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What is a Japan Rail Pass?

What is a Japan Rail Pass?
What is a Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail Pass is a special cost-effective pass valid for unlimited travel on Japan Railways (JR) transportation, available only to foreign travellers visiting Japan. If you are planning a trip to Japan make sure you get your hands on a Japan Rail Pass (or JR Pass) before you depart because it cannot be purchased in Japan.

Here is a complete guide to the Japan Rail Pass plus a touch of inspiration for the Japanese holiday of your dreams.

Where can you travel with a Japan Rail Pass?

There are several types of rail pass available for the Japan Rail network. Read our article titled, Your Japan Rail Pass Map: Choosing the Right JR Pass for your Next Adventure for more information.

Mt Fuji Cherry Blossoms onpage 380
Spectacular cherry blossoms with Mt Fuji as a backdrop

JR Pass: Unlimited travel on Japan Railways, affiliated buses and ferries.

JR Northern Kyushu Pass: for rail travel in the Northern part of the island of Kyushu.

JR Kansai Wide Area Rail Pass: for rail travel in the Kansai area.

JR East Pass: for rail travel the Eastern half of Japan's main island - Honshu.

JR Hokkaido Pass: for rail travel on the island of Hokkaido.

JR Kyushu Pass: for rail travel on the island of Kyushu.

JR All Shikoku Pass: for rail travel in Shikoku.


The JR Pass is the only one of the five that covers train travel across the entire country. If you are interested in visiting more than one region of Japan the JR Pass makes perfect sense and offers great value for money.

From the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto to the magnificent Mt. Fuji, you can visit all of the major tourist attractions and even explore the less touristy districts with a Japan Rail Pass.


What is the difference between the Ordinary and Green passes?

The Japan Rail pass comes in two different types: ordinary and green car. The Green Pass is valid on green cars which are the equivalent of first class cars offering more spacious seats than those found in the Standard Class.



     Ordinary Pass (Standard Class)

          Green Pass (First Class)







     7 days







     14 days







     21 days







Please note: The above prices are in $AUD per person and are subject to change.


Who can purchase a Japan Rail Pass?

To be eligible for a Japan Rail Pass you must meet one of the following two conditions:

1. You are a tourist visiting Japan from overseas for sightseeing under the entry status of "temporary visitor".

Only tourists bearing a “temporary visitor” stamp (which you receive when you enter Japan) can use a Japan Rail Pass.

2. You are a Japanese national living in a foreign country who:

      a) is qualified to live permanently in that country, or
      b) is married to a non Japanese resident in a country other than Japan.

Please note: persons meeting conditions a or b will be required to show proof of the same at the time of purchasing the rail pass.

Dual Citizens: If you are dual citizen and have two passports (Japan and your country of residence), you MUST enter Japan under the entry status of "Temporary Visitor" on your foreign passport in order to exchange your Exchange Order for the Japan Rail Pass in Japan. If you are an Australian resident travelling to Japan on a Japanese passport you are not permitted to purchase a JR pass.

Child Ages: 6 - 11 years. Children under six years of age may travel free of charge if they do not occupy a seat i.e. are seated on their parent's lap. (One child per adult only) Otherwise, they will require a Child Rail Pass.


What Are The Advantages of Buying a Japan Rail Pass?

streets of Hida Furukawa Hida City onpage 380 Japan
Streets of Hida Furukawa, Hida City

You can save yourself a great deal of both time and money by purchasing a Japan Rail Pass before you leave home.

A return trip from Tokyo to Kyoto will cost you close to the same price as a 7 day Japan Rail Pass. Therefore, if you plan to visit numerous cities or regions in Japan the JR Pass offers excellent value for money.

The JR Pass is also the most flexible and convenient way to travel around Japan. Having to hunt for yen in your wallet and purchase a ticket every time to make a train trip can become quite a hassle, especially if you don’t speak Japanese. It is not possible to purchase point to point tickets for trains in Japan from Australia or New Zealand, so without a JR pass you would have to buy train tickets at the station each time you travel.


By purchasing a Japan Rail Pass before you leave home, all you need to do is take your Exchange Order (which you receive soon after you’ve paid for you pass) with you on your trip. This must be exchanged for an actual Japan Rail Pass in Japan at a JR Rail Office.

japan train driver onpage 380

Once you have performed the exchange and are ready to use your pass, you simply show your pass at a manned ticket gate.

Then each time you travel via train just show your pass to the train attendant at the ticket gate and enjoy the ride!

One of the great things about the Japan Rail Pass is that it is valid for the super-express Shinkansen (bullet trains) which connect Tokyo with Japan's major cities, as well as the local, rapid, express and limited express trains which provide convenient access to all parts of Japan.

Your JR pass even covers the Narita Express airport train between Narita Airport & Tokyo.



Armed with a JR pass you could witness a live tuna auction at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo in the morning, enjoy an authentic tea ceremony in the Gion area of Kyoto in the afternoon, and end your day with a delicious Japanese BBQ dinner in Osaka.

two geisha in japan during cherry blossom season onpage 380
Geisha in Japan during Cherry Blossom season



Please note: The Japan Rail Pass is not valid for NOZOMI and MIZUHO trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines.

There are other Shinkansens that travel on these lines and you can use your Japan JR pass for these trains including:

* Hikari and Kodama (Tokaido Shinkansen)

* Sakura, Hikari and Kodama (Sanyo Shinkansen)

* Sakura and Tsubame (Kyushu Shinkansen)



Your Japan Rail pass is also vaild on selected JR buses and ferries including:

JR Highway Bus Lines

  • Morioka - Hiroskai/ Amori / Towadako * Sapporo - Otaru
  • Tokyo - Shizuoka/Hamamatsu/Okazaki/Toyota/Nagoya/Kyoto /Osaka/Tsukuba Centre
  • Nagoya - Kyoto / Osaka
  • Osaka - Tsuyama Car Shed / Kasai Flower Centre

JR Bus Companies

Local lines of JR Bus Tohoku, JR Bus Kanto, JR Tokai Bus, West Japan JR Bus, Chugoku JR Bus, JR Hokkaido Bus and JR Kyushu Bus.

Local bus lines of JR Shikoku.

JR Ferry

Miyajima - Miyajimaguchi, except "BEETLE II" (Hakata - Pusan)


Where to buy the Japan Rail Pass

If you are an Australian or New Zealand traveller, simply head to our Japan Rail Pass page on the Rail Plus website to purchase a JR  Pass. Then click the price of the pass that suits you to make a booking and carry out your purchase. If you have any queries about the Japan Rail Pass or need assistance choosing the best pass for you contact our Japan rail experts today.

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