How to JR pass
The JR pass is the cheapest and most convenient way to travel around Japan. With very few exceptions, one is allowed to travel on all JR public transports including the Shinkansen, JR trains, JR ferries and JR buses. However, there are different variations of a JR pass such as the JR East, JR West, JR Central, JR Hokkaido, JR Shikoku, JR Kyushu and JR Tokyo Wide Pass. The JR pass in itself allows travelling the whole country.
You are eligible for a JR pass if you meet the following conditions;
- You are an international tourist visiting Japan from abroad for sightseeing as a temporary visitor.
If you have an extended visitor’s visa, meaning you have already stayed 90 days and will stay longer and plan to buy a JR pass, it is recommended to check with the staff before buying the ticket.
- You are a Japanese national living outside Japan and
- you hold permanent residency status in your country of residence, or
- you are married to a non-Japanese residing outside Japan.
For worldwide online selling follow the link Here. Select the desired JR pass and add to cart. An extra fee for FedEx shipping will be added of about 10 dollars. You will receive the ticket the following day. It is recommended to pay with credit card rather than bank transfers as it can take up to 5 days to process the payment and only then will the pass be shipped.
The Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen are not included in the JR Pass. They will stop only at the big stations thus making the trip faster but you would have to pay the full fee of trip. If you use Google Maps’ scheduling for the trains, make sure you check which line you are taking. Nozomi and Mizuho are the most common shinkansen and will misguide your real timings.
You will receive a voucher (exchange order), like the picture above, that you need to bring to Japan and take it, not to a JR ticket office but to the JR office of information which sometimes is next to the ticket office. There will be a sign that says “JR pass exchange”.
How to reserve a seat
At any JR ticket and information office you can reserve a train. If you have internet you can use Google Maps to already check when the trains run and how long they will take from point A to B. I had never a problem with using Google Maps travelling from Sapporo to Kagoshima. If you know the times of the train you can make reservation faster. Nonetheless, the JR personnel will help you choose the best options.
It is recommended to reserve at least one day before hand as reserved seats can be limited.
With the JR pass’ tickets you are not allowed to go through the automated gates, but have to show your ticket and JR pass to the personnel working at the gate. Take into consideration that there might be a queue to get through. You should add 5 minutes extra to your planning just in case the staff is very busy or sometimes not there.
One note to always keep, is that not all railways are owned by JR. This means that if you need to check the rail routes in case the ticket office has booked you the fastest way through a private line. In which case you need to pay extra. Even 30mins of train ride can cost you an extra 2000yen on those lines.