Japanese train system

Jun 25th, 2011, 12:04 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 1
Japanese train system

I am leaving for Japan on the 30th of June, and am staying in the Tokyo area for almost two months. I have been told several times that I should buy a rail pass of some kind while I'm in America. The rail system is beyond complicated to me right now, although I hope to get the hang of it once I'm there. I also know that I will be traveling to Kyoto sometime for a few days, and maybe even as far as Nagasaki. So I have a few questions.
Which pass should I buy?
Where should I buy said pass?
Do I have to buy it in America, or could I purchase one at Narita?
Can I buy multiple passes for the entire trip, or will I need to get a Suica card?
Thank you so much for all of your help, I greatly appreciate it.
lxnear is offline  
Jun 25th, 2011, 01:11 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,034
You can buy a rail pass only if you have a temporary visitor stamp in your passport. If you've got a visa to sthey or work you are not eligible. You buy a pass for the number of days you will be traveling long distance. It doesn't pay off to use one just in Tokyo. It needs to be purchased before you leave the states. http://www.japanrailpass.net/

Www.hyperdia.com will show you routes and times and cost.

Which pass? Any pass? Depends on your visa status, your itinerary and what it looks like fisted out. You can see where to buy in the jr pass info.

A shiva is a stored value card. No discount but convenient.
KimJapan is offline  
Jun 26th, 2011, 08:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,111
There are a number of different passes available. japan-guide.com explains them. One type of passes is the Japan Rail Pass. The JR Pass is sold for 7, 14, or 21 days of travel.

Assuming that you are eligible for the JR Pass, yes, you would have to buy it in America. You would then get it validated in Japan for the days that you want to travel. A 7-day pass validated for first travel on the 1st would be good for boarding until 11:59PM on the 7th.

Would your travel to Kyoto and (maybe) Nagasaki be on the same trip, that is during the same 7-day (or 14-day) period?

If so, then you can use a JR Pass for that travel (and for some travel in Tokyo if your long distance travel is shorter than the period of your pass). You can also use the Pass for discounts on JR hotels (I assume this is still the policy).

If your trip to Kyoto and maybe Nagasaki won't be during the same time period then you MIGHT want to get a JR Pass. You don't need a Pass just to visit travel Tokyo-Kyoto-Tokyo, but you could use one if, in addition to Kyoto, you will visit other places on that trip.

For the Nagasaki trip, if separated by time from the Kyoto trip, you could use a JR Pass. If you can firm up the plan then you could get an air pass for that trip. I think the air passes still require that the first day of travel be firm but that you can change dates for the 2nd and later flights.

What do you mean by "maybe even as far as" Nagasaki? Does your plan depend on something or are you just not able to decide yet? Or have you not decided on Nagasaki?

A JR ticket one-way from Tokyo to Nagasaki costs about 25,000 yen. A 7-day pass is about 28,000 yen.

If you are going to Nagasaki and don't know when and it would be for 7 days or less then a JR Pass would be a good idea.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jun 26th, 2011, 08:24 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,111
When I wrote "MIGHT want to get a JR Pass", the "might" depended on whether or not an air pass would work for the non-Kyoto trip.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jun 26th, 2011, 09:40 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 975
For your travel in the Tokyo area, definitely purchase a Suica or Pasmo card (they do the same thing but are issued by different companies). You can purchase one at a machine before you enter the metro/subway turnstiles for the first time. There's usually an "English" button that gives instructions in English. You can start with as little as 1,000 yen and add more at other machines as needed. Trips on the metro cost from 190 yen up, depending on your destination. A Suica/Pasmo pass will allow you to use any metro line without hassling with separate tickets for each line. You can also use the pass in the greater Tokyo area at certain convenience stores, etc.

The trains and metros are extremely easy to use, so you shouldn't worry. If you do get stumped, just ask for help. You'll get it! In Osaka, for example, we were trying to figure out which train line to take to our hotel and must have looked confused, because we were immediately assisted by not only the metro official on duty but also a fellow passenger who spoke some English. She walked us to the correct line and then, because we need to transfer to another line that required more money, stayed on the train with us to the transfer point and then even purchased the additional fare for us and wouldn't allow us to pay! To top it all off, she walked us all the way to the hotel check-in desk. That was waaaay above and beyond the call of duty, but just an example of how helpful the Japanese people can be.
aprillilacs is offline  
Jun 27th, 2011, 10:06 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6,342
If you don't know what you want to do then you won't know what type of pass to get. The JR 7, 14 and 21 day passes can only be bought outside of Japan and are explained in detail here:


There are other rail passes that can be bought in Japan and may be of use to you explained here:


If you plan to have 7 to 10 days traveling around in a row then I suggest you at least pick up one 7 day JR Pass before you leave for Japan and plan on using it while there. You have two months to activate so you can figure it out when you get on the ground. Have fun!

hawaiiantraveler is offline  

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