Japan’s bullet trains on a budget

If you’ve been considering a trip to Japan, a Japan Rail Pass might be the money saver that nudges you over the line.


The Japan Rail Pass allows for unlimited travel on a wide range of trains and buses for seven, 14 or 21 days. Using the network, you can travel all over Japan even to Hokkaido, the beautiful northern island, via undersea bullet train! Here’s the map of the overall network.


And those are just the regional routes, there are plenty of services in metro areas as well, here’s a map of Tokyo’s network.

Photo by M-Thanaphum / Shutterstock.com

Can you use it on every train?
Not quite, the Japan Rail Pass is valid for travel on the JR Group railway network – a network which spans the nation – but not on other private railways that exist throughout Japan. Unfortunately for train enthusiasts, the Nozomi and Mizuho trains (the two fastest trains services in Japan, travelling at 300km/h) are also unavailable on the pass. However, there are plenty of other bullet trains or Shinkansen railway lines you can travel on and if you want to experience the fastest service possible on a rail pass, it is the Hikari service.


Other things to do with your rail pass
Seeing Mt Fuji is a lifechanging experience, but if you’re short on time you can catch a delightful view of the mountain from the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka or Kyoto. Try to sit on the right-hand side if you are travelling from Tokyo and if the weather is clear it should appear about an hour after leaving Tokyo.


There is also a ferry you can catch using your rail pass located near Hiroshima, which will take you past the famous Giant Torii.



How much is it?





Adult Pass

Aus Dollar

Adult Pass

Aus Dollar


29,110 YEN


38,880 YEN



46,390 YEN


62,950 YEN



59,350 YEN


81,870 YEN


The prices will vary depending on exchange rates and are accurate as of 18 January 2018. Half-price tickets can be bought for children aged six to 11. If you have a trip planned where you will crisscross over the country, you can easily save hundreds of dollars with a pass. This calculator determines how much you will save.


What is a green pass?
A green pass allows you to travel in the ‘superior class’ carriages which are more spacious, but not available on all lines. I didn’t purchase a green pass ticket but found the trains to be incredibly comfortable, spacious and clean.


Photo by oatautta / Shutterstock.com

Where can you buy it?
The Japan Rail Pass must be purchased from outside of Japan. The pass is only available to international tourists (to the envy of Japanese citizens). Most travel agents will be happy to source one for you, or you can view the list of authorized resellers here. You will receive an Exchange Order Note which you can swap for your rail pass at any major station within Japan (such as the one at Tokyo Airport), bear in mind that you must use your Exchange Order Note within three months!


Read more at Japan Rail Pass.


Have you ever been to Japan? Did you travel on the trains much? 


Related articles:
Travel SOS: top tips on what to see and do in Japan
David’s dream rail tour
Ryan’s Japanese jaunt

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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