ROOSTERGNN Global News Network recently went on an #RGNNTour throughout Japan. To assist future travelers to Japan, we have put together a series of useful articles. Here, we discuss the Japan Rail Pass, which gives travelers the opportunity to travel throughout Japan using the country’s fast train system.

What is the Japan Rail Pass?

Japan’s infrastructure is connected by series of fast trains. The Japan Rail Pass is a multiple-day ticket, that allows travelers to take an unlimited number of trains (complying with a set of limitations, see below).

All foreign nationals who visit Japan for tourism can purchase a JR Pass.

Which types of trains can you take with the Japan Rail Pass?

You can take the following types of trains with a Japan Rail Pass:

  • Shinkansen bullet trains (high speed trains, e.g. from Tokyo to Kyoto, except Nozomi and Mizuho trains, which are the express trains making very few stops)
  • Express JR trains (including, for example, the Narita Express to the airport from Tokyo Station)
  • All the local JR trains
  • Ferry for the Miyajima

For the local JR lines and the wagons with non-reserved seats, you only need to show your JR Pass when getting on the train.

Which types of trains can you not take with the Japan Rail Pass?

You CANNOT take the following trains with the Japan Rail Pass:

  • Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen bullet trains (you can take all other Shinkansen trains!)
  • Metro or subway lines (you will need to purchase separate tickets in each city)
  • Private train lines

What types of Japan Rail Pass exist?

There are two categories for the Japan Rail Pass: Tourist or First Class (also called Green Pass).

For both, there are seven, fourteen and twenty-one day passes available.

Tokyo’s iconic Shibuya crossing, just before the lights turn green. #RGNNTour #RGNNJapan

Una publicación compartida de Isabel Eva Bohrer (@isabelevabohrer) el

Where can I obtain the Japan Rail Pass?

You should purchase the Japan Rail Pass in your home country, before arriving in Japan. This can be done online or via a travel agency.

We booked our #RGNNTour tickets online through and picked them up in Madrid at their office in Madrid:

C/Jacometrezo 15. Planta 4ª – Puerta B. 28013, Madrid. Tel. +34 91 593 1400.

Hours: 9.00 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Some travel agencies will also deliver your pass to an address in Japan, be sure to ask about this in advance.

Tip: occasionally, travel agencies such as the one we used will provide additional materials, such as maps, and a 24 hour subway card for Tokyo, when you purchase the Japan Rail Pass. The maps were included for free. The 24 hour subway card for Tokyo, which had an additional price of 3 Euros per person, was great to have and cheaper than purchasing it in-country.

Once you complete your order, the travel agency will give you a voucher that you will need to exchange for the real pass once you arrive in Japan.

You can exchange your voucher for the actual pass at various subway stations in Tokyo, for example, but not all subway stations. We exchanged ours at Tokyo station. You will need your passport (not a photocopy of your passport), with your name matching that on your voucher, in order to redeem your Japan Rail Pass. There can be quite a line to pick up the passes, so come with plenty of time if you plan on taking a train afterwards. Also, check the opening times of the exchange station (they are not open 24 hours and moreover vary from station to station!). When in doubt and especially if you cannot speak Japanese, ask for “JAPAN RAIL PASS EXCHANGE” and a staff member at Tokyo station will be able to direct you to the right place. We would recommend doing this on the day before you plan to use it for the first time, without luggage, as it is not always easy to find the Rail Pass Exchange office and walking around the station with a lot of luggage can be a little tiring.

Do I or can I reserve seats with my Japan Rail Pass?

For the Tourist Pass:

  • Wagons with non-reserved seats. Only show your pass. First come, first serve.
  • Wagons with reserved seats. You must reserve seats, this can be done free of charge at any JR ticket counter.

For the First Class or Green Pass.

  • Wagons with reserved seats. You must reserve seats, this can be done free of charge at any JR ticket counter.

You always need to reserve:

  • Kagayaki
  • Hayabusa
  • Hayate
  • Komachi
  • Super View Odoriko etc.

When you first pick up your pass, you will be asked as to when you would like to use it for the first time, i.e. which day. You can then also reserve seats for the first train you want to take.

After that, you can reserve seats at the station twenty-four hours in advance of every train you are planning to take.

Note: if you reserve a seat and miss that train, then you cannot reserve a seat for the next train in the same direction, so don’t reserve if you are not sure!

When we first picked up our passes, we did reserve seats for the first train we were going to take from Tokyo to Kyoto, especially since we wanted to make sure to have a window seat to be able to film Mt. Fuji as part of our news agency tour.

Saying goodbye to Mt. Fuji #RGNNJapan #RGNNTour

Una publicación compartida de ROOSTERGNN Global News Network (@rooster_gnn) el

After that, however, we simply decided to take the risk and board trains without reserved seats – and we always got a spot on the first train that came around. There are many trains at many hours, and if you are flexible, we would say that it is not necessary to reserve a spot. If you are traveling with children, excess luggage or have to be somewhere at a very specific time (e.g. if you have a flight to catch, but even on the Narita Express, we did not reserve a spot and still got one), then you should probably take the time to reserve a spot.

Important: When you use the pass for the first time, make sure to get it stamped by a staff member on the lower corner. You will need to enter and exit JR stations through a special line for those with JR passes (look for all the tourists lining up on the right or left side of the turnstiles – that will be the line where you show your pass. When entering and exiting stations, you will need to show just your pass, not your passport (you do need your passport in order to exchange your initial voucher for the JR Pass the first time, as stated above!).

How much does the Japan Rail Pass Cost?

There are two categories for the Japan Rail Pass: Tourist or First Class (also called Green Pass)

The current prices listed through the agency ROOSTERGNN used are as follows:


  • Seven (7) days: 239 Euros for adults. 120 Euros for children (6-11 years).
  • Fourteen (14) days: 381 Euros for adults. 190 Euros for children (6-11 years).
  • Twenty-one (21) days: 487 Euros for adults. 244 Euros for children (6-11 years).

First Class (also called Green Pass):

  • Seven (7) days: 319 Euros for adults. 160 Euros for children (6-11 years).
  • Fourteen (14) days: 516 Euros for adults. 258 Euros for children (6-11 years).
  • Twenty-one (21) days: 671 Euros for adults. 336 Euros for children (6-11 years).

All days must be consecutive days, i.e. if you have a seven-day pass and start using it on January 1, it will be valid for seven days starting on January 1.

What if I lose my Japan Rail Pass?

Japan Rail Passes are not replaceable, so make sure not to lose your pass or get it stolen!

#RGNNTour details

We took the following trips using our seven day Japan Rail Pass:

  • Tokyo-Kyoto
  • Kyoto-Inari-Nari (day trip from Kyoto)
  • Kyoto-Himeji (day trip from Kyoto)
  • Narita Express to Tokyo airport

Of course, there are many more places you can go with the pass!

Enjoy Japan!

Please note that neither ROOSTERGNN nor the author is responsible for any action readers take based on this article. All readers are responsible for their own actions, finances and travel plans.