The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is a convenient and potentially very cost-effective way for travelers on a tourist visa to travel Japan. The pass is actually a number of multi-day train pass options, corresponding to different regions of Japan.
Starting 1 April 2016, the former JR East Pass will be split into two: JR East (Tohoku area) and JR East (Nagano, Niigata area).
Until now JR Passes could only be bought online or through a travel agent before coming to Japan. Also starting 1 April 2016, all JR Passes will be able to be purchased in Japan at Narita and Haneda airports, as well as other limited locations. See the JR site here for details and conditions.
Popular attractions in Tohoku accessible from via shinkansen (bullet train) network and local railways include the Yamadera mountain temple complex, Kakunodate samurai town, world heritage site "Kyoto of the East" Hiraizumi, breathtaking pine-covered islands of Matsushima, or the compact metropolis of Sendai.
Nagano offers the dominating yet charming Matsumoto Castle, while Niigata's Sado Island is full of nature and an interesting history that includes a prison, gold mining, and home to world-class drummers.