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The Japan Rail Pass (also commonly called JR Pass) is a very cost effective rail pass for long distance train travel in Japan.

The pass can be used only by foreign tourists and offers unlimited rides on JR trains for one, two or three weeks at a cost that residents of Japan can only dream of. It comes in two types: ordinary and green car. The latter is valid on green cars (first class cars) that offer more spacious seats than ordinary cars.

Purchase the Japan Rail Pass

Japan Rail Pass
TypeOrdinaryGreen Car
7 consecutive days29,650 yen39,600 yen
14 consecutive days47,250 yen64,120 yen
21 consecutive days60,450 yen83,390 yen

Validity

The Japan Rail Pass is valid on:

  • JR trains
    The pass is valid on almost all trains operated on the nationwide network of JR (Japan Railways), including shinkansen, limited express, express, rapid and local trains. The map below shows the major train lines that are covered by the pass.
  • Tokyo Monorail to/from Haneda Airport
  • JR Ferry to Miyajima
  • Some non-JR trains to access isolated JR lines
    The pass is valid on a small number of non-JR trains to access remote, isolated JR lines that would otherwise be inaccessible. However, pass holders may only get on and off at stations that provide a transfer to a JR line. The following non-JR trains may be used:
    • Aoimori Railway between Aomori, Noheji and Hachinohe to access the JR Ominato Line to the Shimokita Peninsula.
    • IR Ishikawa Railway between Kanazawa and Tsubata to access the JR Nanao Line to the Noto Peninsula.
    • Ainokaze Toyama Railway between Toyama and Takaoka to access the JR Himi Line and JR Johana Line.
  • Local JR buses
    The pass is valid on a small number of local buses operated by JR (but not on highway buses). The following can be useful to foreign tourists:

The Japan Rail Pass is not valid or requires a supplement fee in the following cases:

  • Nozomi trains along the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen
    The Nozomi, the fastest category along the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. However, pass holders can use Hikari trains along the same line, which stop at a few more stops than Nozomi trains and are slightly slower and less frequent than Nozomi trains. Pass holders using a Nozomi will have to pay the full fare.
  • Mizuho trains along the Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen
    The Mizuho, the fastest category along the Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. However, there are only a small number of round trips per day, anyway, and pass holders can use Sakura trains along the same line, which are more frequent and only sightly slower. Pass holders using a Mizuho will have to pay the full fare.
  • JR trains using non-JR tracks
    There are about a dozen JR trains which partially make use of tracks owned by different railway companies. Japan Rail Pass holders will have to pay the fare for these non-JR sections. Please see our special page on JR trains using non-JR tracks for a list of these trains.
  • Special compartments and berth
    Special compartments, such as berths on night trains, are not fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass. A supplement fee has to be paid. See our night train page for more details.
  • Trains requiring Liner Tickets
    There exist a few suburban "home liner" trains, which require a special "liner ticket" and are not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. However, since these trains are targeted at suburban commuters, foreign tourists are unlikely to use them. Confusingly, there are also a few trains that contain "Liner" in their names, but do not require a liner ticket, such as the Marine Liner and Seaside Liner. These trains are fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
  • Highway buses
    The pass is not valid on any highway buses. It used to be valid on a small number of JR highway buses before spring 2013.
The Japan Rail Pass includes the following additional features:

  • Free Seat Reservations
    Japan Rail Pass holders can make seat reservations for JR trains for free (more details below).
  • Discounts at JR affiliated hotels
    The Japan Rail Pass offers discounts on regular rates at JR affiliated hotels, such as the Metropolitan, Mets, Associa and Granvia hotel chains, which are usually conveniently found near or inside railway stations. Note however, that discount rates available on online reservation websites are often just as good or better.

Upgrading to Nozomi or Mizuho possible?

No, it is not possible. When riding the Nozomi or Mizuho, Japan Rail Pass holders will have to pay the entire ticket price. Be careful not to board a Nozomi or Mizuho train by mistake.

Green vs. Ordinary

Green cars offer larger seats, more foot space and enhanced board service, and they tend to be less crowded than ordinary cars. They are available on most shinkansen and limited express trains and on a small number of local trains. Many travelers find the size and foot room of ordinary seats sufficient, but those who wish to have additional luxury, should go for the green car.

Upgrading to Green Car possible?

It is possible, but the ordinary rail pass will cover only the base fare. The green car fee and eventual shinkansen or limited express supplement fees will have to be paid separately, which usually adds up to a rather large amount.

Can the pass be shared or transferred?

No, the Japan Rail Pass is a strictly personal pass and can only be used by the person whose name is printed in the pass. Pass holders may be asked by railway staff to produce their passports in order to confirm ownership of the pass.

Validity: Calendar Days or 24-Hour Periods?

The validity period of the Japan Rail Pass is based on calendar days (midnight to midnight) rather than 24 hour periods. For example: when starting to use a 7-day pass at noon on day 1, it will expire at midnight at the end of day 7 rather than at noon of day 8.

What happens if I am on a train when the pass expires at midnight?

If you happen to be on board of a train at midnight, the Japan Rail Pass remains valid until the end of your journey, i.e. until you leave your final station through the ticket gates. This is true even if you transfer trains after midnight. However, if you transfer to a shinkansen, limited express or express train after midnight, the pass will not cover the express supplement for that train anymore.

Purchase and Exchange

Purchase the Japan Rail Pass

There are three ways to purchase a Japan Rail Pass:

  • On the internet
    There are many websites that are authorized to sell the Japan Rail Pass on behalf of JR. If you purchase your pass through one of them, you will receive a voucher to be exchanged to the actual pass inside Japan within three months of purchase. Furthermore, JR opened its own website for selling the pass in June 2020; however, their prices are roughly 10 to 13% more expensive (see table below). Two advantages of purchasing the pass through the JR website are that you can make online seat reservations after purchase and that you only need your passport (and no voucher) to pick up your pass in Japan.
  • Through a travel agent outside of Japan
    Many travel agents outside of Japan are authorized to sell the Japan Rail Pass. If you purchase your pass through one of them, you will first receive a voucher that has to be exchanged to the actual pass inside Japan and within three months of purchase.
  • At selected major stations inside Japan
    From March 8, 2017 until March 31, 2021 (and possibly beyond that date), it is also possible to purchase the Japan Rail Pass at an increased cost (see table below) at selected major stations and airports inside Japan, including Narita Airport, Haneda Airport and Kansai Airport.
If purchased through the JR website or inside Japan
TypeOrdinaryGreen Car
7 consecutive days33,610 yen44,810 yen
14 consecutive days52,960 yen72,310 yen
21 consecutive days66,200 yen91,670 yen

Who can use it?

The Japan Rail Pass can be used only by short term visitors to Japan, who enter Japan as "temporary visitors". It can also be used by Japanese nationals who can prove that they have been permanently residing abroad for at least the past ten years. However, it cannot be used by residents of Japan.

Where and how can the voucher be exchanged?

The voucher can be exchanged at designated major JR stations across Japan, including the JR stations at Narita Airport and Kansai Airport. See this page for a list of designated stations and opening hours. Hand your voucher and passport (photocopy not accepted) to the ticket counter staff. After some processing, you will receive your Japan Rail Pass.

Selecting a starting date in the future

When you exchange your voucher to the actual pass, you do not need to start using the pass from the same date. You can select any date within a one month period as your starting date. However, once the actual pass is issued, the starting date cannot be changed. Those who purchase their pass through the official JR website select the starting date of their pass at the time of purchase and cannot change it later.

How to use the Japan Rail Pass

See our separate pages about the basics on how to use trains and shinkansen in Japan. Generally, the Japan Rail Pass is your ticket. No other ticket is needed except when using a reserved seat, in which case you will get a seat reservation ticket. Seat reservations are free with the Japan Rail Pass.

Rail pass holders can now use automatic ticket gates

As of June 2020, Japan Rail Pass holders can use the automatic ticket gates to enter railway stations. Previously they had to pass through the manned gate and present their rail pass to the staff.

How to make seat reservations

Japan Rail Pass holders can make seat reservations for free at ticket machines or ticket offices across Japan after exchanging their voucher to the actual pass. Reservations cannot be made on board of trains. Those who purchased their pass through the official JR website can also make online seat reservations on that website. See the pages on how to use trains and shinkansen for more details about how to make a seat reservation.

Are seat reservations mandatory?

On most trains seat reservations are optional. On most urban and local trains they are not even possible. Among long-distance trains, most carry some non-reserved seating, for which seat reservations are not mandatory. However, there is a small number of trains, which carry only reserved seating and require seat reservations. They include the following trains:

Are seat reservations recommended?

Many trains do not get booked out, but some do. During busy travel periods, some trains may get booked out several days in advance. For peace of mind it is always recommended to make seat reservations especially when traveling in groups and you wish to sit together. After all, seat reservations are free for rail pass holders. On a few trains reservations are mandatory (see above).

What happens if I miss a train for which I have seat reservations?

This may cause inconvenience to other passengers and the railway company and should be avoided by all means. If it does happen, try to cancel your reservation at a ticket office before it is too late. You can then ride a later train in the non-reserved section or make a new reservation for an upcoming departure.

Does the Japan Rail Pass pay off?

It depends on your itinerary! It won't pay off for urban travel alone. But if you cover some long distances within a relatively short time period, the pass is likely to pay off. Furthermore, the pass provides convenience and flexibility in addition to saving money. For example, pass holders won't need to buy tickets whenever they ride trains and can spontaneously make side trips at no additional cost.

On the other hand, the pass is not valid on Nozomi trains which can be a small inconvenience when traveling along the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen. Note also that some travel agents might charge a service fee or apply an unfavorable exchange rate, resulting in an inflated cost of the rail pass.

Check out our Japan Rail Pass Calculator

When does it pay off?

As a rule of thumb, the 7-day pass costs about the same as regular shinkansen tickets for a round trip between Tokyo and Kyoto. It will not pay off if you travel less than that. Our Japan Rail Pass Calculator and the timetable website Hyperdia are good tools to compare regular ticket costs with the pass. The access pages of destinations in our sightseeing guide also contain lots of fare information.

Is it useful for urban transportation?

Urban transportation alone will not justify the purchase of a Japan Rail Pass. A pass will only pay off if some long distance travel is involved. However, in cities that are well served by JR train lines, the Japan Rail Pass can also be useful for urban transportation.

Tokyo and Osaka are two of the few cities where the pass is quite useful, particularly thanks to Tokyo's Yamanote Line and Osaka's Loop Line. In many other cities, however, for example in Kyoto, non-JR trains, subways and buses are more convenient but not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.