JR TOKYO Wide Pass Review – 5 Things You Need to Know

Sunday, February 25, 2018

I never thought of the importance of the JR passes until I needed one. In my recent travel to Japan, the highlight of our vacation was the one-day trip to Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort from Tokyo. I’ve researched instructions on how to get to the snow resort, Shinkansen fares, and asked on TripAdvisor for transportation recommendation, until the members suggest I take the JR TOKYO Wide Pass.

train pass website screenshot
JR TOKYO Wide Pass. Image from www.jreast.co.jp
JR-EAST (East Japan Railway Company) is Japan’s biggest passenger railway company and they offer various discount passes for tourists coming to Japan. They have the JR EAST Pass for Nagano, Niigata area (¥18,000 for adults, valid for 5 days) and another one for Tohoku area (¥20,000 for adults, valid for 5 days). Both passes are very convenient and cost-effective to use when traveling outside of Tokyo. Since we only have 4 full days to spare (and only decided to go out of Tokyo for the snow resort), we opted to purchase the TOKYO Wide Pass, which is only valid for 3 days.

Of course when you’re buying any of these passes, you should take time to research and decide (1) if you will travel outside of Tokyo, (2) if you’re going to use the JR lines and Shinkansen for the duration of your trip, and (3) if you really are saving money by purchasing these passes.

Based on my experience, I’ll give you 5 pointers and benefits of getting a TOKYO Wide Pass.

1. You can purchase the pass outside of or upon your arrival in Japan.

Purchasing the pass is so easy. You can either purchase it online yourself or from a travel agent overseas. When you get your e-ticket by email, print this out and have it exchanged for an actual pass in Japan. Since the TOKYO Wide Pass has the same rate of ¥10,000 (about Php 5,000) whether you buy it online or within Japan, we decided to purchase it at the airport instead.

2. You can easily buy the pass at the JR EAST Travel Service Center.

Whether you arrive in Haneda Airport or Narita Airport Terminals 1, 2, and 3, you can purchase the pass at the JR East Travel Service Center. At Narita T2 and T3, the service center is open from 8:15 AM to 8:00 PM. If you have an airport transfer that needs to take you to your hotel right away, or if you are arriving outside of their office schedule, or if you are unsure of getting a pass upon your arrival, you can find their travel service centers at these JR East stations:

•  Tokyo: 7:30 AM – 8:30 PM, everyday of the year
•  Shinjuku: 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM, everyday of the year
•  Shibuya: 10:00 AM – 6:30 PM, everyday of the year
•  Ikebukuro: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM, everyday of the year
• Shinagawa: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM (weekdays), 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (weekends and holidays), everyday of the year
•  Ueno: 8:30 AM – 7:00 PM (weekdays), 8:30 AM – 6:00 PM (weekends and holidays), everyday of the year
• Yokohama: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM (weekdays), 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM (weekends and holidays), everyday of the year
•  Mito: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM (weekdays), 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM (weekends and holidays), everyday of the year

tourist center, ticketing office, jr east
JR EAST Travel Service Center at Narita Airport Terminal 2-3, basement 1.
In our case, since we’ve already planned out our trip and we didn’t have any airport transfers to whisk us immediately to our hotel, we bought our passes at Narita Airport. We were at the travel center by 12:40PM on a Thursday and there weren’t any queue.

3. JR EAST travel center has excellent service.

It’s easy to purchase and ask questions at the JR EAST Service Travel Center because they cater to several languages. We were asked if we speak English and then assigned us to a counter. The staff were very polite. They will provide you with all the information you need. If you are unsure which pass to get, a staff will recommend you the best type of pass based on your itinerary.

man smiling looking at camera, ticket counter
My husband waiting for our JR TOKYO Wide Passes while the staff checks and prepares our tickets
train time table
Narita Express Timetable. The lady at the counter provided us the latest available time of departure. We picked the train that leaves at 1:17 PM.
train ticket instructions
Laminated information at the counter in English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. While the staff prepares our passes and tickets for N'EX and Joetsu Shinkansen, I busied myself reading information on these cards. Take note on the upper part that passes and tickets should be presented at the manned booth.
Only my husband and I went to the counter while our companions waited outside the travel center. It took us only about 15 minutes to pay and have all our passes and tickets, considering that we presented 6 passports and we received a total of 18 reserved tickets, which the staff at the counter encoded. We were also provided with instructions on how to find our assigned car and seats. In addition, information cards were already available at the counter (written in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English) which you can look at while the staff works on the passes.

4. You can get free seat reservations at the travel center.

Three of my biggest concerns for the JR TOKYO Wide Pass were: (1) “How do I get reserved seats?”, (2) “Do I need to get my seats reserved a day or two before my intended travel?”, and (3) “Do I still pay extra for these reserved seats?”.

First, seats can be reserved at any JR EAST Service Travel Center. Even if you purchase your pass at the airport, you can have your seats reserved at other JR East centers in Tokyo. It makes scheduling with other companions easy, especially if you're arriving in Japan at different times.

Second, if you want to get sure seats, you must reserve your seats beforehand. Although there are non-reserved cars on the Shinkansen or the bullet train, having reserved seats gives you peace of mind and will allow you to seat beside your companions. Seat reservation is on a first come, first serve basis. You still have the freedom to take the non-reserved seats on certain cars, but these are also first come, first serve. You might find yourself having to stand up the entire journey, especially if it’s during peak season.

Third, seat reservation is completely free.

train ticket pass
Here's the back portion of the JR TOKYO Wide Pass folder, which contains the pass itself. The pass is covered in plastic laminate so that it's placed on the folder at all times and should not be removed. On the lower left portion of the folder is a circular stamp that shows the date when I began using my pass (I chose February 8 / 2-8). The rectangular stamps beside it are indicators that I have tickets and seat reservation on the Narita Express (February 8 / 2-8) and on the Joetsu Shinkansen (February 9 / 2-9).
5. The pass is valid for 3 consecutive days of unlimited rides on a number of JR lines.

The great thing about having the TOKYO Wide Pass is that you can save money on transportation while giving you the opportunity to ride the JR trains (whether regular ones or bullet trains) for as many times as you want. You just have to use the pass for 3 consecutive days.

How does the pass work?

•  You choose which day you want to start using your pass. It doesn’t have to be the day of your arrival or day of purchase.

•  The actual pass is placed on the back of the JR Pass booklet or folder, which needs to be presented at JR EAST stations at all times (together with your separate Shinkansen ticket if you are boarding at the bullet train platform).

•  It’s very convenient to present the pass at the attendant window (manned counter). No need to go through the automated ticket machines which easily pulls in your ticket if you’re not fast enough to take it out as you pass through the ticket machine (Trust me, this happened to me TWICE on separate occasions at Tokyo station).

•  The pass is valid on ordinary cars (whether reserved or non-reserved seats) on the Shinkansen, local trains on the JR East lines (trains that run in Tokyo city), Fujikyu Railway (for Mt. Fuji), Rinkai Line (for Odaiba), for Tokyo Monorail, and even for Narita Express (N’EX from Narita Airport to Tokyo).

•  The pass is linked with special offers upon arrival at Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort. That includes discount on packages, as well as 10% off on ski rental (skis, ski boots, rental wear, accessories) and 10% off on ski lessons.

written terms and conditions of using the rail pass
Detailed information on travel terms and conditions of the JR TOKYO Wide Pass
train map coverage
Areas covered by JR TOKYO Wide Pass

Are we able to save money by getting the JR TOKYO Wide Pass? Yes. In my computation, we saved about Php 4,200 per person. Were we able to maximize the use of this pass? No. That’s because our time in Tokyo was so short and we had to change some details in our itinerary. Will I still buy the TOKYO Wide Pass in the future? Yes. I want to go back at the snow resort for snowboarding and would like to visit Lake Kawaguchiko on my next trip!

Price: ¥10,000 (adults) and ¥5,000 (children)
Overall Rating: 5/5

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The contents of this entry are purely my opinion and 100% honest based on my travel experience.

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