Forgot to buy your Japan Rail Pass before you got to Japan? Very soon, that worry may be a thing of the past.
For tourists, the Japan Rail Pass can be a brilliant way to get around the country. Express lines, local trains – Japan can be yours to explore with the slim booklet. However, until now, there has always been a catch: you have to buy that pass before you come to Japan. Travelers must buy a voucher for the pass from a sales agent overseas, and then redeem that voucher once they have arrived.
According to The Japan Times, approximately 600,000 of the passes were purchased in the 2014 financial year, and they make getting around that much easier, but that extra hurdle to rail freedom – put up to prevent long-term residents or Japanese citizens from fraudulently picking up the passes – can be a major hassle. Considering that the passes come in 7, 14, and 21-day versions, missing out on a total of 3 weeks of deeply discounted train rides can take a big chunk out of your travel budget.
Fortunately, some kind souls in the Japan Railway (JR) Group have taken pity on the forgetful traveler, and there are plans under way that will allow tourists to buy the passes once they arrive in-country. The group has announced that they will roll out domestic sales of the passes; locations have not been announced yet, but you can be sure that a passport check will be part of the purchase process, so that leaves long-term Japanese resident bargain hunters out.
Prices for the 7-day Japan Rail Pass are ¥29,110 for standard seats and ¥38,880 for the upgraded “Green Pass” that lets you ride in first-class cars. Travelers with the pass can ride almost all of the trains within the JR network, with the exception of the express Shinkansen lines such as the Nozomi or Mizuho Lines.
Once we hear about locations where tourists can buy the passes in Japan, we’ll let you know.