It’s your first time in Japan and managed to get yourself to Osaka Prefecture in the Kansai Region. You’ve covered the whats; your itinerary is set, you have a place to stay, you even know what food to try and which tourist spots to visit. But the next question you should be asking yourself is, how do you get around? There are two main modes of transportation in Osaka; taxi and train. If money is of no concern, you can definitely take the taxi, which flat rate goes for JPY 660 (USD 6.39). There are taxis everywhere, vintage-looking cars in clean and in tiptop condition, driven by cab drivers who are well-dressed and very polite. But if you want to get from point A to point B faster and cheaper then train is your best bet. It takes some education though to use their train system and this can be (understandably so) confusing to first-time travelers. If you are looking into the train option then check out this guide on how you can use the Japan Rail pass.
There are several companies offering train passes, one of them is Japan Rail Pass or JR Pass. JR Pass is cost effective for long distance travel and it is the only one that travels throughout Japan. It is most convenient if you are going to Tennoji, Osaka, Shin-Osaka, and Kyoto. It can only be availed by foreign tourists. JR Group has 6 members, JR-Hokkaido, JR-East, JR-Central, JR-West, JR-Shikoku, and JR-Kyushu.
You are eligible to purchase this ticket if your entry status falls under either of these two conditions:
A foreigner with a temporary visitor status – Under the Japanese Immigration Law, temporary visitor means you are visiting Japan between 15 to 90 days for sightseeing.
Japanese national living outside Japan – If you have the right to permanent residency in the country in which you are living in or you are married to a non-Japanese living in another country. You should be able to provide a written proof that you meet these conditions.
You cannot use this ticket if you have a non-eligible visa, such as: multiple entry, long-term visa, student visa, permanent residency visa, special permanent residency visa (Tokubetsu Eijuken holders), entertainer visa, working holiday visa, military entry visa, and diplomatic passport holders.
Buying the ticket
JR Pass cannot be purchased in Japan. The first step to avail this pass is to get an Exchange Order from authorised sales office or agents in your country of origin. Upon arriving in Japan, go to any JR exchange office; you can find them in most major train stations and airports. Turn over your Exchange Order and present your passport and temporary visitor stamp. You will be asked to fill out a form then that’s it, you will receive your JR Pass.
There are authorised distributors of JR Pass and they are as follows:
- JTB Corp.
- Nippon Travel Agency (NTA)
- Kintetsu International (KNT)
- Tobu Top Tours
- Japan Airlines (JAL)
- All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Types and Rates
There are two types of JR Pass: Ordinary and Green. Ordinary pass gives you access to ordinary cars, which can be crowded especially on busy areas. Seat reservation here is not required. The Green pass, on the other hand, gives you access to the “Green Cars,” which offers first-class comfort starting with a bigger seat (475mm) that can recline to about 40 degrees, a footrest, and wider leg space. Reservation is required with the Green Cars. The Green Pass is most helpful if you’re visiting during the busiest months (May, August, and September) in Japan as the Green Cars are usually not crowded.
Rates depend on their validity period as shown in the table below:
Seat reservation is free of charge and you can do this at JR Ticket Office or a green ticket window called locally as Midori-no-madoguchi. They can be found in major railway stations, some travel agencies, airports, and bus and ferry terminals. Tip: look for the green logo of a reclining passenger.
Validity and Restrictions
You can use JR Pass not only for the train but also for bus or ferry service (JR-WEST Miyajima ferry). It can be used on all JR Group Railways-Shinkansen bullet trains and Tokyo Monorail. JR Pass, however, cannot be used on Nozomi and Mizuho trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines.
JR-West Rail Pass
The operation of JR-West railway network extends to 18 prefectures and a total distance of 5,007.1 km. Click here to see the map of the JR-West operation area.
Do you have more tips to add to the list? Feel free to leave your thoughts and experiences on the comment box below!