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The Japan Rail Pass or JR Pass is a concession for foreigners or Japanese living abroad to enjoy unlimited rides on trains provided by the JR group at a fixed price. This means any line with “JR” preceding, like JR Yamanote, or JR Joban. After reading about domestic flights, I’ve decided to purchase a JR Pass instead, choosing flexibility and price over speed.
While there are passes which are valid within certain areas, ie Hokkaido Rail Pass which allows you travel on routes like from Sapporo to Hakodate, and since I have to make my virgin trip to Hokkaido from Tokyo, so the one I needed was the Japan Rail Pass, which is applicable throughout Japan.
I bought a 14 day pass from the JTB office at Raffles City at 45100 yen, which is a standard rate everywhere. The amount you pay in SGD fluatuates according to the exchange rate and don’t try changing your money first and paying in yen, because JTB offers the best exchange rate (1.72 over 1.82 at money changers). Some travel agencies will charge an extra if you use your credit card, but JTB has no such bullshit. The more expensive “green cars” option is so that you can sit on the first-class carriages in the Shinkansen, which I did not need to. If my ass can withstand upteen 3-tonne tunnel rides, it can withstand an ordinary carriage seat.
After you fork out the dough, you will be issued an exchange voucher and a form that you can indicate the start date of your pass. The form is available at the exchange office if you misplaced it. When you land in either airport, you can choose to immediately exchange your pass, or if you are not sure when you want to begin, you can always visit one of the many JR Pass exchange offices around. Presenting your voucher together with your passport, you will get a card that you can flash at station masters (there’s usually one by the side of the row of turnstiles).
With the JR Pass, you can choose to reserve seats on the Shinkansen, but this is usually not neccessary except for peak periods. Here’s a video outlining the entire project, have fun spamming your Japan Rail Pass!