Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) FAQ

Is JR pass (Japan Rail Pass) worth? Should I get one? How much can I save? How does it work? These are common questions when it comes to travelling in Japan.

So, should you buy JR pass for you Japan trip? Well, it depends on your itinerary. The further you travel or the more you travel with shinkansen (high speed bullet train), the more likely you will save some money with JR pass.

What is JR pass?

Japan Rail Pass is offered by 6 companies that make up the Japan Railway Group (JR Group). It is a special discount train pass specially cater for foreign tourists to visit Japan. It is the most economical way to travel within Japan by train.

JR pass vs JR East pass

JR pass covers everything offered by JR East pass and other JR groups. It is for the entire JR network, nationwide. 

JR East pass covers only JR East company network. JR East does not cover traveling between Tokyo and Kyoto, Osaka. It is valid to travel on all of JR East's railway lines connecting Tokyo with northeastern Honshu, including Akita, Sendai, Nagano, Nikko. This pass allows travel on five shinkansen lines, Narita Express NEX from Narita Airport to Tokyo and most local trains. 

There are also other types of pass, click here

How much does JR pass cost?

JR pass is not cheap. A 7-day JR pass cost ¥29,110 (as of 1st Apr 2014 rate). So you should plan and check before you purchase JR pass.

Who can use JR pass?

JR pass website mentions that anyone who is a foreign tourist visiting Japan from abroad for sight-seeing, under the entry status of temporary visitor. And Temporary visitor entry status means, according to Japanese Immigration Law, allows one to stay in Japan of 15 days or 90 days for sight-seeing, etc. If you apply for a "stay for sight-seeing" when you enter Japan, entry personnel will stamp your passport "temporary visitor". Only persons who have a passport bearing this stamp can use a JAPAN RAIL PASS.

It sounds complicated. No worry, in short, as long as you are a foreign tourists (your passport will have this “temporary visitor” stamp after you go through Japan immigration), you are eligible to use JR pass.

By the way, a Japanese who fall under certain criteria is also eligible to travel with JR pass.

Green car or ordinary car? 

Green car (first class) is quieter, fewer seats and less crowded. Green car seats are slightly more comfortable and greater space. It comes with additional service, the train attendant will serve every passenger a hand towel in green car. 

Many people find that ordinary seats are good enough and they are perfectly fine for long trip. My partner who is 180cm tall had no problem at all in ordinary car. 


JR pass is valid on most trains operated by JR company including shinkansen, limited express, express, rapid and local trains. JR pass user is also allowed to take Tokyo monorail to and fro Haneda Airport. Some bus services are also available for JR pass users.  

This pass is not valid for Nozomi trains on Tokaido/ Sanyo shinkansen line (train service between Tokyo and Osaka) and Mizuho trains on the Sanyo/ Kyushu shinkansen lines (train service between Shin-Osaka and Hakata). Don't get confused with these line name, they are just different route across Japan. Nozomi are the fastest Shinkansen trains running on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen routes.

JR pass users are allowed to take Hikari trains. Hikari trains are slightly less expensive and slower than Nozomi. Nozomi train speed is very very fast. However Hikari is just as pleasant and still fast.

Can I upgrade to Nozomi train or Mizuho train?

No. JR pass users will need to pay full fare if you want to take Nozomi train or Mizuho train.

How can I tell if I need a JR pass?

Generally, if you need to travel at least 2 times with an average 3 hours train ride, JR pass should be useful to you. 

For example, one way shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto cost ¥13,800, round trip is ¥27,600. If you are taking NEX (Narita Express) from Narita Airport to Tokyo, one way ticket cost ¥3020 and round trip cost ¥6040. ¥27,600 + ¥6040 = ¥33,640 and a 7-day JR pass cost ¥29,110 so you save ¥4530. 

Another example from my recent 8 days central Japan trip, we traveled from
Narita Airport to Takayama via Shinagawa (¥17,110)
Kanazawa to Kyoto (¥7100)
Kyoto to Osaka (round trip ¥3860)
Kyoto to Tokyo (¥13,800)
Traveling around Kyoto city on JR lines (¥100 - ¥300 per trip, total ¥1000)
Total price ¥42,870

We saved ¥42,870 - ¥29,110 = ¥13,760 with a 7-day JR pass.

Check Hyperdia for train route, schedule and fares. Don't forget to uncheck the option "NOZOMI/ MIZUHO" box in detailed search section.

Where can I buy JR pass?

You cannot buy JR pass in Japan, you have to buy from an authorized sales office before you enter Japan. Please don’t forget to buy the JR pass before you travel! 
These authorized sales offices sell you JR pass exchange orders only, they are not the real JR pass. Exchange order works like a voucher. You will need to collect your JR pass with exchange order and your passport from any JR ticket office in Japan. JR ticket office can be found in most major JR stations including both terminals of Narita Airport as well as international terminal of Haneda Airport. Click here to see the complete list of JR ticket office. Note that JR pass exchange order is only valid for 3 months from the date of issue.  

There are a few agents in Singapore. I purchased mine from NipponTravel Agency with free courier service. If you want to save a bit on the exchange rate, you can use Japanese Yen cash to make your purchase from Prime Transportation Pte Ltd. (Singapore) 16 Raffles Quay #B1-14D Hong Leong Building, Singapore 048581 Tel 62214250.  

How to use JR pass?

Very simple, just flash your JR pass to station staff when you enter the station. However you cannot use the autogate and have to go through the manned gate. 

JR pass is your ticket, you do not need to buy additional ticket unless you want to make seat reservation. You need to make seat reservation in any JR ticket office and they will issue you a ticket with your reserved seat number.

Note that when you exchange your voucher for the actual JR pass, it’s not necessary to start using the pass on the same day. However you need to inform JR ticket office your start date when you exchanging your voucher. You can select any date within a one month from the date of exchanging voucher as your JR pass start date.

Can I use JR pass alternate days?

It doesn't matter if you use it every day. JR pass stays valid from the start date consecutive for a given period. For example, you have a 7-day JR pass and the start date is 1st January, your JR pass will expire on 7th January. So plan your trip accordingly and choose the right day to activate JR pass.  

How to make seat reservation?

JR pass allows you to make seat reservation free of charge. JR pass users just need to present their JR pass in any JR ticket office. They can speak English, don't worry. It’s best to check Hyperdia for the train schedule before you make seat reservation. Online seat reservation is not possible except some trains in eastern Japan and it's a Japanese website.

Is seat reservation necessary?

Seat reservation is usually optional in most trains. However I suggest you to fully utilize this feature especially for long journey train ride since you have paid for it. Seat reservation would be useful too if you travel during peak season such as New Year, cherry blossom season, Golden Week. There are some train services which seat reservations are required. For example, NEX Narita Express (from Narita Airport to Tokyo) and most night trains. 

What if I miss a train which I have reserved a seat?

You should try to cancel your seat reservation as soon as possible. You can make a new reservation again. 

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  1. Hi Iva,
    Would like to enquire whether I need to buy JR pass whereby my trip will only be at Nagoya for 5 days?

    1. Hi Thomas, how is your itinerary like? Without knowing it, I can't advise you if you need JR pass.

      I assume you will travel from Narita Airport to Nagoya and stay at Nagoya 5 days and return to Narita Airport. If this is the case, you do not need a JR Pass. Return trip from Narita Airport to Nagoya cost ¥28120 and 7-day JR pass cost ¥29110.

      If you want to fully utilize it, travel to some other cities within 7 days.

      You can check train fare from hyperdia.com.

    2. Sorry for the late reply. We will be spending 4 night at Nagoya from 26-30 July.We will be arriving through Nagoya-Chubu airport.We will be staying at the Hotel Trusty Nagoya for the entire 4 nights.Could you assist us on where we should visit and what we should do for the 4 night there?


  2. Hi Thomas, in that case you don't need a JR pass if you move around within Nagoya. JR pass is meant for long distance train travel.

    You can find out more information from these pages -

    Nagoya is not a famous attraction among tourists and people usually only use Nagoya to transit. You can do a few day trip from Nagoya, such as Takayama, Shirakawago, Toyata factory tour etc.

    Takayama is 2.5 hours on way

    Kyoto is actually just over half-an-hour on Shinkansen so it'd make a great day trip too.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion.Which is the best way for us to travel from Nagoya to Osaka?Thanks.

    2. The easiest way will be Shinkansen (only about an hour) however it's the most expensive way. You can explore more options from this website:


  3. by the way, prime travel they move to the 16th floor of the same building (Hong Leong Building)