There are many different train types operating on the Japan Railways network, including:
Local: Stops at every station
Rapid: Trains skip some stations
Express: Trains stop at even fewer stations than Rapid trains
Limited Express: Trains stop only at major stations
Shinkansen: Running at speeds of up to 300 km/h, the Shinkansen is known for its punctuality, comfort, safety and efficiency. The cars are relatively silent and have spacious forward-facing seats.
When do I need to activate my Japan Rail Pass?
The Japan Rail Pass should be activated within 90 days from the date of issue. In other words, you should only purchase your pass 3 months prior to the departure at the earliest.
How do I activate my Japan Rail Pass once in Japan?
In order to activate your Japan Rail Pass you will have to exchange your voucher at a JR office. These offices can be found at the airport or at the main train stations.
Should I start using my Japan Rail Pass as soon as I exchange my voucher?
You don’t need to start using your Japan Rail Pass on the day of the exchange. When exchanging your voucher, you will have to decide the date you want to start using your pass. This date has to be within 30 days of the exchange. Please note, however, that your Japan Rail Pass is only valid for the chosen period of consecutive days (7, 14 or 21 days) even if you don't use your pass every day.
Where and to whom do I need to show my Japan Rail Pass before boarding my train?
As the Japan Rail Pass is not a traditional ticket, you cannot go through the automatic gates. To access the platforms, show your pass and/or your ticket to the JR staff located at the gate to the platform. The pass is strictly personal! Always carry your passport along with the pass, as the station staff may check it.
Do I need to reserve a seat in advance?
If you are not catching your Shinkansen during peak hours (between 07:00-09:00 and 18:00-20:00) or during bank holidays, you do not need to book a seat, as you can use any non-reserved seat by showing your Japan Rail Pass. If you anyhow want to book a seat in advance, you can do so without additional charges before you catch your train by going into a booking office at the train station and simply showing your Japan Rail Pass.
Can the Japan Rail Pass be used on other means of transportation?
Yes. In addition to the extensive Japan Railways train network, you will have access to local JR bus lines, JR ferry (JR Miyajima ferry in Hiroshima) as well as Tokyo Monorail connecting Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho Station. Please note, however, that the JR Hakata-Pusan ferry to Korea is not included.