When spending any time travelling in Japan, a Japan Rail Pass is a necessity. The savings that can be made are quite extraordinary if making several trips on the Shinkansen. A seven day pass just about pays for itself by doing a return trip from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka so any other trips you then make on the pass are a bonus. I once worked out that in seven days I had done ¥68,000 worth of rail travel when the pass had originally cost me ¥28,300 – quite amazing.
As you can only purchase the Rail Pass outside of Japan, when you arrive in the country you will need to swap your Exchange Order for the pass itself. The process is very easy and simple – all my photos were taken in Terminal One of Narita Airport however the process is exactly the same in Terminal Two as well as the major train stations across Japan.
Once in the arrivals hall, follow the “Railways” signs – this will take you to the main station area of the terminal where you will find both JR and Keisei ticket offices.
You will need to go to the JR East Travel Service Center to exchange your Rail Pass. Even though the office can get quite busy at certain times of the day when lots of international flights arrive, it is better to get your Rail Pass here even if you do not intend to start using it for a few days as the exchange office at Tokyo Station is tiny and the queues are usually longer and slower.
Before joining the queue you will need to fill an application form which are located on a table outside the office. You need to state your name, nationality, passport number as well as the day you would like the pass to start – it does not need to be the day you pick it up. I have always asked for my pass to start a few days later as I generally spend a few days in Tokyo before heading off further afield into Japan.
Once in line inside the office, make sure to have your exchange order along with your passport and application form ready for the staff at the desk. They will check your passport to make sure that you are eligible for a Rail Pass so everyone will need to be present at the office as you cannot pick up passes for anyone else.
If you wish to make any seat reservations (free with a Japan Rail Pass), you can do this at the same time as picking up your Rail Pass. If you are starting your Rail Pass that day and travelling straight into Tokyo, the staff will also make a reservation on the Narita Express to Tokyo Station, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku or Ikebukuro for you. If you do not start your Rail Pass immediately but are travelling into Tokyo you can either then book the Narita Express or cross the concourse to the Keisei ticket office and take the Skyliner train (which is both quicker and cheaper) into Ueno Station.