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Get the most of Central Japan with the JR Central Pass | Your Guide

Japan Rail PassJR Central Pass

What is the JR Central Pass?

The JR Central Pass is a regional rail pass specifically designed for exploring Central Japan, a treasure trove of cultural gems and natural wonders. This pass acts as your travel key, offering unlimited rides on JR Central trains, including bullet trains (Shinkansen), for a set period, allowing you to discover the region's diverse offerings efficiently and cost-effectively.

This convenient pass unlocks a world of travel possibilities within the Japan Rail Central network. With the JR Central Pass, you get unlimited access to bullet trains (Shinkansen) like the Hokuriku Shinkansen, connecting you to major cities like Kanazawa and Toyama. Explore historic towns, serene nature escapes, and modern wonders – all at your own pace and budget. 

Ready to unlock the magic of Central Japan? Read on to discover the different JR Central Pass options and plan your unforgettable Japanese adventure!

Navigate your JR Central Pass guide

  1. Why get the JR Central Pass?
  2. Areas covered with the JR Central Pass
  3. What rail lines are covered with my Japan Rail Central Pass? Is the Shinkansen included?
  4. How to buy & activate a JR Central Pass
  5. Important info about booking your JR Central Pass
  6. Top sights & things to do in Central Japan
  7. How to buy & activate a JR Shikoku Pass
  8. Top sights & things to do in Shikoku
  9. Visit Central Japan with your JR Central Pass: Your itinerary
  10. Frequently asked questions about the Japan Rail Central Pass

Why get the JR Central Pass?

A local Japan Rail train - JR Central Pass
  • Value for cost: Unlike purchasing individual tickets for each journey, the JR Central Pass offers a set price for unlimited rides within the designated area and timeframe. This allows you to budget effectively and maximize your travel experience without worrying about additional transportation costs.
  • Accessibility & comfort: Forget navigating complex ticketing systems and multiple modes of transportation. The JR Central Pass simplifies your journey, allowing you to hop on and off JR Central trains (including bullet trains) with ease.
  • Flexibility & freedom: The JR Central Pass provides the freedom to explore at your own pace. Whether you prefer a jam-packed itinerary or a more leisurely pace, the pass allows you to travel as much as you want within the validity period. With unlimited rides, you can easily deviate from your planned route and discover hidden gems along the way. 
  • Extensive network & regional inclusions: The JR Central Pass grants access to JR Central trains, including bullet trains (Shinkansen), connecting you to major cities throughout Central Japan. Depending on the chosen JR Central Pass, you may also gain access to buses, ferries, and even private railways.

Your JR Central Pass options

A couple on a train station in Japan - JR Central Pass

Takayama-Hokuriku Area Pass

Traverse the enchanting Japanese Alps. Enjoy unlimited rides on JR Central trains and buses for a convenient 5 days, making the most of your Central Japan adventure. The areas covered in this pass are Gero Onsen, Takayama, Shirakawa-gō, Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Osaka. You can avail of the Hokuriku Shinkansen between Toyama and Kanazawa with this pass.

Asian woman looking out the window - JR Central Pass

Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Pass

This 5-day pass grants access to various JR Central trains and the intricate transportation network of the Alpine Route. Travel seamlessly from Gero Onsen, Takayama, Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Kiso Valley, and Matsumoto with this JR Central Pass. The best time to visit the place is during April and May as it is the time of the year when you can witness the famous snow wall.

A visitor on a Japan Rail train - JR Central Pass

Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Pass

Set on a spiritual journey to Ise Grand Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, delve into the mystical Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails, and discover the beauty of Wakayama with unlimited travel for 5 days on JR Central trains and designated buses. Ise, the Kii Peninsula, Nara, and Osaka are the regions covered by this pass.

2 women looking at a map while inside a train

Mt. Fuji-Shizuoka Area Pass (Mini)

From Mt. Fuji to hot springs like Shizuoka, and coastal towns, this 3-day pass unlocks it all. Ride local JR Central trains, buses, ferries, and even private railways. This pass covers areas like Atami, Numazu, Gotemba Premium Outlets, and Fuji Five Lakes. In addition, a ferry between Izu and Shimizu is covered by this JR Central Pass.

What rail lines are covered with your Japan Rail Central Pass? Is the Shinkansen included?

The JR Central Pass grants access to a wider JR Central network, including local and express trains that connect charming towns and scenic destinations. This means you can hop on JR Central trains for a more relaxed journey and delve deeper into the region's off-the-beaten-path treasures, along with the convenient bullet train connections. 

This pass also includes unlimited access to the JR Central Shinkansen, specifically the Hokuriku Shinkansen. The Hokuriku Shinkansen connects major cities like Tokyo, Nagoya, Kanazawa, and Toyama, making it a convenient and time-saving option for long-distance travel within Central Japan. However, it's important to note that reserving seats on specific Shinkansen departures, especially during peak seasons, might be necessary. While the JR Central Pass itself covers the fare, reservations require a separate fee. Make reservations online or at JR stations in advance to secure your preferred travel time and avoid potential overcrowding.

How to buy & activate a JR Central Pass

The JR Central Pass unlocks a world of exploration in Central Japan. Here's a breakdown of the process to ensure a seamless experience:

women booking tickets online

Choose your pass

Identify the region you want to explore in Central Japan, such as Takayama, Kanazawa, and Mt. Fuji. Purchase your chosen JR Central Pass online and well in advance. Consider booking your pass ideally more than 2 weeks before your trip.

A picture of a woman opening mail at home

Receive your Exchange Order

After a successful online booking, you'll receive an exchange order via email.

An attendant at the railway station

Exchange for your pass (Upon arrival in Japan)

Head to a JR Pass Exchange Office located in the major airports of Narita, Haneda, or train stations of Tokyo Station and Nagoya Station. Present your documents at the Exchange Office. A staff member will verify them and issue your actual JR Central Pass.

A woman using her phone

Activate your pass

Your JR Central Pass can only be activated after the exchange in Japan. Choose an activation date that aligns with your travel itinerary.

Important info about booking your JR Central Pass

  • Reservations at JR stations Locate a "Midori no Madoguchi" (green window) ticket office or a reserved seat ticket machine at JR stations. Information Required: Have your JR Central Pass, passport, and travel information ready. The staff or machine will guide you through the reservation process. You'll pay a minimal fee for the seat reservation and collect your reserved seat tickets.
  •  Online reservations: Visit the website on your voucher and navigate to the "Reserved Seat Tickets" section. You'll need your JR Central Pass details, credit card information, and travel information such as date, time, departure, and arrival stations. Upon successful reservation, collect your reserved seat tickets at a designated ticket machine at JR stations before boarding your Shinkansen.
  • Shinkansen: The JR Central Pass covers the Hokuriku Shinkansen between Toyama and Kanazawa.
  • Non-Japanese passport holders only: Passengers with non-Japanese passports can use this pass. Please remember to bring your travel documents, including ID cards and passports with current visas, when you depart.
  • One pass per passenger: There can only be one pass reserved per order, so please reserve passes separately for each visitor.
  • Reserve your seats: In order to ensure a comfortable journey, particularly during peak travel seasons, you might want to think about booking seats in advance on limited and express trains. After your pass has been activated, you can make reservations online or at JR Central Pass ticket offices.
  • Details matter: To ensure cross-referencing with your passport, kindly supply your full name, residential address, and accurate personal data. Ensure you have your passport and Temporary Visitor Stamp for a smooth exchange.
  • Activate once in Japan: Remember, your JR Central Pass can only be activated once in Japan. Choose an activation date that aligns with your travel itinerary to maximize the validity period.



Book your JR Passes

JR West Kansai Area Rail Pass
Free Cancellation
Instant Confirmation
Mobile Ticket
2 hr. - 96 hr.
More details
from
¥2,800
5 Day JR Kansai Wide Area Pass
Free Cancellation
Instant Confirmation
Mobile Ticket
2 hr.
More details
from
¥12,000
JR Pass: Kansai with Hiroshima or Hokuriku
Free Cancellation
Extended Validity
Instant Confirmation
Mobile Ticket
1 hr. - 168 hr.
More details
from
¥17,000
7 Days Kansai-Hokuriku Area Pass
Free Cancellation
Extended Validity
Instant Confirmation
Mobile Ticket
168 hr.
More details
from
¥19,000
5 Day JR Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass
Free Cancellation
Extended Validity
Instant Confirmation
Mobile Ticket
10 hr. 9 min.
More details
from
¥15,000
JR Pass: Whole Japan Access with Ordinary Seats
Extended Validity
Instant Confirmation
Mobile Ticket
10 hr. 9 min.
More details
from
¥50,000
5 Day JR Okayama-Hiroshima-Yamaguchi Area Pass
Free Cancellation
Extended Validity
Instant Confirmation
Mobile Ticket
120 hr.
More details
from
¥17,000
Visit Central Japan with your JR Central Pass: Your itinerary

Frequently asked questions about the Japan Rail Central Pass

Is the JR Central Pass really worth it?

The JR Central Pass can be very cost-effective if you plan on making multiple train journeys within the covered region of Central Japan.  Considering the convenience and speed of JR Central trains, especially the Shinkansen (bullet train), it can save you time and money compared to purchasing individual tickets for each trip.

Does the JR Central Pass cover travel to/from Tokyo?

The JR Central Pass itself doesn't cover travel to or from Tokyo. However, depending on your specific JR Central Pass and starting point, you might be able to reach Nagoya Station, a major hub within the JR Central network, using your JR Pass and then transfer to a JR East Pass (covering the Tokyo area) for onward travel.

How can I use the JR Central Pass to reach the Japanese Alps?

Takayama-Hokuriku Area Pass or Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Pass, depending on your desired destinations within the Alps. These passes cover train travel to popular destinations like Takayama, Matsumoto, and Toyama, which serve as gateways to exploring the Japanese Alps.

Is the JR Central Pass valid on the Shinkansen (bullet train)?

Yes!  A major benefit of the JR Central Pass is access to JR Central Shinkansen bullet trains. This allows for swift and comfortable travel between major cities within the Central Japan region.

What are some popular day trips from major Central Japan cities like Nagoya or Takayama?

The JR Central Pass opens up exciting day trip possibilities from major cities. Explore the charming village of Shirakawa-go or the culturally rich city of Kanazawa from Nagoya. If you're based in Takayama, consider a scenic hike in Kamikochi or a visit to the historic city of Gifu.

Are there any scenic train rides included with the JR Central Pass?

Absolutely! The JR Central Pass allows you to experience several scenic train rides, including journeys on the Shinkansen bullet trains, offering breathtaking views of the Japanese countryside. Consider the journey along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (open seasonally) for a truly unique experience through the majestic Japanese Alps, which might require additional local transportation depending on your access point.

What’s not covered by the JR Central Pass?

While the JR Central Pass is great for train travel within Central Japan, it doesn't cover everything. Local buses, trams, and other transportation beyond JR lines require separate tickets in some destinations. You'll also need to pay extra to reserve seats on Shinkansen bullet trains, entrance fees to attractions, and travel to/from Tokyo unless you use the JR Central Pass in combination with another JR Pass.

What happens if I lose my JR Central Pass?

Unfortunately, lost JR Central passes cannot be replaced. It's crucial to safeguard your pass throughout your trip.

Is the JR Central Pass easy to use?

The JR Central Pass is designed for ease of use. The passes are activated on a specific date and allow unlimited travel on designated JR Central trains within the validity period. Signage and announcements at stations are often in English, and JR staff are generally helpful.