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The Japanese railway system is run by the JR Group, with six regional operators for Hokkaido, East, Central, West, Shikoku and Kyushu. There is a nationwide network and common ticket rules so passengers can travel with different rail companies and not have to change tickets.

For Japan train times, check here.  JR services are extremely punctual and modern


Tickets & Discounts


Fare Types

There may be a surcharge for additional services above the basic fare. As tickets can be expensive, passes might provide better value for money for tourists. Rural train lines cost more to ride on. Tickets can be bought at station vending machines. Rush hour Japan can be really busy so not for the faint hearted or ill-prepared. On long distance trains, passengers are allowed unlimited number of stopovers during the validity of a fare ticket. Surcharges can vary in price during on and off peak travel and for express, limited express, reserved seat, green fee or berth fee

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Special offers & discounts

Kids under 6 go free. Kids between the ages of 6-11 get a half price adult fare on their first day of travel.

Roundtrips of more than 600km one way receive a 10% discount on their basic fare.

Most passes offer extra bonus such as free local bus/train travel while your rail pass is still valid (depending on the specific rail pass)

Certain Japanese regions offer reduced prices for specific train routes.  Off peak periods of travel, have lower surcharges.


Station and Onboard

Seats and Beds

Two types of Classes: Ordinary and Green; Ordinary class stands for Economy/2nd class seating; Green class is 1st class. On long-distance journeys, sleeping berths are available onboard for an additional surcharge.



Baggage shelves are available to store bag packs/ light hand-held suitcases. Coin Lockers at Japanese stations are not built to keep large suitcases/baggage. Travel lightly.

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Onboard Services

Ordinary class includes both reserved seating and non-reservation seats. Wi-Fi available to all passengers.

Popular train rides for tourists (shinkansen), make announcements in English and Japanese. Long distance trains include a dining car (western and Japanese). Passengers are not allowed to speak on mobile phones with the exception of the entrance sections of shinkansen!


Station stuff

Japanese stations are very clean and modern, all station signs and departure boards are translated into English. Internet access at nearly all rail stations. Tourist Information Centre and local shops inside stations with deluxe hotels, shopping malls, and restaurants at the larger stations


Small Print

How do I use Japanese Rail Passes?

Purchasers of rail passes receive an ‘Exchange Voucher’ which can be turned into a rail pass at any exchange offices in JR stations or airports. Passports are required. Exchange Vouchers must be presented at a station within 3 months of issue. Once the voucher is changed into a rail pass it is then valid for 1 month. Pass holders also have to book the dates as to when they want to use the Pass. Must be done within one month of purchase. Reservations can be Green type (1st class) passes or Ordinary type (2nd class) passes


Seating Reservations

No extra change for seating reservation which can be made at JR stations. During busy periods of the year seat reservation are harder to make.