This subject will be of special interest to foreign tourists visiting Japan using the JR Rail Pass. We obtained a 21-day JR Pass on the day we arrived, July 1. On the last day of validity, July 21, we were traveling from Oita via Kokura, Osaka, Tokyo to Narita airport in order to take our return flight to Europe the next day. Arriving in Kokura around 11 a.m., we were informed that traffic had been interrupted or delayed between Kokura and Osaka due to heavy rains and that information would be forthcoming as it became available.

This suspension of service left a few hundred Japanese and foreigners stranded at the station. From time to time an announcement was made informing us that JR was checking the railroad tracks and that information would be provided later concerning the resumption of traffic for passengers proceeding to Osaka and Tokyo.

I would like to stress that this info was given only in Japanese and that waiting foreign passengers could get it thanks only to helpful Japanese-English speaking travelers. Finally, around 6 p.m., after a seven-hour wait, it was announced that no traffic would resume that day because of landslides on the railroad tracks. Since our JR Pass was expiring that day, we inquired with JR staff about making reservations to continue to Narita on July 22, the next day. Our attention was called to item “No. 9” printed on the back of the JR Pass: It specifies that no extension of the validity period can be made for any reason — such as a train delay or the like — which meant that we would have to pay extra to continue our trip from Kokura to Narita.

After comparing JR’s charges with an airliner’s, we decided to buy air tickets, especially since JR couldn’t provide us with a timetable of traffic for July 22. We would like to call foreign travelers’ attention to the strict application of item 9 as well as JR’s inability to communicate with stranded foreign passengers.

roger verbiest