When we finally decided to go on vacation to Japan and we bought our plane tickets, came the second part, How to plan the trip in two weeks using the Japan Rail Pass?
For this purpose, the first thing we did was go for a map of the country and decide what places we wanted to visit and how to fit it, since a week was going to be dedicated to the use of the Japan Rail Pass.
What is the Japan Rail Pass
The Japan Rail Pass is a pass that allows us to use almost all the trains that belong to the Japanese company JR. They also include buses and ferries, we use it to go from Hiroshima until Miyajima.
It must be borne in mind that different train companies operate in Japan, and with this pass only, as I mentioned before, it can be used with the JR company. The JR company is divided into six sub-companies which are as follows, JR Kyūshū, JR Shikoku, JR West, JR Central, JR East Y JR Hokkaidō.
Who can apply for the Japan Rail Pass
The Japan Rail Pass is aimed at tourists, so it seems that any tourist in Japan could use it, but it is not. Only foreigners can buy and use this pass, therefore both Japanese tourists residing in Japan and residents abroad cannot purchase it.
Until recently, Japanese living abroad could apply, but this has changed. As of April 1, 2017 they can no longer request it.
On the other hand, only if you are a foreign tourist in Japan can you request it. So if you have a student visa, or any other visa that is not the tourist visa, you cannot request it even though you are a foreigner.
How to get the Japan Rail Pass
Well, until recently it was only possible from your country of origin to an authorized agency. This seems to be changing.
From March 8, 2017 until March 31, 2018 it will also be possible to buy in Japan, yes, this is a pilot test, we will see if later it will be possible to continue buying in Japan or not.
The train stations where this pilot will be carried out, and therefore the Japan Rail Pass will be able to buy are Tokyo, Yokohama, Shinjuku, Nagoya, Osaka, Hirishima, Sapporo, Sendai, Niigata, Hakata and Takamatsu. But in addition, the following airports will also participate in this project, Narita (both terminals), Haneda (only in the international terminal), Kansai and Sapporo (New Chitose).
But if you don’t want to participate in this pilot project, and you prefer to plan and buy the Japan Rail Pass from home, this is the option we choose, Japan Rail Pass by Japan Experience.
We had no problems, and also came with a map of Japan with trains and schedules to enjoy and plan the trip without any surprises.
Japan Rail Pass types and price
To be honest, this is one of the things that I don’t really like about the Japan Rail Pass. The problem is that they are very inflexible, since you can only buy it for full weeks. That is, a JRP of 7 days, or 14 days or 21 days.
The JRP is valid for those consecutive days, that is, from the moment you activate it you can use it for the next 7, 14 or 21 days depending on the type of JRP. In my opinion it would be more interesting to be able to use it for days, so if one day I don’t need to use it, I don’t lose a day of use.
So you have to select the one that best suits the trip you want to do. We went for two weeks, and we bought the 7-day one. In this link you can see our Japan Travel Itinerary.
In addition to this Japan Rail Pass, there are also regional JRPs. We do not buy them, but it can be interesting if you are going to be very focused on a single region of the country.
You can check the prices on the page of Japan Rail Pass by Japan Experience.
Why is the Japan Rail Pass worth buying?
The truth is that if you are going to travel only to Tokyo, then obviously it is not worth buying it. But if, for example, you are going to visit Tokyo and Kyoto, only the round trip to these two cities by train is already more expensive than the price of the JRP.
But if you are going to travel only to Tokyo Y Kyoto, but you enter through Tokyo and leave through Kyoto by plane, it will not be worth it.
So, if you are going to take a tour of the country, it is well worth it for several reasons. Even being an important expense within the trip, you save time. The trains are hyper punctual, do not think that for arriving 1 minute late the train will wait for you, no.
They are very fast, really fast, so you buy time. You can consider a route based on places where the Shinkasen (bullet train) passes.
The train stations are in the center of the cities, so you save time compared to the plane.
You can check the routes in Hyperdia.
How and when to activate the Japan Rail Pass
When we buy the Japan Rail Pass from our country of origin, we have to redeem it in the following three months.
We have to do this in a JRP office. We did it at Tokyo Central Station.
When you arrive and show your passport and pass, they will ask you which day you want to be the first to use. That date will be written on the pass and it is immovable. The validity of the pass counts per days, that is, it ends at 23:59 on the last day of use.
When you go to the Shinkasen area at the different stations, you just have to show the JRP at the ticket office or to the person around the lathe. As it is not a normal ticket, you do not have to go through the turnstile as the rest of the passengers do.
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Reserve a place
You can reserve or not reserve a place, since there are trains with wagons that have unreserved places.
But beware, on holidays and weekends, the use of shinkasen increases, so if you don’t book, you can be left without a seat.
We always reserve, through the Hyperdia website. We checked the routes and schedules, and when we arrived at the station, a little in advance, at the JRP ticket office we made reservations without any problem.
Unfortunately, it is still not possible to book via the web.
Means of transport where it is valid
The Shinkasen that can be used are all except the ones called Nozomi and Mizuho.
They can also be used on limited express, express, rapid, special express and local trains. I have to say that we use it in Hiroshima. From Shinkasen station to Miyajimaguchi, where we stayed, you can take the train that departs from track 1. This track is indicated on the signs just outside the Shinkasen area.
You can also use it on the ferry that goes to the island of Miyajima. There are two, because you have to go to the one that indicates that it belongs to Japan Rail.
You can use it on the local buses of the JR company, and on the Yamnote train line in Tokyo. This is the oldest line in the city and runs through most of the most popular places in the city.
If you fly to Narita, you can use it with the Narita Express. We did not use it because we intended to activate it the next day, planning issue.
Japan travel insurance
Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before going to Japan. Traveling does not exempt you from having an accident, and healthcare is really expensive in Japan.
We tell you how to choose the best travel insurance in Japan that best suits your trip.
If you take out travel insurance by clicking on the banner you will get a 5% discount in your insurance for being a reader of Passport to Travel.