Your Guide to the Japan Rail Pass【Latest Edition 2022-2023】

guide to JR Pass 2022 - 2023

If you’re visiting Japan for sight-seeing and plan on frequently using the public transportation system to get around, then the JR Pass is a great deal! The vast majority of trains in Japan are owned and operated by the Japan Railways (JR) Group, and after purchasing a JR pass, you can ride all JR trains and even the Shinkansen! Read on to learn about the Japan Rail Pass and how you can use it to save time and money on your travels in Japan.

What is the Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass) is a near all-inclusive rail pass for traveling via Japan Rail (JR) trains in Japan. It is very popular with tourists, as it is a great way to save money on public transportation, and also save time by skipping the ticket-buying process every time you board a JR train.

There are two types of JR Pass: Ordinary, and Green (for superior-class Green cars). Both of these types are available as a 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day pass.

Many travelers find the size and space of ordinary train seats to be more than enough, but those who wish to have additional luxury should consider the Green pass. Green cars offer larger seats, more foot space and enhanced board service, and they tend to be less crowded than ordinary cars. They are available on most shinkansen (bullet train) and limited express trains and on a small number of local trains.

Tohoku Shinkansen


Eligibility for a JR Pass

To purchase a JR Pass, you must meet one of these two eligibility requirements:

1. You are a foreign tourist visiting Japan from abroad under the entry status of “temporary visitor”. According to Japanese Immigration Law, the Temporary Visitor entry status allows a stay in Japan of 15 days or 90 days for “sight-seeing, etc.” If you apply for a “stay for sight-seeing” purpose when you enter Japan, the entry inspector will stamp your passport as “Temporary Visitor”. In order to purchase a JR Pass, your passport must have this stamp or sticker.

temporary visitor stamp

Photo: Wikipedia

People on longer-term visas like work visas, student visas and permanent residence visas cannot use Japan Rail Passes. Neither can those on other types of short-term visas such as “Trainee,” “Entertainer,” or “Reentry Permit”;  your official status must be “temporary visitor”. 

2. Japanese people who are living abroad
As of June 1st 2017, Japanese nationals who have lived outside of Japan for 10 years or more can qualify for the Japan Rail Pass.

Buying a JR Pass

Buying JR Pass Online
There are many places where you can get a Japan Rail Pass inside and outside of Japan. However, the best deals are available on the Internet or at JR-appointed sales outlets overseas. Here is the price list when purchasing online as of Dec. 2022.

JR pass 2022 Internet purchase

Price List of JR Pass purchasing Online.  Find more details here  Source: Japan Rail Pass

Once you purchase the pass online, you will receive a Booking Confirmation (also called an Exchange Order) by post, which you can exchange for the Rail Pass itself after you arrive in Japan at the airport or at any major JR Rail station. Keep in mind when you are picking up your pass that you will have to show your passport and temporary visitor visa status as proof that you are eligible.

Buying JR Pass in Japan
You can buy the JR Pass in Japan at major JR Rail stations as well, but it will be slightly more expensive than if you had purchased it in advance online. See the price chart below:

jr pass price 2022

Price List of JR Pass purchasing in Japan.  Source: Japan Rail Pass

How to Use the JR Pass

Previously, you had to enter the station by showing your passport-type JR Pass through a manned ticket gate, but now, as of November 2022, the pass can be used through the automatic ticket gates. It is very convenient, but please be careful not to lose your ticket because it is small.

new JR Pass 2022

How to book Shinkansen seat

If you want to use a non-reserved seat on the Shinkansen, you can simply go through the ticket gate, but if you want to sit in a reserved seat, you need to make a reservation. There are three types of seats on the Shinkansen: non-reserved seats, reserved seats, and green seats, and reserved seats and green seats must be reserved in advance.
Normally, several cars at the front of the train in the direction of travel are non-reserved seats, and in the case of the Tokaido Shinkansen’s “Hikari” train, cars 1-5 at the front of the 16-car train are usually non-reserved seats. Incidentally, green class cars are often three cars in the No. 8~10 carriages.

shinkansen seats free and green

Free & Reserved seating car v.s. Green Class seating car on the Shinkansen

If the unreserved seats are crowded, you may not be able to sit in your seat and may have to stand. Especially during weekday rush hours, holidays and national holidays, Golden Week (around April 27 to May 6), Obon season (around August 10 to 19), and year-end and New Year holidays, the Shinkansen is often crowded, so it is recommended to book a reserved seat.
Booking for reserved seats for JR Pass holders can be made at no extra charge. You can make reservations at the Midori-no-Madoguchi (JR ticket office) in the station before departure of the Shinkansen, or if you purchased your pass via the online “JAPAN RAIL PASS Reservation“, you can reserve a reserved seat on the dedicated website.

Where to Use the JR Pass

Shinkansen map

Shinkansen map   Source: wikipedia  *The West Kyushu Shinkansen (in Nagasaki) opened on 23 September 2022.

The Japan Rail Pass is valid on the following railways, buses, and ferries:


  • All JR Shinkansen “bullet trains” nationwide except the Nozomi & Mizuho trains
  • All JR Trains nationwide – limited express, express, rapid and local trains
  • The Tokyo Monorail
  • The Osaka Loop Line
  • Aoimori Railway between Aomori and Hachinohe (local or rapid trains only)
  • The IR Ishikawa Railway Line between Kanazawa and Tsubata (local or limited express trains only)
  • The Ainokaze Toyama Railway Line between Toyama and Takaoka (local trains only)


  • All local JR Buses
  • *The pass is NOT valid for travel on express bus routes/highway bus routes operated by JR Bus


  • The JR-West Ferry to Miyajima in Hiroshima

JR trains japan rail

JR Pass & the Shinkansen

As previously mentioned, the Japan Rail Pass can be used on JR trains across Japan, including the shinkansen (bullet train). However, there are just two exceptions: the Nozomi, the fastest of the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen trains, and the Mizuho, the fastest of the Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen, are not covered by the JR Pass. Riding these trains will require you to pay a full price ticket that includes both the basic fare and the limited express charge. Please keep this in mind if you plan on traveling via the Shinkansen.



Conclusion: Should I Get a JR Pass?

At first glance, getting a JR Pass may seem like adding an unnecessary expense to an already potentially expensive trip. However, taking the train can add up quickly, especially over long distances. For people visiting Japan who are planning to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto, for example, having the JR Pass will certainly save them money. And, if you’re planning on taking the train a lot around some of the bigger cities (i.e. Tokyo and Osaka), the pass is incredibly cost-effective.

For example, let’s look at how much you can save by using JR Pass.
If you buy a normal Shinkansen ticket for a round trip between Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima

  • Tokyo to Kyoto: 13,850 yen
  • Kyoto to Hiroshima: 11,420 yen
  • Hiroshima to Tokyo: 18,910 yen
    Total: 44,180 yen (*Fare in 2022)

Since a 7-day pass (standard car) costs 29,650 yen, this means a savings of 14,530 yen on Shinkansen travel alone. If you use JR local trains, buses and a ferry around Kyoto and Hiroshima, the money you can save is even more. Besides, there are 83 Limited Express and 3 Sleeping Limited Express JR trains in Japan. With the JR Rai Pass, you can go as far north as Hokkaido and as far south as Kyushu. Your excitement never stops, does it?

Also as I mentioned before, if you are going to buy a JR Pass, you can save money by purchasing it online in advance. Online purchase offers the following advantages:

  • Cheaper than buying one in Japan offline
  • NO handling fee/credit card fee upon checkout
  • Customer support both in English and Japanese
  • Customers can order add-ons (an easy to pick up Pocket WiFi and Airport Meet & Greet) together with JR Passes
  • Cancellation Protection

In addition to saving you money during your travels, using the JR Pass will save you time as well. When using the JR Pass, rather than stopping at machine to buy a ticket every time you board a train, you just pass right through the gates.

If you’re visiting Japan for sight-seeing and want to get the most out of your experience, then purchasing the JR Pass is a great option to consider!


For Japanese train system, you may want to check our blog: Your Ultimate Guide to Japanese Trains as well.