How to use Public Transportation: JR pass, JR rail, Metro

JR Pass:

When you activate your JR pass at a JR office at a station, you can now use any JR system of transport for free!

  • Normal JR trains: at each station you just need to go through the manned kiosk at the entrance. Show the agent your JR pass and go through (you may do this as many times as you want until your pass expires)
  • Shinkansen (bullet train): to reserve a spot on a shinkansen with your JR pass, walk into any JR service office and tell them you want to reserve a seat from XXX to XXX station. You will need to show them your JR pass. You will be handed tickets for the train. DO NOT LOSE THEM!
    • Pay attention to which train you need to get on for example (Hikari train)
    • There will be a display board throughout the station that shows you which train is at which platform and at what time.
    • Your ticket will show which platform you need to be at as well.
    • DO NOT TAKE NOZUMI trains. These trains are specifically for locals who need to get from one place to another quickly. If you get on these trains, you will be charged a ticket.
    • If you are at your platform early, multiple trains will dock at your platform before yours. Do not get on unless you know it is your train. Trains in Japan are usually ‘on the dot’ with timing and leaves on time
    • There is an oversize luggage storage space on the trains if needed otherwise, there is usually enough room to have smaller luggage with you as you sit
    • Yes, your ticket will be checked by an agent on the shinkansen to make sure you are on the right train and in the right seat!
    • Also pay attention to stops and don’t miss it. Since these trains leave on time, you need to get out promptly.

JR Rail and Metro lines without JR pass

Paying as you go option:

  • At each station there is a kiosk for you to use to pay for your transport
    • There is an English option at each kiosk (I don’t think there is one without it nowadays in the bigger cities)
    • Pick your next destination and put in your cash/coins to pay
    • A ticket will be dispensed (don’t lose it!)
    • Go to the gates and put your ticket into the slot on the right
    • Your ticket will come out on the other side. GRAB IT!- you need it to get out
    • Get to your train and queue in with everyone (if you miss it, you can always for the next one, they come often)
    • Get off the train at your stop (if you get off at the wrong stop- wait for the return train and get off at the correct stop)
    • Pick an exit and use your ticket again by placing it in the slot (you CANNOT use your ticket to get off at another stop other than the one you picked)

Paying with a card (Suica or Pasmo):

  • At each station there is a kiosk for you to use to pay for your transport
    • There is an English option at each kiosk
    • There will be an option to get a suica or pasmo card
    • Pick either option (I always pick suica)
    • Then deposit how much money you picked to be on the card
    • Fill out any other information you may want to put on the card like name, etc.
    • Then a card will dispense when you are done
    • Use this card for either metro or JR line. (You can also use this card for vending machines, certain buses, and more)
    • Go to a gate and tap on the reader on the right of the gate
    • Follow procedures to riding the train and getting off as explained above
    • When exiting a station- tap the reader again and your card will automatically be charged the distance traveled (same amount if you paid for a ticket)
    • BIGGEST MISTAKE!!!!!! YOU CANNOT GET IN AND OUT OF THE SAME STATION USING A CARD. You will be flagged and someone has to come and help you reset your card. So be sure you want to get into that station especially if you are transferring between metro and JR.
    • If you need to refill your card, there are kiosks inside and outside the gate.
    • Using the English option, follow instructions and place your card in the kiosk slot, then refill how much money you want on there

Pros and Cons of either paying method

Suica or Pasmo:

Pros- you don’t have to worry about using the kiosk every time you want to go somewhere, just tap and go. Also the cards could also be used like a debit card in other stores, machines, etc.

Cons- you may put too much on your card by the time you leave. That money cannot be exchanged into cash for you to get back (or at least not that I know of)

Pay as you go:

Pros- You reduce the chance of having left over yen in a card

Cons- Takes way more time especially if you are moving around a lot. Also you can possibly lose your ticket.

In the next blog, I will break down how to read transportation maps!

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