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Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/4 03:10
I bought the green car rail pass via American Express in the UK. The original intention was to use it for a journey from Fukuoka to Narita Airport stopping in Hiroshima and despite the single journey it was still significantly cheaper than buying tickets in Japan.

In the end however I travelled to and from Hiroshima from Narita with side trip to Mount Fuji and Miyajima island. The pass therefore paid for itself many times over. My calculations was that as a family of 4 the trip we took would have costs over £2500 in total, whilst the passes were just over £700.

The green car pass is a sort of First Class on Japanese trains and I would recommend this if only for the extra space. There were no other benefits of travelling First class that I found, there was no lounge and not even so much as a free cup of coffee on board. There was also no food served but there were regular drink and snack runs and we did take our own food.

Very surprisingly there was also no free wi fi on board, though I discovered later that there is very little free wifi in Japan. It was possible to connect to the internet but you then needed to have a subscription to a service provider. The lack of free wifi is a serious issue for visitors to Japan and one I hope will be resolved.

You cannot use the super fast trains and this meant making a change in Osaka in both directions. The Nozomi trains offered a very fast service between Hiroshima and Tokyo without the need to change but the rail pass is not valid.

My one grip was seat reservations. You cannot make seats reservation before you arrive in Japan. If like me, you want to use it immediately then it can lead to problems.
You can make limited reservations on the JR website if you will be in Japan for a few days before you start using the pass. This is because there is a requirement to collect the seat reservation tickets by 9pm the day before travel. At Terminal 2 the JR pass office did not open until 10am and I thought the queue at the ticket desk was long at 7.30 in the morning. However by the time I was served (in around 15 minutes) the queue was simply huge and the wait would have been around an hour. Had it not been that we were a family of 4 and with green car tickets, I would have gone to Tokyo to get my pass started. If you are on a timetable do build in time to collect the pass and get seat reservations and it can take anything up to an hour.

I had bought green car not only for the comfort but because many blogs and forums stated that it was rare not to get a seat in a green car with or without a reservation. This is just not true and travellers should be aware that some routes get very busy even at quiet travel times. I found several trains fully booked on a Monday to Hiroshima and had to settle for an exceptionally early start to get seats on the return 3 days later. To be fair I think the issue was between Hiroshima and Osaka / Kyoto resulting in the very efficient agents suggesting earlier services.

Despite this minor inconvenience the Shinkansen is a fabulous way to travel. It is swift, comfortable, secure and on time to the second. Do not be late!

I think that it could be improved with a free cup of coffee but that is a minor consideration. Free wifi however is simply essential and the lack of straightforward easy access in 2014 is pretty poor.

I had not been in Japan for over 20 years and back then it was all work. I was concerned that it would be a costly experience but I was surprised that it cost no more for the family than a trip to Europe. Hotels outside of Tokyo are reasonable and very comfortable. In most cases I had two rooms and with breakfast it was good value. The Japan rail pass is a must. Eating out, so long as alcohol was avoided was no more expensive than at home.

I hope to return soon as despite now having passed Mount Fuji some 12 times in my life I have yet to see it. My Hakone trip was marred by fog and rain and I saw nothing. Seeing Fuji and enjoying the hospitality of Japan again, is as good a reason as any to return
by Paul (guest)  

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/4 21:57
Oh, you wouldn't want a cup of JR coffee for free. It's awful. It's worse than vending machine coffee.
by chicken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/4 23:40
Shinkansen used to provided free drinks(tea, coffee and juice) and paper towel for the green cabin passengers. Now those services are ceased due to passenger's preferences and cost issues.
by tokyo friend 48 rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/4 23:59
I did get a free coffee on a Hayate Green Car run from Hachinohe to Sendai in October and I must say it wasn't the best I've had. Far from the worst, but I've had diner coffee!
by John B digs Japan rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/5 00:03
Paul, that's sad that all those runs on trains and so Fujusan sighting. I've been blessed and had great view every time I've used the Tokaido shinkansen at a time when Fujisan can be viewed. I'm flying Sendai to Osaka and Okayama to Haneda in a week or so and I hope to catch it from the air as well, not to rub it in! :P
by John B digs Japan rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/5 02:32
(1) Shinkansen
Green car: If you can afford it, go for it..
I think a typical Asian (size-wise) finds the normal seat more than adequate; perhaps a European or American due to height or girth may prefer the extra space(width and/or legroom) in the green car.
A typical Japanese business/salary man may prefer Green Car (especially if company-paid) for prestigious reason.

JR Pass exchange at airport
As a courtesy to others in the Q(if long), just exchange the pass and make reservations elsewhere(especially for a large group).
Get ready all the details required before you even approach the counter, do not waste time figuring/vacillating and even arguing on the best/shortest routes at the counter.
If you have seen the way how passengers approach the security checkpoints, you can see the clueless/ill-prepared (suddenly-wokeup and start scrambling for clues or assistance ; oopsies:, forgot the keys, coins, belt etc),
(2) Shinkansen Coffee
No coffee connoisseur nor Starbuck$ patron but I like Nescafe.
Drank one cup of Shinkansen coffee (300Y?) courtesy of a Japanese lady for my act of chivalry in assisting her to load her shopping bag up on overhead rack.
tasted fine but as usual with human beings, tastes differ.
(3) Mt. Fuji view from the air
On a Korean Air flight from incheon to Narita, I thought I saw Mt. Fuji (left side of plane) on the approach(30 minutes before landing) to Narita.
Any idea what's the typical flight path? I thought it flew in an arc southwards then north in the approach.
by epsilon8 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/5 17:57
Wifi is definitely not a must have for many of us. The great thing about holidays is NOT having a phone or computer...
I may use a free computer at a hotel for 30 minutes once a while..

Many of us went on our first foreign holidays between the ages of 18-20, when there was no internet, phoning to another country was cumbersome and expensive etc.

I was in Germany for 2 years, and while I wrote to my parents once a week, it was understood that a phone call would be only for a very very serious emergency..

We managed quite quite well, and so did our parents!
by Red frog (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/6 02:32
I used the JRPass last year in Japan when the yen was not doing well, and I would recommend it only then. This year, I'm going cash only on a savings of 4000 yen, which may not seem like much but last year I paid $313.00 CDN for a 14 railpass, and this year it would have been $507.00 CDN. I feel I'm making the right choice this time around for me.

Also, next time you go you should rent a portable wi-fi hotspot. Yes it costs extra, and I agree with you about bigger cities having free wi-fi, but I come from a large city in Canada (over 1,000,000 people) and we don't have free wi-fi either unless you have a cable TV account with one of the local service providers. And even then, it's only available in the downtown core and not in the suburbs.
by Amyranth rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/6 03:23
"I used the JRPass last year in Japan when the yen was not doing well, and I would recommend it only then. "

Whether or not one should use a JR Pass does not depend on the exchange rate, since both the JR Pass and the individual tickets are priced in yen.
by Firas rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/6 03:28
I agree with Firas. Using the JR Pass does not depend on the exchange rate, but rather on your destinations and how often you use it.
Amyranth, you might want to rethink your position there!
by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/6 08:26
Nope. I added it all up using Hyperdia, and the cost of my trips over 15 days from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka and back again totals up at 4000 yen less than buying a JRPass. This time around, I'm largely just staying around in the cities anyway because this trip is all about shopping and seeing everything I missed last time.

by Amyranth rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/6 08:54
so the difference is due to your itinerary and has nothing to do with the exchange rate.
by ed (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/6 10:06
Of course a 14 day pass won't pay off for a Tokyo - Osaka round-trip! A 7 day pass, yes, but not a 14 day.
This has nothing to do with the freakin' exchange rate! It's just that your itinerary isn't set up for a 14 day pass...
by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/6 12:38
Last year, I used the pass for pretty much the same thing, as the JRPass didn't cover the monorail in Naha, and I was picked up from the airport in Ishigaki by the people who rented me the beach house for a few days.

So, the pass was used in Tokyo, to/in Kyoto and to/in Osaka. And like I said, last year after the exchange rate I only paid $313.00 CDN for a two week pass. This year, it's $507.00 CDN. When I checked everything out on Hyperdia, I discovered that taking out 50,000\ and using cash instead of the Pass would be about 4000\ cheaper than buying the Pass. It's not a huge savings overall, but I still feel like I'm saving a bit of money. On top of that, I can take the Nozomi Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka and save a bit of time as well when I land on Saturday.
by Amyranth (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/6 13:57
Sorry but there's no way that you paid 313CDN for a 14 day railpass unless you bought a children's pass.

And the decision to purchase/not purchase a rail pass should have nothing to do with the exchange rate.
by ed (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/6 21:01
Yeah, no possible way you got a 14 day pass for that price last year. I traveled to Japan in April 2013 with a 14 day pass, and it was significantly more expensive than that.
by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/7 00:58
Japan Rail Pass is the best thing for travelers and the other service they offer for tourist, why donft America offer something like this to help travelers see all of America. I milk the crap out of my JR Pass and I got a 21 and 7 day pass for under $1,000USD like $800less when they yen was low, I had so much stamp on my JR Pass the ticket lady look at my pass than look at me than look at my pass trying to find a lot to stampclol

I use Osaka as one of my many base I had a small apartment in Noda, I got to know the guys working at the train station checking for ticket and pass, they would see me and be like, where are you going this morning for Christmas they wish me merry x-mas. Only the guys opening up the station knew me I was there at 530 or 6am. (I wish them well and good health)

I got to know this really cute black hair girl who work at the shinkansen ticket center at Shin-Osaka, she work early morning, she would work fast to move other people to help me, sometime I let other pass me so I can go to her, shefd ask me, where are you traveling this morning? I would have loved to pay for a ticket for her for a day or two to travel with me and take her out for dinner but nothing more. (I wish her good health and hope she doing well).

Overall I canft believe some people on here are asking more out of a pass that Japan offer. Just be happy Japan offer this to travelers.
by SeikoSKO rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/7 01:48
The place I purchased my JR Railpass from charges in CDN what the conversion is from the yen at the time of purchase. Last year, the yen had dropped, and the CDN was much higher, so where the original Railpass was 46,100 yen, with the exchange it was $313.00.

Short of showing you the receipt that I got when I purchased the pass, I have no other way of proving it to a couple of people on the internet. Sorry.

But while we're at it, this time I will be using the subways in Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka more frequently than last year which also factored into my decision to not buy the Railpass this year. Instead of spending $507.00 CDN on a pass and paying extra for subways and buses, I'm getting 50,000 yen, and dedicating it explicitly to transit fares.

Again, as stated in my first post to the OP, I'm doing what I feel is right for me this time around and it's not to say that I wouldn't use the Railpass in the future. I feel I've scheduled my trip effectively enough that a Railpass is not necessary and there's nothing wrong with that.
by Amyranth rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/7 06:25
For a \46100 railpass to cost only $313CAD would require an exchange rate of 147 CAD/JPY, which hasn't happened in the last 10 years.

http://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=CAD&to=JPY&view=10Y

Either you got a 7 day pass or they mistakenly issued you a 14 day pass at the 7 day price. A 28300 7 day pass for $313CAD works out to an imputed exchange rate of 91 CAD/JPY, which did occur in 2013.

http://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=CAD&to=JPY&view=2Y



by ed (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Some thoughts on my first JR pass experience 2014/5/7 09:30
I'm struggling to understand the logic on this one. As Ed has said, the exchange rate won't make a difference to whether the JR pass is worthwhile.
Let me put it this way......
A magic carpet in another country costs 100 beans. This carpet gives you unlimited travel for a week. Alternatively, you could take separate rides over whatever period you like, which also equates to 100 beans.
At the time of travelling to that country, you can exchange 100 of your country's gold bars for 100 of that country's beans. So 100 bars = 100 beans, and 100 bars = a magic carpet pass. Right? Then 6 months later, the exchange rates have changed and unfortunately for residents of the gold bar country, 200 bars now equals 100 beans. The travel costs are still the same, i.e. 100 beans. So now it will cost 200 gold bars instead of 100 to get that pass. Because of the exchange rate change, it makes it appear as though the magic carpet pass is twice as expensive, and therefore not worthwhile. But you know what? The separate trips are still 100 beans. The cost of food and drinks are still the same as before. The hotels will cost the same. But as you're coming from a country whose currency now gets half what is used to, it will cost you twice as much as before. Whether or not you buy a magic carpet pass, EVERYTHING will cost twice as much, including the exchange. Your 2000 bars will now only become 1000 beans.

The actual problem you encountered is that you made the wrong call buying the JR pass in the first place. In other words, you've bought a 200 bean pass when you're only adding up travel costs of 150 beans. In any currency, that's a foolish mistake.

As for thinking the Nozomi is a must ride, it's not that much faster. Tokyo to Hiroshima, 241 min v's 293 min.
by Sal1980 rate this post as useful

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