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JR (Japan Railways)

About JR

Photo of JR train "JR" is short for "Japan Railways" and we Japanese commonly use this name.
JR has a network of railroads covering the all country of Japan, and owes Shinkansen.

It was originally "Japan National Railways (JNR)".
JNR was one of public authorities in Japan, but it was privatized and divided into 6 companies by districts and a freight company in 1987.

The companies differ from region to region, but you are not a cause for concern.
You can buy a ticket for any station in Japan, and many trains run across the companies.

Network of JR

The network of JR covers the country of Japan.

The core of the network is Shinkansen after all.
Tokaido-San'yo ,Tohoku-Joetsu-Nagano and Kyushu Shinkansen were constructed parallel to each traditional line. Basically on their routes, the trains on Shinkansen are limited express and the ones on traditional line are local.
On Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen, the high-speed trains from Tohoku Shinkansen and local trains run on the same line.
Also many limited expess trains run on traditional line.
The train schedule across the country is planned with a focus on Shinkansen.

The main four islands of Japan is connected by rail.
Hokkaido and Kyushu are linked by tunnels to Honshu. Shikoku is linked by a bridge to Honshu.
To Hokkaido and Kyushu, some overnight sleeper trains run from Tokyo and Osaka.
To Shikoku, many limited express trains run from Okayama.

Below is a map of the JR network. The red lines are Shinkansen, the blue ones are the lines on which limited express runs, and the thin black ones are local lines.

map of JR (Japan Railways)

Around Tokyo and Osaka, there are a lot of commuter lines and many trains run frequently.
Especially, the loop lines in Tokyo and Osaka are very convenient. ("Yamanote Line" in Tokyo, "Osaka Loop Line" in Osaka)

JR map in the greater Tokyo (pdf)

Kinds of Ticket

To get on the JR train, you have to buy a ticket to your destination.
In addition, you need to buy some optional tickets.

Limited Express Ticket

If you get on a limited express or Shinkansen, you need this ticket.
Basically this is for reserved seat. But most limited express or Shinkansen trains have several non-reserved cars.
So if you get on a non-reserved car, you need "Non Reserved Limited Express Ticket". It is 510 yen cheaper than Limited Express Ticket.

Green Car Ticket

Most limited express and Shinkansen trains have a few Green Cars.
"Green Car" is like first-class car, and has spacious seats.
If you get on a green car, you need "Green Car Ticket". If it is a limited express train, you need Limited Express Ticket, too.

Berth Ticket

Several sleeper trains starts from Tokyo and Osaka every day.
Most of such trains are limited express.
So if you get on a sleeper car, you need "Berth Ticket" and "Limited Express Tichet".
Two types of sleeper are A-type (high-grade type) and B-type (ordinary type), so of course a berth ticket of A-type is more expensive than one of B-type.

How to buy JR tickets

Ticket machines You can buy JR tickets at any JR station or travel company.
At JR station, you can buy a short-distance ticket at the ticket machine.
And you can buy the long-distance ticket, limited express ticket and so on at the ticket office "Midori no Madoguchi" (means office counter with green sign).

Most urban stations have the ticket office, but many country stations don't have one.
In such case, you can also buy the tickets from the conductor in the train.
Recently the ticket machine into which the user can put own resarvation data and get the reserved-seat tickets is increasing at the urban stations.

Automatic ticket gates You are checked your tickets at ticket wicket before you enter the platform. The station staff punches or stamps on your ticket.

At many urban stations, automatic ticket gates are install.
If you insert your ticket, the gate opens. Go through the wicket, but never leave the tickets on the machine.
When you arrive at your destination, you insert your ticket into the gate.
The gate opens, but the ticket is taken up.

Convenient tickets for Japan travel

Japan Rail Pass

This is an economical ticket that you can use all trains, buses and ferries of JR.
However, it is not available to get on only "Nozomi" of Tokaido-San'yo Shinkansen. (If you want to get on Nozomi, buy the tickets for it.)

There are two types.
They are for Green Seat and for Ordinary Seat.

And there are three type of duration.
They are 7-days, 14-days and 21-days.

You can't buy this ticket in Japan.
You have to buy in advance at major travel agency or Japanese airline's office (JAL or ANA) in your country.
When you buy the ticket, you can get a "Exchange Order" ticket. So you exchange it for Japan Rail Pass when you visit Japan.
When you exchange in Japan, you must show your passport.
The exchage offices are in the main cities in Japan.

Japan Rail Pass

JR East Pass

This is an economical ticket that you can use the trains in JR East company.
The area of JR East contains Tohoku district, Kanto district, Tokyo metropolitan district, Nagano and Izu Peninsula.
This is available for Tohoku-Yamagata-Akita and Joetsu-Nagano Shinkansen, but not Tokaido-San'yo Shinkansen.
You can buy like "Japan Rail Pass". And if you show your passport and return air ticket, you can get it in Japan.
There are three types (5-day, 10-day, Flexible 4-day).

JR East Pass and some other passes

Hokkaido Rail Pass

This is an economical ticket that you can use the trains in JR Hokkaido company for 3 or 5 days. The available area is the most lines in Hokkaido island.
There are two types: for Green Seat and for Ordinary Seat.
How to buy this is same to Japan Rail Pass.

Hokkaido Rail Pass

JR West Rail Pass

This is an economical ticket that you can use the trains in JR West company.
There are two types: Kansai Area and San'yo Area.
The former is the area around Osaka city and you select the duration 1-4 days.
The latter is available to San'yo Shinkansen and San'yo Line in addition to Kansai area. You select the duration 4 or 8 days.

JR West Rail Pass and some other passes

Kyushu Rail Pass

This is an economical ticket that you can use the trains in JR Kyushu company for 3 or 5 days. The available area is the most lines in Kyushu island.
There is only one type for Ordinary Seat.
How to buy this is same to Japan Rail Pass.

Kyushu Rail Pass

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