The way we traveled Japan

Japan Rail Pass

Upon our trip to Japan we purchased a Japan Rail Pass (JR pass), which we were told would be good for traveling between cities in Japan (a JR pass is ultimately a pass that allows unlimited use of JR trains, buses and ferries for tourists). This pass ended up being the best purchase of the trip. Not only were we able to use this pass to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka, we also used this pass while traveling within the city of Tokyo including arrival from Narita Airport (international airport) to our Air BnB. The only time we had to purchase tickets to a non-JR train line in Tokyo was when we were headed to Haneda Airport (domestic flights) as the JR train did not run out there.

1.How to Obtain the pass

  • Find a travel agency in your city that sells the JR pass (not a ton will).
  • Eligibility for the pass: you must not be a citizen of Japan AND you must be traveling as a tourist.
  • You can purchase a 7-day, 14-day or 21-day pass, which must be used consecutively. E.g. – if you purchase a 7-day pass and activate the pass on Friday December 09, 2016 it will be valid until day end Thursday December 15, 2016.
  • Your passport will be required at the time of purchase to validate nationality, correct spelling of names & date of birth (the pass details must exactly match your passport or it will be void).
  • The cost of the 7-day pass is about 30,000 yen or just under $400 cad (we paid $375cad per person for the 7-day pass).
  • You will receive an exchange order from the agency, which will need to be converted into the pass upon arrival in Japan (see snapshot below).


2. How the pass works

  • Must be used within 3 months of being purchased (e.g. – if purchased on September 20, 2016, it must be used by December 20, 2016)
  • You have to specify at the time of purchase the date you want the pass to be activated (you will still need to transfer the exchange order for a pass upon arrival in Japan)
  • The pass can be used all over Tokyo for JR trains, buses and ferries and to surrounding cities via the bullet train (referred to as Shinkansen). The Yamanote line is the best in-city line offered through the JR pass and goes to all the major stations.



3. Once in Japan – convert to a pass

  • As soon as you land in Narita Airport, go to the JR office in the airport and have your exchange order converted to a JR pass.

  • Book a seat on the express train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku or Tokyo station. You also have the option of not reserving a seat and sitting in the unreserved section (usually first 3-5 carts depending on the size of the train).
  • You do not have to reserve seats for travel within the City of Tokyo; you only have the option if traveling outside of the City.
  • There is a JR office in Shinjuku station where you are able to reserve seats on the Shinkansen to travel to other cities.
Reserved Seat Ticket (Tokyo to Kyoto)



  • In Japanese culture, tattoos are associated with the Yakuza therefore if you have visible tattoos there are places that will deny you entry. We found it especially difficult trying to go to an Onsen as we ourselves have tattoos. We covered ourselves in bandages and strategically placed our towels when moving from the change rooms into the spa area. It was a bit stressful.
  • Japan is a very clean Country and there is an expectation of great cleanliness. Locals do not litter and there are very few garbage’s available on public streets.
  • -4 degrees Celsius in Japan is much different than -4 degrees Celsius in Canada. We found Japan cold to be extremely bone chilling and we are from Alberta where temperatures dip as low as -30 in the winter. So be prepared if you go in the winter.

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