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I've been told by a colleague that you can only buy a Japanese Rail Pass outside of the coutry as a tourist. Is this accurate, or is it possible to purchase say, a 2-3 week one in Tokyo?

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Downvoter care to comment? – Mark Mayo Apr 27 '14 at 12:53
I didn't downvote but this is pretty much the first thing you read the first time you look for information about the jrp. – Geeo Apr 27 '14 at 13:50
It might be the first thing you read, but the fourth or fifth thing you read might offer some trick for getting around the official policy. And that is why one might post this question on Travel SE. – Kenny LJ Jun 25 '14 at 11:48
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Your colleague is correct. According to the official Website:

A JAPAN RAIL PASS cannot be purchased inside Japan. You must purchase an Exchange Order from an authorized sales office or agent before you come to Japan.

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You need two things to get a JR pass: the Exchange Order, only available outside Japan, and a passport with a Tourist visa in it. Anyone can buy the Exchange Order - the actual pass is produced when you are in Japan. One train pass per passport.

You need to take at least 3 long-haul Shinkansen trips per week for the pass to pay for itself. While you can use it on JR routes in any city those trips are typically under $2 to start with. You can't use it on non-JR lines.

You need to choose the duration of the pass before you buy it, but you can choose any start date you want. Write it clearly on a note and hand it to the counter staff with the note on top, or they will process it starting today before you have finished saying Hello.

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Not sure how you're defining "long-haul" there, but the rule of thumb is that a 7-day JR Pass pays for itself if you travel Narita-Tokyo-Kyoto and back, and becomes well worth it if you venture beyond Osaka. – jpatokal Apr 27 '14 at 22:30
Inter-city, but not just the next stop. 7-day JR pass is 29,110, Tokyo-Kyoto/Osaka is 14,600. One more inter-city trip and you're ahead (not just break-even) – Paul Apr 28 '14 at 5:00
The key part there is "and back": Tokyo-Osaka return is 29,200. Add in two N'EX at 3,000 yen each to get to Narita and back, and the JR pass is a winner. – jpatokal Apr 28 '14 at 5:06
and you can use the pass on the yamanote and chuo line, pretty useful inside tokyo. – Geeo Apr 28 '14 at 11:50
Not as much as you'd think. While the Yamanote does go many places, you still need the subway lines. Asakusa, Odaiba etc. And certainly not worth getting a JR pass just for in-city travel. – Paul Apr 28 '14 at 14:59

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