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!
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.