Is the JR Rail Pass Worth it? 2024 Updates & Price Increase

Did you know that Japan has one of the most efficient public transit systems in the world? This includes buses, taxis, and of course, trains. Tokyo’s railway system alone carries over 14 billion passengers annually!

A major advantage of traveling in Japan is how easy and convenient it is. That’s why today we’ll cover the ins and outs of the Japan Rail (JR) Pass: where to buy the Japan Rail Pass, how to use it, and if it’s worth buying one for your trip!

That’s why our local Japanese experts here at MACHIYA INNS & HOTELS have created this simple guide to help you decide whether purchasing the Japan Rail Pass will be worth it for your next trip to Japan. 

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What is the Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail (JR) Pass is a multi-use, all-you-can-ride ticket that can be used on most buses and trains run by the Japan Rail company and affiliates in Japan. The JR Pass is available for purchase for 7 day trips, 14 day trips, and 21-day trips for adults and children. Additionally, it’s only available to foreign visitors to Japan!

The biggest advantages of the JR Pass are convenience and cost. You don’t have to buy individual tickets for every train (on the JR Lines) that you ride. Also, it can be cheaper in the long run for multiple trips on shinkansen (bullet trains). It’s perfect for travelers who plan on visiting several cities or prefectures in Japan!

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Can I buy a JR Pass in Japan?

No, you will not be able to buy the JR Pass once you’re in Japan. 

To buy a JR Pass, you must make a purchase online or via a designated travel agency before you arrive in Japan. You’ll receive an exchange voucher by mail, which you’ll then exchange for the actual JR Pass when you arrive.

Where do I pick up my JR Pass?

You can pick up your JR Pass at JR Exchange Offices, which you will find at most airports and major train stations in Japan. Be sure to confirm the nearest pickup spot before you arrive! Note that you must pick up JR Passes in person. You will need your passport, not a copy, and won’t be able to pick up your friend’s or family member’s pass without them present.

To collect your JR Pass, you’ll need to fill out a form, show your passport with the “Temporary Visitor” entry stamp, and present your exchange voucher. 

You will need to choose a starting date for the JR Pass, which cannot be changed later! The validity of your JR pass will start on your chosen date. So be mindful of your travel plans, including getting to the hotel and the airport when you fly home!

Important: You must have a “Temporary Visitor” stamp or sticker in your passport in order to pick up the JR Pass in Japan. You can find more information here about how to get the stamp/sticker when you arrive in Japan.

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What is the difference between the JR Pass Green vs. Ordinary?

There are two types of JR Passes: the JR Green Pass and the JR Ordinary Pass. Both passes allow access to the same trains, including shinkansen, limited express trains, ordinary express trains, and local and rapid trains. 

However, “JR Green” Passes allow access to first-class seating in the shinkansen (bullet train) as well as regular trains with special first-class “Green” cars. Green cars on regular trains are more comfortable than the shoulder-to-shoulder seating of regular local trains!

They’re popular among long-distance commuters and people on business trips. You’ll also have more room for larger luggage on the shinkansen trains. When traveling on the ordinary car of a shinkansen, you’ll need to reserve a seat that can accommodate large luggage.

Note: the JR Pass looks like an ordinary green shinkansen train ticket. Be sure to keep it safe and remember to grab the ticket once you have passed through the gates!

We recommend the JR Green Pass if…

You’ll be traveling quite far across Japan and prioritize comfort and space for yourself and your luggage.

We recommend the JR Ordinary Pass if…

You’re an economical traveler and will be traveling shorter distances in one area without lots of luggage.

How to make a seat reservation


While local trains are all non-reserved seats, shinkansen bullet trains & limited express train will allow for seat reservations. However, even with a JR Pass, you will need to wait in line to secure a ticket for your reserved seat. While this may seem like a hassle, we strongly recommend it! This is because you can’t purchase a reserved seat once on the train.

In addition, non-reserved seats are first-come first-served, meaning you could end up standing in a shinkansen for hours with your luggage if there aren’t any non-reserved seats left when you board. (We speak from experience!)

To make a seat reservation, visit any JR Ticket Office at the train station, Travel Service Center, or Travel Agency ticket sales office. You’ll be asked about your destination and preferred departure time. Depending on seat availability, you may have a choice of window or aisle seats as well as foot room or luggage space. Once you confirm this information, you’ll receive your reserved seat ticket!

How much does the JR Pass cost?

The cost of the JR Pass depends on the type and the duration. Check out the full list of ticket prices for adults and children below!

Japan Rail Pass Fee (as of October 2023)

Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?

That depends on your travel itinerary! The JR Pass is ideal for people who want to make multiple round trips, and travel to cities where the shinkansen is the cheapest and easiest way to travel.

The JR Pass is worth it if…

  • You’re planning to travel to several different prefectures throughout Japan
  • You don’t want to wait in line to purchase tickets
  • You don’t want to consult with a ticketing master every time you buy a ticket

If you’re on a time crunch and prioritizing cost first, sometimes it’s faster to jump on a budget airline (LLC) to travel from city to city. However, if you are factoring in the time and effort it takes to get to the airport, the JR Pass may be the better option.

Travel Update:

As of October 2023, a supplementary ticket “Nozomi and Mizuho Ticket [Exclusive for Japan Rail Pass]” is available for purchase alongside the Japan Rail Pass. This will allow passengers to board the “Nozomi” (the fastest shinkansen train) and “Mizuho” (the shinkansen in southern Kyushu).

A JR Pass may not be worth it if…

  • You won’t be traveling between many cities or prefectures in Japan
  • You’ll only take one long-distance day trip outside the area where you’re staying

Travel Tip:

If your trip to Japan will keep you in one central area (for example, only traveling around a major city like Tokyo or a few cities in Western Kansai), you may want to check out the Limited Area JR Passes that are region-specific. While their duration is shorter (3-5 days), they can be more economical if your travels will be region-specific.

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Finalizing Your Travel Plans

We know from experience how complex Japan’s train systems can be! Don’t be discouraged by all the information. Hammer out your itinerary for your trip to Japan and count how many cities or prefectures you’ll be visiting.

If you’re visiting a lot or traveling very far, the JR Pass is probably worth it for you! What matters is that you have a stress-free and enjoyable vacation in Japan!

Where to stay when in Japan


Stay in a traditional Japanese-style accommodation during your next visit to Japan.

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