The Japan Rail pass provides visitors with an easy way to travel by rail.

This answer claims that the official website for information about it is japanrailpass.net (which does not appear to make any claims itself about being the official website and is not HTTPS). However, there are many other places that also claim to sell the product, such as the following (in alphabetical order):

Pricing varies between sites, with the more expensive end at about 40% pricier than the less expensive end (with or without shipping fees).

There also seems to be variance in descriptions and claims about what's covered, especially for auxiliary services like buses, or if surcharges apply for certain routes/tracks (e.g. jrpass.com indicates it doesn't cover Nozomi/Mizuho class trains but DOES fully cover all the rest with no route-specific exceptions.).

Are there differences between the products that these different sites offer, such as which trains are and aren't included or surcharges which may apply when using a pass purchased from one vendor but not another?

Are some of these sites known scams that send expensive but worthless paper?

There is only one Japan Rail Pass. (Well, two: ordinary and Green Car aka First Class.) Any notional differences you're seeing are only because the rules are very complicated and not all sites selling them will get into all the gruesome details. The "Scope of Validity" section on the official JRP site below has the full scoop if you're curious.

The Japan Rail Pass is a product of the JR ("Japan Railways") Group, which operates the vast majority of Japan's trains. Hence japanrailpass.net is the official site of the pass, since it's operated by the JR Group. You'll also notice you can't actually buy passes here, it just has pointers to where you can, including the official list of authorized agents.

Anybody not on this list is subcontracting, meaning you'll have an extra middleman and likely extra commissions to pay, so I would steer clear. I haven't heard of any outright scams, but if you stick to the official agents (JTB etc) you don't need to worry about this.

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    How do you know that japanrailpass.net is an official site operated by the JR group, and that the other sites are not? – WBT Oct 21 at 20:47
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    @WBT That's the link provided by the official JR East website – k2moo4 Oct 21 at 22:17
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    There are also regional passes which are more economical if you're only there for a short time and aren't crossing the country. Japan Guide is a good, well, guide to them ;) – curiousdannii Oct 21 at 23:28
  • Based on what I've seen, I'd also ask how you know that's the official JR East website, as many places sell those regional passes too. – WBT Oct 22 at 15:51
  • @WBT .co.jp domains are limited to registered Japanese companies only. – jpatokal Oct 22 at 19:54

@jpatokal answers the core of it. I would just add that because its a single product with an officially set price (in yen, which is published on the official site) you shouldn't see the price vary too much from that (converted to the local currency, of course.) Be wary of sites with prices that are anomalously low (likely scams) or high (fishing for suckers.) Legitimate sellers will often try to differentiate themselves with freebies like free shipping or a free guidebook so it's worth keeping an eye out for that. Overall though it shouldn't make much difference which of the authorized sellers you buy from.

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