There are some special train passes and tickets for tourists from abroad. Knowing features of these passes and ticket, you could save money in your planed trips.
JR Rail Pass
JR Rail pass gives you the right to ride all the JR lines in Japan except Nozomi and Mizuho trains.
How to get JR Rail Pass
You can’t purchase “JR Rail Pass” in Japan. You have to purchase it in your country. More precisely, you purchase “Exchange Order” to JR Rail Pass at JR designated sales offices or agents in your country. Then, in Japan, you exchange “Exchange Order” with “JR Rail Pass” at a JAPAN RAIL PASS exchange office in a major JR station.
Take Narita Airport for example, you can exchange it to “JR Rail Pass” at JR EAST Travel Service Center on B1F in Terminal 1 and 2. If trains have reserved seats, you can make seat reservations at “Midori-no-madoguchi” (ticket office) with no additional charge.
JR Rail pass has three kinds of effective days. They are 7-days pass, 14-days pass, 21-days pass.
- 7-days pass is priced 29,110 yen (14,450 yen) for Ordinary cars, 38,880 yen (19,440 yen child)) for Green cars (first class).
- 14-days pass: 46,390 yen (23,190 yen) for Ordinary cars, 62,950 yen (31,470 yen) or Green cars.
- 21-days pass: 59,350 yen (29,670 yen) for Ordinary cars, 81,870 yen (40,930 yen) for Green cars.
Listed prices are as of January 2019
Bullet train and JR Rail Pass
Take Tōkaidō-Shinkansen (bullet train) for example, as all-inclusive Ordinary car’s fares of “Hikari” train between Tōkyō and Ōsaka is 14,110 yen, if you make round trip from Tōkyō to Ōsaka, it almost covers cost of 7-days ordinary pass. If your trip plan is further visits other places like Kyōto, Himeji etc., you’ll be benefitted by purchasing JR Rail pass.
As I pointed above, you can’t ride “Nozomi” trains by JR Rail pass. “Nozomi” takes 2 hours and half to get Ōsaka, whereas “Hikari” takes 3 hours to get there. “Hikari” leaves every 30 minutes.
Seat layout of ordinary car of “Shinkansen” is 2 seats aisle 3 seats. I think 2 seats side is better. You can choose which side of aisle and window seat or aisle seat when you make seat reservations. Seat layout of green car (first class) is 2 seats, 2 seats.
If you plan to go far away from Tōkyō several times, JR Rail pass would be a bargain.
When should you begin to use JR Rail Pass?
When you start to use the pass, the pass is only effective following consecutive days. So, if you plan to stay in Japan longer than duration days of the pass, for example 10 days stay plan with 7-days pass, better think well when you begin to use the pass.
You can use JR Rail pass for N’EX from Narita Airport or Monorail train from Haneda Airport. So, if your stay in Japan is within duration period of the pass, use it from the Airport. If the duration period of the pass is shorter than your planed stay in Japan, think well when you begin to use the pass.
Passes issued by JR EAST
JR EAST issues several passes for tourists from abroad. They are JR EAST pass (Tōhoku area), JR EAST pass (Nagano, Niigata area).
You can purchase these passes in your country or in Japan. If you buy them in your country (including internet purchase), you get price discount. Procedure to purchase the pass in your country is same with that of JR Rail Pass. Unlike JR Rail Pass, these passes don’t require consecutive use of pass. You can use these passes any five days within 14 days period from the date of issue.
Price for Tōhoku area pass is 20,000 yen (10,000 yen child), discounted price 19,000 yen (9,500 yen), price for Nagano, Niigata area pass is 18,000 yen (9,000 yen child), discounted price 17,000 yen (8,500 yen child).
Here is online purchase site for JR EAST pass.
If you have plan to go to Tōhoku area or Nagano, Niigata area, these passes would save you money.
Besides these passes, JR EAST sells other passes. If you have interest in these passes, visit Fares & Passes page of JR EAST.
Some examples of passes are JR TOKYO Wide Pass, JR Tohou-South Hokkaido Rail Pass, JR EAST South Hokkaido Rail Pass, Hokuriku Arch Pass. You can ride only JR companies’ lines by these passes.
If you have the definite plan to go around these areas, these passes would save you money.
Other railroad companies’ passes
Besides JR EAST, other railroad company also issue discounted tickets or passes. But these tickets or passes have common shortcoming. They cannot ride JR companies’ railroad lines.
As I wrote in “The basic structure of railroads network in Tokyo”, when you move around Tokyo, JR lines are core of trip. Accordingly, I recommend other railroad companies’ discounted tickets or passes only when your planed itinerary from the other company’s departure station to the other company’s destination station doesn’t include riding JR lines.
The following are websites of other railroad companies on discounted tickets or passes.
Odakyu’s passes or tickets mainly concerned with Hakone, Kamakura. Be careful that if you ride Odakyu Romance car, you have to pay for limited express fares as additional charge. One-way limited express fare is 1,090 yen. Examples of passes are Hakone Free Pass, Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass etc.
- Keio corporation
It sells Mt. Takao Discount Ticket and others.
- Seibu Railway
It sells Seibu 1/2 day(s) pass etc.
- Tobu Railway
The passes are mainly concerned with Nikko, Kawagoe.
- Keisei Electric Railway
It sells Keisei Skyliner & Tokyo Subway ticket, Greater Tokyo Pass etc.
It sells Keikyu Haneda/Subway Common Pass, Greater Tokyo pass etc.