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Japan has a wonderful mass transportation system which will take you to almost every location in Japan. One of the largest train companies in Japan is JR (Japan Railway) which operations Japan’s famous bullet train and many other trains. More than likely your tour will include a JR Rail Pass as it makes travel easy and will save you quite a bit of money. One drawback of the JR Rail Pass is that seat reservations cannot be made until you arrive in Japan and validate your passes. The passes are only available to travelers in Japan on a short term tourist visa. For more information about the JR Rail Pass see JR’s Official Page.
The JR Rail Pass is designed to make travel in Japan easier for foreign travelers so there are rules for eligibility. You must enter Japan on a ‘Temporary Visitor’ tourist visa which is valid for a stay of less than 90 days. Japanese nationals are not allowed to use a JR Pass unless they live overseas and hold a permanent resident visa or are living overseas and married to a non-Japanese citizen.
Ordinary Car Class or Green Car Class
7 consecutive days
14 consecutive days
21 consecutive days
Reduced rates (50% off) apply to children aged 6 to 11
Green Car Class is considered first class on Shinkansen Bullet Trains and offers larger seats, more leg room, enhanced boarding service and is often less crowded. If you are traveling during the height of high season then it makes sense to purchase a Green Car JR Rail Pass as it will be easier to make seat reservations. Most travelers will be fine with an Ordinary Class JR Pass as the seats are comfortable with enough leg room. Both classes offer non-smoking cars. It is possible to upgrade your Ordinary Class ticket to a Green Class ticket but you will need to pay the extra costs which can get quite expensive.
After purchasing your JR Rail Pass you will be sent a JR Rail Pass Exchange Order which will have your name exactly as it appears in your passport, type of rail pass and duration it will be valid. Make sure everything is correct before you leave for Japan as if something is wrong then JR may refuse to honor your exchange order.
Your JR Rail Pass Exchange Order will need to be validated before use so take it along with your passport to a JR Ticket Gate also called Midori no Madoguchi. The station employee will make sure everything is correct and will issue your JR Rail Passes. This is also a good time to make seat reservations. Now all you have to do is show your JR Rail Pass to a station employee to use your pass.
Your tour organizer will list train times and your airport pick up/hotel meet & greet will do their best to secure seats on those trains but please be aware that trains can get fully booked before your seats can be secured. In this case your tour guide will do their best to secure seats for you on a different train. If seats cannot be secured then you will need to travel in the non-reserved cars. If this is the case then we recommend arriving at the train station 30 minutes early to increase your chances of getting a seat. Of course it would be best if we could reserve your seats before you arrive but JR does not allow this so we have to wait until you are in Japan and your JR Rail Pass is validated. The JR Rail Pass provides huge discounts for travelers but there are some drawbacks.