Even though the JR Rail Pass allows for the convenience of an "all-you-can-ride" experience on trains in Japan, sorting out tickets to ride the shinkansen (bullet trains) in Japan from another country hasn't been easy without the help of a friend in Japan. There's actually been an online reservation system set in place by JR East, but it's unfortunately limited to trains to travel to northern Japan.

Fortunately, a new app by the name of SmartEX will allow visitors from outside of Japan to reserve tickets on JR West and JR Central shinkansen, which provides access to a multitude of popular sightseeing spot such as Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, and other scenic countryside regions such as the areas around Mt. Fuji. As an added bonus, should travelers possess an IC card, such as Passmo or Suica, from previous trips to Japan, they can opt for a completely ticketless reservation as well.

After downloading SmartEx, you simply register your credit card information with the application, and then use it at ticketing machines in Japan to acquire your reserved tickets. Those with IC cards can register those as well. The app allows for an added element of precision when planning out ones itinerary in Japan in advance, as it allows users to choose train times of their choosing, shinkansen models, and of course smoking or non-smoking seats. Unfortunately, no information about Japan Rail Pass usage is yet available.

Although its availability is expected to expand to other countries, the app is currently scheduled to be available in the United States, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong on October 30th (Japanese date).

Until then, check out the top 30 travel destinations in Japan chosen by international travelers to give yourself some great ideas of where to go once you start using the app.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.