Are you going to make a round trip through Japan? The JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) is the perfect and cheapest way to explore Japan!
Depending which cities you want to visit, buying loose tickets for each trip can be more expensive. With the JR pass you can make unlimited use of the JR trains, the Shinkansen (except for the Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen), JR bus services and the JR Miyajima ferry for one, two or three weeks. The pass also covers seat reservations. However, seat reservations are not always necessary. But if so, you just need to make a reservation at a reservation office before taking the train. This is free of charge. To check out whether you need to make a reservation, check out the website of Hyperdia. This website gives you information about the route, costs, type of transport (train, bus, boat, but also airplane) and seat reservations and also provides an accurate timetable. The website is available in Japanese as well as in English. Moreover, Hyperdia clearly shows the different types of trains in Japan, like Shinkansen (also called the bullet train), limited express, sleeper limited express, ordinary train, etc. Each type of train has a unique symbol and a different color. Check this website and you know if you need to make a reservation for a particular train and if you need to pay additional costs for non-JR trains. Hyperdia is an indispensable website for your trip and is very easy to use.
Ordinary or green car
There are two types of passes: the Ordinary JR pass and the Green JR pass. The Green JR pass is first class. I don’t know why it is called “green” since it has nothing to do with the environment. At first my boyfriend and I considered to buy the green car passes. We thought that the ordinary car wouldn’t be comfortable enough for people of about 2 meters since Japanese people are, in general, smaller than Western people. Moreover, the Dutch site of JR mentioned that the green car could be compared with the Dutch first class. Thinking about sitting packed next to each other for a trip of about 3 to 4 hours did not make us happy.
However, one of my Japanese friends told me that we should have plenty of space for the both of us in the ordinary car. I could hardly believe it, but I followed her advice. We bought two ordinary passes, saving more than 100 EUR per pass. I was very happy we made this choice. The ordinary car was heaven to me. It was so comfortable. We had so much space. There was even space enough to drop a suitcase or bag pack in front of our legs. Even the first class of the Dutch trains was nothing compared to this. The Japanese ordinary car was way better and comfortable than the Dutch first class. Moreover, compared to the Dutch trains, the Japanese trains are very clean. I have never seen such a clean train toilet as in Japan. For the first time, I did not doubt whether to hold and wait until we have reached our destination or go in the train.
Order in advance! JR Pass is only for foreigners
The JR pass is not for everybody. It is only meant for foreigners and can only be bought outside Japan. People residing in Japan are not able to buy a JR pass. You can buy the pass online. You can buy a pass for one, two or three weeks. When buying, you will receive a voucher (not the pass!) by FedEx Mail very soon (within one business day). These vouchers need to be activated in Japan. There are many offices all over Japan where you can do this. After you got your pass activated, you are ready to explore Japan! Enjoy!