I purchased my JR (Japanese Rail) Pass from Nippon Travel in downtown Calgary. You can buy them online but you need to plan ahead to have it shipped to you. I wanted to wait until I had enough cash to buy it so I didn’t purchase the pass until 5 days before the trip.
I would say that the pass was worth it for the number of trips we made (and the times we got lost, but didn’t have to pay an extra fare). The pass is around 550 for two weeks and 700 for 3 weeks per person. It was also nice because we didn’t have to waste time, buying tickets and blah, blah, blah. If you have the money it is worth having no hassle.
JR Pass Notes:
- You redeem your pass at the airport. You can also redeem it at other major stations like Tokyo station. If you have a week or two-week pass and have someone to pick you up at the airport, you may want to wait to redeem it.
- The pass is great if you are moving around Kyoto or going from city to city over long distances. To give you an idea, we made over 15-day trips and the JR Pass more than paid for itself
- The pass is almost useless if you plan on just staying in Tokyo (unless you are staying by a JR Station. It is much better to get a Metro pass for 24 (900¥), 48 or 72 hours (1500¥). We redeemed our passes when we touched down and took the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto.
- We planned the trip to take as many day trips with the pass as possible and end our stay in Tokyo to use the Metro pass or walk.
Shinkansen (Bullet train) notes
- You can’t use the Nozomi trains with the JR Pass. That’s what we were told, but it meant nothing to us. There are names for the bullet trains and those names show up on the signboard at the station platform. The types of trains have different names. The Nozomi is the fastest and there are other ones that stop at more stations.
- There are reserved and unreserved seats. The trains are like 14 cars long and usually, 5 to 14/16 are reserved.
- You can easily reserve a seat at a ticket counter with your JR Pass.
Normal Train Notes
- There are a few types of trains. Local, Rapid, Special Rapid. You can see which is which by A) looking at the signboard B) looking at the train.
- Local stops at EVERY STOP. If you are going to a super obscure stop this is the train for you, but If you are headed from a major stop to a major stop don’t get on this train!!!!!!!!!! You will stay on the train forever.
- Everyone stands in a line on either side of the doors and lets people off BEFORE going on. Take note all those rude people who rush on. I’ve seen you in Canada *evil side eye*. There are little symbols on the ground that tell you where the door will stop. You can cross reference the symbols with the signboard. It is either a triangle or a circle 🙂
- Make sure you check the direction of the train. They drive on the left so you may think you are going to the next station, but are really headed backward.
- Never be scared to ask! People will help you and honestly, it is better to be sure than to get on the wrong train. If you have a pass it’s probably cool, but you will still waste your time. No one wants that. Don’t always trust Google. Just ask someone if you aren’t sure.
- Sometimes the JR train turns into another random line…I don’t get it, but watch out for that. They may ask you to pay when you flash you pass and it isn’t a JR Station.
Conclusion: The JR Pass is worth the money if you are in Japan for two weeks or more and planning on doing city to city travel.