When planning a big trip, I tend to pin all of my points of interest on a map to then determine what would be feasible via public transportation. When planning Japan, I had pins all over the map and had to determine the best way to maximize my time in the country. That is when I heard of the Japan Rail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass, made possible only for foreign tourists, provides you with unlimited travel on any JR line across the four main islands for a period of one, two, or three weeks.
5FT Tip: You have to buy your Japan Rail Pass in advance, prior to your arrival in Japan, as the pass is not sold in Japan itself. After obtaining the Japan Rail Pass voucher overseas, bring that with you to Japan, as you have to exchange it in Japan at a JR Information Desk for the actual pass.
Where to purchase the Japan Rail Pass?
I received my 21-day Japan Rail Pass from Japan Experience, an incredibly helpful and credible company that has been specializing in Japan for over 30 years. They were extremely efficient in delivering me my Japan Rail Pass before leaving the US, even when I was on a time crunch. All of my emails were responded to promptly and there were no complications whatsoever. Do note, once you purchase your Japan Rail Pass, you have to activate it within 3 months and it has to be used within a certain number of consecutive days.
5 Reasons To Buy A Japan Rail Pass
1. Save money.
The main reason that people buy a Japan Rail Pass is to save money. Assuming you’re not just going from Tokyo to Kyoto and back, you will absolutely save money. I used my Japan Rail Pass for 36 different rides within 21 days, which would have cost me $688.67 USD (72,868 Yen) had I not had the pass.
2. It’s easy.
With the Japan Rail Pass in hand, there’s no need to purchase any tickets. Just wave your Rail Pass at the security point, and you’re through! Not only is it easy, but economical too since you’re not wasting paper by printing tickets for each ride.
3. It encourages exploration.
With over 20,000 km of railroads in Japan, there’s no reason not to go off-the-beaten path! Use the Japan Rail Pass to access places that would usually cost more money — try the islands of Kyushu, Hokkaido, and Shikoku. I was supposed to explore quite a bit of Kyushu while using my Japan Rail Pass, but unfortunately my trip coincided with the big earthquakes on Kyushu mid-April so I had a change of plans. I did, however, use the Rail Pass to go to the lovely city of Fukuoka in the northern portion of Kyushu.
4. Access to in-country assistance.
Japan Experience offers an amazing assistance tool to help you navigate Japan with your Japan Rail Pass. Should you be lost in a station, find yourself stranded at night, or unable to understand someone’s directions, you can feel comfort in knowing that you can call the helpline and speak to a bilingual specialist who can help you through the experience. If you’re unsure how to access a town you’ve booked a hotel in or don’t have internet access and need to know train times, these specialists could guide you through that as well.
5. It can be used for busses and in place of some metros.
The Japan Rail Pass isn’t just for the train. It also gives you access to all of the JR local bus lines, and even ferries too! This expands your reach that much further. While I didn’t use any of the JR busses, I did use many JR lines in place of the metro. If you take a city like Osaka, for instance, you can get around just about entirely using your Japan Rail Pass — I surely did! This eliminates the extra costs associated with the metro.
If you check out Japan Experience’s site, you’ll find endless resources to make your transition to and through Japan as smooth as possible. I was most impressed with their “Practical Tips” section where they provide links to downloadable maps and plans, explain in detail how to pick up your Japan Rail Pass, how to find your train, use the lockers in each station, etc. I highly recommend making use of their website!
Aside from offering Japan Rail Passes, Japan Experience leads stunning tours through Japan, has houses for rent at affordable prices in some of the most popular districts, and can help you design the perfect itinerary. If you’re not up for taking the train, they can also help you arrange flights or a car hire as well. I can’t wait to utilize their resources further the next time I’m in Japan.
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**Special thanks to Japan Experience for sponsoring my journey. As always, all opinions are my own.