price (First Class)
7-Day-Pass £207 £276
14-Day-Pass £330 £447
21-Day-Pass £422 £582

 

*Prices are correct as of 14th February 2020 and are subject to change without notice. All post-sale care and communications will be with the third-party booking company.

Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?

In short, yes, the Japan Rail Pass is worth it if you’re planning to visit more than one city in Japan. The JR (Japan Rail) Group is the main public transport company in Japan and the JR Pass covers travel on the majority of its services. It’s particularly great for city-to-town or city-to-city travel. However, if you’re planning to stay in just one city, say Tokyo, the JR Pass might not be necessary. Within cities, you’ll find some JR train and bus services, but the more convenient way to get around is by using the subway systems, which aren’t covered by the JR Pass.

There's so much to see and do in Japan, so we'd recommend a minimum two or three-week stay. And there's no easier or cheaper way to travel Japan than with a JR Pass. Let’s say you want to see five cities over two weeks, starting in Tokyo and working your merry way through Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and finally Fukuoka, before returning to Tokyo – the JR pass works out at much better value than buying individual tickets once you’re there. You can check the value of any itinerary by using a Japan Rail Pass calculator online.

Japan Rail Pass map

Find out more about the Japanese railway system and how to travel the country by train.

To understand how the Japanese railway system works, you'll need to keep in mind that:

  • Each region outlined on the map is controlled by one of the main JR companies. These are JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR West, JR Central and JR Kyushu. With a National JR Pass in hand, you'll be able to travel in any/all of these regions.
  • There are more than 20 types of Shinkansen high-speed trains, but only some of them are covered by the JR Pass (find out about these below).
  • Trains in Japan are renowned for being punctual, so make sure you're always at your platform ready to board your train in good time!

We've teamed up with JTB (Japan Specialist) to offer Regional Passes as well as the national JR Pass. Check out our JR Regional Pass page and see how much you could save! 

 

7-day Japan Rail Pass itinerary

Only got seven days to play with on your holiday to Japan? Check out our essential itinerary for how to spend one week in the Land Of The Rising Sun with a JR Pass in hand. You might also find this detailed climate guide handy to help you plan when to visit.

Day 1 – Tokyo – Arrive


The obvious starting point for any first-time trip to Japan? The capital, Tokyo, of course. Live it up in the land of neon lights and crazy-good ramen. Robot Restaurant or Cat Café? The choice is yours...

Our top tip for your explorations around the city? Look up. Most of the skyscrapers and tall buildings feature various different stores and restaurants on upper levels. Get your fill of Pokemon merch and then find a fantastic restaurant all in one building!

Day 2 – Hakone


The word that would best describe this place is ‘serene’. Famed for its traditional Japanese Onsen and Ryokan inns, Hakone is a must for anyone looking to experience a taste of real Japan.

Make sure you cross Lake Ashi on one of the pirate ships still in operation there, and take in the majestic sight of the Hakone Shrine, emerging up from the shores.

 

Day 3 – Kyoto


Kyoto is the scenic star of the trip! From the surreal bamboo forest in Arashiyama to the iconic Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine (featured in the movie ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’), every corner you turn in Kyoto presents something beautiful.

Don’t forget to try the awesome street eats too! Nishiki Market, in particular, is a must. It's a long, narrow stretch of stalls where you're sure to find something delicious. Make your way from one end to the other, then head back to your hotel to take care of your new food baby.

 

Day 4 – Osaka


Vibrant energy and fantastic cuisine has earned Osaka the loving nickname of Japan’s Kitchen. It’s a fantastic city to visit for any itinerary. There’s something for everyone, from the buzzing bars of the Dotonbori area by the canals, to the formidable Osaka Castle (an absolute must-see).

When in Osaka, make sure to try one of the city's most famous dishes, Okonomiyaki. It's a delectable type of savoury pancake, filled with all kinds of fresh meats and vegetables – this might be our favourite meal in all of Japan!

Day 5 – Hiroshima


Take things down a notch and visit peaceful Hiroshima, a lovely city where you’ll forget about the hustle and bustle of places like Tokyo or Osaka. Visit the World Heritage Site of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (the Atomic Bomb Dome) and spend some time in the city’s oldest garden – Shukkeien. 

Hiroshima also has its own take on Okonomiyaki (evidently, we can't stop going on about it), so make sure to try that too!

Day 6 – Miyajima


Nearby to Hiroshima, you can find Miyajima, an island that’s home to tame deer, which you can walk right up to and stroke! To get there, you can board the ferry using your JR Pass from near Miyajimaguchi station. Since this is the only ferry covered by the JR Pass, you can’t pass up this opportunity!

If you can, stay on the island overnight. The atmosphere changes as the tourists and day trip visitors depart on the last few ferries back to the mainland. Walk around amongst the deer at night in the peace and quiet and take in the magical Itsukushima Shrine – you'll practically have it all to yourself!

Day 7 – Tokyo – Depart

If you have any time to spare before you leave Tokyo, this is a good chance to see any of the other attractions you might’ve missed. Equally fun is choosing a central starting point and walking around till you find something cool (which never takes long)!

One of the most interesting and unique places in the capital city is Shinjuku Golden Gai, a famous network of alleys where small bars are packed in tightly next to each other. It's one of the only areas of Tokyo that still gives a glimpse into the city's past, before all the skyscrapers were built.

Japan Rail Pass First Class vs Regular

Travel in style and comfort with the JR Green Pass (First Class). Not only will you have a more enjoyable journey, but you can also expect:

• Bigger, more luxurious seats that can recline up to 40 degrees, with footrests

• More space between seats, so you can really stretch out on those long sightseeing days

• An automatic seat reservation, so you don’t have to worry about standing

• A reading light

• A power socket

• Integrated radio access

• A hot towel and a hot or cold drink (on the JR Hokkaido line only)

You can usually find the Green cars situated at the front of high-speed trains (you’ll mostly use these to travel from region to region or city to city). On services that travel at normal speeds, there may not be First Class carriages.

How to use a Japan Rail Pass

You can book tickets for Shinkansen (‘bullet trains’), local trains, buses and even a ferry with your JR Pass. All you need to do is visit the nearest ticket office to you in Japan and find out which train you want to board (and whether the JR Pass covers it). Reserve seats and book as many train tickets as you like for the entirety of your trip from any ticket office.

You can access train stations in Japan by simply showing your JR Pass to the station staff, and they will wave you through onto the platform. In some big stations, like Tokyo station, the attendants will be ready and waiting in small offices right next to the ticket barriers. Simply walk in, get your pass stamped and then exit on the other side, free to find your platform - easy!

Which services can you use with a JR Pass?

Japan Rail's services are split out into six main regions (seen below). You can use most JR services within all regions if you have a national JR Pass. That means you can travel easily across the entire country with the following:


• JR Hokkaido
• JR West
• JR East
• JR Central
• JR Shikoku
• JR Kyushu

Read on to find out which types of trains you'll be able to board.

Which Shinkansen ('bullet trains') can I use with a JR Pass?

You can access the following types of Shinkansen trains with a JR Pass:

• Kodama
• Hikari
• Sakura
• Tsubame

The slightly faster Shinkansen trains, known as Nozomi and Mizuho, are not covered by the JR Pass. These services are usually direct, or feature fewer stops, but there’s generally not a huge difference in journey times.

JR Pass holders can also access:

• JR Bus lines (local routes only)
• JR Ferry to Miyajima
• JR Monorail (Tokyo)

That's not all...

JR Pass holders can even access some pretty funky 'character trains' across Japan. One of them, the Panda train, features (you guessed it) a cute panda design, with some seats even designed to look like full-on pandas... what's not to love?!

Catch the Panda train in Osaka.

When it comes to Shinkansen, there's one pretty unique way to travel. All aboard the Hello Kitty bullet train? Anyone? That's right, travel at super speed in a bright pink carriage. To be fair, that would be quite an experience, especially if you have kids with you!

Hop on the Hello Kitty Shinkansen from Osaka or Hiroshima.

FAQs

Can I buy a JR Rail Pass in Japan?

No, the only way you can get a pass is to order online and get an Exchange Order.

Can I use a Japan Rail Pass on the Tokyo Metro?

No, you can only use the JR Pass on JR services. To travel on Metro services or other underground lines, you should pick up a prepaid Suica Card (which acts similarly to London's Oyster Cards).

Can I use a Japan Rail Pass on the Shinkansen?

Yes, you can use the Japan Rail Pass to travel on the Shinkansen, or 'bullet trains'. However, there are two types of Shinkansen you won't be able to access with a JR Pass – these are known as Nozomi and Mizuho. These are the fastest trains, usually with no stops between the departure point and destination.

When should I buy a Japan Rail Pass?

To make sure you receive your Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order before flying to Japan, you should order your JR Pass at least 10 days before your journey. Once you have your Exchange Order, it'll be valid for no more than three months, so make sure you don't order your Pass any sooner than three months before you travel.

Who's eligible for a Japan Rail Pass?

To be able to use the JR Pass, you have to be visiting Japan on a tourist visa (which allows visitors to stay for a maximum of three months). The JR Pass isn't available to Japanese nationals, unless they have a certificate of overseas residence, proving they've lived outside of Japan for 10 years or more.