Back in 2012 on my last major trip to Japan, I wrote a blog post called How to Exchange Your Japan Rail Pass at Narita Airport which became one of my most popular and searched for posts on this blog. So it seemed only right on my recent trip to Japan in October 2018 when we flew into Haneda Airport in Tokyo, to write another post with all the latest information.
The Japan Rail Pass is one of the best things you can buy if you are planning on travelling around Japan and using the Shinkansen as the money you can save can be huge – on this trip we each paid ¥29,110 (£214) for a seven day pass but we actually did ¥72,940 (£537) worth of train travel each in that time.
The Japan Rail Pass is available to all foreign tourists visiting Japan as a “Temporary Visitor” and is available for 7, 14 or 21 days. After purchasing the pass before your trip, you will be sent an Exchange Order which you will need to swap within three months of the issue date for your actual Japan Rail Pass once you arrive in Japan. You can do this at most major JR Railway Stations or at certain airports – there is a full list on the Japan Rail Pass website including opening and closing times.
At the International Terminal at Haneda Airport, you will need to go to the JR EAST Travel Service Center on the Arrivals level (2F). This office is open from 6:45am to 6:30pm – if you arrive at Haneda Airport outside of these hours, you will unable to exchange your pass at the airport at that time. After leaving the baggage reclaim and customs area, follow the signs for the Monorail and you will find the office located in the far left hand corner of the terminal straight ahead of you just past the Tokyo Monorail ticket machines.
Thankfully when we arrived at the office just before 9:00am, there was only two other people there so we did not have to wait to be served. At this time, you will need to hand over your exchange order and your passports will also be checked to make sure you are eligible to use the Japan Rail Pass so every person needs to be present as you cannot pick up passes for anyone else.
Unlike our last trip, there was no longer any separate application forms that we had to fill out before we reached the counter. Instead we were each handed our blank soon to be Rail Pass where we needed to fill in our names, nationality, passport number as well as the date that we wanted our passes to start from before signing. Once again as we were going to be in Tokyo for a few days before we started travelling around Japan, we asked for our passes to start five days later.
Once you have your Japan Rail Pass, make sure to keep it safe as it cannot be reissued if lost. You can also make seat reservations free of charge if needed with a Japan Rail Pass however at Haneda Airport, they can only make reservations for trains on the same day. To make other seat reservations, you can visit a ticket office at one of the JR Stations in Tokyo.
Inside the JR EAST Travel Service Center there are plenty of signs explaining how to use your Japan Rail Pass and you are invited to take as many photos of the signs and displays as you like to help you whilst you are in Japan.
If you have chosen to activate your Japan Rail Pass on the day you arrive in Japan, your pass is valid for the Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho in Tokyo. If not, then it is very easy to buy Tokyo Monorail tickets using the machines next to the office – I have written a blog post with full instructions on how to use the machines to buy tickets and information about the fares and how to transfer to the Yamanote Line at Hamamatsucho to reach the rest of Tokyo.
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