questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

does having a green jr pass making it easier to get a seat? & when to start pass?

Does having a Green JR pass making it easier to get a seat? & when to start pass?

I will be traveling all over Japan for 7 weeks. I am wondering if having a Green JR rail pass will make it easier to get a seat on some trains (e.g., if Ordinary seats frequently sell out on some routes). I normally travel coach class, so I would prefer not to spend more money than I need to.

Also, I plan to buy two 21-day passes, and will have thus have one week not covered by a rail pass. I plan to spend my first couple of days in Tokyo, then train to Sapporo. Should I wait until I depart for Sapporo before starting my rail pass? (I.e., will local travel around Tokyo, and from Narita Airport to the city, be low enough in cost that it's not worth starting the pass the day I arrive at the airport?


Hi there,

To Green car or to not green car... that is the question...

Although the green car is less crowded than the standard/coach class seating, unless you intend to travel during a rush hour period (7-9am, 5-7pm) you shouldn't run into problems with seats selling out. Even if you do experience the situation, it's generally a 30min wait for another train arrive, so I think I would recommend standard coach class if you are on a budget.

Starting date of the JR Pass

Hmm - it really depends on the amount of travel you see yourself doing with the JR Pass towards the end of your trip. Travel within Tokyo is not very expensive (except the leg from the airport into the city which is around ¥3000), but you can easily clock up around ¥800/day of travel if you use the JR lines throughout the city or more if you do a day trip out to Nikko.

In general when faced with this problem I recommend that you purchase:

  1. Narita Express + Suica prepaid metro card package purchased at Narita on arrival will get you into town and give you ¥1500 of free metro or JR travel, allowing you to explore the city for the first week at a small discount. There are also 1 or 2 day metro pass discounts available to foreign visitors (¥600/day, ¥980/2-day), but these must be purchased at Narita Airport.

  2. Japan Rail Pass for activation once your travel around Tokyo is complete up to the date of return to the Airport.

This does assume you'll stay within the Tokyo metropolitan area. If you are thinking of going a bit further afield on day trips then you may want to activate your rail pass a bit earlier.

Hope this helps!

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