Japan has a reputation of being expensive. I disagree with that idea for the most part. You can eat locally and visit plenty of sights without spending much money. But transportation in Japan, especially bullet train travel, will cost you an arm and a leg.
If you are a tourist however, you can buy a JR rail pass. You pay a fee to use the pass for a set time and then you can take as many trips on JR trains as you want.
In order to use the pass, you have to have a visiting tourist stamp on your passport. You can order the voucher online and exchange it for the rail pass at major Japanese train stations and Narita airport.
Rail passes last for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one days. Once I arrived in Tokyo, I traveled to Onomichi, Hiroshima, Osaka, and Takayama. I got a rail pass for seven days, which cost 29,110 yen. If I traveled to all those cities without the pass, I would have paid almost 50,000 yen for tickets.
I loved using the pass because I wanted to travel to several cities. It was nice to be able to just walk onto the trains without standing in line or trying to figure out the ticket machines. Just make sure you can actually use the pass on the train you are about to get on because not all of them count.
You don’t have to worry about getting a ticket, except if you want a reserved seat. Getting a reserved seat is easy. You just go up to the ticket counter and show them your rail pass and they give you a reserved seat at no extra cost.
You don’t need to speak any Japanese to use it. You just show the station workers the pass and they let you through the gate.
Even if you only visit two or three cities around Japan, the pass pays for itself.
It saves time when you don’t need to stand in line for tickets.
You are more dependent on a schedule. If you only have a pass for seven days, you have to stuff in as much travel as possible. If you change your mind and stay somewhere longer, you’re stuck paying full price for a ticket back to your final destination.
You can’t use the pass on the Nozomi or Mizuho bullet trains, which are the fastest.