Japan Rail Pass – the ticket to the high-speed trains

Q: What is it? A: A special Japanese train ticket for tourists that will give travelers a pretty substantial discount. Can only be purchased through travel agencies outside Japan!

This is not the actual ticket – but the voucher that will get you a ticket with that special tourist discount!

This is the voucher. Priceless when you come to Japan. Besides, you can not buy it when you have landed. Must be purchased prior to arrival.

500 Series Shinkansen going swoosh through a station.

A 500 Series Shinkansen train, (max. speed 300 km/h), passing a station. Note that there are many types of these trains – and that the Japan Rail Pass will not be valid on all of them!

The N700 Shinkansen. One of the more modern trains. Max. speed 300 km/h.

In Japan trains come and go on time. They may be approx. 5-6 seconds late. Yes, those ARE seconds, dear readers. Not minutes. In this pic: a N700-series Shinkansen.

Fluent in Japanese? Good for you!

At first you stand there, puzzled; not a recognizable letter in sight. Then you realize that the signs alter between Japanese and western-style letters. Plus; all the staff members at Japan Rail that I met, were extremely helpful.

You must be a tourist – and you must buy it in advance.
Look at the little paper thingie above – it’s the best invention since the pinball game: It’s the Japan Rail Pass. The trick is to learn about it before going there. There are two rules: 1) You must be a tourist. 2) You can not buy it when in the country. Instead you need to buy it before you go.
In short, you will purchase a voucher that you trade in for the rail pass. It’s valid for either 7,14 or 21 days – and the clock starts ticking as you buy your first ticket.

Valid on other types of transport as well…
The Japan Rail Pass is not only valid on the Shinkansen, the Japanese high-speed trains, but also on the express and regional trains. It’s also valid on buses. It is actually valid on almost everything that carries the JR (Japan Rail) logo. It also gives you crazy value for money. Seven days is about $300. Then you can ride trains around the clock. There are no limits when it comes to the number of trips, but… did you not the almost in a previous sentence? Read on and you’ll find out.

The one catch that I’ve discovered:
The Japan Rail Pass is good on most Shinkansen trains, but not all of them. As I write this, there are eight different types and with time there will be even more. They have names like Nozomi, Hikari or Kodama. They look different. They stop at different stations. They run at different speeds. It’s quite impossible to go through it all here as the information would quickly become obsolete. I recommend you to visit the Japan Rail website, (you’ll find the link below). The trick is to plan the journey far in advance… but you already into such planning, aren’t you?

Props to the Japan Rail staff!
Their staff is very used to guide foreign travelers who are not able to read, think or walk. The language barrier is sometimes extremely high but the people wearing a JR uniform are compensating for that by being extremely helpful.
So if you plan to travel to a few Japanese cities, don’t forget to check the Japan Rail Pass before you go. For me, it was also a dream I had since I was a little boy to travel at 190 miles an hour in a designed giant dildo through the Japanese landscape. That was a bonus. It definitely was.

Click here for info in English about the Japan Rail Pass!

Click here for my reviews of Tokyo hotels!

Wanna go to Kyoto?

The train I took between Tokyo and Kyoto. Not one of the faster Shinkansen-trains, the 300-series, the Nozomi, tops out at 270 km/h. Quite ordinary on the inside, as you can see below.

"For your safety, don't rush for your train."

What was I expecting? Spaceship Enterprise out of Star Trek? The interior of the world’s most efficient and punctual high-speed train was surprisingly ordinary.

1 comment

  1. I think it is worth noting the difference between the Japan Railway pass and the JR East Railway pass. JR East has a 4 day flex pass (non consecutive days OK), a 5 day pass, and some others. You can use it from Tokyo Station to ride the shinkansen north (actually east, but it looks north to me). But the same rules apply. Must be bought before you get to Japan and you must have a tourist visa.
    Thanks for the good info and photos,
    Michael

    Reply

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