JR Pass

Oct 5th, 2010, 02:13 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2010
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JR Pass

This is my 1st time going to use JR Pass to travel around Japan. I'm thinking of using JR Pass which is more economy for me to travel. I'm curious with the usage of the JR Pass. What I understand is I need to purchase a voucher 1st, and exchange it when I reach Japan. Now, the question is, when I want to travel to Hokkaido, by train, how I'm going to use the pass? Is it just show the pass to the station counter or else? Really no idea. One more thing, is the pass can be useble at JR Hokkaido or JR East or etc?
shirley_chl is offline  
Oct 5th, 2010, 02:56 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Read the JP Pass guide at http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en001.html
As for your questions, yes, just show your actual activated pass at the manned ticket barrier (don't try to go through automatic gates - you can't!). For some trains, seat reservation is compulsory or recommended. This can be done easily at JR reservation office/counter (called Midorino Madoguchi, with a green logo of a reclining seat) before travel (up to a month in advance in fact) free of charge. You need to show your pass as it will be stamped to show you've reserved a seat. You are highly recommended to reserve all your seats for your trip to Hokkaido, as it's a busy route. If you have fixed itinerary, get all or most of your reservations done when you activate the pass.
If you get a Japan Rail Pass, not a regional one like JR East Pass, West JR Sanyo Area Pass etc, it can be used throughout the JR network. The exceptions are you cannot ride Nozomi on Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen, and some third-sector (private) lines on which some JR trains travel (all indicated in the guide above) - you can pay a supplement.
Alec is offline  
Oct 5th, 2010, 09:38 PM
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Thanks, Alec. Any recommendation on the selection of the type of the card? Green or Ordinary?
shirley_chl is offline  
Oct 5th, 2010, 11:45 PM
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Shirley, just to clarify a bit. Yes, you purchase the JR Pass before leaving for Japan but when you get to Japan you have to get it activated. Can be done at the airport or at one of the large train stations. Don't just turn up at the gate to catch to your first train before getting it activated.

Once it is activated you can just turn up at a gate but, as Alec mentioned, on some routes you need to make a reservation first. We found the pass worked very well.
shandy is offline  
Oct 12th, 2010, 02:21 PM
Join Date: Feb 2010
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The JR pass is the one which will take you anywhere in Japan. If you purchase a JR EAST Pass, it will only be good for travel on JR EAST trains which go North from Tokyo, and also across to Niigata etc.

Many years ago, I did the Tokyo to Sapporo trip by train. Did it early January, so, there was plenty of snow around, and the scenery was really pretty, the further north that you went. I purchased the GREEN CAR pass, as the green cars are much more comfortable, and less crowded.
Took the Shinkansen to Morioka at the time. I understand it now goes a bit further north. ( Check the guides.). Then, you transfer to another train to Hokkaido, and another as well. No real dramas in doing the change.

Great trip, and I recomend it. Flying is faster of course, but, this way, you get to see the country side.
gearsau is offline  
Oct 15th, 2010, 11:39 AM
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Shandy -- NO.

You buy a voucher in your home country and exchange the voucher for a JR pass in Japan. You cannot buy a JR pass in Japan and you cannot receive one outside of Japan. It's a bit of a paradox.

Green passes are not necessary -- ordinary pass will get you a seat that is comfortable and far roomier than an economy class airline seat. Considering the awful exchange rate (if you're an American), the green pass is really an unneeded expense. And if you're not traveling during a festival time, you don't even need reservations.
BigRuss is offline  
Oct 15th, 2010, 12:17 PM
Join Date: May 2004
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Sounds like you are looking for economy budgeting and that is just what the ordinary pass will provide. If you wanted to travel in a more comfortable situation then the green pass is the way to go but BigRuss is right when mentioning the awful exchange rates right now. Good luck!

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Oct 16th, 2010, 11:43 AM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 118
Thanks for all the help here, as I also have a couple of JRpass questions. I have purchased my 7-day pass and will arrive at Narita on Nov 5 and leave out of Narita on Nov 12. I was going to get my seat reservations for my shinkansen trips upon arrival at Narita, but maybe that is unnecessary as there are no festivals at that time, to my knowledge. What do you think?

Also, I will actually be in Japan for 8 days, so I do not want to use my pass until my third day there (which is fine as I will be riding the Tokyo subway for days one and two). Do I activate my pass at Narita upon arrival (but not use it until later)or activate it the actual first day of travel at Tokyo station? I am planning on buying a one-way Nex-Suica pass for my time in Tokyo.
steamboatsista is offline  
Oct 16th, 2010, 02:07 PM
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When you turn in your exchange order for the railpass, you will be asked to specify the start date, so either method will work.
fukuhara is offline  
Oct 17th, 2010, 08:05 AM
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sis, you don't have your pass yet. what you have is a voucher which must be activated into a pass. yes you can activate on your third day. give yourself some time in tokyo station as it is huge and can be intimidating to a newbie

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Oct 18th, 2010, 09:39 AM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 118
Thanks HT and fukuhara for your help. Yes, my terminology was not correct...I have a voucher, not a pass.

Anyone have a comment about getting reservations or winging it for shinkansen between Nov. 7 and 12? Any festivals I should know about?
steamboatsista is offline  
Oct 18th, 2010, 08:03 PM
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I always get a seat reservation on a shinkansen. Doesn't cost you anything with a pass and much more convenient with peace of mind

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Oct 19th, 2010, 01:00 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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The only thing I can think of that will impact on crowded trains would be if you are travelling to sites known for their fall foliage.

I seldom get a reservation. There are cars for passengers without reservations and I find you have more flexibility.

Once on a Sunday during peak hanami I couldn't get a reservation and had to stand in the non-reserved car for a couple of stages - Plenty of others doing the same. Apart from that, I have had no trouble finding a seat. You can even change seats to suit sun, scenery, the look of fellow passengers etc.

So there's the alternative point of view! But you know what sort of traveller you are. As others have stated, reservations are included and easy to make. Your choice, or mix it up.

Also it's easy to make changes if you change your mind. One thing not to do is to make reservations and not keep them. Apparently that is a big problem with JR Pass users.
eigasuki is offline  
Oct 19th, 2010, 02:20 AM
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Also it's easy to make changes if you change your mind. One thing not to do is to make reservations and not keep them. Apparently that is a big problem with JR Pass users.

Indeed. Even though your pass is stamped each time you make a reservation, there is no way to police those who make reservations but don't use them, meaning those seats become unused and unavailable to local travellers booking without a pass. I don't know what they can do, frankly, except by some kind of a refundable levy for each reservation, say 500 yen, and only reimbursed when you actually use your seat and get your reservation ticket stamped by a ticket inspector.
Alec is offline  
Oct 19th, 2010, 03:01 PM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 118
Thanks everyone. Based upon your thoughts and my risk aversive nature, I think I will go ahead and make my shinkansen reservations when I arrive at Narita. And I am definitely not a person who would make a reservation and not keep it.
steamboatsista is offline  
Oct 19th, 2010, 04:00 PM
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When I used the JR pass I rarely made a reservation as I was traveling quite a bit and the routes I was using had numerous trains and I was not sure of my exact schedule.
Mara is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2010, 05:54 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
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When we arrived at Narita last week the line for exchanging the order for JR Passes was long (meaning 15-20 people at 10 minutes per person). And, I don't know where you are coming from, but it was HOT and HUMID (this was October 19th). I observed this while getting our NEX.Suica passes.

Later in our trip I happened upon the JR office in Shinjuku station, got my kids a yummy waffle, waited 10 minutes in the airconditioned office and emerged with our JR passes. When headed to Kyoto, we did not have advance reservations. We boarded JR line at Shinjuku station to Tokyo station, went to Shinkansen area, got seat reservations, got a snack, and boarded the train. easy, peasy!

If you are one person, I would not wait in the line at Narita, unless you are activating your pass on that day. When your are ready to go,jJust make your way to the Shinkansen area, find the ticket booth, get a seat assignment for the next train, and go!
sdfamily is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2010, 08:44 AM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 118
Good food for thought, family.

I do not need to activate my JRpass upon arrival at Narita and will be wandering around Tokyo for my first two days, so I could wait to find a less busy JR office. The only shinkansen reservation that I am really anxious about getting the right train is the one which takes the two of us back to Narita from Kyoto for our flight on to Vietnam.

Hot and Humid??? I'm from cool, dry Colorado and was planning on taking a both a fleece and rain jacket. Thanks for the (almost) live update!
steamboatsista is offline  
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