For travelers wanting to venture around Japan affordably, do yourself a favour and buy your JR passes online and collect your vouchers at designated Japanese counselors sites in your town prior to entering Japan. I was able to visit their office in Collins St, Melbourne, and was given a good run down on all the necessary details required for a smooth trip.
Kudos to the sister for navigating our way towards a JR office upon touchdown in Narita airport where we exchanged our vouchers for the actual passes. At this point, we gave the issuing officer dates of when we would like to commence using our passes. Double check that the name on the vouchers matches with the provided ID's name else you might be in trouble :S
To start using the passes, head to a JR train station (easily identified by a large green JR initial on the building) and check the train schedule. Pick one that you want and head into the office to obtain train seats. This is a completely optional step but I feel its worth the extra 10 minutes spent securing seats as opposed to hoping there would be seats available on the train.
While waiting for the train to arrive, do ensure that you are queuing at the right train cabin. For passengers with secured seats, do head over to your allocated train cabins whilst for those who don't, often enough there are empty cabins located at the ends/.front of the train but again, be warned that there might be a huge line up.
A snapshot of how train tickets look like vs the Japan Rail pass. Note the boarding time, cabin number and seat number:)
Travelling light would be ideal as there are not much space on the train and might get a little crammed. The Japanese are very considerate people and sometimes may frown at selfish acts such as hogging two seats or even causing a ruckus with your travelling mate. Be mindful of others and you will be fine:)
Probably one of my favourite reasons for travelling on a shinkansen via the JR train station would be the amazing selection of local food/ souvenirs. I am sure not all of us like to spend our precious time loitering around aimlessly waiting for a train but at a JR station, time seems to travel as fast as the bullet train itself.
The JR station concept revolves around saving time for those on the run such as travelers or locals transitioning for business purposes - basically for people who seem to be overly engrossed in what they are doing and have forgotten to pick up a few things along the way such as a hearty meal or even basic necessities like a present for someone.
The sister and I love arriving at the train station early and wander off looking at the vast selection of lunch/ snacking options from restaurants and convenience stores. Noting that some rides can range from one to four hours in duration, the sister and I decided to kill two birds with one stone and have our lunches on board.
In terms of pricing, it really does depend on what items are selected and its quantity. A packaged takeaway meal can cost around 780yen to 1400yen.
So, have I tempted you enough?;)