JR rail pass to be available in Japan, ending frustration for tardy tourists

by

Staff Writer

Cries of “dang” have long rung out from the nation’s major railway stations as foreign visitors find Japan Rail Pass vouchers are unavailable after arrival.

Now, Japan Railways Group (JR Group) plans to make the value-for-money passes available to visitors who forgot to pay before leaving home, a spokesman for East Japan Railway Co. said Friday.

The passes give tourists unlimited rides on JR trains and represent significant savings for heavy users and long-distance travelers.

Currently, Japan Rail Pass vouchers can only be purchased overseas, from JR-designated sales offices or travel agents. This is designed to prevent Japan residents from exploiting the offer.

After arrival, travelers head to a major JR station and show their passport and voucher to receive a pass.

JR Group, which comprises six JR railway companies, will start selling the passes domestically on an experimental basis this fiscal year, at a date that has yet to be determined.

The passes are popular with tourists: JR East says about 600,000 were sold in fiscal 2014.

The Japan Rail Pass allowed unlimited use of JR lines nationwide for a period of seven, 14 or 21 days. Pretty much the only trains that are excluded are high-speed, nonstop bullet trains, namely the Nozomi and Mizuho trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu shinkansen lines.

The price of the pass varies depending on the type of pass and the period of duration. For example, an adult seven-day Green pass, which permits the use of “green car” first-class carriages, costs ¥38,880. It is only ¥29,110 for a regular-class pass. Children aged 6 to 11 are charged half.

On Wednesday, the government said it aims to double its tourism target to 40 million visitors in 2020. It will tackle a range of measures to achieve this, including making the Japan Rail Pass available domestically to foreign tourists.