Konnichiwa! We’re going to share tips on how to purchase and use the Rail Pass in 2023. Our family has used the pass on multiple visits to Japan. Travel around Japan by train is our favorite way to visit new places in Japan. Most recently we took trains from Hokkaido in the north > South to Tokyo and onto Kyoto.
Everything you need to know about the Japan Rail Pass
- What is the Japan Rail Pass?
- Where can I use the Japan Rail Pass?
- Should I buy the Japan Rail Pass in 2023?
- Where to buy your JR Pass?
- How to buy a JR Pass Online
- Where to pick up your JR Pass in Japan?
- Can I purchase the Japan Rail Pass in Japan?
- What if I Lost My Rail Pass?
- How we use the Japan Rail Pass
- Two-week Holiday JR Pass Itinerary Example
- JR Pass holder seat reservation
- Can I book a reserved seat before I exchange for my Japan Rail Pass?
- How to book an online reservation through the JR East website
- Why buy a Japan Rail Pass?
- Cost Comparison: Is the Japan Rail Pass Worth the Price?
- What’s Included in the Shinkansen Bullet Trains?
- Where to buy food for your train ride
- Recent changes to the JR Pass
- What if I have too much luggage?
- How to use Kuroneko service to ship your luggage
- Which shinkansen train line do I take?
- How to find train schedules
- Interactive Rail map for route planning
What is the Japan Rail Pass?
The Japan Rail Pass Or JR Pass for short is a multi-use ticket valid on national trains including shinkansen bullet trains. The Pass is available to foreign visitors who are visiting Japan for sightseeing and have a temporary visitor Visa stamped into their passport. You can purchase a pass that’s valid either for 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days.
There is an Ordinary pass for riding in standard cars and a Green Pass for riding In First Class Cars. Our family has only ever used the standard pass and that worked well for us. Also this article is specific to the National Japan Rail Pass which starts from the northern tip of Hokkaido all the way down to the southern island of Kyushu. You can learn more about regional pass here but I believe most of you will be interested in the full National Rail Pass and that’s what this article is about.
Where can I use the Japan Rail Pass?
There are six railway companies that cover different regions of Japan. They are JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Shikoku, and JR Kyushu.
The Japan Rail Pass is valid on the JR Express trains, all rapid and local trains along the many JR lines, some local JR buses, the Miyajima Ferry as well as airpor transfers like the Narita Express and the Haruka Express. What’s really great is that you get unlimited travel around Japan on these many JR lines for the duration of your pass. We took the ferry when we visited Miyajima Island years ago on my very first visit to Japan.
Now of course, the shinkansen bullet trains are included however your JR Pass cannot be used on the Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen lines. However, that’s not really a big deal because there are other shinkansen that travel on those same routes. More on that later.
The pass does not include most subway lines. For those, if no JR local options are available, we use a rechargeable card such as IC Pasmo or Suica card. We just hold on to these and keep them for our next visit to Japan and that’s for short trips getting around within a city.
Should I buy the Japan Rail Pass in 2023?
Are you are going to be traveling to multiple regions in Japan? For instance, far away places such as Hiroshima, Kyoto, Tokyo, and up to as far as Hokkaido? Then absolutely yes, the Japan Rail Pass is the best and most economical way to get around through Japan Railway’s extensive rail network.
Do I really need to buy a JR Pass?
We have purchased the Japan Rail Pass many times over the years however we don’t always buy it when we visit Japan.
It really depends on what you’re going to do and if there are JR lines available for you to use. For instance, if you are going to spend most of your time in a remote area of Japan without much JR transportation then you probably won’t need a JR Pass.
If you’re just going to Tokyo to visit friends or mostly staying locally in a city or community then just purchase an IC card at a train station or a local pass ( if available ) instead. For these cases, you do not need to purchase the JR Pass. So in general the Japan Rail Pass is worth it if you are traveling long distances and intercity. It will save you time and money.
Do children need to buy a pass?
There are passes for adults and for children as well. For children aged 6 to 11 years old, the cost of the pass is half that of the adult pass.
Children who are under six years old can ride the trains for free. However, you can’t reserve a seat for them so they may end up sitting on your lap. On our most recent trip in January 2023, we bought three passes. Two adult passes and one child pass for our nine-year-old. Both our four-year-old and one-year-old did not require a pass.
It can get a bit cramped if you’re sitting five people in just three seats. However, most of the time there are open seats available and we were able to spread out a bit. Also if you’re riding in a non-reserved car those seats are on a first come first serve basis. So if there’s a seat open your child could sit in it by themselves.
Pro Tip for getting a seat
If you’re traveling during a Japanese holiday make sure you reserve your seats in advance. You are allowed to reserve up to one month in advance using the JR Pass.
If you’re planning to ride in the unreserved car get there to the platform early. You want to be one of the first on board to make sure you’ll get a seat! If there are many people in line in front of you and you have time, wait for the next train. You will have a better chance of getting a seat.
Where to buy your JR Pass?
Most of you will be buying your Japan Rail Pass in your home country. You can do this up to three months before your journey. The easiest way to purchase your pass is online and there are many websites where you can do this. However, our preference is jrpass.com.
They make it really easy to get a pocket Wi-Fi add-on which I highly recommend! Even if you have an international data plan because it’s just great to have that extra data as a backup. You can easily rent the pocket wifi during the checkout process.
Additionally, jrpass.com has a wealth of information on its site including a fare calculator, an interactive map to help you plan your route, and an active forum if you have specific questions.
How to buy a JR Pass Online
Let’s go ahead and walk through the process of purchasing a Japan Rail Pass online. We are on jrpass.com.
Let’s select an ordinary seat for one person for seven days ( or up to 21 days).
But feel free to choose the Green Car Class ( first class ) if you need a little extra comfort!
On the right tab, you can select a child pass and you can see that the price is half of an adult pass!
Click to book and here we’ll enter name, date of birth, and pick a start date as well. If you scroll down here we can see that there is a cancellation protection policy that we can purchase for a little over 2,000 Yen. This might be worth it to you if your travel is unsure.
Next, double-check your eligibility. Assuming you qualify, let’s go ahead and confirm this and click the next step.
On this next page you can rent the pocket Wi-Fi. Again I highly recommend this because it makes it really easy to rent because it’s all in English and you can just pick up your Wi-Fi in Japan at the airport. It is a very easy process to pick up and return.
You can choose the length of time that you want to rent the pocket Wi-Fi and you’ll notice that it says unlimited data. However, you are capped at three gigabytes per day! If you use more than that then you will be throttled and that speed can be quite slow! Please be aware of this as sometimes it was unusably slow and sometimes it was still fast enough to watch Youtube.
Next, choose which airport you want to pick up the pocket wifi. You can also return it at a different location if you are flying out from a different location. This is what we did but actually, in our case, we returned it by mail. If you return by mail you will pay for the shipping. It cost us about 1,000 Yen to ship by return mail.
Finally, you can have a meet and greet if you need a little extra help.
After payment, anywhere from one to three business days later, you will receive your exchange order by mail. However, it can take a little longer depending on your location. If this is a concern for you please contact them first.
NOTE: You will not receive your actual passes until you arrive and Japan where you will trade your exchange order for your JR pass.
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Where to pick up your JR Pass in Japan?
Once you arrive in Japan you will trade in your exchange order for your JR pass by visiting a ticketing office. In addition to your exhange order, you will be required to present passports for each person who will be receiving the Japan Rail Pass. So all members of your party must be present with their passports at the ticketing office.
There are many places throughout Japan where you can pick up your Japan rail pass. Probably the easiest would be to pick up your pass at the airport. Including but not limited to Narita, Haneda, Kansai, and New-Chitose Airport. Here is a link to many of the train stations where you can pick up your pass once in Japan.
A lot of people are concerned that there are so many websites selling passes that they wonder which one is legit. I totally understand this so I’m going to throw another one into the mix that is one of the most popular and highly recommended, klook.com.
You may be familiar with Klook. They’re actually really big in Asia and we use them all the time to purchase attraction tickets such as tickets to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.
Can I purchase the Japan Rail Pass in Japan?
Yes, recently you can buy a Japan Rail Pass while already in Japan.
However, this is a temporary thing but it was recently extended until the end of March 2024. Also, it is more expensive to buy the Japan Rail Pass in Japan than in your home country. We paid about 4000 Yen more per person for the pass.
How to purchase the JR Pass while in Japan
Visit an official JR ticketing office once you arrive in Japan. Currently, these are only at the major stations. We bought ours at
Osaka Station in Osaka Japan. At the ticketing office, you will be required to show the passport for each person that will be purchasing the pass. After payment, you will receive the actual passes, not the exchange order. You will also need to specify when you want your passes to be activated. Once you activate your pass, it will be for consecutive days either 7, 14, or 21. Once you have activated your JR Pass, your pass cannot be canceled or changed.
What if I lost my Rail Pass?
What happens if you lose your Japan Rail Pass? Unfortunately, it is not replaceable or refundable so just don’t lose it. We kept all of our family passes together in a safe place. By having one person in charge of the passes, they can collect them once everyone goes through a ticketing gate. This way, no one will leave their ticket at the ticket machine.
How we use the Japan Rail Pass
On our most recent trip to Japan after spending three weeks playing in the snow in Sapporo we activated our passes and headed to Tokyo for five days and then farther south to Kyoto as our final destination. As you can see we use this mostly to get us to our farther destinations.
Currently, the shinkansen only goes as far north as Shin Hakodate-Hokuto Station, which is in the southern portion of the island of Hokkaido. In order to get there we had to take a Limited Express train from Sapporo to Shin Hakodate-Hokuto using JR Hokkaido. It is a three-and-a-half-hour train ride through Hokkaido’s countryside and is quite beautiful! I highly recommend it! And with most trains in Japan, it was comfortable.
From Shin Hakodate-Hokuto to Tokyo we took the Hayabusa Shinkansen – this is a reserved seat-only train, more on this later. We
had about 20 minutes before our departure to Tokyo from Shin Hakodate-Hokuto. This was plenty of time to go to the mini Mart and use the restroom. But take note, at this station and many of the other smaller ones there isn’t a huge variety of food. It’s mostly Japanese Bento
boxes, snacks and a lot of junk food. So if you want a different type of meal make sure you purchase your food ahead of time in the larger train stations such as Sapporo train station, Kyoto or Tokyo station.
The journey from Shin Hakodate-Hokuto to Tokyo station took right about three hours and we spent the next five
days in Tokyo visiting friends and visiting other tourist destinations using mostly local trains. However, we were not able to use the JR Pass on all of those routes as many of them were on non-JR lines. For the local routes we use our IC cards.
Download and use the Japan Travel Navi app which will show you all the JR routes that are available in your area!
On the sixth day of using our Japan Rail Pass we went from Tokyo to Kyoto using the Hikari Shinkansen. As mentioned before, the Nozomi is not available to Rail Pass holders but no matter because the Hikari is almost as fast.
Since we arrived in Kyoto on the sixth day of using our Pass, we had one extra day to explore Kyoto. However, we were tired and we just didn’t even use our passes. But hopefully, you can see that we got more than our money’s worth from the passes.
Two-week Holiday JR Pass Itinerary Example
This type of itinerary can also work great using the Japan Rail Pass if you are on a two-week holiday. The key is you want to enter Japan in one location and leave in another.
Let’s say you flew into Sapporo, Hokkaido and you flew out of Kansai airport in Osaka.
You spend three or four days in Sapporo then on the next day you activate your JR Pass and use the pass to travel south to Tokyo. You arrive in Tokyo that same day/night then spend the next three full days exploring Tokyo.
On the fourth day of your pass you leave in the morning taking the Hikari Shinkansen to Kyoto. It is only a short 2.5 hour journey and you still have most of the fourth day to explore Kyoto. You spend the next full day using your JR Pass to explore Kyoto. For areas not covered on the rail pass you use an IC card to ride on non JR trains.
You still have two days remaining on your Japan Rail Pass. Where do you want to go next?
You could take the shinkansen to Osaka which is only a short 19-minute train ride to Shin Osaka Station and spend the next couple of days using JR trains in Osaka.
Or you could take the Sanyo Shinkansen and head south to Hiroshima and take the Miyajima ferry which is also included in the JR Pass!
Better yet, spend the night in a ryokan on Miyajima Island then return to the mainland on the next day to explore Hiroshima.
Or if you are more adventurous, continue south to Kyushu! There are so many options!
Holiday travel seat reservation reminder
Just as a reminder if you are traveling during the holidays make sure you book your JR Pass seat reservations in advance because the trains can be completely full and you don’t want to be left without a seat! Also some of the trains such as the Hayabusa Shinkansen is 100% reserved only so you cannot get on it if you don’t have a reserved seat.
Most crowded holidays in Japan
December 29 to January 3
The year-end/New Year holiday period is the most popular travel time for Japanese people, for vacations and returns to hometown areas.
April 29 to May 7
Called Golden Week as it is a group of 4 holidays On consecutive days.
August 11 to 16
During the Obon season, some trains are crowded with people returning to their hometowns.
JR Pass holder seat reservation
Booking a reserved seat versus a non-reserved
Some JR trains have both reserved seat cars and unreserved cars such as the Hikari shinkansen.
Then others, such as the Hayabusa Shinkansen are 100 percent reserved only.
Unfortunately, reserving seats on a Japanese train is not necessarily easy to do when using the JR Pass.
This is because you either have to go into an office or book it online. If you are successful at reserving your seat online you still need to go and pick up your tickets at the office.
With that said, the easiest way is still to go into the office at a JR station. You want to look for this logo which is a person reclining in a chair.
It is called Midori no mado-guchi, which means green window.
Once you get there the line may be long. However, in our case, it always moves pretty quickly and you get up there and the people are usually very helpful. They can help you get the seat that you want.
What happens if I miss your reserved train?
This actually happened to us when we were going from Nagoya connecting in Tokyo up to Aomori. Now once we got to Tokyo we missed our train and our train from Tokyo up to Aomori was Hayabusa Shinkansen which means reserved only so we just went to the ticketing office and was able to rebook it on the next train if your train has an unreserved car then you don’t even need to do that you can just get in line for the next train that has unreserved seating.
Can I book a reserved seat before I exchange for my Japan Rail Pass?
In most cases, you cannot reserve your seats online before you trade in your exchange for your JR Pass. The only way you can reserve a seat using the Japan Rail Pass before you have your actual pass is by purchasing your rail pass through the official JR Pass website. However, you will pay more for both adults and children.
Currently prices for adults at official site:
Adults: 33,610 JPY
Child ( ages 6 – 11 ) 16,800 JPY
If purchased on thirdy party sites such as jrpass.com you will pay:
Adult: 29,650 JPY
Child ( ages 6 – 11 ): 14,820 JPY
With a savings of about 4,000 JPY for an adult, I would only purchase from the official site if I absolutely needed an early reservation. When might you need this? If you are traveling as a large group or family during one of the holidays listed above. Being able to book seat reservations ahead of time could give you peace of mind. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that there will be seats available for the train and time you want. So please be flexible with your schedule and be ready to make changes if trains are booked.
Can I book online once I have my JR Pass?
Only if your travel plans are to use JR East, such as the Hayabusa Shinkansen, you can reserve your seats through their website but not before your actual pass issued. You can reserve your seat through the JR East website up to 30 days before your journey. Currently, the other JR groups do not have an online system for JR Pass holders. Hopefully, this will change soon!
How to book an online reservation through the JR East website
Luckily, the East website has an English version of its reservation system.
Before you can reserver a seat, you need to create an account.
1 – Now let’s click on seat reservation.
2 – Here we purchased our tickets elsewhere so look at the list below.
Remember this is JR East so it will only let you choose a route in the JR East Region.
3 – I’m going to choose the Tohoku area because I know it goes north to the island of Hokkaido. But as you can see, the east region has many other options.
[ 4 ] I’m going to search by line because to me this is the easiest way compared to search by station which can be overwhelming.
[ 5 ] We are taking the Tohoku Hokkaido Shinkansen and
[ 6 ] we are departing from Aomori and [ 7 ] then we’re going to choose Tokyo as our final destination.
[ 8 ] Let’s choose some arbitrary date and [ 9 ] time and notice for time you can choose an arrival or departure time. I’m going to select Departure [ 10 ] then enter the number of passengers and click on the search.
Here you can see different times and length if we take the 17:22 train it arrives 10 minutes earlier compared to the 17:44 train. [ 11 ] We will choose the 17:22 train. [ 12 ] But also notice the section option that says ‘Train Desk’. A Train Desk car is an ordinary reserved car where passengers can work or study. So anyone can reserve a seat in a Train Desk car but you are expected to be quiet.
Let’s just choose the top one [ 11 ] since we have kids 🤪
[ 13 ] Click on select and let’s look at the seat map [ 14 ] so we can choose the seats that we want.
[ 15 ] We prefer to choose one closer to the back because we like to be near the back or the front of the car so we can go and find the bathroom and or drink machines quite easily this way.
We’ll choose those four and hopefully, no one will sit next to us so we can use all five seats for our kids 😉
[ 16 ] Click confirm and let’s go ahead and [ 17 ] view our reservation.
[ 18 ] Verify your train, travel date, and departure & arrival times.
[ 19 ] You need to pick up your reservation tickets so choose a pickup location and [ 20 ] date. And you are done!
Note: if your location is not on the list you may be able to pick up your tickets elsewhere. See the locations here.
Why buy a Japan Rail Pass?
Trains are one of our favorite forms of transportation while traveling as a family with young kids. Especially in Japan, travel by train is a no-brainer. It can be faster to take the train than going to the airport. With airports, you have to get there, go through security, wait for your plane and more. With a 7-day pass , we just need to make sure we do show up before the scheduled time for the train departure because likely it will leave right on time.
We find that trains are more comfortable than airplanes. It’s okay to get up and walk around. Let your kids stretch their legs. The bathrooms tend to be more spacious than airplane bathrooms.
Another nice bonus is there are seats on the trains where one row can spin around so you can have two rows of seats facing each other if you’re in a larger group. However, that wasn’t allowed recently due to covid.
Here are more reasons why the rail pass is worth it.
- It’s an easy way to help you see places in Japan that you might not otherwise visit.
- Taking the train is much better for the environment than flying. Compared to an airplane on the same route the train will use 88 percent less energy and produce 92 percent less carbon emissions per seat.*
- With the pass, you can save money versus booking each of the trains individually actually and it may also save you money compared to taking an airplane flight.
- The Japan Railways network is extensive throughout Japan.
Cost Comparison: Is the Japan Rail Pass Worth the Price?
JR Rail Pass vs. individual train tickets vs. flying
Let’s see how much it would cost using the calculator on jrpass.com for one adult using the Ordinary Class.
If we purchase these tickets separately versus the price of the JR Pass. We’ll use our example of starting from Sapporo and stopping in Tokyo then continuing to Kyoto as our final destination.
If we purchased our train tickets separately it would cost 41,530 JPY. By purchasing the Ordinary 7-Day Pass, our savings is 11,880 Japanese Yen!
I also did a search for a flight on ANA that would include luggage and the cost was 48,100 JPY ( about $353 USD ).
You will also you’ll notice that this is flying from New Chitose Airport which is 45 minutes south of Sapporo going to Haneda in Tokyo
Then continuing on from Haneda to Kansai Airport which is on a man-made island and more than an hour train ride to Kyoto! So you need to take into consideration the extra fees and travel time required to get to your destination.
Also $353 USD is a lot more than the cost of a 7-day Rail Pass which is currently about $220 USD ( 29,650 JPY )
What’s Included in the Shinkansen Bullet Trains?
- There is a luggage storage rack at the back of most train cars.
- You can store small to medium size bags in the overhead right above your seat
- Unlike airlines, you can also store luggage right in front of you.
- There are clean bathrooms between many of the cars
- There are areas to get up and stretch your legs and walk around a bit
- Vending machines: usually drinks and occasionally snacks and nearby are usually trash bins to get rid of the bottles from your drinks
- On one of the trains we took there was a snack car that came by a few times
- Free Wi-Fi also power outlets for charging your electronics
- And of course, it is a very smooth ride
Where to buy food for your train ride
I would not count on there being food available on the train itself many of the trains we took did not have a food car on board. However, at most train stations, there are plenty of options for purchasing food to bring with you onto the train. There are often a variety of bento boxes and snacks available at little markets, Lawsons, Familymart and many others where you can get drinks as well.
It is okay to eat on the long-distance trains and most people do bring food on board with them. We always like to bring lots of snacks. Especially since we’re traveling with kids that helps make the journey much smoother. For instance, we purchased a New Year grab-bag snack
bag ( fukubukuro ) we got a bunch of yummy snacks. Some rice crackers, some fancy truffle potato chips and many other snacks we had never tried before! It was another way to keep our children oocupied!
We normally bring our food on board the train. One time we did get to the train station plenty early so we purchased food at a deli and just sat in the station to eat and then whatever we didn’t finish we brought on board with us.
Recent changes to the JR Pass
You can temporarily buy the JR Pass while you’re in Japan!
Previously, you could only buy the JR Pass outside of Japan! But now, at least until the end of March 2024, you can purchase the Japan Rail Pass while in Japan. I hope they will make this a permanent thing because it’s a great system to have. Just in case you decide later on to purchase the Rail Pass on your journey, as we did on our most recent trip .
Second, the Japan Railways Group no longer issues the booklets
In the past, JR Pass holders would get a booklet with a stamp on it that said Japan Rail Pass and you would show it to an attendant. This meant you would go to the side entrance. You wouldn’t go through the normal automatic gate. You would go to the side window, show your pass and the attendant would let you through.
Now you get an actual pass that is the same size as a shinkansen ticket. So when you get shinkansen tickets you’ll actually have two you’ll have your shinkansen ticket and your old pass in most cases you’re going to need to stick both of these into the ticket machine and make sure you retrieve it at the other end. If you don’t you will have lost your pass and it is irreplaceable!
Third, new luggage rules for the shinkansen
This depends on the weight and the size first of all the maximum weight of a piece of luggage you can carry on is 30 kg the maximum dimensions is 160 centimeters length width and depth. Any pieces of luggage that are larger than 160 centimeters but less than 250 which is
total length width and depth must be reserved in advance. If you do not make the reservation you will be charged a fine of 1000 yen.
Any pieces that are larger than 250 centimeters in length, width, and depth are not allowed on the shinkansen at all.
When you make the reservation for your luggage you will usually get the seats that are the last seats in the car and you would put your luggage behind your seat. Otherwise, every pass holder is allowed two pieces of luggage and you can put these in the overhead compartment or in the luggage storage located in the back of each car. And if you want you can also put your luggage right in front of you if there’s room!
There are also hooks on the back of each seat so you can hang a purse or a small backpack.
What if I have too much luggage?
What if you have too much luggage or you just don’t want to deal with the hassle of transporting your luggage?
If you look around you’ll probably notice that a lot of Japanese don’t travel with much luggage. You might be wondering are they just traveling really light? Well, the chances are they are having their luggage shipped. Once we discovered this it was a game-changer for our traveling family! In particular, there’s a company called Kuroneko ( black cat ) aka Yamato Transport. There’s another service called Sagawa and a few others but the major players are Kuroneko and Sagawa. Our favorite is Kuroneko because they just seem to be everywhere. You’re going to see them driving down the street, you’re going to see guys/girls pushing carts around town and riding bikes down narrow streets.
Their service allows you to economically ship your luggage anywhere in the country and quite quickly. For us being a family of five and long-term travelers, digital nomads, we actually take everything that we own with us! So we need to have most everything shipped instead of taking all our belongings on the shinkansen.
We only take small pieces of carry-on luggage on the trains when using our jr pass and anything of large size or weight we have it shipped.
What we do is we either go directly to one of Kuroneko’s offices or have them come to our location where we’re staying to pick up the pieces of luggage. The price depends on the size and weight of each piece of luggage and just like with the train there are limits to the size and dimensions of each package so please contact them if you need assistance.
How to use Kuroneko service to ship your luggage
Let me give you an example of how we used Kuroneko service. When we were in Sapporo we shipped our luggage two days in advance to Kyoto. Even though we weren’t going to be in Kyoto for seven days we still had it shipped to Kyoto directly. We didn’t want to have to deal with our luggage in Tokyo because we were going to be staying in a small hotel and we didn’t really need all that extra stuff. The beauty of sending your luggage this way is you can actually choose the delivery date of the items. This may depend on the locations where you are shipping. Some of the Kuroneko offices may tell you they cannot guarantee delivery on a certain date. So make sure your accommodation will be okay with receiving your luggage without you there.
In most cases and at least for us, we always had our luggage delivered on our selected delivery date. So make sure you ask if you can have your luggage delivered on a selected date. When we arrived in Kyoto seven days later our luggage arrived around the same time.
Overall, Kuro Neko, Yamato Transport is a fantastic way to send your luggage to your destination. Especially if you need to take the trains or any form of transportation.
Which shinkansen train line do I take?
For me personally, this caused a lot of confusion and it took me a while to figure out which line goes where. Because unless you know the geography of the train names and lines it will be very confusing which train line to take across Japan. Let me break down some of the major ones for you:
If you are heading north to Hokkaido or Aomori from Tokyo you are going to be taking the Tohoku Shinkansen.
If you are going from Tokyo down south to Kyoto or Osaka you will be taking the Tokaido Shinkansen.
If you are traveling south from Osaka as far south as Kyushu Island you will be taking the Sanyo Shinkansen.
And for the island of Kyushu it is the Kyushu Shinkansen.
Use the interactive jrpass.com map to help you find other trains and routes.
How to find train schedules
Let me show you a website called hyperdia.com which is a great way to find out routes and timetables.
Let’s go ahead and enter Shin Hakodate-Hokuto as our starting point and Tokyo as our destination.
I’ll just use an arbitrary date and we’ll just leave all these checked just for fun let’s click search and as you can see it gives us many different options on the route different available trains different times and different lengths of time to get to your destination.
The results in the image below are just a tiny part of all the options available. Please check it out!
Interactive Rail map for route planning
Here is a really cool interactive map on jrpass.com/fare-calculator you can use this to get a sense of all the shinkansen lines because they’re in blue and the green ones are other lines where you can use your pass so it’s really helpful to give you an idea and to picture where you can go and if a shinkansen can get you there faster.
If you’re planning to visit Osaka Japan please also watch our video with tips and hacks for visiting Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan.
We also have a previous video from a trip years ago showing all the places we visited while using our seven-day pass. We’re a world-schooling family traveling the world full-time so please subscribe for more tips on traveling long-term, especially for families with kids.