Why you should get a JR Pass: 5 benefits of the Japan Rail Pass

  • Published on : 27/03/2023
  • by : Joshua
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Japan’s world-famous public transportation system is largely organized and operated by the Japan Railways Group (JR Group), and this same organization issues a special transit ticket called the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass).

That means that the JR Group facilities allow for travel to all of these prefectures in a quick and easy manner for an extended amount of time, as all Shinkansen high-speed trains are operated by Japan Railways. 

Via this, theoretically, travelers can buy a Japan Rail Pass and go all the way from the most northern part of Wakkanai on Hokkaido to Kagoshima, the most southern part of Japan’s mainland in Kyushu. Be sure to take stops through all the other regions on the way, though! 

For first-time travelers, especially, this coverage is fantastic as it assures access to the key destinations of Japan’s “Golden Route” that includes Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. And of course, the unlimited access to all other mainland prefectures means that other cities like Kanazawa in Ishikawa or Takayama in Gifu, along with great spots for daytrips like Hakone or Himeji, will be able to be reached easily. 

Coverage isn’t just limited to high-speed trains, also! Many local trains (such as the JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo) and bus networks within major cities will be accessible by those who buy the pass. Even the ferry out to Miyajima in Hiroshima is bundled in!

Golden Route Itinerary

Golden Route Itinerary to travel with the Japan Rail Pass

Golden Route + Kyushu

Golden Route & Kyushu Itinerary

Cross-Country Itinerary

Cross-Country Itinerary

And for those who do want a bit more structure, the pass allows for easy reservations without any additional fees (a luxury unfortunately not available with individual ticket purchases), so you can quickly guarantee a seat with little stress and no penalties. Simply show your pass to the staff at a Japan Railway office inside a station and choose a departure time for a train to your destination.


Japan Rail Pass ticket

Japan Rail Pass ticket


Additionally, the Japan Rail Pass allows for great flexibility on where you can start your trip, as the pass can be exchanged at a number of different Japan Railway offices throughout the country. You aren't just limited to starting your journey in Tokyo or Osaka, so you have a lot of free-reign on formatting your itinerary as you fit. In fact, your Japan Rail Pass doesn't even need to be activated for use immediately upon exchanging. Perhaps you have an itinerary that has you going to multiple places but you're in Tokyo for a large amount of time for the first leg of the trip. You can exchange them for the pass as soon as you arrive, but then activate the pass for actual usage on the day you depart from Tokyo to use the pass during the most commute-heavy part of your trip.


JR Ticket Office (Midori no Madoguchi) at Kagoshima Chuo Station


While Japan’s transportation is efficient and accommodating, it can also become quite expensive, especially since so much of its costs are based on distance. This is especially true for busy itineraries with many destinations and day trips, making the Japan Rail Pass a great deal for very proactive travelers who wish to see as much as possible. 

Travel between Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima on the “Golden Route” and other destinations via the high-speed Shinkansen bullet train within a week alone can become a considerable expense. Then, once you account for the travel included with local transportation at each of these destinations plus the convenience provided, the pass can easily pay for itself with proper planning and the right itinerary. Referring back to the Sendai and Morioka day trip example from earlier, day trips that would initially cost a significant amount for a roundtrip commute go from potentially not being worth the money and effort become much more accessible thanks to the JR Pass. 

Additionally, the Japan Rail Pass also comes with a number of discount coupons for some attractions. This includes discounted access to Himeji Castle in Kansai, discounted rides for the Mount Hakodate Ropeway in Hokkaido, and the Tokyo Bay Ferry. For a full list of discounts and promotions for the Japan Rail Pass, take a look at the official website here. 

Map of the Japan Rail Pass network

Map of the Japan Rail Pass network

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Frequently Asked Questions about the JR Pass.

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