Bullet trains are synonymous with Japan: the shinkansen trains are known for their comfort, punctuality, sleek design and incredible speed. The golden route of the Tokaido Shinkansen, running between Tokyo and Kyoto and offering unparalleled views of Mt Fuji, is incredibly popular with tourists. But since a one-way ticket can run up to ¥13,000 or more, most opt for the JR Pass, which is available only to tourists from overseas. The money-saving pass allows unlimited travel on Japan Railways lines plus local JR trains for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days. It's quite a steal, especially if you're planning a whirlwind trip across the country.
Starting in June 2020, the JR Pass will be available for purchase online directly from Japan Railways. Currently, the JR Pass can only be purchased overseas through a middleman, such as a travel agent, or at a very small selection of train stations and airports within Japan. Online purchases will make travel much smoother for all those extra tourists visiting during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Instead of wrangling with third parties, all you have to do is reserve your JR Pass on the official website and pick it up after landing in Japan. Pick-up locations are still TBC, but there's a good chance major JR stations will be on the list.
Prices for the online JR Pass reservation are ¥33,610 for the 7-day pass, ¥52,960 for the 14-day pass, and ¥66,200 for the 21-day pass. Passes including Green Car access (first-class reserved seats) are little more, and children aged 6 to 11 get their JR Pass for 50 percent of the adult fare.
Do note this online process is actually more expensive than the price offered at the authorised sellers outside of Japan, by ¥3,960 to ¥5,750 depending on the type of pass. Nevertheless, it's still more convenient and cheaper than buying a shinkansen ticket at local prices, especially if you're planning your rail travel last minute. The official JR Pass reservation website will open on June 1.
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