Whether for the sakura, food or culture, it is very difficult for anyone not to fall in love with Japan. For the first-time traveler or someone who does not speak Japanese, navigating Japan’s labyrinth-like train network can be a daunting task, especially if you’re hopping from one city to another. In comes the Japan Rail Pass (commonly known as the JR Pass), which most tourists to Japan would purchase prior to their trips to the Land of the Rising Sun.
But, must you get one? Skip the information overload online as we provide all the answers to the burning questions you have on the JR Pass. We promise to keep it short and sweet like the sakura season, too. So, read on!
What is a JR Pass?
In short, it’s a public transportation pass using the Japan Rail (JR) network. There are two categories to choose from, based on your traveling style: Ordinary or Green Car.
The Ordinary pass gives you access to all coaches of JR trains, except for the Green Car. We think it is sufficient to meet your travel needs as trains in Japan are generally clean and comfortable. But, if you’d like to splurge, you can get the Green Car pass for a first-class experience. You’ll have larger, reclining seats and wider legroom, perfect to rest those weary legs after a long day of exploring the city!
The JR Pass is also available in 7-day, 14-day or 21-day validity periods. That way, you can plan your itinerary ahead, depending on the validity period of your JR Pass.
Am I eligible for the JR Pass?
If you are:
- A non-Japanese national who visits Japan as a tourist or with a “Temporary Visitor” status.
- A Japanese citizen who is a Permanent Resident of another country.
- A Japanese citizen who is married to a non-Japanese residing outside of Japan.
Then yes, you can use the JR Pass!
But, if you are:
- A Japanese citizen.
- A foreigner visiting for non-tourism purposes (e.g. Work, military, diplomatic, cultural, research, etc).
- Holding a long-term visa (e.g. Student, instructor or work).
Then, sorry. Better luck next time!
What does the JR Pass cover?
A nationwide JR Pass allows you to board a majority of trains that run on the JR railway network, including regional routes such as:
- JR Kyushu
- JR East
- JR West
- JR Center
- JR Shikoku
- JR Hokkaido
You’ll also have access to local and express trains, and the shinkansen on the Hikari or Sakura lines only.
The JR Pass does not cover the following:
- Private rail lines not operated by the JR;
- The Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen bullet trains
- City subways/trams;
- Sleeper wagons/private wagons in night trains;
- Special compartments which has extra charges.
How can I buy the JR Pass?
You may purchase the JR Pass on the Traveloka website, mobile site and App at least four calendar days before your departure date. Have your JR Pass Exchange Order (EO) delivered to your home address in Malaysia or you may collect the EO yourself at any of the locations below:
- KLIA, Level 3 Arrival Hall Inside Maxis Hotlink Shop
- KLIA 2, Arrival Hall Level 2, L2-73A, inside Tune Store
- Penang Airport, Arrival Hall Level 1, Hotlink booth
- Johor Bahru Branch- No. D-1-3 Pusat Komersial Bayu Tasek, Persiaran Southkey 1, Kota Southkey, 80150 Johor Bahru,
- Kota Kinabalu branch- Lot 9, 2nd Floor, Block A, Damai Plaza Phase 1, Luyang, 88300 Kota Kinabalu
The EO is valid for three months from the date of issuance. We’d recommend you buying the JR Pass at least a month before your trip, so you’ll have enough time to pick up your EO or receive it by mail.
Pro tip: Make sure to enter your full name (as shown in your passport) when booking your JR Pass.
So, I’ve bought my JR Pass. How to start using it?
When you arrive in Japan, present the EO to redeem your JR pass at a Japan Rail Office (available in Japan airports and main train stations). You’ll be asked to fill in a form with your details and show the officer your passport entry stamp.
You’ll then be asked to select a start date for the pass. Once selected, the JR Pass will be valid for the consecutive number of days from your preferred starting date.
To use the JR Pass, simply present it to the staff sitting near the entry gates. Easy-peasy!
Can I use the JR Pass on airport trains?
Yes, you can! Once you got your JR Pass at the airport, you may take the Narita Express (a.k.a N’EX) from Narita International Airport to Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro stations. However, you cannot use the JR Pass on the Keisei Skyliner that connects Narita Airport to Tokyo.
If you disembark at Haneda Airport, you can take the Tokyo Monorail that links to Hamamatsucho Station, which is a major railway station in the heart of Tokyo.
If you’re flying into Kansai International Airport, you may then take the limited express Haruka train from the airport to Osaka or Kyoto.
However, if you disembark at Fukuoka Airport, you will have to go to Hakata Station, the nearest station from the airport via the metro, to get your JR Pass.
Can I reserve a seat on JR trains?
Yes, you can! Simply show your JR Pass at any JR Ticket Office to reserve seats for group traveling. Online booking is also possible, but only if you understand the Japanese language.
So… is it worth it?
If you’re planning to at least travel to and fro three different cities in Japan, definitely! Not only is it stress-reducing (less headache deciphering the complicated rail network in Japan), but it is useful for longer-distance travels as these rail networks are usually operated by the JR.
The JR Pass is also your best option if you’re planning to travel using the shinkansen. A regular shinkansen round-trip fare would cost more than a JR Pass. Since the JR Pass also offers unlimited rides in its other networks, you’ll be saving more!
Sweat no more about traveling to Japan, and fall in love with Japanese omotenashi (hospitality)!
Enjoy a stress-free trip to Japan and get your nationwide Japan Rail Pass on Traveloka with our fantastic deals!