Passes sold by the Japan Railways (JR) group are among the best deals in the worldwide travel industry. Despite that, they only provide savings if you take enough long-distance rides. For example, using the 7 Day JR Pass only make sense if you intent to take at least two long distance Shinkansen bullet train rides. Otherwise, you are likely to end up paying more for the pass compared to buying individual tickets.
In addition, take note of the following when using JR passes:
- Reservations are not mandatory for many services, although recommended. In any case, reservations are free with JR passes. Simply head to the Midori no Madoguchi (みどりの窓口) ticketing office to get one.
- Services that aren’t reservations-only will always have “free-seating” carriages. This is known as 自由席 (jiyuseki) in Japanese.
- Take note that some trips require supplement fees. This is due to part of the journey utilizing non-JR owned tracks.
- Other than airport services, Japanese trains have truly limited storage space for large suitcases. Yet another reason to travel light and compactly. (See above, Tip 4)
- JR passes allow you free travel on some city lines, such as the Yamanote Line in Tokyo and the Loop Line in Osaka. This provides savings, but note that these lines are among the most heavily used services in the world.