All About Japan

Tourists Can Finally Buy JR Rail Passes Online

| Transportation , Trains

After years of complicated and added-expense hoops to jump through, JR will start letting international travelers buy their passes online and inside their home countries.

There are several reasons Japan has been booming in popularity as a travel destination over the past decade, and a big one is the Japan Rail Pass. Offered by Japan Railways Group (a.k.a. JR), Japan’s largest rail operator, the pass is only available to visitors from abroad, and provides travelers with unlimited use of nearly any JR train in the country, including all but the very fastest classes of the Shinkansen bullet train, for periods of one, two, or three weeks.

But while the JR Pass is an incredible value for those with wide-range travel ambitions in Japan, the purchase process has long been a bit of a hassle. For many years, the pass could only be purchased outside of Japan and through an intermediary such as a designated travel agency or airline. More recently, the option to purchase the pass at select train stations in Japan has been offered, but with the penalty of being roughly 10 percent more expensive than if purchased outside Japan.

Those hassles will be disappearing, though, as this week Japan Rail Group announced that it will begin selling the Japan Rail Pass online come summer. A dedicated site, called Japan Rail Pass Reservation, is being set up to handle orders, and purchasers can pick up their passes at the station after arriving in Japan. JR has not yet specified whether the pass can be picked up at any JR station in the country, but it seems like a given that it will be available at rail hubs connecting to Japan’s international airports, so that the passes can be picked up and activated quickly upon arrival.

Pricing for the pass has also been announced, with regular (non-Green Car passes) 7, 14, and 21-day passes costing 33,610 yen (US$305), 52,960 yen, and 66,200 yen for adults (16,800 yen, 26,480 yen, and 33,100 yen for children 6-11). Stepping up to the Green Car pass bumps those prices up to 44,810 yen, 72,310 yen, and 91,670 yen (22,400 yen, 36,150 yen, and 45,830 yen for kids). Passes must be activated no later than one month after their online purchase date.

JR has also announced the Japan Rail Pass Reservation site’s URL, and that the site is scheduled to go live on June 1, so it’ll be up and running in time for everyone headed to Japan for the Summer Olympics.

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