Japan Rail Pass FAQ’s! Below are the most common questions we get asked about Japan Rail Passes. Click on the question and the answer will appear. Once you have all the information you need, secure your Japan Rail Pass today! 

When you order your Japan Rail Pass what you’ll receive is an Exchange Order.  This is a physical voucher you take with you to Japan where you can swap it for the actual Japan Rail Pass at one of many designated exchange offices.  As it’s a physical voucher it can’t be emailed to you.

Pick up from our JTB Sydney OR Melbourne Office:
When purchased online you can collect your pass in Sydney, Melbourne JTB offices. You can pickup your pass from us for no extra charge. Alternatively you can purchase Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order from JTB Surfers Paradise office or JTB Cairns office.

Toll Express Mail:
This option uses Toll Express Mail. Please allow at least 3 business days.  There’s an $8.00 charge for this option (only in Australia).

Toll Courier:
A courier is ideal if you want to be absolutely sure that your JR Pass will arrive on time.  It costs $20.00 and should arrive by the next business day (only in Australia). Courier requires a signature upon delivery. Please provide an address where you will be during normal office hours. If unable to sign for a delivery, please select a Toll Express Mail Option or pick up collection. 

In the vast majority of cases the answer is no.  You can only reserve seats once you have arrived in Japan and swapped your Exchange Order for the Japan Rail Pass

No. When using the Japan Rail Pass it won’t cost you any extra money to boot tickets in either reserved or non-reserved seating areas on the train. You can also choose between smoking and non-smoking trains.

There is no one right Japan Rail Pass for everyone. Figuring out which JR Pass is right for you depends on a few key things. Where exactly do you want to go, how long will you need the pass for and whether you want a ordinary (economy) or green (first class) pass.

Having said that, a 21-day Japan Rail Pass will have you covered regardless of your itinerary but there can be cheaper options if you’re willing to buy combinations of smaller passes – although this takes a lot more time and planning to get right.

Booking seats with the Japan Rail Pass is pretty straightforward.  Once you have swapped your exchange coupon to your actual Japan Rail Pass in Japan, you can begin to book tickets in either reserved seating or unreserved seating sections.  This means you cannot reserve your seats before you arrive in Japan.

The Japan Rail Pass system works very well. Having said that, please keep in mind the following points.

When you purchase your Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order in Australia please remember that as it’s a physical voucher you need to allow enough time for delivery (if that’s the option you choose).  However, if you come to our office to order it or if you select the pickup option then we can have it available for you immediately.  

You need to exchange your Exchange Order for a Japan Rail Pass within three months of the date of issue. ie You can not purchase it more than 3 months in advance of the date you plan to use it.

You can only exchange your Exchange Order for your Pass up to one month prior to the date you intend to start it. You must nominate a start date at the time of exchange.

Be sure to take your actual passport with you when you go to exchange your Exchange Order for your Pass. Copies of your passport are not accepted.

Also ensure that all of the information on your Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order matches the information in your passport.

The Japan Rail Pass allows you to ride on all Bullet Trains EXCEPT Nozomi and Mizuho on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen. You will find Bullet Trains on longer distance lines. For smaller networks in more remote or less populated places you’ll find smaller trains being used.  Don’t worry, they’re all comfortable, reliable and fast.

In simple terms the Ordinary Japan Rail Pass is Economy class and the Green Japan Rail Pass is First class (in Japan Green means First class). Ordinary class travel offers plenty of leg room and comfort. The Green pass offers even more. The Ordinary class cars tend to get more crowded during peak times on popular routes compared to the Green Class cars.

This is the most common question we get.  Whilst everyone will have a different itinerary our rule of thumb is simple: if you’re going to do a trip that’s either Tokyo -> Kyoto -> Tokyo or Kyoto -> Tokyo -> Kyoto then it makes sense to get a Japan Rail 7 Day Pass.  

The cost will be about the same as Tokyo – Kyoto return but having the pass will give you the flexibility and option to add side trips like Odawara (Mt. Fuji’s JR station), Takayama, Shirakawago, Nagoya, Osaka, Nara, Nikko, Yokohama, etc…

As soon as you travel more than just Tokyo – Kyoto return the savings really add up.  The only case in which we’d advise individual tickets is if you go one way from Tokyo – Kyoto.  Even Tokyo to Hiroshima via Kyoto is cheaper on the Japan Rail Pass.

If you are a tourist visiting Japan from abroad for sightseeing: You are a foreign tourist visiting Japan from abroad for sight-seeing, under the entry status of ‘temporary visitor’. ‘Temporary visitor’ entry status allows a stay in Japan of up to 90 days for sight-seeing, etc. When you enter Japan, entry personnel will stamp your passport as a temporary visitor.

Japanese passport holders cannot use this pass. However in the rare case when travelers have dual passports (Japanese & other), unless your valid non Japanese passport is stamped with ‘Temporary Visitor’, issuance of JR pass will be refused.

There are several types of JR passes that you can get.  Determining which pass you should get depends entirely on your itinerary.  Here’s what you need to consider:

  • How long are you travelling for and (for some passes) how many actual travel days will you have?

  • Ordinary (economy) versus Green (first class) pass.

  • Where exactly you’ll be travelling (just one area of Japan or many areas).  

When most people talk about the JR Pass they’re referring to the nation-wide pass which covers all of Japan.  This is by far and away the most popular pass we sell.  You can get it for 7, 14 or 21 days (must be used consecutively) and in green or ordinary class (green is more expensive and comfortable, ordinary is cheaper and less comfortable).

There’s also several other passes and we list them all on our main JR Pass page.  Each pass also has it’s own page to give you more information on how much they cost, where you can go with them and the different ways they can be used.  

No.  When you purchase a JR Pass you will receive a physical voucher (Exchange Order) that you must take with you to Japan and swap for the actual pass. (Except JR East Pass) For this reason it can be delivered to any postal address in Australia (No PO Box address apply) or you can pick it up from one of our offices.

Yes, you can ride all JR trains using your Japan Rail Pass including the Hikari bullet train as well as the slower local trains.  The only trains you can’t catch are the Nozomi and Mizuho bullet trains.

However in the cities there are also subway and private railways operating. Your Japan Rail Pass does not cover these trains.

Some examples of metro (subway) trains you can use are:

TOKYO

  • JR Yamanote Line
  • JR Chuo Line
  • JR Narita Express Line

OSAKA

  • JR Osaka Loop Line

NAGOYA

  • JR Chuo Line
  • JR Kansai Line

It is important to note that in cities there can be several different private companies running different subway and private lines alongside the government run lines. Remember to look for the JR sign when using your Japan Rail Pass.

Yes, you’re Japan Rail Pass can be used to board some busses. With a Japan Rail Pass you can catch all busses run by Japan Rail (except Highway busses & some local commuter bus) although it should be noted that Japan Rail doesn’t really have a large bus network. Some of the busses you can use are:

  • JR Bus Tohoku
  • JR Bus Kanto
  • JR Tokai Bus
  • West Japan JR Bus
  • Chugoku JR Bus
  • JR Hokkaido Bus
  • JR Kyushu Bus

Your Japan Rail Pass will let you use ferries operated by Japan Rail network.  The most popular is the Miyajima to Miyajimaguchi ferry.

Children under 6 are not required to have a Japan Rail Pass. They can travel free on the trains, but are not entitled to have a seat (that is, they may have sit on a parent’s lap if the train is fully booked).  So they can use a seat if it’s unoccupied but they must vacate it if the seat is booked.

This is limited to one child under 6 per parent. If there is more than one child under 6 per parent then a pass is required. If the child is over 6 and 11 years old or under on the date the Exchange Order was issued then a Child Rail Pass is required (which is cheaper than an adult pass).

If you require a seat for a child under 6 we recommend you purchase child Japan Rail Pass. Please contact us to discuss this option.

There are several types of bullet trains but the best known and most common ones are:

  • Nozomi
  • Mizuho
  • Hikari
  • Sakura
  • Kodama

The main difference between them is how many stops they make. Nozomi makes the fewest stops, Hikari has more stops and Kodama stops at all stations.

JR Passes let you use the Hikari and Kodama bullet trains. Using the Nozomi and Mizuho on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen Bullet Trains is not available when using Japan Rail Passes.

JTB has been operating in Australia for over 50 years and in Japan for over 100 years. We’re the world’s oldest Japan Rail Pass provider and we have several offices in Australia with over 70 offices in Japan as well. We’re a popular and a very safe company with longstanding ties to Japan Rail and the Japanese tourism industry. We offer flexible delivery arrangements (including pickup), great prices and we have knowledgeable and experienced staff to assist your needs.

No, however the prices for the Japan Rail Pass do vary depending on exchange rates.  The prices are set in Yen by Japan Rail and then we convert them in Australian dollars.  JTB monitors the exchange rates to ensure you will buy your pass at the best possible price.

It’s almost always makes more sense to get a Japan Rail Pass. The Bullet Trains are famed for their speed and a Japan Rail Pass usually works out to be cheaper than a plane if you’re going to be travelling around a lot.  The shinkansen are extremely comfortable and spacious (especially compared to a train).  

You’ll also get to see more of the countryside and there’s a lot less hassle catching a train than catching a plane. It’s also considered a cultural experience by many travellers.  Now, if we can just build a bullet train from Australia…

There’s no maximum number of Japan Rail Passes you can get.  So long as you fulfill all the requirements and obligations of each pass then you can get as many as you wish.

The Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order is valid for three months from the date of issue.  This means you have three months within which to exchange it for the actual Japan Rail Pass.

You can get Japan Rail Passes that cover a fixed period of time (7, 14, 21 consecutive day passes).  When you swap your Exchange Order for the pass itself at a JR exchange office in Japan you will need to nominate that date that you want to be “Day 1” of your pass.  You’ll be able to book seats on trains departing any time from 12:01AM on Day 1 to 11:59PM on Day 7, 14, or 21 (depending on the pass you got).

No, the Japan Rail Pass cover basic fares for either Ordinary or Green classes.  There’s nothing stopping you from sleeping in your seat but the system isn’t designed to accommodate or encourage passengers to use the train as overnight accommodation.

There are many English signs at most stations and these days many automated announcements are in both English and Japanese.  Although many JR stations can be very large and difficult to navigate you’ll find that the Japanese people are more than willing to try and help you.

No, you won’t.  Many people have seen YouTube videos where this happens but those aren’t Japan Rail trains.  This happens on busy subway lines in Tokyo, Osaka and other big Japanese cities.  You will experience this if traveling by subway in Tokyo during rush hour.

Also please note that during crowded periods you cannot be guaranteed a seat on a specific train.

  • The New Year holiday period (end of December to early January)
  • Golden Week holiday period (end of April to early May)
  • Obon season (mid August)
  • Long weekends

The 7 Japan Rail Pass doesn’t depend on the time you exchange or use the pass but on the calendar day.  For example, if I swap my Exchange Order for the Japan Rail Pass on the 1st of January and I nominate the 4th of January as the day it becomes active this means I can now book tickets for any JR service departing from 12:01AM on the 4th of January to 11:59 PM on the 10th of January.  The 4th of January is considered “Day 1”, the 5th is “Day 2”, … , the 10th is “Day 7”.

If you swap your Exchange Order for your Japan Rail Pass on the 4thof January and you want to begin using it on the same day then you can use it from whenever you exchange it up until 11:59PM on the 10th of January.  

So you see, it doesn’t depend on the time of day of the exchange or activation but in the calendar day only.

In the example above I could book a train from Hiroshima to Tokyo if it departs at 11:59PM on the 7th of January even though most of the travel time and the arrival time will be on the 11th of January.  

However I couldn’t book a train from Yokohama to Tokyo if it departs at 00:01 on 8th of January as that would be outside the window (even though you’d be off the train sooner than you would if you departed from Yokohama).  The key is the departure date.

It’s the same for 14 and 21 day Japan Rail Passes as well.

When you buy a Japan Rail Pass from an agent authorised to sell them by Japan Rail you will first receive an Exchange Order.  It’s a physical voucher you take with you to Japan where you can swap it for the actual rail pass you’ve paid for.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR JAPAN RAIL PASS EXCHANGE ORDER BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE COUNTRY

It’s against the rules for any agent to deliver to a Japanese address or even an address outside of Australia.  So make sure you have the Exchange Order in hand before you leave for Japan.  The Exchange Order can be swapped for the JR Pass any time within 3 months of issue.  After that it expires so don’t buy it more than three months before you plan on using it.

ENTER JAPAN AS A “TEMPORARY VISITOR”

If you’re entering Japan on a non-Japanese passport (for example, an Australian passport, New Zealand passport, Ugandan Passport, etc) then you need to enter on a “Temporary Visitor” VISA. That’s the only VISA that’s eligible for the JR Pass – other short term VISAs are not.  Please note that the passport you enter on must be the same passport you bought the pass under in order to be eligible for the JR Pass. 

FIND THE EASIEST JR EXCHANGE OFFICE FOR YOU

To exchange your pass you need to go to a Japan Rail Office commonly referred to as a “Green Window” (Midori no Madoguchi in Japanese).  But there’s a common misconception that you can go to any Green Window to exchange your pass – you can’t. Tip: if convenient you can do this on arrival at Haneda or Narita Airports to save time.

SWAP YOUR EXCHANGE ORDER FOR YOUR JAPAN RAIL PASS

Go up to the window, smile kindly at the person behind the counter and present your passport (with temporary visitor stamp) and exchange order.  You’ll have to nominate the date that you want the pass to become active on.  You don’t have to reserve any tickets at this point but you can if you want to (for up to one month in advance).

And that’s all there is to it.

If you find a mistake on your Exchange Order (for example, if your surname is spelt incorrectly or if your date of birth is wrong, etc) then you should notify us immediately so that we can correct it before you leave Australia.  There have been cases in the past where Japan Rail has refused to accept an Exchange Order as the details on the voucher and the details in the passport did not match.  

For this reason we recommend buying from a local agent (like JTB) as we have offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns and the Gold Coast and we can quickly help you – you won’t be able to do this with online-only services.  We also recommend booking your pass as far in advance as possible (but no more than three months before you plan on making the exchange in Japan).

Please note that when you change the details on a Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order it means that the note has to be reissued.  This carries a fee of AUD$45.  It’s certainly best to avoid this wherever possible so please take extra care to make sure any details you supply are 100% accurate and match your passport information.

If you never swap your Exchange Order for the Japan Rail pass then you can apply for a refund.  To do this we’ll need the original pass you purchased sent back to the JTB office so that your request for a refund can be processed. You have one year from the date of issue to do so.

We charge a AUD$110 non-refundable deposit and an additional 20% handling fee. This deposit will be held for 12 months for future travel. If you paid a credit card surcharge when you initially booked the pass then this is also non-refundable.

Unfortunately neither a Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order nor a Japan Rail Pass can be reissued if lost or stolen. If you’re in Australia (and you’ve therefore lost your Exchange Order) then you should contact your travel agent immediately to discuss your options.  If you’re in Japan then you can discuss it with Japan Rail or one of our JTB offices but more than likely you’ll have to buy individual tickets from then onwards. Japan is a very safe country but you should be careful and take reasonable precautions with your belongings at all times.

A Japan Rail Pass cannot be extended so make sure to choose wisely.  This applies to both your Exchange Order Note’s 3 month validity from date of issue and the time period (7, 14 or 21 days) of the Japan Rail Pass itself. One option is to purchase multiple Japan Rail Passes and to only validate each one just before the period of travel in which you wish to use it.

On trains that you catch using your Japan Rail Pass you’ll be able to store your bags.  The official rule is that you can carry two pieces of baggage and that the total length of height, width and depth must be under 250cm and the weight must be less than 30kg per baggage item. In reality this rule isn’t widely known or enforced.

Even so, it will probably upset other travelers and the local people if you brazenly flaunt the rules (a big no-no in Japan). Most airlines allow less than this so your bags will probably be small enough already.

As for specific baggage space, each train is different and will have different options for where you can put your bags. Most travellers tend to put their bags behind the last row of seats at each end of the carriage. This is an acceptable practice.

Also, be mindful that Japan is a small country with many people so it’s important not to take up more space than is necessary as it almost always comes at someone else’s expense. For this reason try to make sure that your bags are stored in such a way to make it easy for others to store theirs.

Yes, you can, most Japan Rail stations have an area with coin lockers. The lockers come in three sizes and can be used for up to three days. In more popular stations it’s much harder to find an available locker. The machines only take 100 Yen coins so be sure to bring a few.

The lockers come in the following sizes: (Costs are guideline only)

  • Small (¥300) – 35cm x 43cm x 57cm. This size is easily the most common and they can be found in large numbers at almost every station in Japan.
  • Medium (¥400) – 57cm x 43cm x 57cm. Only available at larger stations and usually there aren’t many of them.
  • Large (¥500) – 117cm x 43cm x 57cm. Much harder to find and only at major stations.

Small and medium lockers are suitable for the kind of baggage you’d call “carry-on baggage” for a plane. The large size lockers are for large suitcases.

Manners and etiquette are very important in Japan and will be greatly appreciated by Japanese people. Here are some tips to keep in mind when travelling by train with your Japan Rail Pass and on the subway:

  • Making a lot of noise, taking up too much space or leaving a mess are, of course, not considered good manners in Japan on trains, subway or anywhere else.
  • On escalators it’s customary to stand on one side and leave the other side for people in a hurry – just like Australia. If you’re traveling with bags try and make sure they’re not getting in anyone’s way.
  • Mobile phones on trains are generally frowned upon.
  • Japan is a very orderly and organised society where queuing is customary. Never jump the queue unless it’s an emergency.
  • Stand behind the yellow line when the train arrives and wait for passengers to disembark before boarding.
  • In Japan it isn’t customary for men to give up their seat for women. Instead they believe younger people should give up their seats for elderly passengers (regardless of gender).
  • There is no need to tip in Japan at hotels, restaurants or on trains.
  • Eating on Japan Rail trains is fine and there’s even a tradition surrounding it of getting an “Ekiben” meal that’s unique to the station you buy it from.  When it comes to metro/subway, it’s considered impolite to eat strong smelling food.

Japan Rail Passes