questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

on the fence about the jr pass

On the fence about the JR Pass

Hello,

I am deciding whether or not to purchase a JR Pass for myself and 12 year old son. We will be in Japan for only 7 days from 3/28/15 to 4/4/15 . Our itinerary is HAN-Tokyo-Kyoto-Tokyo-NRT. Running the numbers, it seems to make sense to buy the passes but I do have the below concerns/questions:

  1. It seems that the Haneda ticket office will be closed when we arrive. We arrive at 6:45pm Saturday night. Are there any other options? Otherwise, I guess we will lose the pass coverage for the monorail.

  2. Shinkasen Hikari vs Nozomi. We are travelling during the busy cherry blossom time. Should I be concerned that the Hikari trains will be booked up? There seems to be so few Shinkasen Hikari vs. Nozomi. For example, we considered going to Hiroshima and taking the train back to Tokyo on Sat, April 4th but there is no Hikari train that would get us to Tokyo in time for our 5pm flight.

Related to the above is the issue of seat reservations on bullet trains. This website says that it is not necessary to book seats but again it is a busy time. Is there an extra cost for booking seats? Also is it true I cannot book seats until I get to Japan? If I do not buy the JR Pass, can I book Hikari/Nozumi seats in advance from outside Japan?

So given the time of year and the fact that we probably can't include the monorail from Haneda, is it worth spending another $40 or so each to get the trains we want? (Most of the increased cost it seems will be in the price of the train from Tokyo to Narita.)

Thanks for any help.

Skyy

Skyy
Skyy

Hi Skyy,

The difference in price between this JR Pass and ticket prices in the above itinerary are indeed small, so there's something to be said for either option.

1.) This does mean that you would have to buy normal tickets into Tokyo, as the exchange office closes at 18:30. The ticket price to get to Tokyo however is only ¥ 580 (~5 Dollar). You can however still exchange the JR Pass at Tokyo station if you wish to do any travel in the evening.

2.) In general you don't have to worry about seating during during the Sakura season. It can be a bit more busy but it is not a national holiday period and people do have to go to work. Seats can be reserved once you are in Japan, with or without the JR Pass, this is the same. See our blog post for the details.

The best case to consider the JR Pass for, is the flexibility that comes with it. Basically you get 7 days of unlimited travel and you can take the train any time the fancy takes you. It is also useful for local travel in Tokyo on the local JR Network and works great if you plan any day trips (for instance to Yokohama, Kamakura or Nikko).

Hope this helps,
Daniel

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Daniel-san
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Thanks Daniel! You answered all my questions. I think i will go for the pass in case we decide to go to Hiroshima, etc,

Skyy
Skyy

Hi Daniel,

Another question about picking up the JR Pass in Tokyo since the office at Haneda will be closed when we arrive.

Is Tokyo Station the only place in Tokyo to do the exchange or can I do it at the other end of the monorail when I get into Tokyo (sorry don't know name of station?)

Also I assume wherever I exchange the pass I can also book seats on the Shinkasen. But what happens if you need to make a change? Is it ok to just not show up?

Thanks again.

Skyy
Skyy

Hi there,

The JR Pass can be activated at most major stations in Tokyo, including Shinjuku, Ueno and Shibuya. A full list can be found here.

Just to be sure, you mention picking up the JR Pass - please be sure that the JR Pass can only be purchased outside and you have to bring the voucher with you to Japan. You only activate it at any of the above stations.

At the end of the Monorail (Hamamatsucho station) you can get on the JR Yamanote line to Tokyo station to any other station in Tokyo.

Officially you have to take a non reserved seat if you reserved a seat but missed your train. Sometimes the JR Pass won't mind re-booking your ticket but this is not guaranteed.

Hope this helps,
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
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