Visitors can buy the tickets for short distance journeys at the vending machines, while tickets for the long distance trips can be purchased at the ticket counters. However, many Japanese prefer to pay with rechargeable IC cards that can be used to make payments on subway, private railways, buses, stores, cafes and vending machines. Passengers can purchase them at the ticket machines and counters with a refundable deposit of 500 yen and initial credit balance. IC cards are valid only within the coverage area and do not work for shinkansen trains and highway buses as well.
IC cards are produced by 10 different brands, but since 2013 they can be used all throughout Japan interchangeably. The most famous cards are Suica, formerly used in Tokyo, Sendai and Niigata regions, Pasmo, Toica and Icoca. All of them are compatible that means passengers can travel to primary Japanese cities with a single rechargeable card.
Prices for the train tickets are based on the type of train, distance, seat reservation and season with higher fares during peak seasons (Golden Week, August, New Year and Spring Break). If you have children aged 6-11, you should buy half-price ticket while younger kids travel at no cost.
Generally, station names are written in Japanese and English. Those who cannot find destination and the corresponding fare, have option to buy a ticket for the minimum price and pay the difference later at a fare adjustment machine upon arrival.
In order to travel in a comfortable way you can book seats for shinkansen, limited express and express trains. The price for reserved seats is slightly higher than for unreserved. Depending on your itinerary, you can book seats one month in advance and avoid the headache before the journey.
What is Japan Railway Pass?
Foreign guests are offered to purchase special type of pass for travelling around Japan called Japan Rail Pass. Without a doubt, it can save the money while riding on the majority of JR train lines (except Nozomi Super Express), JR buses and the JR ferry to Miyajima. This pass is available for travelers visiting Japan with tourist (temporary visitor) visas and can be used for a limited time period from one to three weeks.
There are two types of JR Passes: ordinary and green car (first class). Most ordinary carriages have five seats while green compartments come with four. The latter one are considered a bit comfortable and spacious than ordinary and therefore their price is slightly higher.
JR Pass should be purchased outside of Japan at the authorized agent offices. After the arrival to Japan the voucher must be presented and exchanged to the pass at the any JR Midori no Madoguchi ticket office located at the primary JR stations like Kyoto Station, Shin-Osaka Station, Narita Airport Station and others.
Image 11: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hanayakakajin/4807726961/in/photolist-8jQRJa-quvkVt-gGVzrh-gGScJB-gGT8vT-gGStG9-gGS4Qu-gGSjWm-gGSnqQ-gGSz8D-gGWpxj-gGSnWF-gGSnw1-gGStrZ-gGSoK3-gGW3F7-gGSn7L-e2tzRi-gGS51u-gGSdBP-gGVPQQ-gGSjyZ-gGSxaF-gGSjAo-gGWijX-gGWvGR-gGWWZp-gGSgZk-gGTt1z-gGSq3y-gGTtJZ-gGSBr7-gGS4Gd-gGSyar-gGWdi5-gGSCDC-gGSckE-gGSqzg-gGSJUo-gGTeK6-gGSDfX-gGSdRA-gGSkDf-gGSHwU-gGTa66-gGVW8Q-gGVVMQ-gGSdm7-gGSqm9-gGSkHS