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  • Writer's pictureTania Wee

How to take advantage of the new & improved Japan Rail Pass for Tokyo 2020

The Tokyo Summer Olympics is less than seven months away and with it, a high volume of visitors to the capital of beautiful Japan. Of course, Japan with their reliable efficiency has sought to improve its transportation means to welcome visitors with the introduction of the improved Japan Rail Pass.

What is the Japan Rail Pass?

As known as the JR Pass, the Japan Rail Pass lets guests to Japan to travel on Japan's superior train system at a discount. This includes unlimited travel on Japan's bullet train network, other train, bus and ferry routes. However, many will agree that it can a hassle to buy and collect the pass.

But, good news for international visitors as the Japan Rail Pass system will undergo some improvements to make the process more convenient for foreign visitors. Read on to learn more about the coming changes and how they can improve your next trip to Japan!

How Does the Japan Rail Pass Work?

Until the new JR Pass is introduced, international guests will need to buy an exchange order for an authoritised seller in the home country before arriving in Japan. This exchange order is only valid for 90 days during which it must be redeemed at a JR ticket office in Japan for the actual rail pass.

Travellers can pick from 7, 14 or 21 days validity periods which begins from the day it's activated in Japan. During this time, pass holders can enjoy unlimited travel on bullet trains, JR trains and participating lines. Everyone knows that the famous Shinkansen train are the must efficient and effective way of moving around Japan but it can be pricey. This is why the JR Rail Pass has proven to be one of the more cost effective passes to pass especially if you're planning to travel around Japan.

What’s Changing with the Japan Rail Pass In 2020?

The upgrades to the Japan Rail Pass system will start in the spring of 2020, just in time for the influx of visitors expected for the Tokyo Olympics. These changes are designed to make the process simpler for visitors through the use of a multilingual website that supports English, Chinese (traditional and simplified), and Korean, as well as some upgrades to the pass system itself.

The new website is scheduled to open around April, so we're expecting more information about the buying process to be released by Japan Rail in the coming months.

No More Exchange Orders

The exchange order system that has been in place up until now added a sometimes inconvenient step for people who wanted to buy a pass. From spring 2020, Japan Rail Pass users will be able to buy their pass directly on the new website without needing to visit a travel agent or have an exchange order posted to their home address. After buying online, they can then pick the pass up at a JR ticket office once arriving in Japan.

Simplified Reserved Seat Bookings

On Japanese bullet trains, there are two types of seating options: non-reserved or reserved. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can simply jump on non-reserved carriages without needing to book a seat. This is not a problem most of the time - in fact, the ability to catch any train gives you a lot of flexibility. However, if you're traveling during a busy period, knowing that you have your seats secured can also be worth the surcharge.

Under the current system, Japan Rail Pass customers need to go to a JR ticket window to book a reserved seat on bullet trains. From the spring of 2020, Japan Rail Pass customers will be able to book these reserved seats online or get one from a ticket machine at bullet train stations. Some travelers to Japan don't realize that if the bullet trains are full, you may have to stand for your entire ride, split your group up into different carriages, or even wait in line at the station until a spot opens up. This easier way to reserve a seat will hopefully help people make their bookings well in advance and travel with peace of mind.

Quicker Travel with Automatic Ticket Gates

Another welcome change coming this year is the fact that Japan Rail Passes will now be able to be used at regular automatic ticket gates. Currently, users need to show their pass to a staff member at the manned station gates each time they travel. Since the Japan Rail Pass can be used on local JR trains as well as bullet trains, potentially being caught in a line at the manned gate multiple times a day can quickly get old. This new improvement will allow you to zip through the gates like a local.

Even Easier Train Travel in Japan!

Unlimited travel on Japan's amazing bullet train network at a huge discount is a hard deal to pass up! Even so, the Japan Rail Pass system can present a bit of information overload when you first start learning about all the details. Japan Rail's new website and general improvements to the system will make the system just a little more frictionless for visitors, and just in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

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