Japan Trip
Bullet train arriving at the platform (super fast) | © Japan Trip

How Much Does A Japan Rail Pass Cost?

The price of a Japan Rail Pass depends on duration, train class and how old you are! Let us explain the key factors to help you decide which pass is right for you.

The cost of a Japan Rail Pass depends on a few factors:

  • Adult/Child Pass
  • Train Class (Green class, Ordinary class)
  • Duration (7 day, 14 day, 21 day)

Below are the prices (in Japanese Yen) of the Japan Rail Pass depending on these factors :

Type:
Green
Ordinary
Duration
Adult
Child
Adult
Child
7-day
37,800 YEN
18,900 YEN
28,300 YEN
14,150 YEN
14-day
61,200 YEN
30,600 YEN
45,100 YEN
22,550 YEN
21-day
79,600 YEN
39,800 YEN
57,700YEN
28,850 YEN

The price you pay depends depends on the currency exchange rate of your own currency versus the YEN at the time of purchase.

As the rail pass is aimed at tourists, it can’t be purchased inside Japan. Therefore you’ll have to buy an exchange order before you travel to Japan. The exchange order is basically a voucher you present at a JR counter in Japan with your passport at which point you get your rail pass (and it’s also an opportunity to reserve seats on any routes you have decided already.) The exchange order is only valid for 3 months, so you need to time your purchase carefully to allow enough time for delivery in your home country, but not so far ahead it expires before you arrive in Japan. Once you have swapped your exchange order for a rail pass, you can set the start date up to one month in the future. This is useful if you plan to spend a  significant amount of time in one place before travelling to other parts of Japan.

Adult/Child Pass

Anyone aged 12 or over requires an adult Japan Rail Pass.

In terms of a child pass, this covers children aged 6 to 11 based on their age on the day the exchange order is issued. So consider this if you child is close to their 12th birthday – buying the exchange order before they turn 12 can save you money.

Children aged 5 and under are considered infants and don’t require a Japan Rail Pass. However, as infants they aren’t guaranteed a seat. You will not be able to reserve a seat for them, and if the train is very busy they will be expected to sit on the accompanying adult’s lap so that paying passengers get first choice of the available seats. It is rare for intercity trains to be totally fully booked especially if you travel outside rush hour; so this is unlikely to be a huge problem. Again if you have a child close to their 6th birthday around the time of getting your exchange order, they might be able to travel for free if you time your purchase right. However you might decide to purchase a child pass for them anyway if you want to guarantee enough space to travel in comfort.

See also  Flights to Japan from Europe

Train Class

There are two types of class when travelling by train in Japan

  • Ordinary
  • Green

Ordinary Class versus Green Class – Japan Rail Pass

The main difference between the classes is seat pitch (Green class allows more leg room and also allows you to recline your seat further). The seat pitch can vary depending on the train, but generally in ordinary class you are looking at an average seat pitch of around 950mm, and in green class, more like 1130mm.

So clearly Green class has more room. On most economy flights there is a seat pitch of around 820mm; this shows that even ordinary class on JR trains is very roomy. We bought ordinary class tickets and found it comparable to first class on a UK train. Being quite tall it was a nice change to be able to stretch my legs out!

Green class doesn’t offer any meals but does give the option of a drink on some services. There are also some services with heated seats! If you are planning trips of up to 2-3 hours at a time ordinary class should be fine, but you might want to consider upgrading to green class if you are undertaking very long or overnight journeys where comfort will be a major factor.

Duration

This factor might be the one you consider the most when deciding which type of pass to buy. When planning your itinerary for your Japan trip, you want to maximise your use of the Japan Rail Pass – you want to reduce the amount of days it sits there unused.

See also  Hyperdia - Planning Your Japan Rail Pass Itinerary

Firstly, the pass doesn’t have to start when you first arrive in Japan, you can set the exact day it should start up to month after you hand in your exchange order. Planning your route the best way can mean the difference between a 14 day pass and a 21 day pass for example (a 12000+ YEN difference per pass for an adult)

Let use an example from our trip to Japan in May 2013. We were in Japan for 19 days. You might think we’d just buy a 21 day pass, job done. We actually bought a 14 day pass and structured our itinerary in a way to make a 14 day itinerary work for us (effectively saving over 24000 YEN – for the 2 passes total).

We had decided to spend the first 5 days of our trip in Tokyo. Activating your Japan Rail Pass and staying in Tokyo is not a good idea as you’d be better buying a Pasmo or Suica card (similar to an Oyster card in London) to get around Tokyo in that time. There are some JR lines in Tokyo but they are cheap to travel on so only use your pass on these lines if you have some spare days when you won’t be making long distance journeys. We set the start date for our Japan Rail Passes a day before leaving Tokyo; effectively meaning it would run for the 14 days up until the day we left Japan. For those remaining 14 days we used it most days – maximising the use of the pass.

For a full list of agents (including worldwide), see the list on the Official Japan Rail Pass Website (Japan Railways)

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