Your Guide to the Japan Rail Pass【Latest Edition 2023 Oct.~】

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. From Oct. 2024, the new price was introduced, and we’ll go through it in this blog as well.

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. The price will be unified for all sales channels after the last updates on 0ct. 2023.

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.

The new JR Pass Price

In October 2024, the JR Pass underwent a major price revision. The price has been increased by up to 70% over the previous fee. Below are the current fees after the revision.

*50% off reduced rates apply to children aged 6-11.

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 additional price.

The additional ticket cost is consistent across non-reserved, reserved, and Green Car seats (exclusive to Green Card pass holders) and varies based on the distance traveled. Tickets can be conveniently purchased at ticket offices and selected machines. Sample costs for key routes include:

– Tokyo to Nagoya: ¥4,180
– Tokyo to Kyoto: ¥4,960
– Tokyo to Shin-Osaka: ¥4,960
– Tokyo to Hiroshima: ¥6,500
– Tokyo to Hakata: ¥8,140
– Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima: ¥4,170
– Shin-Osaka to Hakata: ¥4,960
– Shin-Osaka to Kagoshima-Chuo: ¥9,460
– Hakata to Kagoshima-Chuo: ¥4,500



New Discounts for JR Pass holders

Pass holders will now enjoy additional perks, including discounts and gifts at select sightseeing spots and shops. Discounts usually range from 10% off to a reduction of 100 yen, while gifts often include a complimentary postcard. Explore the official website for a comprehensive list of available discounts.

Conclusion: Should I Get a JR Pass?

In many cases, individual point-to-point train tickets often offer more cost-effective options compared to the Japan Rail Pass. Unless you greatly prioritize the flexibility and comfort of unlimited travel for long distance, opting for regular tickets for each journey is likely the more economical choice.

For extended journeys, such as those to Hokkaido, Kyushu, or Shikoku, domestic flights have traditionally been the quicker choice. With the recent price adjustment, they now also present a more budget-friendly alternative than the Japan Rail Pass.

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


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


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