Whizzing your way around Japan’s extensive train network on a JR Pass is the best way to explore the country. It’s super fast, convenient, and allows you take in all the gorgeous scenery on the way.
And that’s not to mention that riding the shinkansen (bullet-train) is all part of the quintessential Japanese experience!
So without further ado, here are seven things you need to know about a JR Pass.
Make sure you read until the end where you’ll also find out how you can win a spot on an awesome famil to the Land of the Rising Sun hosted by JNTO.
1. YOU NEED TO BUY YOUR EXCHANGE VOUCHER FOR THE JR PASS IN AUSTRALIA
Purchasing a JR Pass is not something you can do inside Japan – at least not for the time being.
You need to buy your exchange voucher for the JR Pass here in Australia, which you can then exchange for your actual JR Pass once you’re in Japan. This is because the JR Pass is only meant for travellers entering Japan as tourists, there for a temporary stay and passports will be checked upon exchange. Students and those on working visas are ineligible for the pass.
The voucher must be exchanged for a JR Pass within 90 days period following the date of issue.
2. THE JR PASS IS AVAILABLE IN TWO TYPES, ‘ORDINARY’ AND ‘GREEN’ CLASS
Green class is equivalent to first class and has a number of advantages over ordinary class. For example, green class cars feature personal reading lights, a power point to charge electronic devices, a footrest, 2 x 2 seat configuration (for a more spacious and less crowded experience), and bigger, better quality seats.
On selected services, green class occupants may also receive a hot hand towel (oshibori) and a hot or cold drink.
3. THE JR PASS ALLOWS YOU TO TRAVEL ON ALL JAPAN RAIL TRAINS, INCLUDING SHINKANSEN (BULLET-TRAINS)
It also entitles you to travel on the Hiroshima-Miyajima ferry.
But note: there are two bullet-train services that JR Pass holders cannot use: the Nozomi service (which has fewer stops on the run from Tokyo to Hakata down in Fukuoka) and the Mizuho service (a faster service from Shin-Osaka to Kagoshima-Chuo, a seaside city on Japan’s Kyushu Island).
However, there are alternative trains that JR Pass holders can take, even if it just means waiting a bit longer.
4. THE JR PASS IS FOR CONSECUTIVE DAYS ONLY
Unlike a European rail pass, where you can travel for a certain number of days within a defined period, a JR Pass is only valid for either 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days of travel. The consecutive days start from the day of first use.
That means you’ll get the most value out of the pass if you use it to explore as much of the country by rail as possible, without staying in one place for too long. Japan’s extensive shinkansen (bullet-train) network makes getting around the country is quicker than you think.
5. YOU CAN SPECIFY THE JR PASS START DATE WHEN EXCHANGING THE VOUCHER FOR THE PASS
You don’t have to validate your JR Pass as soon as you land in Japan.
When exchanging the voucher for the pass, tell the clerk when you want to start using it. If you want to spend a little extra time in a certain part of Japan, start your holiday there and don’t validate the JR Pass until it’s time to leave. Once your JR Pass is exhausted, you can also spend some extra time in your final destination before flying back home.
For example, if you have a client that’s travelling around Japan for 10 days, and is spending a few days in Tokyo before catching a shinkansen (bullet-train) down south to explore Kyoto, Osaka and the Seto Inland Sea region, including Hiroshima, sell them a 7 day JR Pass and advise them to activate it on the day they leave Tokyo. This ensures that the pass remains valid for the rest of their trip.
They can purchase cheap one-day passes for their 3 day stay in Tokyo.
6. YOU CAN RESERVE YOUR SEATS FREE OF CHARGE
Unless you’re travelling during peak holiday periods, you’ll usually find plenty of empty seats on limited express trains and shinkansen (bullet-trains) services. However, to be certain, it’s possible to reserve a seat on any service for free.
Simply take your JR Pass to a JR ticket office and specify which train you want to take. You’ll then be issued with a seat reservation ticket, which can be printed in English upon request.
7. A JR PASS IS THE ONLY PASS THAT COVERS ALL OF JAPAN
Although there are regional JR Passes, such as JR West, JR East and JR Hokkaido passes, the JR Pass is the only pass that allows its holders to travel right across the entire country.
Regional passes are great if you want to spend more time in a particular part of Japan. However, with so much to see and do in the Land of the Rising Sun, a Japan Rail Pass is always a sound investment for the busy traveller.
WIN A PLACE ON A JAPAN FAMIL
JNTO are giving twenty Travel Agents the chance to WIN a place on one of two famils to Japan later this year to explore the unique country first hand.
Both famils will see the Travel Agents explore both Tokyo and Kyoto with the first famil running between 16th – 22nd October, 2016 and the second famil running between 23rd – 29th October, 2016.
For your chance to be in the draw for a spot on either of these famils please visit https://elearning.jnto.org.au and complete the e-learning program.