Japan Rail Pass Frequently Asked Questions

Japan Rail Pass Frequently Asked Questions


Is it worthwhile to purchase a Japan Rail Pass?

It really depends on how much rail travel you are planning to do while you are in Japan, and within what period.
If you are just intending to travel on the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and back again, the 7-day Japan Rail Pass is not really worthwhile.
But if you are travelling Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka-Hiroshima-Tokyo within a 7-day period, it’s definitely worthwhile.

www.hyperdia.com is a useful website for checking fares, to see whether it would be more cost-effective to buy individual tickets or get a Rail Pass.

The website also shows train times and journey durations.

Narita Express train from Airport to Tokyo: Yen 2,820
Tokyo – Kyoto by Bullet train: Yen 13,400
Kyoto – Tokyo by Bullet train: Yen 13,400
Narita Express train from Tokyo to Narita: Yen 2,820
Total Yen 32,440
7-day Japan Rail Pass (valid for all above journeys): Yen 29,110


Can i use my Japan Rail Pass on the Hokuriku Shinkansen?

Yes, you can.

From 14 March 2015 you can use the nationwide Japan Rail Pass on the newly-opened bullet train line from Nagoya to Toyama and Kanazawa.

From 14 March, the local trains along the line Nagano – Kanazawa on which the Rail Pass was valid are regarded as “legacy lines” and the Rail Pass is no longer valid on some of them.


Do I need a rail pass for an infant?

Japan Rail state that you need a child Rail Pass for children aged 6-11 years only.
Children under 6 years do not need a Rail Pass, but without a Rail Pass they may only occupy a seat if it is not required for a fare-paying passenger.

If you want your infant aged under 6 years be able to occupy their own seat, you should buy a child Rail Pass for them. This is particularly recommendable at busy times.

Please note that at busy times, you should always try to reserve seats in advance in the particular trains on which you wish to travel. With the Japan Rail Pass, seat reservations are free of charge, so it’s always worth doing if you can plan ahead enough to know which trains you are going to take.


Can I buy a Japan Rail Pass when I arrive in Japan?

No, you cannot buy a Japan Rail Pass in Japan.
A Rail Pass Exchange Order MUST be purchased outside Japan, prior to your trip.

You then present the Exchange Order at a major station in Japan in order to obtain the actual Rail Pass, which is valid for the designated period (consecutive days).

Information about locations in Japan where the Rail Pass Exchange Order can be exchanged for the actual Pass can be found it the Japan Rail Pass Booklet that you are given complimentary when you purchase your pass from us.


My child is 11 now but will be 12 when we are in Japan. Can she have a child pass?

The eligibility for child price (up to and including 11 years old) is taken from the date on which the Rail Pass Exchange Order is presented in Japan: not the date on which the Rail Pass Exchange Order was bought, or the date when the Pass will start, or the date on which the child is actually travelling on the train.
So if your child will still be 11 on the day you present the Rail Pass Exchange Order in Japan and receive the actual Rail Pass, you can buy a child Pass. If she will have her 12th birthday before that day, you need to buy an adult Pass.

Example: Rail Pass Exchange Orders are bought in April, and will be presented in Japan on 15th May, for use in June. If the child’s 12th birthday falls before 15th May, an Exchange Order for the child fare can be bought and used. If the child’s 12th birthday falls on or after 15th May, an Exchange Order for the adult fare must be purchased.


Do I need to reserve my seat?

If you are going to use a “Green” pass, you will need to make seat reservations, as Green carriages do not have unreserved seats.

If you are going to use an “Ordinary” pass, you can choose to reserve seats on specific trains, or just take “unreserved” seats. It is particularly advisable to get seat reservations during busy times, eg. 28 December – 6 January, 27 April – 6 May (“Golden Week”), and 11-20 August (Obon season).

You can’t make seat reservations before arriving in Japan and presenting the Exchange Order. Once you do so, and get the Rail Pass itself, you can make these reservations immediately, or at any rail station ticket office.


What happens if I have to delay or cancel my trip?

If you cancel your trip, you should send the unused Rail Pass Exchange Order to us. We will refund it less a 25% cancellation fee.

The Rail Pass Exchange Order is valid for 3 months from the date of issue.
So if you delay your trip, and the date you are able to present the Exchange Order in Japan still falls within the 3-month limit, you will still be able to use it to obtain your Rail Pass.
If the new dates for your trip mean that the validity of your Rail Pass Exchange Order will be expired, you will need a new one. In most cases of travel delay of just a month or two, if you let us know and return the original Exchange Order to us, we will be able to void that original one and re-issue with a date valid for your delayed trip. If you trip is delayed for 6 months or longer, you will need to return the original Rail Pass Exchange Order for a refund, and buy a new one.


Can I use all types of trains?

The Rail Pass is valid on all train services operated by JR (Japan Rail Railways)*
It is not valid on other privately-operated railways.

Examples of private railways:
Keisei Express service from Narita airport to Tokyo
Nankai Express service from KIX airport to Namba (Osaka)
Odakyu Express service from Shinjuku(Tokyo) to Hakone
But for all the above, there is also a JR service – which may be slower or less frequent – for which the Rail Pass can be used.

* There are a couple of exceptional cases where the Rail Pass cannot be used, even though the services are operated by JR:
– “Nozomi” bullet trains on the Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka (Tokaido) line
– “Mizuho” bullet trains on the Kyushu Shinkasen line


Can I buy a Japan Rail Pass for someone who is already in Japan?

It depends on the immigration status of the person who will use the Pass.

Japan: examples of Temporary Visitor stamp

The person using the Japan Rail Pass has to have entered Japan with the status of “Temporary visitor”. This is given in the case of a short stay for business or tourism.

If the person is already living (and perhaps, working) in Japan, they will not have “temporary visitor” status stamped in their passport. SO they will not be able to get a Japan Rail Pass.

When you take the Rail Pass Exchange Order (bought overseas) to a Travel Service Center in Japan, you will have to complete a form and show your passport for checking. JR staff check the immigration status in your passport (temporary visitor stamp) before they will give you the actual Japan Rail Pass.


Can I buy a Japan Rail Pass for someone else?

Yes, you can, as long as they are eligible to use the Pass (ie. they satisfy the conditions mentioned in “Who is eligible for the Rail Pass?” topic elsewhere in these FAQ).

They will need to receive the Rail Pass Exchange Order and take it with them when they travel to Japan.


What are the advantages of a Green pass?
The seating and facilities in “Ordinary” or “Tourist” class carriages of JR trains, particularly the Bullet trains, is quite roomy and comfortable. “Green” or first-class carriages offer more room (eg. 2 + 2 seats across a carriage, compared to 2 + 3 seats in Ordinary class). But bear in mind that in Green class, seat reservation is compulsory – non-reserved carriages do not exist in Green class.


How do I travel on trains with the Rail Pass?
The main (whole country) JAPAN RAIL PASS is valid on JR trains including Shinkansen services (Bullet trains); However, the JAPAN RAIL PASS is not valid for any seats, reserved or non-reserved, on the “NOZOMI” and “MIZUHO” type Bullet trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines.
These types of Bullet train should be used instead: “HIKARI,” “SAKURA,” “KODAMA,” and “TSUBAME” trains.

Do not use an automatic ticket-reading gate with a Japan Rail Pass. Please show the Pass at a manned ticket gate – preferably with the validity date of your Rail Pass showing – and the staff will let you through


Where can I find timetables?
Train routes, timetables and fare information in English can be found at: www.hyperdia.com


How long is the Rail Pass Exchange Order valid?
Within three months from the date the Exchange Order was issued, you must present your Exchange Order at a Japan Rail Pass exchange office to obtain your JAPAN RAIL PASS. At that time, you have to specify the date that you want to start using the Pass. It can be any date within one month from the date the PASS is received.
The validity period of a JAPAN RAIL PASS is the consecutive 7, 14, or 21 days beginning on the start date specified on the Pass.

Once the Pass has a starting date written on it, the date cannot be changed.

On or after the specified start date, the Pass is not refundable.


Can I make seat reservations on particular trains?
Shinkansen (Bullet trains) and most Limited Express and Ordinary Express trains have reserved Green Car seats (First class) and both reserved and non-reserved Ordinary Car seats (Standard class).
For a non reserved seat, simply show your Japan Rail Pass to board.
To make a seat reservation, visit any Travel Service Centre or reserved-seat ticket office called “Midori-no-madoguchi” at a Japan Railways station in Japan.

Normally, seat reservations cannot be made from outside Japan. For users of the Japan Rail Pass, seat reservations are free of charge BUT you cannot reserve seats until you have presented the Exchange Order in Japan and obtained the actual Rail Pass.
However, JR East now have an online seat reservation system. This allows travellers to make advance seat reservations for all JR East Shinkansen (Bullet trains) as well as certain JR East Limited Express trains.
This system allows JR Pass holders, JR East Pass holders and also non-pass holders to make seat reservations.
To make a reservation, travellers have to enroll as a member (sign-up is free). Then check the types of trains and specific times, and reserve seats. Travellers just need to pick up the tickets when they arrive in Japan (at any location specified by East Japan Railway Company within the JR East area).
JR East Shinkansen Reservation website



Who is eligible for the Rail Pass?
TOURISTS (ie. non-Japanese visitors) visiting Japan from abroad for sightseeing, under the entry status of “temporary visitor“.
Your passport must be shown at the time of presenting the Exchange order for the Rail Pass, so that your immigration stamp can be checked.

JAPANESE NATIONALS: The main Rail Pass for travel throughout Japan can be bought and used by Japanese nationals who can show they have residency abroad, or are married to a non-Japanese.


Until when is my Rail Pass valid on the last day?
The Japan Rail Pass validity is calculated in days, not in hours. So if you have a 7-day Rail Pass and you start using it on 1st October, whatever the time, this will count as day 1, and you will be able to use until MIDNIGHT on day 7 (7th October, in this example).
If you are travelling on a train at midnight on that day, it’s OK until the end of that journey.