The Japan Rail Pass is the one ticket to explore the whole of Japan with, and covers the entire JR Network nationwide. In addition to unlimited travel, the pass includes a variety of perks that are less known but just as handy. Today we look at 7 perks for the JR Pass that you may not know about.
Table of contents:
1. Free reservations and seat selection
Free reservations and seat selection: likely the best known perk of this list, but we mention it anyway because the usefulness is often overlooked by first timers who visit Japan. Making a seat reservation allows you the secure seating beforehand, this way you only have to show up at the train platform a couple of minutes before departure and don’t have to queue up. Having that seat secured means you can travel with peace of mind. Additionally, need a power outlet, quiet cabin, or great view of Mt. Fuji? Just tell the staff what you need and pick your own seat. Without the pass seat reservations can cost up to 1.000yen per ticket, which adds up zipping around Japan.
2. Ride the Monorail
A great perk when staying in Tokyo is that the Tokyo Monorail comes included in the JR Pass. This includes access to the modern part of Tokyo situated in Tokyo bay area, which even runs to Haneda Airport. Similar to riding any local JR train, just show your JR Pass to board and again when exiting the station.
3. Hotel discounts
In addition to operating the railway network, the JR Group operates a variety of hotels around Japan. The JR Pass gives a standard discount of 10-15% on normal rates and up to 30% discount on special rates. For further details see: hotel discounts with the JR Pass.
4. Enjoy free drinks and oshibori hand towels in first class
This perk is for Green Pass (the Japanese word for first class) holders only. Depending on the train, you may be served with a complimentary (hot) drink of your choice, a refreshing oshibori hand towel, and sweets. Amenities can differ depending on what train service and operator is used.
5. Save on accommodation by using the night train
This is a perk for the budget-minded traveller. While there are few night trains left in Japan, the ones that remain in service are included in the JR Pass. Using the pass to travel by night will allow you to save money on booking an accommodation and save you time by travelling at night as well. Of course, you need to be able to sleep on the train, or you might just lose the next day to fatigue. Trains like the Sunrise express travel overnight between Tokyo and Osaka, and are a great experience for the more adventurous traveller.
6. Use the special multi-language desk
While most JR staff will be able to help visitors in basic English, there are special multi-language desks at major stations like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Sapporo and Fukuoka. These desks are for foreign visitors only, often have little to no queue and the staff can help you with other questions as well, like travel tips and recommendations. Be sure to use them, as you do not have to worry about getting lost in translation and the staff will be more than happy to assist you getting the best out of your pass.
7. Get a reduced rate on rent-a-car
Even-though trains in Japan will get you to nearly each part of the country, there may be a time and place where you may want to venture further by car. In such a case the JR Pass will help you make savings as well. The JR Group runs rent-a-car serves around the country and rental offices are conveniently located at the station. With the JR Pass you typically get a discount of 10 to 15% of best published rates. Together with all other savings potential of the pass, it does add up!
Bonus: Keep it as a souvenir
This might be the tiniest of perks but the JR Pass is a beautiful piece of its own with Japanese art on the front. It makes for the perfect souvenir to keep and remember all your wonderful Japan memories with when you are back home.
There you have it, 7 perks of the JR Pass that you may not have known about, up till now that is. For more related reading see our 10 Insider tips for using the Japan Rail Pass and 10 Tips for First Time Travellers to Japan.