Japan Rail Pass Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Click on the questions below to find out more about the Japan Rail Pass system, how it works and anything else you could possibly want to know.

JR Pass General Questions

1. Who can buy a Japan Rail Pass (eligibility)?
2. Is there only one type of Japan Rail Pass?
3. When I order my Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order, how will I receive it?
4. How do I receive my Japan Rail Pass?
5. Does it cost me extra to book my seats?
6. Can I book my seats outside Japan when using a Japan Rail Pass?
7. Can I change the name on a Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order?
8. What can I do with an unused Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order?
9. What can I do if my Japan Rail Pass is lost or stolen?
10. Does the Japan Rail Pass let me travel on local trains and city subway/metro systems?
11. Can I extend my pass?
12. What’s the best Japan Rail Pass to get?
13. Can I use my Japan Rail Pass on buses in Japan?
14. Can I use my Japan Rail Pass on ferries in Japan?
15. Do you have any special advice about using the Japan Rail Pass?
16. When do I need to buy a Child Rail Pass?
17. Does the Japan Rail Pass allow me to board the famous Bullet Trains?
18. What types of Bullet Trains are there?
19. What’s the difference between a Green and an Ordinary Japan Rail Pass?
20. Are there luggage compartments on the trains?
21. What are the advantages of booking with JTB?
22. What about Japanese travelling etiquette?
23. Do the prices vary depending with the season?
24. Is it better to get a Japan Rail Pass or fly?
25. Is there a limit to how many Japan Rail Passes I can get?
26. How long does the Japan Rail Pass last?
27. How many train journeys does it take make my Japan Rail Pass better value?
28. Does my pass include the option of a sleeper fare?
29. Can I store my bags at the station?
30. Are train announcements and signs in English?
31. I saw a video on YouTube of people literally being pushed into a train carriage during rush hour in Japan is this what will happen to me if I buy a Japan Rail Pass?

 

1. Who can buy a Japan Rail Pass (eligibility)?

Non-Japanese citizens can buy a Japan Rail Pass if theyre in Japan “Temporary visitor” status. (i.e. on a tourist visa for a stay of up to 90 days). When you enter Japan for sightseeing, entry personnel will stamp the passport as “temporary visitor” Only a person who has a passport bearing this stamp can use a JAPAN RAIL PASS. Please note that according to strict interpretation of the Japanese Immigration Law, “temporary visitor” status differs even from other types of stays that also for only short time periods. Please note, however, that New Zealand residents travelling on a Japanese passport cannot purchase JR Hokkaido, East, West or All Shikoku Passes.
Japanese national living overseas may also purchase the Japan Rail Pass if you meet eligibility requirements. Please check the below website for the details: Eligibilty requirements:  English  Japanese

2. Is there only one type of Japan Rail Pass?

No. Different type of Japan Rail Passes can be purchased to suit your travel itinerary. It is one of the most convenient factors of the whole JR system. Whatever your itinerary you can always get a pass or combination of passes that lets you do exactly what you want to do at the lowest possible price. For example, if your itinerary is to travel around Hokkaido for one week before spending another two weeks in Japan, travelling all over the country then you could get a 4-day flexible Hokkaido Pass (lets you travel any four days in a one month period) followed by a 14 day Japan Rail Pass for the remainder of your stay in Japan.

3. When I order my Japan Rail Pass, how will I receive it?

We have 2 options for you to choose from.
  • Courier Post — You will receive your pass usually the next working day. This option costs $15 for postage and handling and can be delivered to a PO Box or a street address.
  • Pick up from Auckland Office – If you order your pass online and are coming to collect it, no additional fee applies.

4. How do I receive my Japan Rail Pass?

When you order a Japan Rail Pass we issue a Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order. This must be exchanged for the actual Japan Rail Pass after you arrive in Japan. You can do this at a designated Midori no Madoguchi (Green Window). Its a simple process. You will need to complete a short form and present you Exchange Order and Passport. At this time you must also nominate a start date for your pass. You can nominate any date up to one month in advance.

5. Does it cost me extra to book my seats?

No, there’s no extra charge, it is free if using a Japan Rail Pass. You may need to pay extra charge if using a JR regional pass.

6. Can I book my seats outside Japan when using a Japan Rail Pass?

Unfortunately no, whilst you can only purchase a Japan Rail Pass outside Japan, you can only book your seats when you are in Japan. If you are planning on travelling only one sector then JTB can book this for you (booking fee will apply).

7. Can I change the name on a Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order?

This requires that the Rail Pass Exchange Order be re-issued. A NZ$30 fee applies for any re-issues. This must be done at an issued office. It’s certainly best avoided if possible. To avoid any issues make completely sure that the name you provide is identical to the full name as shown on your passport.

8. What can I do with an unused Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order?

You can apply for a refund. We need the original pass you purchased sent back to JTB office for a refund. You have one year from the date of issue to do so. We charge a 10% handling fee. The credit card surcharge and courier fee are non-refundable.

9. What can I do if my Japan Rail Pass is lost or stolen?

Unfortunately neither a Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order nor a Japan Rail Pass can be reissued if lost or stolen. Japan is a very safe country but you should be careful and take reasonable precautions with your belongings at all times.

10. Does the Japan Rail Pass let me travel on local trains and city subway/metro systems?

Yes, you can ride all JR trains using your Japan Rail Pass. However in the cities there are also subway and private railways operating. Your Japan Rail Pass does not cover these trains. Some examples of train you can use are: In Tokyo – JR Yamanote Line, JR Chuo Line, JR Narita Express Line. In Osaka – JR Osaka Loop Line. In Nagoya – JR Chuo Line, JR Kansai Line. It is important to note that in cities there can be several different private companies running different subway and private lines alongside the government run lines. Remember to look for the JR sign when using your Japan Rail Pass.

11. Can I extend my pass?

No, you can’t, so make sure to choose wisely. One option is to purchase multiple Japan Rail Passes and to only validate each one just before the period of travel in which you wish to use it.

12. What’s the best Japan Rail Pass?

There is no one right pass for everyone. When choosing your pass you need to decide on a few key things. Where exactly do you want to go, how long will you need the pass for and whether you want a ordinary or green pass. Having said that, a 21-day Japan Rail Pass will have you covered regardless of your itinerary but there can be cheaper options if you’re willing to buy combinations of smaller passes although this takes a lot more time and planning to get right.

13. Can I use my Japan Rail Pass to board buses in Japan?

Yes, you can. With a Japan Rail Pass you can catch all buses run by Japan Rail (except Highway buses & some local comuter bus) although they don’t really have a large bus network. Some of the buses you can use are: Local Lines: * JR Bus Tohoku. * JR Bus Kanto. * JR Tokai Bus. * West Japan JR Bus. * Chugoku JR Bus. * JR Hokkaido Bus. * JR Kyushu Bus.

14. Can I use my Japan Rail Pass to board ferries in Japan?

Yes, you can. With a Japan wide Rail Pass you can catch ferries that are run by Japan Rail. At the moment you can catch the following ferry on the JR network:
  • Miyajima to Miyajimaguchi

15. What do I need to be careful about?

The Japan Rail Pass system works very well. Having said that, please keep in mind the following points.
  • You need to exchange your Exchange Order for a Japan Rail Pass within three months of the date of issue. ie You cannot purchase it more than 3 months in advance.
  • You can only exchange your Exchange Order for your Pass up to one month prior to the date you intend to start it. You must nominate a start date at the time of exchange.
  • Be sure to take your actual passport with you when you go to exchange your Exchange Order for your Pass. Copies of your passport are not accepted.

16. When do I need to buy a Child Rail Pass?

Children under 6 are not required to have a Japan Rail Pass. They can travel free on the trains, but are not entitled to have a seat (that is, they may have sit on a parents lap if the train is fully booked). This is limited to one child under 6 per parent. If there is more than one child under 6 per parent then a pass is required. If the child over 6 and under 11 years old, on the date the Exchange Order was issued, then a Child Rail Pass is required. If you require a seat for a child under 6 we recommend you purchase child Rail Pass.

17. Does the Rail Pass allow me to board the famous Bullet Trains?

The Rail Pass allows you to ride on all Bullet Trains EXCEPT Nozomi and Mizuho on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen. You will find Bullet Trains on longer distance lines. For smaller networks in more remote or less populated places you’ll find smaller trains being used.Dont worry, they’re all comfortable, reliable and fast.

18. What types of Bullet Trains are there?

There are several types of bullet trains: Nozomi, Mizuho, Hikari, Sakura, Kodama and others. The main difference between them is how many stops they make. Nozomi makes the fewest stops, Hikari has more stops and Kodama stops at all stations. JR Passes let you use the Hikari and Kodama bullet trains. Travelling Nozomi and Mizuho on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen Bullet Trains are not permitted when using Japan Rail Passes.

19. What’s the difference between a Green and an Ordinary Japan Rail Pass?

In Japan Green means First Class. The Ordinary class travel offers plenty of leg room and comfort. The Green pass offers even more. The Ordinary class cars tend to get more crowded during peak times on popular routes, compared to the Green Class cars.

20. Are there luggage compartment on the trains?

The official rule is that you can carry two pieces of baggage and that the total length of height, width and depth must be under 250cm and the weight must be less than 30kg per baggage item. In reality this rule isn’t widely known or enforced. Even so, it will probably upset other travelers and the local people if you brazenly flaunt the rules (a big no-no in Japan). Most airlines allow less than this so your bags will probably be small enough already. As for specific baggage space, each train is different and will have different options for where you can put your bags. Most travellers tend to put their bags behind the last row of seats at each end of the carriage. This is an acceptable practice. Also, be mindful that Japan is a small country with many people so it’s important not to take up more space than is necessary as it almost always comes at someone elses expense. For this reason try to make sure that your bags are stored in such a way to make it easy for others to store theirs.

21. What are the advantages of booking with JTB?

JTB has been operating in New Zealand for over 50 years and in Japan for over 100 years. We are a popular and a very safe company with longstanding ties to Japan Rail and the Japanese tourism industry. We offer flexible delivery arrangements, great prices and we have knowledgeable and experienced staff to assist your needs.

22. What about Japanese travelling etiquette?

Manners and etiquette are very important in Japan and will be greatly appreciated by Japanese people. Here are some tips to keep in mind when travelling by both train and subway:
  • Making a lot of noise, taking up too much space or leaving a mess are, of course, not considered good manners in Japan both on trains or anywhere else.
  • On escalators its customary to stand on one side and leave the other side for people in a hurry – just like New Zealand. If youre traveling with bags try and make sure theyre not getting in anyones way.
  • Mobile phones on trains are generally frowned upon.
  • Japan is a very orderly and organised society where queuing is customary. Never jump the queue unless it’s an emergency.
  • Stand behind the yellow line when the train arrives and wait for passengers to disembark before boarding.
  • In Japan it isn’t customary for men to give up their seat for women. Instead they believe younger people should give up their seats for elderly passengers (regardless of gender).
  • There is no need to tip in Japan at hotels, restaurants or on trains.

23. Do the prices vary depending with the season?

No. However the prices do vary depending on exchange rates. JTB monitors the exchange rates to ensure you will buy your pass at the best possible price.

24. Is it better to get a Japan Rail Pass or fly?

It almost always makes more sense to get a Japan Rail Pass. The Bullet Trains are famed for their speed and a Japan Rail Pass usually works out to be cheaper (not to mention more comfortable and better for enjoying the scenery) than a plane if you’re going to be travelling around a lot. It’s also considered a cultural experience by many travellers.

25. Is there a limit to how many Japan Rail Passes I can get?

No. You must however purchase your pass outside of Japan and the pass must be used within three months.

26. How long does the Japan Rail Pass last?

You can get a pass that covers a fixed period of time – like 7-day, 14-day and 21-day consecutive passes. These passes become active when you nominate the date at a JR counter in Japan and then stay active for the fixed day period before expiring. There are many options when it comes to Area Rail Passes with flexibility on both days and locations, where you can use your pass. You can also get passes that allow multiple days. For example, a 4-day flex pass means you can use this pass on 4 individual days within a one month period. Whatever your situation, there’s a pass or combination of passes that will be perfect for you.

27. How much travel do I have to do to make my Japan Rail Pass better value?

A return trip from Tokyo to Kyoto will cost you about the same as a Japan Rail 7-day Pass. So it makes a lot more sense to buy a Japan Rail Pass and take the opportunity to explore. For most visitors, buying direct tickets would cost much more than a Japan Rail Pass.

28. Does my pass include the option of a sleeper fares?

No, it doesn’t. JR Passes cover basic fares for either ordinary or green passes. Sleeper fares cost extra.

29. Can I store my bags at the station?

Yes, you can. Most stations have an area with coin lockers. The lockers come in three sizes and can be used for up to three days. In more popular stations it’s much harder to find an available locker. The machines only take 100 Yen coins so be sure to bring a few. The lockers come in the following sizes: (Costs are guideline only)
  • Small (¥300) 35cm x 43cm x 57cm. This size is easily the most common and they can be found in large numbers at almost every station in Japan.
  • Medium (¥400) 57cm x 43cm x 57cm. Only available at larger stations and usually there aren’t many of them.
  • Large (¥500) 117cm x 43cm x 57cm. Much harder to find and only at major stations.
Small and medium lockers are suitable for the kind of baggage you’d call “carry-on baggage” for a plane. The large size lockers are for large suitcases.

30. Are train announcements and signs in English?

There are many English signs at most stations and these days many automated announcements are in Japanese as well as English.

31. I saw a video on Youtube of people literally being pushed into a train carriage during rush hour in Japan is this what will happen to me if I buy a JR Pass?

Yes this could happen to you if using local train during rush hours in big cities. Also please note that during crowded periods you cannot be guaranteed a seat on a specific train.
  • The New Year holiday period (end of December to early January)
  • Golden Week holiday period (end of April to early May)
  • Obon season (mid August)
  • Long weekends