Japnese Travel Tips
Perhaps the best travel bargain anywhere in the world is the JR Rail pass. A seven-day pass allowing unlimited train travel on seven consecutive days costs about the same as a round trip Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket between Tokyo and Osaka. If you plan to do any traveling around Japan at all, this pass is certainly something you should think about.
However, using a rail pass within the big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka is not cost effective. Most of the train rides in cities are at most $3 or $4, making it impossible to recover the cost of the pass. It's OK if you have an extra few days to use your pass in a big city, but don't purchase a rail pass just for the big cities.
When using your rail pass, you are entitled to a reserved seat. You can get a reserved seat by showing your rail pass at a JR train station ticket office. If you are traveling during a holiday in Japan when the Japanese are using the trains heavily, the trains may be sold out. If this happens, there are always non-reserved cars on the Shinkansens and express trains. The train information signs will normally list the numbers of the non-reserved cards for each train. The non-reserved cars are open-seating so a seat assignment is not necessary. Just board the train on one of the non-reserved cars and find an open seat.