For some time now the government of Japan he is happy because the number of foreign tourists has increased a lot. Twenty years ago it was very rare to find tourists on the streets of Tokyo, outside of the very popular cherry blossom season. Today, whatever time of year you go, at least in Tokyo there are always foreigners. For me, who went for the first time in 2000 and returned in 2016 and 2017, the change is remarkable.
Yes, Japan is far. Yes, there are things in Japan that are expensive, especially transportation. Touring Japan is expensive but with the train and bus network it is much easier and the Japanese know it, so they have been offering their visitors the famous Japan Rail Pass.
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Japan and the train
Japan does a cult of the train and although it is often thought that JR is the state company for a long time that is no longer the case. Due to the expenses involved in maintaining distant lines with few passengers, the company contracted debts, so in 1987 the government decided to privatize it: seven railway companies were created under the name of Japan Railways Group, JR Group.
Today there is little more than 27 thousand kilometers of roads in the country and JR controls about 20 thousand. In one year, Japanese trains carry about 7.200 billion passengers. If we calculate the Japanese trains with the Germans, for example, we have that Germany has 40 thousand kilometers of tracks… This is Japan! From 1872, the year in which the first train in the country was inaugurated, until 2018 with its bullet trains it has traveled a long and enriching road.
Japan Rail Pass
If your idea is move around the country the best thing you can do is buy this pass. Now, if you're going to stay in Tokyo it's not worth it, I'll explain why later. But the truth is that if you want to know Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima or Nagasaki, all cities at a certain distance from the capital, then I highly recommend it.
A one-way shinkansen trip to Kyoto from Tokyo costs about $ 100. With that price you will understand why the pass is worth it, It is not true? Anyone can buy it, either in a travel agency that does the procedure or online. The only requirement a priori is to buy it outside of Japan because the idea is not that the Japanese themselves can take advantage of it. It is for tourists nothing more.
If you go to Japan for non-tourist purposes, that is, you are going to study, you are going to work or to fulfill a cultural act, you cannot buy it. And only Japanese who have residency abroad can do so.
There two types of Japan Rail Pass: the Green and the Ordinary. Honestly I have always bought the Ordinary and it works more than well. The Green is for the use of other cars on the train. These are the prices for JRP Green:
- JRP 7 Days Green: 38 yen per adult and 880 per child.
- JRP 14 Days: 62 yen per adult and 950 per child
- JRP 21 Days: 81 yen per adult and 870 yen per child.
And these are the JRP Ordinary prices:
- JRP 7 Days Ordinary: 29 yen per adult and 110 per child.
- JRP 14 Days Ordinary: 46 yen per adult and 390 per child.
- JRP 21 Days Ordinary: 59 yen per adult and 350 per child.
Child rates are for children between 6 and 11 years old. As you see there are 7, 14 and 21 day passes and you will have to calculate which one suits you according to the time of your trip. If you travel three or four weeks, the 21-day is the most convenient because it gives you a lot of time to tour the country. The passes are valid as soon as they are activated and it is not necessary to activate them as soon as you step foot in Japan, you can choose to activate it later by adjusting it to your route.
For example, I return in May for 15 days and this time I have decided to buy the 7-day one because I plan to stay longer in Tokyo and there I can move on foot or by subway and spend little money.
The pass you can buy it up to 90 days before the date you go to Japan. Not before. And if you allow me some advice, the ideal is not to be so fair because any problem you have with the plane can be counterproductive. Now, you can visit the JRP website in Spanish and see in which agency in your country you can buy the pass, if you want to do it in person and not online.
Once you have it in your hands, you keep it well until you arrive in Japan. If you plan to activate it as soon as you arrive at the airport then you must go to the JR office and make the change. The people there tell you very well how to do it and the pass will start running from that moment. It is not mandatory to do it as soon as you arrive. For example, you stay 15 days but you bought the 7 and you plan to use it only after a few days in Tokyo. Well, you only change it then in another JR office (there are them in all train stations).
Importantly, if you lose the JRP there is no refund Nothing like that. You lose the pass, you lose the benefit. Before, I'm talking about 20 years ago, it was not possible to make free seat reservations so if you had the Ordinary you had to ride the wagons without reservations. Then it was easy because there was little tourism but today it is not so, so my advice is that you take a couple of minutes to book.
It's free, you just go to the JR office before taking the shinkansen and making reservations. They give you the ticket, they stamp your pass and that's it. You travel in peace because you already have your own seat.
Especially if you go at these times of the year with large internal passenger transfers: from April 27 to May 6, from August 11 to 20 of the same month and from December 28 to January 6. Finally: the pass must be shown to the employee who is at the checkpoint, both when entering the platforms and when leaving them. Not all ticket sectors have booths so you should look for the one that does. You show it, he or she checks the dates and voila, you pass. Very easy.
Means of transport that the JRP insures you
The Trains, of course, as long as they are from the JR group. If you travel in other companies you will have to pay. In general, you arrive at the most important tourist destinations by JR means but there may be places where you do or do have to combine with other companies. But rest assured that for Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Yokohama and other destinations you will not have to put an extra euro.
JR owns trains, buses and ferries. For example, the most popular excursion from Hiroshima is to Miyajima Island and the ferry will be free with the JRP. Afterwards, destinations such as Hakone, Nikko or Lake Kawaguchiko, all in the Mount Fuji area, are mixed, that is, you will not be able to get there exclusively using JR lines.
As to bullet train or shinkansen the JRP allows the use of the Hikari and Kodama models and the 800 Series. The fastest, the Nozomi and the Mizuho are out. On the other hand, there are other passes that I will talk about in detail in another entry, but that you can buy instead of the JRP: the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass, the JR East Pass, the JR Tokyo Wide Pass, the JR FLEX Japan, the JR WEST RAIL PASS, the JR SHIKOKU Rail Pass and the JR Kyushu Rail Pass.
I hope this information has served you. If you go to Japan do not hesitate, JRP will make your life easier. Luck!