February 5th Update: Please read my most recent Japan Rail Pass-related post for the official decisions regarding the Rail Pass.
I’ve been eagerly awaiting word on how the Japan Rail Pass is going to be affected by the new bullet train services that are starting up next month (See my post from a few days ago). But I’d thought I’d write up a little editorial in regards to two conflicting reports that I have received and seen.
Recently I decided to write a note through Facebook to the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), Japan’s official tourism agency under the umbrella of the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, to ask about the Japan Rail Pass with regards to how the Rail Pass will be valid with the introduction of the Mizuho and Sakura services on the Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen between Osaka, Fukuoka and Kagoshima, as well as the new Hayabusa services that will be introduced on the Tohoku Shinkansen between Tokyo and Aomori (northern Honshu).
Here is how the JNTO replied on their Facebook page, Visit Japan:
“Even after the extension of Tohoku and Kyushu Shinkansen, JR Pass is valid for all the Shinkansen except Nozomi. This means the pass is also valid for Hayate and Hayabusa of Tohoku, and Mizuho and Sakura of Kyushu. However, it is still pending whether or not it is valid for Gran Class (more luxurious than Green Car) of Hayabusa, which will start in March.”
So it does appear that the Rail Pass will be valid on all of these services. Moreover, given the fact that Nozomi trains are restricted, taking the Mizuho trains that run during the morning and evening will offer greater convenience for Rail Pass holders who want to go to Western Japan and Kyushu, right?
NOT SO FAST, says Japan-Guide.com, a very popular website that has become one of the major web resources for researching not just about traveling in Japan, but living in Japan as well. They have had a web page about the Kyushu Shinkansen since mid-December, and when the page was published they were not sure how the Rail Pass would be affected. But on February 3 Japan time, more or less around the same time the JNTO wrote a response to me on Facebook, Japan-Guide.com posted this on their page:
“The Japan Rail Pass will be valid on Sakura trains but invalid on Mizuho trains (like Nozomi trains).”
Wow, two conflicting reports. Of course the final say goes to Japan Railways, which as of this writing has not yet posted anything on the official Japan Rail Pass website. But how embarassing is it going to be for one of these two reputable organizations when they find out that their information was incorrect?
Whatever the final decision is, I hope that all parties get the facts correct for the benefit of all people who want to visit Japan and benefit from the use of the Japan Rail Pass.
And so ends my two cents. 🙂 I’ll share more news when I hear about it!