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What is included in the Japan Rail Pass?
1. The Japan Rail Pass covers all JR Group limited express trains, express trains, rapid and local ones. Shinkansen bullet trains are also covered, except of NOZOMI and MIZUHO.
Furthermore, the JR Pass can be used on the Tokyo Monorail, the Yamanote line (Tokyo Metro), the Aoimori Railway between Aomori and Hachinohe*, the Ainokaze Toyama Railway between Toyama and Takaoka*, Narita Express from Narita Airport to Tokyo and the IR Ishikawa Railway line between Kanazawa and Tsubata*.
Aomori Railway line: your JR Pass is only valid for travel on local or rapid service trains encompassing the segments between Hachinohe and Aomori, Aomori and Noheji, and Hachinohe and Noheji. On the Aoimori Railway line, travel is not covered if you get off at any station other than Aomori, Noheji, and Hachinohe.
Ainokaze Toyama line: to be able to use your JR Pass, travel must be conducted on local trains and must encompass the full segment between the stations of Toyama and Takaoka. The trip is not covered if you disembark at any station on the Ainokaze Toyama line within or outside the segment (excluding Toyama and Takaoka.)
IR Ishikawa line: the trip must be conducted on local or limited express trains and should encompass the full segment between the stations of Kanazawa and Tsubata. Excluding Kanazawa and Tsubata, travel is not covered if you disembark at any station on the IR Ishikawa Railway line within or outside the segment.
Japan Rail Pass is not valid on express bus routes, regardless if they are operated by JR Bus.
The JR-Kyushu ferry between Hakata and Pusan is not included.
Does the JR Pass cover Nozomi and Mizuho trains?
The JR Pass is valid on all Shinkansen services in all the Shinkansen lines, except for the Nozomi and Mizuho services on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines. You will not have access to the trains with the fewest stops on the Tokaido and Sanyo lines. However, you do have access to the Hikari or Sakura services that cover the same routes. The Hikari and Sakura bullet trains reach the same top speed as the Nozomi and Mizuho trains but have more stops along each route. For example, from Tokyo to Kyoto, the Hikari takes 15mins more than the equivalent Nozomi.
Can I ride all trains, buses and ferries?
The JR Pass does not allow you to ride on subways or trams within cities. However, most big cities have a few JR lines that you can use to go around, like the Osaka Loop or Kanjo line and the Tokyo Yamanote line, for example. It also covers the Tokyo Monorail, some local JR bus lines, and the JR-West Miyajima ferry service.
JR Pass also covers night trains. However, it is not valid for the sleeper wagon, private wagons in night trains, and special compartments for which you will have to pay an extra fee.