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The Japan Rail Pass | Everything you need to know

Using your Japan Rail Pass on the Shinkansen
What is the Japan Rail pass? Is it good value? Which one do I buy for my trip? So many questions on the JR Pass & we answer them all here

The most frequent questions we get asked here at 2 Aussie Travellers are about the Japan Rail Pass.  We’re asked whether you need it, is it good value, which one to get, how to use it and even where to go now that you’ve ordered it.  We’ll do our best to answer all of the questions we get regularly below.  If you want to know something that isn’t answered please ask in the comments section below.  

You’ll see many questions in the comments below, the JR Pass can be confusing so don’t be shy about asking if something isn’t clear after you’ve read through the explanation.

We’ve been booking the Japan Rail Pass regularly for almost 10 years now and are happy to share our experience and what we’ve learned along the way so please ask any questions you have in the comments section at the bottom. Your questions help us understand what information is needed and enable us to update the post to keep it as relevant as possible for anyone planning a trip to Japan.

As we refer to the Japan Rail pass often in our articles this post will put our experience and information about it in one place.  It’s a fundamental part of our Japan travel planning and one of our top tips for anyone planning a visit.

We suggest you consider whether you will use the JR Pass early in the trip planning process as it might impact the timing and sequence of the places you visit. That will have a flow-on effect to booking accommodation and other activities.

Too often we hear from people disappointed because they didn’t know about the JR Pass in time or they’ve been sold one that they really didn’t need. We find the JR Pass to be one of the best travel deals around but we’ll be pointing out a number of situations below where you want to save your money and just use individual tickets or a different pass.

Planning a trip to Japan? We have 100’s of articles to help you. Visit of our comprehensive Japan Guide page to quickly find the information you’re after or use the search function in the top info bar?

What is the Japan Rail Pass?

The passes are a deal offered by Japan Rail on their network exclusively for foreign visitors to Japan. To use it you must be in Japan on a tourist visa (under 90 days).

Since April 2017 Japan Rail has been trialling the sale of passes at a limited number of stations within Japan but we believe it’s still best to have it arranged in advance.   Not only will it be cheaper if you buy it before you arrive in Japan but the whole process is going to go a lot smoother. 

When we looked at the price comparison at launch it was a 13% premium for purchasing the pass once you arrive in Japan. It’s easy to book ahead in your local currency and have it delivered to your door so why would you pay more than you have too. Even if you aren’t on a tight budget there are so many better things to do with your travel funds in Japan.

When you purchase the pass you will be sent a physical voucher from the travel agent or online distributor.  When you arrive in Japan you exchange that voucher at a railway station office for the actual JR Pass.  We’ll cover more on the conditions of purchase and the mechanics of activating your pass later.

While we (and most people) refer to THE Japan Rail pass there are actually a series of passes.  The JR East and West passes cover only sections of the country and will be useful for very specific trips, or segments of your trip if you’re planning to travel for longer.  

The most useful pass and the one you will hear talked about generally is the one you can use nationwide.  You can use it on all Japan Rail services including the shinkansen (bullet train), limited express trains, airport and local trains.  There are even a few other specific services it can be used for including the ferry across to Miyajima Island in Hiroshima and some JR buses.  

Japan Rail is the national railway, it is the largest network by far and you can travel to all prefectures and cities on its trains but not on every train line or to every station. There are many other companies in Japan that also operate train and subway services in different areas. The pass is only for Japan Rail services and can’t be used on private railways, subways or inner-city buses.  

Check current prices for the Japan Rail Pass with our preferred supplier

Do I need the Japan Rail Pass?

We’ve purchased the JR Pass for most of our trips so far BUT only after planning what we wanted to do with it and calculating the value.  In most situations, the pass has given significantly more value than the dollars we spent.  We’ve used both the 7 and 14-day options and it’s averaged out that we get around twice the value that we paid, or looking at it another way we get half-priced travel, plus the convenience the pass brings. This has worked out the same whether we have used the standard or first-class (green) option.

Your style of travel, where you are going and over what time frame will determine if the pass is worthwhile for you.  Our travel style is to select a couple of base cities and explore both locally and by day trips from there.  Japan’s train system especially the shinkansen (bullet train) and limited express are phenomenal making it easy to travel this way without moving your hotel and luggage every other day.

The Japan Rail pass also works well for those whose travel style is the complete opposite of ours.  Those who travel light and want to cover a lot of towns and cities in a fairly short period only stopping a night or so in each new place will also get great value.

What if I’m a budget traveller?

Although the pass can be an absolute bargain, if you’re on a very tight budget it may not be the best option for you.  There are cheaper ways to get around Japan than trains, the trade-off will be time, convenience and potentially comfort so it comes down to what your priorities are.

As an example to take the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto will cost around Y13,700 for a single ticket but the overnight Willer Express bus can be as low as Y5,000 PLUS you will save a nights accommodation as it literally travels all night.  If you don’t need much sleep or you can sleep well sitting up it could be an option for you.  While we’ve talked to several people who’ve used and recommended the bus as a budget option but we haven’t used it ourselves and I’m just putting it out there as an alternative for comparison.

Is there a benchmark for deciding if you should buy the JR Pass over individual tickets?

This is where it gets a bit tricky and understanding how the pass works and some rough calculations can help.

You will probably hear people saying it’s only worth getting the pass if you’re going to travel by the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto return in 7 days.  Like most simplified statements there’s some truth in it but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  

The 7-day pass is approximately the same price as a return ticket on that route and it’s likely you’ll do at least one or two other trips in that week so almost certainly you’ll get equal or better value from the pass.  This two-city itinerary is also the most common travel plan for first-time visitors to Japan which is another reason why it’s a good starting point for deciding whether or not you will buy it.

What is the price of the Japan Rail Pass

The first thing you need to know is the price of the Japan Rail Pass. It’s a service provided in Japan so the base price is always in Japanese Yen (JPY) and the price is fixed, you won’t see it go on sale. Using the price in JPY makes it easy to compare it to the individual ticket prices and decide whether you want to buy one.

Number of daysOrdinary CarGreen Car
7-day passY 29,110Y 38,880
14-day passY 46,390Y62,950
21-day passY 59,350Y 81,870

Calculating the value to you

If you are planning a different route, even if you only plan to use the train one way and fly back out of a different city it may still be cost-effective.  There are so many options and variables that it is almost impossible to give a generic answer.  I’d suggest listing out your key routes and then costing them on the free Hyperdia trip planning resource.  

Hyperdia is one of our most used tools both in the planning stage and once we’re in Japan. It will help you work out all the information including travel time, any transfers and for this particular purpose the cost.  Make sure you take the total price from the top left for the route you pick not the component prices down the side.  

We have found this resource to be both useful and accurate but it can be a little overwhelming initially so I will put up a walk-through soon on how to use it in your planning.

I then jot down the dates and against them any major trips we will be doing that day. Don’t worry about the around-town trips at this stage, that might be a bonus saving but it’s not what is going to help decide if you need the pass or not. Plug those details into Hyperdia remembering to include the return fare if it’s a day trip.

Now I look for any 7-day grouping (or 14/21-day if that is applicable) and compare it to the price of the pass. If my dates are still flexible I might move things around so that they work better at this stage.

Japan Rail Pass Banner

Are there situations where the pass isn’t good value?

Absolutely!  If you’re spending your visit mostly exploring Tokyo with a few days in nearby towns such as Hakone, Nikko, Kamakura or Enoshima the pass will almost certainly not be worth the cost.  

You are far more likely to use the subway most of the time within the city and there are passes or private railway options that can be better value for those other trips.  Check out our posts on transport tips for first-time visitors to Japan and mastering the Tokyo subway system to get some handy hints if Tokyo is where you will spend a good portion of your time.

The same principle applies to a single base in most Japanese cities where you don’t plan on doing many intercity day trips.  The difference in most of those cities is that Japan Rail is generally used on trips anywhere outside the city centre so you may use it more depending on what you want to see and do.  If you plan to do a number of long-distance trips (for ideas see my 10 top day trips out of Kyoto or Osaka) the Japan Rail Pass may still be a good deal.

Again I’d recommend using Hyperdia to plug in your key routes and get an idea of the costs involved if you were to buy single tickets.

Are there other advantages or disadvantages to using the pass?

The main advantage other than the cost-saving for me is the convenience.  You simply show the pass and move through the gates at the station very fast.  

You can also make bookings for seats on the shinkansen and other long-distance trains such as limited express.  There are two advantages to having bookings, firstly if you want particular seats, like sitting on the right-hand side out of Tokyo to see Mt Fuji or at the back of the carriage to be near the suitcase stowage for larger bags, you can request that.  

More importantly during peak times or seasons, or if you want to take the last train back, it is also worth booking in advance.  If you want a very early train one morning or you book a number of your side trips at once it can be a time saver too. You then only need to be at the platform at the required time and will know which carriage you want.  

With the Japan Rail Pass, you can make as many bookings as you want, normally this is an additional cost but it’s an included service with the pass.

The main disadvantage with the pass is that you are required to carry your passport with you when using it.  I can’t recall being asked for it at any gate or on any train but it is a requirement of the pass.  As a tourist in Japan, you are supposed to have your passport on you at all times for identification anyway.

The only other disadvantage or risk I can think of is getting caught up in maximising the value you get from it and trying to squeeze too much into a too short period of time. It could become stressful or you might end up not doing what you really wanted to do.  

Finally the most annoying thing, and what I hope I can help prevent here, is anyone buying the pass and finding they don’t really need it.  

With a little bit of planning both of these risks should be avoided.

Types of Japan Rail Pass

If at this point you’ve decided it makes sense to use the Japan Rail pass you next need to make 4 choices:

Which Pass

The Whole Japan rail pass can be used right across the country, this is by far the most common version and the one you will need if you are including a trip from Tokyo to Kyoto for example.  

There are many other passes issued by Japan Rail for extensive travel in very specific regions and these isolated areas are less common choices for tourists.  When I’ve considered these in the past for sections of our trips I’ve usually found it more cost-effective and flexible to buy individual tickets or use a stored value card in that situation.

I do like the tool on the Klook booking site over many of the other options. They offer a long list of JR Passes but from the summary screen as you run your mouse over the pass you are interested in it shows a map to the right of only the covered area. I like this double-check that you are getting what you intended. They also list the whole of Japan 7-day pass, the most frequently sold option, at the top.

How long do you want to use the pass for

The Japan Rail Pass comes in a 7, 14 and 21-day option.  It makes sense to group your longer and more expensive trips during the duration of the pass and continue to explore within your base city outside of that.  

Even if you’re staying 2-3 weeks in Japan you may only need the pass for the week when you do your long-distance trips then buy individual tickets outside of that.  The incremental cost of the pass does get cheaper for each additional week though so it’s worth pricing it out both ways.

The Japan Rail pass is ideal for a touring holiday such as our 14 day Japan itinerary to see the best of cherry blossoms stopping off in 10 cities between Tokyo and Hiroshima.

Standard or Premium

Japan Rail has ordinary cars and green car on shinkansen and other long-distance trains.  These aren’t ‘green’ as in environmentally friendly it is their equivalent of first-class.  The seats are larger and grouped in 2 not 3 on each side of the carriage.  You usually have a bit more legroom, more comfortable foot and leg rests and sometimes additional facilities like charging of electronic devices.

We have used both green and standard passes over the years and even when you have a green pass, not every train has that car option. The ordinary car is very comfortable too. When travelling as a couple, it is nice to have that extra space and have the row to ourself. Generally, the green car is less busy overall and we’ve never had a problem finding space at the back of our carriage to stow our suitcase. I don’t consider it a necessity but yes the upgrade is nice.

Adult or child

The final variable is whether the passenger is an adult or a child.  That’s fairly self-explanatory, under the terms of the pass a child is aged 6-11, if they have turned 12 they require an adult pass.  An infant aged 0-5 years won’t require their own pass BUT they are also not entitled to a seat. If you take this option, they must travel on your lap.

How to use the Japan Rail Pass?

The main terms and conditions

For the full terms and conditions at your date of purchase be sure to read them on the provider’s website or discuss with the travel agent before you make your payment.  The general rules are:

  1. Purchase the pass before travelling to Japan (after April 2017 this becomes a price and convenience consideration only)
  2. You must be able to produce the pass and the corresponding passport on request
  3. The pass may only be used by the person named on it.
  4. It must only be used within the dates shown on the pass
  5. It’s for JR (Japan Rail) transport only but that includes certain JR buses and ferries
  6. The pass can’t be reissued in the event that it is lost or stolen so be sure to keep it safe.

Purchase, exchange and activation date for the JR Pass

There are three dates to be aware of if you decide to use the pass.

Purchase date:  This needs to be before you leave home, or at least before you arrive in Japan if you are on a longer travel plan.  (As mentioned earlier from April 2017 there will be a local purchase option in a few stations but the price will be higher).  You can buy the pass up to 90 days ahead of when you plan to use it, I guess you might do that if you think exchange rates are likely to move up a lot but otherwise I’d suggest getting onto it a month before you fly giving you time to shop around for the best price and although they usually only take a couple of days to arrive it gives a comfort margin.  What you receive at this stage is a voucher for a Japan Rail Pass, not the pass itself.

Where to purchase: Most of our passes have been purchased online which has been a very quick and smooth process.  The first one we ever bought was through a large local travel agent chain in Australia and it was a comedy of errors.  

It ranged from staff who we are told ‘unexpected quit’, them being sent back and forward between the branch and head office 3 times for no obvious reason and then being dropped between folders in the filing system and sitting unseen on the bottom for another week.  The end resulted was a lot of unnecessary stress and it took almost 3 weeks to get the pass – hence my commitment to planning ahead whenever I can.

Exchange date:  Once in Japan you can exchange the voucher for a pass at a JR station office whenever you want, this is simply receiving the pass and it doesn’t activate on this date unless you want it to of course.  You will usually be given a very simple form to fill out with your name, dates and a few details in English, you present it with the voucher and passport and they write up your pass and hand it to you.  Before you leave the counter check your name is written correctly (it must match your passport) and the dates are correct.

Activation date:  The activation date is the day you want to first use the pass.  It can be the date you exchange your voucher and pick up the pass or any date after that as long as it will be used within the 90-day purchase window.  The pass works on calendar days, not a 24 hour period.

Best price for Japan Rail Pass

Because the wholesale price of the pass is fixed there is only a small variation in price between providers that results from the difference in their profit margin, exchange rates used and who absorbs the delivery fee.

Buying the pass is a sizable outlay of cash so we want to purchase from a company who offers a good price, who we trust, can offer prompt delivery and is easy to deal with.

We have used JRailPass for a number of years now. They have been competitively priced, quick delivery and we have had no issues dealing with them. However when we price shopped it before our trip this year their price was slightly higher than a competitor and the delivery cost added further to that margin.

Going forward we will buy our Japan Rail passes from Klook. We have purchased through them in the past, they are well established with a good reputation in the Asia region, and increasingly in Australia. Our price testing found they offered the best price for Japan rail passes with fast delivery and their Japan Rail Pass ordering page is easy to use and comprehensive.

Check prices and order the Japan Rail Pass

Tips when using long-distance trains in Japan

There are a few things we have noticed when travelling inter-city on Japanese trains. These tips might be useful if you are going to be spending a bit of time travelling on them:

  1. If you have a booking and are in a carriage with allocated seating, you must sit in that seat and only that seat.  Don’t move to ‘spare’ seats with a better view as people will board at all stops along that route and they will reasonably expect to sit in the seat they booked.  
  2. Place small to medium baggage in the racks above the seats, if you have large luggage there is a section at the back of each carriage to place it in.  We’ve not had any issue with getting luggage space when moving between cities with our suitcases as locals mostly travel with small cases.
  3. It’s perfectly OK to eat and drink on long-distance trains.  You can bring food with you or purchase it from the trolley that goes past periodically.  You’re expected to take the rubbish off the train at the end of your trip and out of courtesy not to bring overly fragrant food onboard.
  4. It is normal practice in Japan to keep your voice low when chatting on public transport. Talking loudly or being on the phone is generally considered impolite.  
  5. If travelling with children it will help to have activities to keep them quietly entertained.  There is some tolerance for children being children but not running around the train, standing on seats or shouting.
  6. Be waiting at the marked area of the platform for your carriage before the train is due to arrive.  Allow any exiting passengers off first then board promptly.  Trains, especially the shinkansen run to a very tight timetable and they won’t hold the train for you as you race down the platform.

Our summary of the Japan Rail Pass

We have consistently found the Japan Rail Pass to be easy to use and to represent excellent value on our travels.  That said, everyone’s circumstances and travel style will differ. Invest a little time before you book to ensure you get the right pass for your needs.

This article turned out longer than I intended but I hope it has answered your questions.  The terms, conditions and prices for the Japan Rail Pass do change over time and I will update this article regularly to ensure it is as current as possible.  

We’ve found the best price for Japan Rail Pass in 2019 is from Klook. They are a brand we use and trust, which matters when you are handing over a significant amount of cash. They are able to offer a comprehensive range of Japan Rail passes to suit a wide range of needs.

Before purchasing you should always read the agents website details carefully or ask them to clarify anything you are unsure of.  If you have any queries in the planning stage that I haven’t answered here please leave them in the comments section below, I will answer you directly and also update additional information in the article for others.

Hover over the image to save it to Pinterest for reference later.

Japan Rail Pass - Shinkansen
Japan Rail Pass -Shinkansen

409 Comments

  • Hi Toni,
    Great info you have, have mainly been using your site to plan our trip.

    We were going to buy the 5 Day JR Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass but I read that it must be picked up at Kansai airport. Do you know if there is any way around this?, as it seems a bit of a limiting restriction. We will be coming from Tokyo to Kyoto and wanted to start using the pass once we got to Kyoto. Don’t want to have to go to Kansai airport to pick it up.

    Thanks
    David

    • Hi David, you can redeem the pass at JR West Offices including Kyoto Station, Osaka Station, Shin-Ōsaka Station, Osaka Kansai International Airport, Nara Station, Sannomiya Station, Wakayama Station, Fukuchiyama Station, Okayama Station, Hiroshima Station. The easiest for you will likely be at Shin-Osaka if you are coming in from Tokyo on the shinkansen (bullet train), otherwise at Osaka Station in Umeda, one of the 2 main centres in Osaka city. If you are using the Klook ticket link you can find this confirmed in writing in the section How to Use > Redemption Procedures > last bullet point.

      • Thanks Toni. I’m sure it will all be OK. It’s just that on the Klook FAQ for this pass it says:
        Q: Can I redeem my Klook voucher at X place in Japan?
        A: For this pass, you must redeem your Klook voucher (electronic or physical) at the HIS Office at Osaka Kansai Airport to redeem your JR Pass.

        • I see what you mean, that is confusing. I have checked with Klook today and they have confirmed that they are now selling instant-confirm e-vouchers so you can exchange them at the JR West Stations listed, that would include shin-Osaka, Osaka station or Kansai Airport amongst others. The HIS counter is no longer necessary.

  • Hi Toni and Drew

    Wow! Extensive coverage! Sorry if you’ve talked about this; I started reading all the correspondence, but it was just too much.

    Our question: We are a family of five, travelling to Osaka on Jan 8 and flying out of Tokyo on Jan 18. We plan on catching a train from Osaka to Kanazawa, so that would be the Thunderbird, right? And what difference is there between Osaka Station and Shin-Osaka Station? Between Kanazawa and Tokyo, we were thinking of bus, but are concerned that inclement weather may interrupt services (and are not even sure how many services per day/night are scheduled) so will probably opt for the train.

    Now, besides some local train rides in Osaka and Tokyo and a return from Tokyo to Hakone/Gotemba, as these are our only two big trips, we were wondering if you can advise whether or not to buy the 7 day pass? It seems like it won’t be of value to us, but as we are five and travelling on a budget, we don’t want to overlook anything. We are definitely looking forward to this trip and we thank you for your help.

    Regards

    Asher Browne

    • – Yes the Thunderbird limited express is the fastest way from Osaka to Kanazawa, it’s a comfortable trip and takes about 2.5 hours
      – I’ve not used the long-distance buses in Japan, it can get a fair bit of snow in that area through the middle of the country but I don’t know how often it impacts the roads, as they schedule the buses I imagine not often. My understanding is that something like the Willer Express will take around 9 1/2 hours and costs around Y7000 for an adult ticket, it leaves after dinner and travels through the night arriving very early the next morning so will also save you a nights accommodation as long as you are happy to stow luggage somewhere and keep going until your checkin time. The buses don’t all have a toilet on board but if not it stops at gas stations fairly regularly if you want to stretch your legs and use the toilet.
      – The other options is the shinkansen from Kanazawa to Tokyo which will take 2.5 to 3 hours depending on which one you get. It costs Y14380 so a significant price difference but departs a couple of times an hour throughout the day
      – No, the JR pass is not worth considering if your only use would be for inner-city travel and the Hakone area from Tokyo.

    • Sorry Asher, I missed the questions on Osaka and Shin-Osaka station. Shin-Osaka is the shinkansen station although JR trains and subways also arrive in here to give you options for getting to and from it. You’d only use this stop for the shinkansen, there are no attractions around it. Osaka station is in Umeda, one of Osaka’s 2 main centres. For example to go from Osaka to Kyoto you wouldn’t need to go out to Shin-Osaka and get a bullet train, you could get a JR train from Osaka to Kyoto station or the Keihan line to the Gion-Shijo in the heart of Kyoto but if you are coming in from Tokyo or Hiroshima you’d almost certainly use Shin-Osaka

  • Hi there ,

    I am so happy I found your site! My husband and I are travelling to Japan next year for the first time & your articles are packed with info and so good to read. I just wanted your opinion if we should get JR passes or individual tickets.
    We are staying in Tokyo for 10 nights then Osaka for 4 nights and Kyoto for 3 nights and back to Tokyo for 3 nights. We are spending majority of our time in Tokyo but are planning to do a day trips to Nara, Hiroshima and Miyajima Island.
    Thanks

    • Hi Kate, often when you have that return trip between Tokyo and Osaka split by 8 days rather than 7 a pass isn’t worthwhile, however in your situation it can still be good value because of the Hiroshima/Miyajima trip. Both the 7-day and 14-day pass can save you money on your main trips, which way you go will depend on a few other factors. Working the prices in Yen, the 7-day pass is Y29110 and the return Hiroshima trip plus one way on the Tokyo-Kyoto trip is Y35240, you will actually save more than that difference as there will be the Nara trip, train and ferry out to Miyajima, between Kyoto and Osaka etc. You’ll need to buy a one-way individual ticket for the Tokyo – Kyoto trip this way as it’s 8 days inclusive of travel days between leaving and returning to Tokyo.

      The other option is the 14-day pass that cost Y46390 but the return trips to Hiroshima and between Kyoto/Osaka and Tokyo are Y49640. That is less of a base saving than the 7-day pass but in addition to the extras covered by the 7-day pass it would depend what you plan to do in Tokyo. As you have 13 nights there total you may find that the 14-day pass can be worked to fit day trips you plan to do from there in or if you are using the NEX to get back to Narita for example. These are some of the day trips we like from Tokyo as examples.

      If my explanation isn’t clear just let me know. Have fun with your planning.

  • what kind of JR pass do i need if i am staying in osaka as my home base. i will be visiting kyoto, nara and Hiroshima for 6 days. thanks.

    • We would use the 5-day Kansai Hiroshima JR Pass, you can pick this up at Kansai Airport when you arrive and use it immediately for your JR train through to Osaka. The return trip to Hiroshima would be Y19,780 but the pass in yen is Y13500 if purchased from outside Japan (it’s a bit cheaper buying it before you go) so even on that one trip it is a saving. A difference with this pass over the whole of Japan one is that you can only use unreserved cars on the Shinkanse but if you wanted a reserved seat for a particular trip you can pay the surcharge and book that at the station, this can be done ahead of time, for example on the train to Hiroshima it is Y530 so still economical as an option. You would then also use it going to Nara and probably Kyoto. The pass is valid on the train and ferry through to Miyajima if you do that from Hiroshima.

      Depending on where you are staying in Osaka the pass may be quite useful as there is a loop train that goes to many of the popular areas but the exception is Namba / Dotonbori. We like to stay there and most people will visit it a few times so you would need to take a joining train but could still get there by JR if you choose too. We would use an ICOCA card and take the subway within Osaka city as it is more convenient and ICOCA would also be used for the subway and buses in Kyoto. You can do all of this with single tickets purchased as you go but for speed and ease, we use and recommend the card.

      Have a great trip and thank you for the question. This pass can be really useful and a great cost saver but is often overlooked as many people are needing the trip through from Tokyo or only know about the whole of Japan one.

      • Sorry to hijack this thread but this trip is similar to what we are planning next year however we are adding to more to the itinerary. Our high level itinerary looks like this:

        13/01 – Fly into Kansai Airport
        14/01 – 16/01 – Travel around Osaka including trip to Universal (we are staying near Dotonburi)
        17/01 – Trip from Osaka to Kyoto return
        18/01 – Trip from Osaka to Hiroshima/Miyajima return
        19/01 – Trip from Osaka to Nara return
        20/01 – Trip from Osaka to Hakuba
        26/01 – Trip from Hakuba to Tokyo
        27/01 – 31/01 Travel around Tokyo
        31/01 – Fly out of Narita

        From what I have read it looks like our best bet is the 7 day JR Kansai Hiroshima pass and then separate tickets for travel to Hakuba (via Nagano) and then back to Tokyo. When in Osaka and Tokyo we could then either get an ICOCA card or buy separate tickets as we go. Does this sound correct or are there better options we should be considering?

        • Hi Wayne, thanks for joining in the conversation. If you haven’t already organised your Hakuba transfers an option to consider is timing your 7-day pass to include the 20th when you move through to Hakuba. You can take the Thunderbird express through to Kanazawa, the shinkansen on to Itoigawa then pick up the JR Oito bus line for Hakuba (about 1 hour 20 minutes on the bus) but it’s all covered by the JR pass. It’s a very big travel day but will be whatever way you do it.

          This would save you much more than using the pass from Kansai airport to Namba especially as you are usually better to get the express Nankai train to Namba from the airport (not JR for getting to Dotonbori area).

          As you mention I would also pick up the ICOCA card while in Osaka or at the airport as you can then use it on the private railways and subways in the other cities not covered by the JR Pass and once it has ended. It sounds a fantastic trip, enjoy!

          • Thanks for the response Toni. We actually need to end up at the Happo Bus Terminal. Last time we did this it was easier to get to Nagano and then get the Alpico bus to Happo. I presume if we take the trains via Kanazwa and Itoigawa then we would need to get the full Japan JR Pass rather than paying for the Kansai Hiroshima Pass and then a separate ticket for the train to Nagano.

          • The Kansai Hiroshima pass covers from Kansai west to Hiroshima. Kanazawa and Nagano are east of that and outside the range. The pass for that central area from Osaka up to Kanazawa and through to Itoigawa is the JR Kansai Hokuriku area pass but that one isn’t useful to you as it doesn’t go west as far as Hiroshima, it cuts off at Okayama. The standard JR Pass is the one that covers the whole of Japan but there is nothing you can do with the pass that isn’t also available with individual tickets if that costs out better.

  • Hi Guys,

    Great article and a lot of information (though finally easier to understand!)

    Was wanting to get your opinion for my travel in November for the JR pass 7/14 day as when I have worked it out on Hyperdia it seems to be near the same cost yet I’m wondering if the convenience will outweigh the use of buying tickets. Currently I am considering to get the 7 day pass and paying for the trip from Tokyo to Osaka…

    Arrive Narita – Tokyo (limousine bus)
    6th-9th – Tokyo
    9th-11th – Osaka
    11th-13th – Kyoto
    13th-16th – Takayama
    16th-20th – Tokyo

    So far activities keep us around the main cities we are staying in but have heard a lot about a day trip to Nikko and Nara which we may consider

    Thanks for your help in advance!!

    • As your longest distance and most expensive trips are on the 9th and 16th, 8 days apart, you are likely to find neither the 7 nor 14-day pass are ideal. The total price of the 3 main trips, Tokyo to Osaka, Kyoto to Takayama and Takayama to Kyoto is Y40,260 but a 14-day pass is Y46,390. Taking the 7 days that include the 2 most expensive segments later in your trip would be Y25,540 but the pass is Y29,110 for the 7-days. We really like both Nikko and Nara as day trips but you say you are only considering them at this stage so I haven’t included those in the costing. I’ve also not included the Osaka to Kyoto trip (on the JR limited express that is Y1760). Nara is only Y1440 return but Nikko is Y11.360 return (using the JR shinkansen part of the way from Tokyo which makes it quicker) so if you are including that then either pass could be worthwhile.

      If you decide not to go with the pass but do want to go to Nikko, Tobu railway is a private railway in that part of Japan, it goes from Asakusa not Tokyo station but can be quite a bit cheaper, we’ve used them several times to different places including Nikko and they are very good. A lot will depend on where you are staying during your trip. In Osaka and Tokyo there are JR loop lines that go to all the major tourist places, if you are staying close to one of the stations on that loop the pass can be used most of the time, otherwise you will probably find the subway is preferable. Also if you are planning on taking the train either to or from the airport, that might also make the pass worthwhile.

      Sorry, that doesn’t give a clear answer but as you have found there are a few variables that you may clarify as you go through your planning.

  • hi, im planning to go to japan for 2 weeks and want to visit tokyo 6 nights, then kyoto 4 nights and osaka 5 nights. duri g those trip we would like to go around thise area, id we buy jrpass is it worth? i got confuse with japan transportation, for last day i will b back to narita airport frm osaka straight away … pls advise. thanks

    • With the longer trips between Tokyo and Osaka spread over a 9 or 10 day period the 7-day JR pass won’t work and the 14-day pass won’t be economical. With 9 days in Kyoto and Osaka which are relatively close, you might consider doing a couple of medium distance day trips in the Kansai area and then the JR Kansai Area Pass can be useful. You can buy it for anywhere from 1 -4 days and use it to travel to places like Kobe, Himeji, Nara, Uji and Nagahama. If you are staying near JR stations in Osaka you can also get to most places fairly easily with the JR Osaka loop that is also covered. If you are spending most of the time within the cities themselves I wouldn’t use a pass at all and just get an IC Card, ICOCO if you buy it in Osaka/Kyoto or the PASMO/SUICA if you buy it in Tokyo. You can use any of them right across the country and they are very convenient as you can touch on and off most trains, subways and buses without worrying about needed cash or how having change. The hardest part about Japan transport is probably working out before you go if you want/need to buy the JR Pass, once you are there getting around on the trains is well marked in English and is intuitive.

      • Hi there. Sorry to reply on this post but I wasn’t sure how to ask a question. I’m travelling to Japan for two weeks and have bought a rail pass. I arrive to KIX on Sunday morning at 5.40am. Will there be a kiosk open where I can redeem my rail pass? Thanks in advance.

        • Hi Monica, the JR ticket office at Kansai airport opens at 5.30 am daily so you’ll be fine. Follow the signs across from the airport to the train and the ticket office is right in front of you.

          • Hi Toni, thank you for responding. The travel office here told us that the ticket office would be closed on Sunday! Thanks for the clarification and the informative blog.

  • Hi!

    I am traveling to Japan arriving last day of September until Oct 20th I plan to do mostly day trips from Tokyo, from Kyoto and from Osaka that would be my base staying cities.
    As long trips, it will be Tokyo to Kyoto on the 7/10, Kyoto to Osaka one week later and Osaka to Tokyo one week after.
    Is the JR pass convenient for me? If yes which: 14 days activated the day of first trip?
    Once I have the pass how do I travel? just buy tickets oline with Hyperdia and paying with the pass or should I go to the train station to get tickets and seats?
    Thanks

    • Hi Jose, the 14-day pass won’t pay off for the trip you are doing, you don’t necessarily need the bullet train to get from Kyoto to Osaka and individual tickets to and from Tokyo will be cheaper if you don’t have other long day trips planned. Hyperdia is a tool for finding train times and routes, not for buying tickets, with the JR Pass you show it at the station to book tickets or simple to go through the gate if you don’t want to travel unreserved. You’ll find more information on exchanging the pass and booking tickets in the article.

  • Hi Tony,

    Great blog. But can you tell me when I’m researching trips on HyperDia, are all these options covered by the JR Rail Pass? if not, how do I know which services/trains are covered?

    Thanks

    • Hyperdia covers many transport options, not just the Japan Rail trains. When looking at the options it suggests the trans that are JR will have a green train icon and start with JR… such as JR Tokaido line, or they will have a blue and white train icon and start with shinkansen. Japan Rail is the only ones with the high-speed rail lines so shinkansen is always JR. If you only want to see the JR options you can untick ‘private railway’ in the search options and it will give you the best option it can.

  • Hi! These are my plan for Japan trip this October. Im really confused about the transportation pass in Japan, should i take one or not, and which one is it. Hope you can suggest me the best choice of transportation based on my plan (intercity and intracity). Tq!

    Day 1 – OSAKA
    Day 2 – OSAKA
    Day 3 – OSAKA (USJ)
    Day 4 – KYOTO
    Day 5 – KYOTO + NARA
    Day 6 – TOKYO (HITACHI)
    Day 7 – KAWAGUCHIKO
    Day 8 – TOKYO
    Day 9 – TOKYO (DISNEYLAND)
    Day 10 – TOKYO (DISNEYSEA)
    Day 11 – TOKYO

    • Hi Izat, I wouldn’t personally use the JR pass for your trip, the two longer trips are Kyoto to Tokyo, and the Kawaguchiko return trip. There is likely some other incidental JR travel in there but not that requires a bullet train or more expensive ticket. JR doesn’t go all the way to Kawaguchiko so you’ll need to use local trains too or Fujikyu and other companies run direct buses from Tokyo and Shinjuku a couple of times an hour which can also be a simple and cost-effective option. I’d use an IC card for speed and convenience throughout the trip and individual tickets for Kyoto to Tokyo.

      • Yes, you can then use either the green, ordinary reserved or unreserved carriages. Not all trains have a green car but you can always use the other cars for any reason if you wanted to

  • Hi, great blog with some good advice in there.

    My family and I are travelling to Japan for 2 weeks and my calculations make the JR 14 days pass cost slightly more (minimally) including the NEX, but maybe a good idea for convenience? Would be good to get your advice. We have 2 adults and 2 infants fly into Narita
    9th – 14th in Tokyo (2 days in Disneyland)
    14th -> travel to Hakone
    15th -> travel to Kyoto
    18th -> travel to Osaka
    21st -> travel back to Tokyo
    22nd -> fly out of Narita

    From your other comments I’m going to take a guess and say you’ll advise against it.
    Unfortunately the Tokyo -> Hakone -> Kyoto -> Osaka -> Tokyo misses the 7 day pass by one day. But my dates aren’t rigid – I could come back to Tokyo one day early to fit all that into the 7 day pass (which would prove more cost effective – but my calcs make this out to only be a $120 or so saving if I’m right?)

    • Hi Adrian, you might also consider a 7-day pass and use that from Hakone on the 15th through Kyoto, Osaka and back to Tokyo on the 21st but again the difference would be very minimal. With 2 infants you might want to look at the Limousine bus in place of the NEX if it goes to your hotel especially if you have a long flight. The train is great but with the coach you have a guaranteed seat, they handle the luggage and you just relax until you arrive at the hotel. Our experience has been the cost is about the same and if we’d need a taxi from the train station with luggage the bus can be cost-effective.

      • Good points Toni. And we in fact did come to that conclusion and get a 7 day pass instead and use it from the 15th! Good to hear you recommend the same thing 🙂
        Didn’t find the Pass very useful in Kyoto (due to the many private lines), but was good in Osaka.
        Unfortunately the Limo bus didn’t go to our hotel, so we got the NEX return (~4K Yen instead of ~6K for single tickets for two adults), so saved some money there.

        • Thanks for the feedback Adrian. I agree the pass can feel a bit wasted in the cities where so much of the transport is on subway and private lines but I love Kyoto and can’t skip its sights, well worth having done your research in advance to be sure you’re getting the value. The NEX return is a good saving tip too when arriving and departing from Tokyo, thanks for sharing that with other readers here.

  • Hi there,

    Reading your blog has provided great insight, however I was just wondering if you could help shed some light on my trip to Japan in November. I don’t think the rail pass would be worth it but a second opinion of someone who has been there definitely wouldn’t hurt!

    16th – 19th: Osaka (including train from the airport on the evening of the 16th)
    {18th: day trip from Osaka to Nara}
    19th – 22nd: Osaka to Kyoto
    22nd – 24th: Kyoto to Kanazawa
    24th – 1st Dec: Kanazawa to Tokyo (including train to Narita airport on the 1st)
    {26th: day trip to Hakone from Tokyo}
    {28th: day trip to Nikko from Tokyo}

    I used Hyperdia to check prices and all of the above have a total of ¥33,750 and are spread over 2 weeks, which is less than a 7 day JR rail pass.

    If I proceed to not get a rail pass, what is the easiest way to get train tickets for my journeys? Is there a specific Tokyo rail pass that will help for the week that I am there?

    Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing from you!
    Talia 🙂

    • Hi Talia. Your trip sounds great but I agree with your assessment that the spacing and train trips involved don’t make a JR Pass economical. I would use individual tickets for the longer trips, get an IC card for convenience (probably ICOCA because you are in Osaka first and can use it across the country with all the different transport providers) then consider some of the other railway company passes if they work on specific trips such as the Hakone freepass with Odakyu and one of the Tobu passes for Nikko. Have fun!

  • Hi! Great blog thanks!

    I have a question we are travelling around Japan for 6 weeks for the Rugby World Cup. We arrive on the 29th of September and depart on the 6th November (leaving briefly to South Korea from the 15th – 18th October). Is it worth getting a 21 day pass and then another 14 day pass? As we will be travelling around to different games e.g in Tokyo & Oita

    • Hi Kate. It is very unlikely that having JR passes for that length of time is going to be cost-effective for you but I can’t say for certain without knowing more information about your itinerary. From Tokyo to Oita is a long-distance trip that would potentially be good to incorporate into using a pass but how many of those trips are you doing and how are they spaced? I know the host cities are widely disbursed from Sapporo to Oita but I’d suggest roughly mapping out your itinerary first and then taking a look at which portions might benefit from the passes. Happy to help once you get to that point.

  • Hello! This is wonderful blog. I’m just wondering if I need the 7 day JR Pass, as I’m travelling to Japan for 15 days in September/October. My itinerary looks like:
    * Tokyo 23rd – 28th Sept (staying in Shinjuku)
    * Kyoto 28th Sept – 2nd Oct (staying in Central Kyoto) – with day trips to Nara, Fushimi Inari and Arashiyama
    * Osaka 2nd – 6th Oct (staying in Namba) – with day trips to Kobe, Himeji Castle, and Hiroshima and Miyajima
    * Tokyo 6th – 8th Oct

    I’m just not sure how I can get the 7 day pass to work? Also, if there’s anything you would advise to amend in my itinerary that would be appreciated!

    • Hi Sarah, if your 7-day pass covers the 2-7th October it will include return trips to Kobe, Himeji and Hiroshima plus the Osaka to Tokyo one way trip which is a good saving over using individual tickets. Looking at your plans I might consider doing the Nara trip on the 1st (possibly with an early start and stopping at Fushimi Inari to see it at it’s best before most people arrive, by using the 1-7th as the days for the pass it would then maximise the value.

      This would still leave you needing to book a one-way single ticket to Kyoto but you wouldn’t otherwise use the pass much in the cities themselves so I wouldn’t buy the longer pass to fit that one in. Another option if you haven’t booked your flights yet is to consider a multi-city flight, we often pick these up and fly into Tokyo and out of Osaka, the flights don’t cost us any extra to do that and we save the time and cost of tracking back across the country.

      • Hi there, I have been reading the questions posed by travellers and your responses which are extremely comprehensive and useful….the question I have is…
        The passes are only consecutive day use? Meaning if i buy a 7 day pass that is for being able to travel on a JR train every day for 7 days in a row? If this is correct, does this would mean if I activated the pass to travel from say Tokyo to Kyoto and then stayed in Kyoto for 3 days, i have essentially lost 3 days of use of the pass? And then only have 3 days of the pass left to use and many days of travel ahead of me. I am a bit confused about the flexibility of travel dates. We have used Europe rail passes where there is 7 days travel in 15 days…. I don’t get that impression from the JR rail pass.
        I look forward to hearing your advice.
        Thanks Jo

        T

        • Hi Jo, you are right the JR Pass works differently to the ones in Europe and some other places, they are for the number of days you purchase the pass for, either 7, 14 or 21 days and cover all use within that period on JR with the exception of a couple of trains that are set out in the rules. So with a 7-day pass if you go from Tokyo to Kyoto return during the 7-day window for example that is very close to the price of the pass meaning that all additional travel within the period is a saving. We shared this article to give readers a better idea of when to get the JR Pass, we have used it many times and it has given us incredible value but we have chosen for other trips not to get it, it will depend on your itinerary whether it is worth it or not.

  • Hi Toni (and everyone else at 2AT)!!
    Loved the article, was extremely helpful and full of great recommendations.
    I am hoping you can check our plans and let me know if we will get value for JR Pass.
    We are family of 3 however holiday is split 14 days only 2 people, then 7 days all 3 people.
    2 people landing 24th Sep, staying in Tokyo 7 nights: Arrive Narita airport, staying in Shinjuku, with day trips to Mt Fuji, Saitama, Gunma, Kanagawa/Yokohama etc.., then to Osaka where we become 3 people.
    Osaka for 6 nights from 1st Oct – flying out 7th Oct; day trips Osaka to Kyoto return, Osaka to Hiroshima return, Osaka to Miyajima return (we will be doing this on separate day from Hiroshima), Osaka to Tokyo return.
    We fly out from Itami.
    So i am wondering if it makes sense as follows: 2x 14 days + 1x 7 days passes?
    Hope that make sense, we are planning a packed holiday.
    Thanks Phil.

    • Hi Phil. For the travel you plan those passes make sense for you rather than using single tickets or other combinations. For the person arriving in Osaka the 7-day pass price is Y29,110 and the two return trips from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima alone would be Y40,920 with the rest being additional savings on top. For the two using the 14-day passes the price on those is Y46,390 and the value of the Hiroshima trips and the Tokyo to Shin-Osaka return is Y69,200. You will get a lot of extra value with the other day trips, incidental use and potentially using the NEX to the airport so you’ll be getting good value.

      It sounds fabulous, we did Miyajima again as a day trip out of Osaka in May. It was a spur of the moment decision after having incredible clear views from Mt Rokko in Kobe the day before, the view at Miyajima from the cable car lookout and further up on top of Mt Misen was spectacular. Have a wonderful time!

  • Hi
    Just wondering if the 2 day amazing pass can be used on the train to get us to the Osaka airport when we leave?

    • It will depend on whether you are staying near Umeda or Namba. From Umeda you’ll want a JR train from Osaka Station and that isn’t covered at all on the Amazing Pass only the local trains and subways. If you are wanting to use the Nankai Airport train from Namba then there is a higher priced expansion version of the pass that includes that but make sure you get the expansion version, the others include trains within the city limits.

  • Hi. Great blog which has been useful for planning our trip to Japan. We are a family of 3 travelling with our teenage son and need to be careful not to be squished in tiny hotel rooms with a teenager. We have 18 day in Japan from the 26th November. I have found a hotel for a reasonable price in Kyoto (2 adjoining rooms) but its booked out on the 28th November so we thought we would overnight in Osaka/Nara – will probably go for Nara.
    Current itinerary is 2 nights Kyoto, 1 night Nara, 3 Kyoto 2 nights Hiroshima, 2 nights Hakone, 8 nights Tokyo. We are thinking of getting a 7 day JR pass. Do you think this is a reasonable itinerary for our first time in Japan and does it take enough advantage of the JR pass. Thankyou

    • Hi Tina, what a great family trip. Which cities are you planning to start and end that 7-day pass section of your trip in? It would make a difference to how the pass would work out for you?

      • Hi Toni. We fly into Osaka and out of Tokyo. So we would need to choose when to activate – I’m not sure if it would be more useful the day we leave for Hiroshima so we can use it in Tokyo or if we are better off activating it in Kyoto. I’m so confused. I also don’t know if we should buy the Hakone free pass because we will still have an active JR pass. We could spend 1 day less in Tokyo and and go somewhere else before or after Hakone but as a Japan newbie I’m not sure where.

        • Hi Tina, your itinerary will work well with a 7-day pass. The trips from Kyoto – Hiroshima – Hakone(Odawara) – Tokyo by bullet train get value from the pass. They equate to Y32850 value vs Y29,100 to purchase Depending on whether you have any long distance day trips from Kyoto or Tokyo that use JR would impact on which end I added the extra couple of days to get the maximum benefit.

  • Hi. This is really great blog. Just wondering if I need the JR Pass. We’re a group of 7 and we’re travelling to Japan for 14 days. This is what our iternary looks like for November
    * Tokyo (7th – 10th)
    * Kyoto (11th – 13th)
    * Osaka (14th – 16th) – with a day trip to Nara
    * Tokyo (17th – 22nd) – with an overnight trip to Hakone

    • Hi Vijay, as you are travelling return to Tokyo within the 7-day window (11th – 17th) and within the Kansai area in that time, the JR 7-day pass should pay off with a small saving plus convenience. You’re itinerary is a nice pace but you won’t see massive savings using the pass on this trip.

  • Hi Toni,
    I am amazed at the depth of your knowledge. You are an inspiration and so thoughtful with your responses to everyone.
    I think from reading all the earlier requests and doing my best on the Hyperdia website that the JR Pass will be worth it for my trip, but I’m hoping you might be willing to give me a quick yes or no.
    I am flying into Tokyo, heading out to Kyoto, coming back via Hakone and then Mt Fuji to Tokyo. I saw that most of the way to Mt Fuji isn’t covered, but I think the major trips seem to be and the cost seems to be a slight benefit.
    On another note, are you able to give me any advice on food in Japan? I have to have a low sodium diet and I know this will preclude me from most Japanese foods. How available are simple western meals, or are there any Japanese dishes which don’t have much in the way of seasoning/sauces?
    Thanks so much,
    Melinda

    • Hi Melinda. If you are travelling within the 7-day pass then yes it will be worthwhile, you can go as far as Otsuki on the limited express using the pass on the day you go to Fuji.

      On the food side, I will be less helpful I’m sorry. It’s not easy following specific diets in Japan between the language barrier and that it’s not normal to make special requests of the chef. If you like nigiri sushi you will be in luck of course but many broths for noodles will be high in sodium, then there is the soy sauce, miso and many types of seaweed and sea vegetables are also high in sodium. I can’t pretend it won’t be tricky to stay strictly on plan. There are cafes with western style foods, western fast food and places serving European style food such as Italian but still I imagine it will be hard to be sure of something like sodium content. Yakitori style could be an option when the flavoured salt is served on the side for dipping to taste. Sorry I can’t offer more suggestions.

  • Hello Toni!

    Thank you so much for writing up this blog post, it was incredibly detailed and I’m grateful for all the information. However, I still have a slight issue in considering if purchasing a JR pass is worth it.

    I’ll be travelling with my grandparents to visit Japan in July for 14 days.
    We will be arriving at Tokyo NRT airport and flying out by Osaka KIX.

    As we are flying out by Osaka, I’m heavily contemplating if a JR pass is really necessary. This is our rough itinerary and if it doesn’t trouble you, I would really appreciate your advice.
    7 days in Tokyo (with a day trip to Hakone and possibly Nikko)
    4 days in Kyoto
    3 days in Osaka (with a day trip to Nara)

    These are just my rough plans. As I’m travelling with two elderly folks, I’m not sure if making so many day trips would be good for them. After calculating the day trips we would be making, I wasn’t sure if a 7 day pass was worth it, but have read countless of blog posts that advise people to purchase the pass, due to its flexibility (and as I am travelling with my grandparents, I really hope for a smooth sailing journey), hence my dilemma. I was also considering if I should just purchase the kyoto bus pass as I’m spending 4 days in Kyoto. Which do you believe is more worth the cost? I would also like to inquire how much money to allocate for transport in Japan?

    • With your itinerary and timing for the trip I wouldn’t use a JR pass for this but I would buy an IC card such as Suica or Pasmo which you can use all across Japan. It is unlikely you would get value from the JR pass and depending on where you are staying you may find that using a variety of railway companies rather than being locked into JR in the cities makes things easier. Travelling with your grandparents you may want to use the most convenient stations to avoid unnecessary walking. The subways will be useful, potentially Tobu is easier for Nikko, the Hakone free pass (our article) and even between Kyoto and Osaka the Keihan line will take you directly to the Gion area of Kyoto which can sometimes be more convenient.

  • Hi

    Husband and I will be travelling to Japan early October for 17 days. Arrive at Narita Airport on to Tokyo (should I activate our JR Pass to travel from airport to Tokyo). Maybe 2 days in Tokyo then we will be off to Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima (total 8 days) then back to Tokyo. Should we purchase a 14 day pass for each and obviously at the end of the trip back to Narita airport, our JR Pass would have expired so we would have to purchase tickets back to the airport. Also can we use the JR Pass to go to Kanazawa.

    Looking forward to your reply.

    • Hi Doreen, do you mean it is 8 days total trip or 8 days between when you leave Tokyo and return, it would make a difference to the option I choose? Yes you can use the JR Pass to go to Kanazawa, from Tokyo you can do the route north through Nagano by bullet train all the way, or from Osaka/Kyoto you can take the bullet train part way switching to the limited express, it’s also a very comfortable and quick way to travel and takes you up through the middle to Kanazawa.

  • Hi Toni,

    Thanks for your great tips. We need a little help deciding between the 7 and 14 days pass.
    we fly in to tokyo Narita on the 8th.
    train to Osaka on the 13th
    train to Kyoto on the 16th
    head back to tokyo on the 19th
    fly out of narita on the 20th.

    I’m a little behind in planning our day to day activities, so not sure what sites we’ll see yet and how often we’ll be catching trains.
    do we only need the 7 days pass and an IC card for the inner city travels and to and from airpot.
    Or are we better off getting the 14 days pass and that covers all travel?

    Thank you

    • If you use the 7-day pass from the 13th when you travel from Tokyo to Osaka you should get value from the pass and depending on how you spend the day and where you are staying the savings will change. I would not buy the 14-day pass for this trip as individual tickets or an IC pass would be more cost-effective during that time in Tokyo

  • Thank you for your fantastic post about the rail pass. My partner and I are going later this year so trying to be organised as it will also overlap with the rugby World Cup. Just a question regarding seating… do the seats have ample size? My partner is 6’7 so wondering if it’s worth the money to pay for a green pass?

    • The seats do offer a reasonable amount of leg room even in the standard car of limited express and shinkansen but yes, there is more space in the Green car seats, we have splurged on this trip ourselves for the bit of extra comfort. I took some photos of leg space in standard limited express seats yesterday and will do similar in the green car on the shinkansen tomorrow and update this post to give a better idea of what to expect and to compare the two.

    • As you advise occssionally you may need to travel on lines that don’t accept the JR pass and you will need to by a ticket. A word of caution when using ticket gates… When going through a ticket gate make sure the person before you has removed their ticket from the gate exit side BEFORE inserting your ticket to pass through. This happened to me and I mistakenly took the person in front’s ticket thinking it was mine. The person in front had simply forgot to take theirs and after remembering she complained to security who then pulled me aside and created a scene demanding I hand over my ticket, waving the arms and yelling at me in Japanese. Luckily I was with a guide who eventually was able to calm the situation. My ticket was long gone presumedly either gobbled up by the machine or mistakenly taken by the person behind me when it popped up from the exit slot. I think the whole thing may have actually got out of sequence for many following people. BE VERY CAREFUL!!!!

      • I suggest using the JR Pass or IC card as much as possible to avoid needing to use the ticket and adjustment machines as a visitor, it is just easier. That said in 9 years of travel to Japan and a lot of tickets along the way I’ve never seen that happen, nor someone in a customer facing role behave like that. Train station staff are usually very helpful. It is good advice to stay focused and be careful, it would be easy to forget to pick up your own ticket too if you aren’t used to the paper ticket system. I hope it wasn’t too upsetting and the rest of your trip is less stressful.

        • Thanks for the reply Toni. We have been using tge ticketing system fir a little while now and once you get used to the fare system, there’s an English button on the ticket machines that makes purchasing a ticket easy. The person who forgot to pick up their ticket eas clearly a Japanese local. Many in our group thought she was trting on a scam to travel without a ticket, but I think she simply girgot to pick it up. The people are very courteous and friendly and I agree this was completely out of character, but nevertheless it wss very embarrasing snd intimidating. Obviously there is a strict etiquette that needd to be followed and I think we possibly don’t understand it properly. Yes the JR pass is the way to go. We will be exploring the possibility of taking a bus next time whete the pass is not accepted.

          Cheers
          Stephen

  • Hi Toni,

    Good day.

    My husband and I with our 7-year daughter would like to visit Japan for the first time come January 12-21, 2020 from Perth (Perth-Osaka-Nagoya-Tokyo-Osaka-Perth). I have been stressing about our itinerary specifically transportation for weeks now. I am set to avail the JR Pass but then again I have read posts that it may or not be worth it. I have read many blogs about travelling to Japan and yours is by far the most comprehensive. Although I am still unsure if the 7-day JR is worth getting. I was hoping you can kindly share thoughts, please.

    Below is the itinerary I have come up so far, could you also advise if this achievable or too ambitious in terms of timing.

    Day 1 ARRIVAL IN JAPAN
    Take the train to JR Osaka Station and shuttle to hotel
    DAY 2 (Tues) OSAKA TOUR (UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN)
    DAY 3 (Wed) OSAKA TOUR (OSAKA CASTLE, OSAKA MUSEUM, TEMPOZAN FERRIS WHEEL, SHINSAIBASHI SUJI, AMRIKAMURA AND DOTONBORI)
    DAY 4 (Thu) Osaka to Nagoya. NAGOYA TOUR (JR CENTRAL TOWER, NORITAKE GARDEN, TOYOTA MUSEUM, OSU KANNON TEMPLE, ATSUTA SHRINE, SHIROTORI GARDEN, NAGOYA TV TOWER
    DAY 5 (Fri) NAGOYA TOUR (LEGOLAND)
    Day 6 (Sat) NAGOYA TOUR (NAGOYA NOH THEATER,CITY HALL, CITY ARCHIVES, CASTLE, NAGASHIMA SPALAND, MITSUI OUTLET PARK, JAZZ DREAM NAGASHIMA,TULIPFESTIVAL, BEGONIA GARDEN AND WINTER ILLUMINATION)
    NAGOYA TO TOKYO via JR Shinkansen Hikari Train
    Day 07 (Sun) TOKYO TOUR (MEIJI SHRINE + YOYOGI PARK + SHIBUYA)
    Day 08 (Mon) TOKYO TOUR (MT. FUJI DAY TRIP VIA TOUR PACKAGE)
    Day 09 (Tues) TOKYO TOUR (DISNEYLAND)
    Day 10 (Wednesday) DEPARTURE IN JAPAN
    04:00 AM ETD for Osaka Airport (Tokyo to Shin-Osaka via Hikari Shinkansen)
    From Shin-Osaka take Haruka Limited Express to Osaka Kansai Airport
    09:00 AM ETA for Osaka Airport
    Breakfast after Airport Check -in
    10:00 AM ETD for Perth
    10:40 PM ETA Perth Airport

    Thank you very much for your time.

    Looking forward to your response.

    Regards,
    RAM

    • It sounds like a great trip. There isn’t a big saving to be made on this trip but as it appears to be 7-days between leaving Osaka for Nagoya and departing for the airport it will provide some savings assuming you’ll be using it from Osaka – Nagoya – Nagashima – Nagoya – Tokyo – Osaka – Kansai Airport. Depending on where you stay in Tokyo you may find you use the JR trains for some other those trips rather than the subway.

      Have you confirmed that last day from Tokyo to Kansai Airpot works on timing? As far as I know the Shinkansen don’t start running for the day until 5am?

      • Thanks for your reply Toni.

        We have actually a change of plan:

        Day 1 -Fly in from Perth to Osaka
        Day 4 – Osaka to Nagoya via JR Hikari Shinkansen
        Day 7 – Nagoya to Tokyo via JR Hikari Shinkansen
        Day 10 -Fly out from Tokyo Narita to Perth

        For the hotels, we plan to stay near the city centre – is this a good idea?

        With the above, kindly advise if we will benefit from a JR Pass.

        Thank you very much.

          • Thanks Toni.

            Okay I am now looking at getting the 2-day Osaka amazing pass, Pasmo in Tokyo, Manaca in Nagoya and single ride tickets for the Shinkansen bullet trains.

            Much appreciated your time is responding.

          • The IC cards are no longer limited by region, for example we are in Japan at the moment and have been using Kansai’s ICOCA card in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Tochigi, Chiba etc with no problems including reloading cash onto it in Tokyo. The Manaca is less well known as it is Nagoya’s card but it should work in Tokyo, or pick up ICOCA in Osaka early in your trip and use it everywhere. The only difference in using the IC from another region is you can’t get the refund on it once you leave the region.

  • Hi Toni, Thanks for all the wonderful information on your site. We are in our 60s and my mobility is a bit impaired due to rotten knees! I am organising our first trip to Japan in early December and have a couple of queries. We are in Japan, on a stopover home from the UK, for 5 nights (almost 6 days) as we arrive at 10.30 a.m. on day 1 and depart at 7.30 p.m. on day 6. Our plan is to leave our big suitcases in a luggage store at the airport and just travel with our cabin bags. We plan on purchasing a 7-day Japan Rail Pass as it works out the cheapest for the travel we want to do.I have been on Hypedia to check costs.Here is our itinerary so far.
    Day 1. After exchanging our JR pass, we want to take the Narita Express to Shinagawa and then connect with the bullet train to Kyoto for 3 nights.
    Day 2. Look around Kyoto and /or do a half day trip
    Day 3. Head off early to Miyajima Island and then back into Hiroshima then back to Kyoto.
    Day 4. Head to Odawara station and put our bags into a locker and buy the Hakone Free pass. Do the loop and then continue onto Shinagawa and our hotel in Osaki (one stop away).
    Day 5. In Tokyo-not sure what we will do. We are still looking at some of your suggested day trips
    Day 6. Leave our bags at the hotel and we have until about 3 p.m. until we have to look at getting the Narita Express back to pick up our excess bags and check-in for our flight by 4.30 p.m.
    My questions are: –
    1. I read on a blog that we can reserve our seats on the bullet train where we exchange our JR voucher at the airport-is this correct?
    2. Am I correct that with theJR pass that seat reservations are free?
    3. Generally how much notice do we need to give for making a bullet train seat reservation? ie can we do it when we arrive at a train station or do we need to book in advance? This especially applies to our trip on Day 1 and our return trip from Hiroshima on Day 3 as we are unsure how long we will be out and about that day.
    4.To walk up to the Dashai Temple is it a steep incline to get up to see all the little Buddhas in your blog photo? I realise there are heaps of stairs at the actual temple, from the photo on your blog & I will have to make a decision on the day as to whether I am up to them.
    5.I have found a map of Odawara station and it shows coin lockers. Do you know if these are big enough for 2 cabin bags and also at that time of year would it be more likely that there would be any available?
    6.If we decide to go straight to Tokyo from Kyoto and do the Hakone free pass on the Saturday would it be very busy there at that time of year7. Is there much walking involved going between each section of the Hakone loop?
    Sorry about all the questions and I look forward to your reply, Kind regards ,Karyn

    • Hi Karyn, your trip sounds great. In answer to the questions:
      (1) You can reserve the seats under a JR Pass at any station with a booking office including the airport. I often have quite a list to book at once and I probably wouldn’t do that at the airport just because the ticket desk there is usually so busy but I don’t think there is anything to stop you.
      (2) Yes, the free seat reservations are one of the advantages of the pass
      (3) We often do the same and book our one home when we get to the station, during peak travel times like cherry blossom and Golden Week that would be risky, especially on main lines such as between Tokyo and Kyoto for example but otherwise we’ve never had any issue doing it that way as we like to keep it a bit flexible. On days when we are transferring with luggage, early starts, the last train of the day etc I do book in advance.
      (4) The walk up to the temple has is uphill but not steep, you don’t notice it is uphill really but as you arrive at the temple gates there is a big bank of stairs in front of you and they aren’t the only ones around the temple grounds.
      (5) From memory, there were three sizes that would fit up to a large suitcase so you should be fine with cabin bags.
      (6)Because Hakone is a prime spot for autumn leaf viewing, and that normally continues into the beginning of December it can be quite a busy time. There isn’t much walking required on the loop at all, things link together well but there are opportunities to explore more from various points if you want to.

    • I see, Toni. That’s is good news.

      Did you mean that I get can ICOCA in Osaka and use across Japan but I will be unable to make refunds in Tokyo (since departing from Tokyo)?

      Cheers.

  • Hi, thank you for you great blog! i’ve been so confused about all of this.
    would love your advice..
    we are travelling from tokyo – mount fuji – kyoto then back to tokyo to fly home..
    would we simply need the green class JR pass? is it worth it? its about $500 AUD each.. and do these trains have daily running lines? how do i pre book our seats , I’ve already booked accommodation so you can imagine I’m stressed we don’t get proper timed transport to those cities..
    Would appreciate your help.. thank you so much

    • Hi Roxana, If you are completing the travel from Tokyo and back to Tokyo within a 7-day period then the JR Pass should be a good option. You don’t need to use the green pass, when we are moving around a bit with our luggage like we are over the next month we often do book the green pass as the cars are less busy and we’ve never had any issue getting the seats we want and room at the back of the car for our large cases even in busy times. That said many people take their luggage successfully in the normal car and don’t have any issues if it’s not a very busy period like cherry blossom and golden week.

      Trains on those main lines run many times a day, every day, even during the holiday period, trains do usually stop around midnight through to the early hours of the next morning.

      When in Japan you pre-book your seats at the information centre in the JR stations, you will need to have exchanged your voucher for the pass first which you do in Japan but you can have the exchange and start date as different days. Then book your tickets if you are concerned they will be busy times, I usually book our major shinkansen travel or anything that I need a very specific train for. With the JR Pass you can’t prebook specific trains from outside Japan.

      With the JR Pass only the JR portion is covered on the way to Mt Fuji, that’s the limited express train to Otsuki, then it is local trains and buses the rest of the way. There are passes that cover all transport in the region but check what you are going to be doing to see if it will be worth it, when I looked for our day trip this time even though we are going to several different places it wasn’t going to save us money and the PASMO (or equivalent) is just as convenient.

  • Hi!
    Just to say your blog/website is amazing and so helpful and to ask for a bit of advice!
    The JR Pass is really confusing me. So I’m in Japan for a month, the first 10 days of which i’m in Tokyo and then I travel to Kyoto, Osaka, Kanazawa, Takayama, Sendai and Sapporo, maybe stopping in Himeji as well. I was thinking of getting the 14 day pass to travel, spending a day or so at each place to the last few places on the list.
    So it would be Day 1-10 in Tokyo
    11-16 in Kyoto
    16-19 in Osaka
    19-22 in Kanazawa/Takayama
    22-24 in Sendai
    24-26 in Sapporo
    with a few free days in between in case I do want to go to Himeji or Hakone or somewhere else during that time. I figured it was more economical to buy an over night coach ticket to Kyoto from Tokyo and then start using the train system and the JR Pass to travel to Osaka and onwards? Is this correct? Any advice you have at all would be great!
    Thanks,
    Hannah

    • Hi Hannah, the trip sounds fantastic. Can I confirm you are planning to use the JR Pass to travel by train up to Sapporo and that you fly out of Sapporo at the end of your stay in Japan?

  • Hiii! We have found your blog extremely helpful! We are planning our first trip tp Japan in May/June and we’re so excited!
    I’m doing all of the planning/booking myself, but I am just a little confused about the JR pass/travel options. I had initially planned to book a 14day pass for my husband and I, but upon research I am a little confused about the regions etc.. Are you able to PLEASE provide some light on this? Any advice is so appreciated!
    We arrive in Narita and are staying in Tokyo (near Ginza) for 6 nights. No “day trips” planned, just things such as Disneysea, Imperial palace etc. Then travelling to Mt Fuji for 2 nights. Then travelling to Kyoto for 6 nights. Wanting to do day trips to Osaka, Nara and Hiroshima from Kyoto.
    Then back to Tokyo (Shinjuku) for 7 nights, where we will do trips such as to the Ghibli Museum, the Meiji Shrine etc. Our trip is 3 weeks all up.

    I suppose the question is: The JR pass is worth it in this case, yes? From my research, I thought that I had concluded that it was. And if so, when purchasing, which ‘region’ do I select? I’m just so confused. I feel like the websites I have been looking at are so contradictory.

    • Hi Shadae, I’m not sure what provider you are looking at, I’ve linked the one we use in the article and it’s always been easy to follow, I would be cautious of buying from a website if I’d found there are contradictions but there are plenty of options available. The one you want is called the JR Pass, JR is the national railway company, all the other passes should have more specific names like the Tokyo Wide Pass, the others usually have longer names that specify the region such as the JR East Nagano-Niigata Pass or Kansai Wide Area Pass. These passes can be very good for some itineraries but there are many of them and you need to read the rules very carefully to be sure you get the right one, they include and exclude quite specific areas, some allow bullet train and some don’t etc.

      For your itinerary it would look at the JR Pass, the one that covers the whole country. In Tokyo you might use JR trains but not enough to make good use of the pass, the subway is a more common way to get around the inner city. I would look at the 7-day JR pass and start it when you leave Mt Fuji, if I am understanding your plan that would cover going from Fuji area to Kyoto, return day trips to Hiroshima, Nara and Osaka and the trip back from Kyoto to Tokyo. This would leave you with needing a separate ticket to get to Mt Fuji, depending on where exactly you will stay there are a variety of ways to do that. Then for your 13 nights in Tokyo I’d get an IC Card (a PASMO or SUICA) that you can use all around the country for incidental transport such as the tram in hiroshima, buses in Kyoto and subway in Kyoto & Osaka. The 7-day pass and ticket to Fuji should be a lot less than a 7-day pass and you would be getting good value from the 7-day over buying individual tickets for the whole trip.

  • Hi Toni
    Like all your interested travellers I am unsure re JR pass I need because of other train travels going on
    4 of us fly to Osaka going straight on to Kyoto for 3 days planning a trip to Bamboo forrest that will require a train trip I think
    Day 4 we plan to go to Nara stay one night
    Day 5 train Nara to Ise where we begin a 10 day trek using trains to return to accommodation each day ie Owase station, Mikisata stn, Kata sta, Nigishima stn ,Adawa stn, Kumanoshi and Shingu stations ..10 days all up
    Then we want to make our way to Hiroshima for three days including Myrajima and Himeji castle then back to Osaka for a night then we fly out from Osaka
    I think a 7 day JR pass might do the job but is there another pass I should consider for the other rail travel? I think Nara is a Kintetsu line which is different from JR..have no clue yet re the 10 day trek rail travel its a little confusing for me just now … We start our adventure in May
    Hoping you can direct me
    appreciate your advice
    Best wishes
    Hely

    • Hi Helen, as you aren’t going east I’d look at the JR West passes, something like the Kansai/Hiroshima or Sanyo passes might do what you want at a lower cost. Just be aware that there are different limitations on these than the full JR pass that you need to work with, the Kansai pass for example doesn’t allow reserved seats but in May (if after Golden week) that may not be a concern. JR or Japan Rail is a railway company with their own passes, Kintetsu is another company with their own passes, your route crosses the two and the most convenient options depending on your whole itinerary may not split in a way where sole use of either is ideal. I would suspect that one of the JR Passes from around Osaka to Himeji, Hiroshima, back to Osaka and potentially the airport trip may be cost effective though. There are multiple companies that will get you from Kyoto to Nara and Arashiyama, the most convenient will depend on where you are staying and where you want to get to once you are there. Hyperdia is a great resource once you’ve got the detail of your itinerary and the stations you’ll need worked out.

  • Hi Toni,
    Your blog has been extremely helpful and it’s probably our main resource in planning our upcoming trip. We have a 10 day trip coming up in late April – and wondering when you would recommend we activate our JR pass. WE planned to stay in Tokyo for day 1 (Meiji Shrine, Asakusa etc) then do Mt Fuji / Hakone area (2 days 1 night – using the Hakone free pass) then return to Tokyo for day trips ( Nikko; Disneyland; Kamakura; Kawagoe ? 1 day we haven’t decided) then Tokyo for last few days before heading home. As we were planning to use our JR pass – would you recommend us activating it in the first or last part of our trip. As we are doing things at the last minute, our itinerary is currently flexible.
    Thanks in advance!
    Max

      • oh really? No we haven’t coz unfortunately (or maybe fortunately in this case) I’m a last minute person. What would your recommendations be, Toni?

        • We would use an IC card (PASMO, SUICA or ICOCA) for convenience which can be used to tap on and off of most transport in the region, in Tokyo the Subway is usually more convenient than JR trains and aren’t covered by the JR Pass, and the JR trains such as Disney are short distance so much cheaper than the pass. For Kawagoe and Nikko we would use TOBU Railways which also aren’t covered on the JR Pass. You mention the Hakone Free Pass which we would also use and is good value but you can take a JR train to Odawara as a local starting point still for much less than the pass cost.

          You can use Hyperdia to work out the cost for each journey, use the price shown in the top left of each screen, not the one next to the trains as some require supplements and other seat fees that are included in the total figure.

          You might alternatively want to look at the Tokyo Wide Pass which you buy from JR once in Tokyo for Y10,000 as it covers many of the day trips you want to do and not only with JR. It’s possibly better though if you wanted to do Mt Fuji from Kawaguchiko rather than Hakone. It doesn’t cover the subway but is a lot cheaper than a JR Pass. It runs for 3 consecutive days so you do need to plan around it.

          • Wow!! Thanks for your time in replying. Amazingly helpful! Now off to do some research.
            Thank you once again

  • Hey Toni. I have found your site so helpful whilst planning my first trip to Japan. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. After reading the info you have shared, I think I am better off purchasing the 7 day JR instead of my initially planned 14 day JR. Do you agree?

    I am flying in to Narita then staying in Tokyo for 3 nights. From here I will travel down to Hakone where I will purchase the ‘Hakone 2 day free pass’ as I am here for 2 days/ nights. My next stop will be Kyoto for 3 nights. Following that, I shall travel to Osaka for 3 nights and will include a day trip to Nara. Lastly, I will travel back up to Tokyo for my final 2 nights then head to Haneda airport to go back home.

    My understanding of getting the best value for travel would be to purchase the 7 day JR to activate the day that I travel from Hakone to Kyoto and use it to travel:
    Hakone – Kyoto- Osaka- Nara- Osaka- Tokyo.

    Your input would be massively appreciated.

    All the best,

    Letesha

    • Hi Letesha, I would go with the 7-day pass myself for the part of the trip you have identified, the 14-day pass won’t be economical. In the cities, you’ll mostly use the subway and that isn’t covered but there are times you might also get a bit of extra use from the pass on local trains (maybe Fushimi Inari or Arashiyama in Kyoto for example). Have a great trip!

  • Hello Toni,

    I am hoping you can assist with a trip that I’m planning for a group of 4 adults travelling to Japan for the first time. I’ve read through your website and love it! Very helpful but just need some assistance with the following itinerary if you can:

    Sydney to Osaka 29th April @ 1800
    2 nights Osaka
    Train to Kyoto
    4 nights Kyoto
    Train to Tokyo
    6 nights Tokyo
    flight from Tokyo to Osaka
    11th March Osaka to Sydney @ 20:25

    * we would like to do a tour to Hiroshima & Miyajima and were planning to do this out of Osaka but given that we don’t have much time there should we do this out of Kyoto instead?

    *Rail option: We are thinking about doing the following day trips:
    Nara (Kyoto)
    Hiroshima & Miyajima (Osaka or Kyoto)
    Hakone (Tokyo)
    Mt Fuji (Tokyo)
    and possibly Nagano or Hitsujiyama Park (Tokyo)
    Then add on we will be doing a train from Osaka to Kyoto and then to Tokyo.

    Not sure what the best rail option is based on this.

    Hopefully you might be able to give some ideas/feedback as to what you believe is the best option/s for us.

    thank you in advance.

    Daniel

    • Hi Daniel, thanks for your kind feedback. For the best value, we’d use a 7-day pass and structure the day trips within the cities to make the best use of that. I’d suggest the Hiroshima day trip in the later part of your Kyoto stay and starting the pass on that day. If you are going to include Nagano I’d make sure that is in the early part of Tokyo as that’s an expensive bullet train trip and you’d want it covered in the pass.

      The 7-day pass will more than pay for itself with just the Hiroshima/Miyajima day trip and the ride through to Tokyo from Kyoto (Y36,420 value from the Y29,110 price) but you will be able to get far more value from it than that. The bullet train return to Nagano is Y16,800, to Odawara as the starting point for Hakone is Y3220 return although there are cheaper options if you don’t have the pass, Y3980 to Otsuki for the JR section of Mt Fuji on the special rapid etc

      One suggestion, although there are plenty of other ways to structure it, might be

      – 3 April – Hiroshima and Miyajima day trip from Kyoto
      – 4 April – Nara (shorter travel day and more time on your feet to break up the longer journeys but still uses the pass)
      – 5 April – Kyoto to Tokyo trip
      – 6 April – Hakone day trip
      – 7 April –
      – 8 April – Nagano Day trip??
      – 9 April – Mt Fuji / Kawaguchiko day trip

      Hitsujiyama park will use a private railway not the JR Pass so if you choose that option you might do it on a day you aren’t using the pass. If you are going for the pink moss season then another option you could consider, although we’ll be doing it for the first time this year so can’t give a review yet, is seeing the flower fields in your Mt Fuji day and doing the Shiba-zakura festival, there’s a shuttle bus from Kawaguchiko station to the site.

      The trip sounds fabulous – have fun!

  • Hi Toni,

    Thank you so much for your blog and insights! Its been really useful in planning out trip. I had a quick question on our trip, and was hoping maybe you can help clarify. We are going to Japan between the 27th of March and the 9th of April for Cherry Blossom season. We are starting off 4 nights in Tokyo, 3 nights in Kyoto (with day trip to Osaka) and the rest of the 6 nights back in Tokyo (10 days total in Tokyo). In your article, you state that it is more beneficial to have the JR Pass when traveling throughout different cities, but we are spending the majority of our trip in Tokyo. Our cousin also mentioned to us, similarly to your article, that you cannot use the JR pass throughout all public transportation in Tokyo, and she mentioned that day passes are also available. That being said, I wanted to know if maybe you can suggest what will be the most practical, cost efficient tool we can use to travel during our stay. We would really appreciate your insight.

    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Thanks,
    Brenda

    • Hi Brenda. The 7-day JR Pass for the Kyoto section of your trip isn’t a terrible idea, the adult pass is Y29,110 and the return trips between Tokyo and Kyoto, then Kyoto and Osaka on JR using the bullet train are Y29.840. You might then also use it for the NEX from the airport to the city, if you wanted to go out to Fushimi Inari or Nara from Kyoto or perhaps somewhere like Kamakura from Tokyo that also has great cherry blossoms giving extra use and value from it but it’s not amazing value.

      In the cities, depending on where you stay, you will probably use mostly subway and possibly bus in Kyoto. You probably will still use JR too but not so much. We use an IC card, something like PASMO, ICOCA or SUICA for any transport that isn’t under a JR Pass, it’s convenient to tap on and off but it’s not a cost saving. In some cities like Osaka you can look at something like the Osaka Amazing Pass that covers transport and many attractions that you might be interested in for your day there. In Kyoto they also have day passes for the subway & buses and in Tokyo there are subway 1-3 day passes but with those options you’ll need to think about how much you’ll be hopping on and off the transport, for us we just don’t use them enough and instead stick with the SUICA for those sections of the trip.

  • Hey,
    thanks for the article(s), they all help so much! I am planning to spend approximately three weeks in both big cities and Countryside. Do you have any tips on travelling alone for a 19- year old female?

    Thank you
    Nalu

    • Mainly just enjoy yourself, be open to the cultural differences and experiences and slow down enough to take it all in. Japan has a reputation as a very safe country and that has always been our experience but as a young woman in another country do take the usual precautions.

      I would suggest looking for shared accommodation if that suits your travel style especially if you don’t speak Japanese. One thing I notice on longer trips is that while I love being there and we have met so many friendly and wonderful people I do start to miss engaging with others in a deeper conversation that the language barrier can make difficult.

      If you can justify the expense I would recommend WIFI to remain connected as there are still few free options and being able to check a timetable, map or translate something on the go is so useful. Corner stores like 7-eleven are your friend for quick meals and snacks on a budget and the food is great quality. There’s a small deposit on IC cards for public transport like PASMO & SUICA but you can get it refunded at the end of your stay and the convenience is worth it. People are generally friendly and offer help easily if you start to look lost or confused, accept it, it’s genuine.

      Have a fabulous trip and happy to answer any other questions you have.

  • This is a amazing article! Thanks a lot.

    I am planning to get a 7 day JR pass and travelling with 2 kids from 03/30 to 04/04 ( between tokyo and kyoto ). Since I am travelling with 2 kids ( 4 and 5 ) , I understand that its free. We are planning to get the “green class” tickets for 2 adults in the “unreserved section”

    My question is …would you know if the trains are crowded during that time and if it makes sense to get atleast 1 ticket for the 2 kids so that we can have a comfortable journey ?

    Thanks
    Rakesh

    • Hi Rakesh. Yes children 5 and under can travel free with an adult on the basis they will sit on the adults lap. They are allowed to use empty seats but must move if a fare-paying passenger is without a seat. We’ve travelled in Japan at many times of year and late March to mid-April has been the busiest on the trains. That is also the most popular route so it is possible you will hit a full train or struggle to find spare seats close together for the family. That said we’ve not personally been on a train where seating was that tight.

      Buying them a pass is an option so they have their own seat for that longer trip, that way you might want to reserve seats, from what we’ve seen the reserved car is usually less busy and green car are in sets of 2 seats so if you have 3 booked on either side of the aisle it’s less likely someone will pick that 4th aisle seat unless the train is packed.

  • Hi There ~ Your article has been extremely helpful so many thanks. We have a 2 1/2 week trip to Japan in mid April. We have 4 nights in Tokyo then 5 nights in Kyoto then 7d/6n hiking the Komano Kodo starting from Kii – Tanabe and departing Kii-Katsura for 3 nights in Osaka before flying home. We plan on doing 2 day trips from Kyoto including Nara , train to Tanabe, train from Katsura to Osaka and then a day Trip from Osaka to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island. I’m not sure if it is worthwhile for us to purchase a JR pass as our planned train travel is so spread out. I would very much appreciate your thoughts. Many thanks fo your wonderful blog on Japan.

    • Hi Jayne. Thanks for the great feedback. That trip sounds amazing but I agree that the spread isn’t going to work well with the passes. I did look at just the 7-day ticket to cover the Kii-Katsuma back to Osaka, the Hiroshima and Miyajima day trip and the Airport Express but even that is right on the line saving only a few hundred yen with the pass. I always run the numbers and consider the options but for this one I’d probably just buy individual tickets or use an IC card as I went, especially as I don’t know that you’ll use the JR train to the airport (from Namba Nankai is better). Have a great trip!

      • Many thanks for your helpful reply. We are in Japan 11-29 April and I wondered as it is Cherry Blossom time, will it be necessary to pre book trains for our 4 day trips and transfers between Tokyo, Kyoto, the trek start, the trek finish and Osaka. What do you advise? Thanks Jayne

        • Hi Jayne, we’ve been in Japan during cherry blossom season a few times and haven’t been on a train that was packed full so you can probably get away without the bookings. If you have the JR pass however I would make use of the free booking service, booking them out in advance saves us time not having to get the tickets in the morning and doing several bookings at once.

  • Hi 2 aussies Travellers,
    We are travelling to Japan in may of this year for 16days/15 nights. We are wanting to what sort ofJR Railpass we should get 7 day or 14 days? These are the following places we intend on visiting on the duration of our trip:
    Tokyo 4 nights
    Kamakura – day trip
    Nagoya 2 nights (day trip Takayama)
    Kyoto 5 nights (day trips Nara and maybe Himeji)
    Osaka 4 nights
    Back to Tokyo for 1 night
    Also which of these cities should we spend 1 night for in a onsen and can you recommend any?
    Do we need to activate the JR Rail pass before we leave?
    Thanks so much
    Theo

    • Hi Theo. The itinerary in the sequence mentioned doesn’t seem to fit well into a 7-day pass but it will give you a cost saving on the using the 14-day pass even if you don’t end up going out to Himeji. There is onsen in Arashiyama (out of Kyoto city) or my favourites are in the Hakone area or Kinugawa Onsen in Nikko both of which you would do out of Tokyo as a base and can be done (mostly) with the JR pass. I’ve linked a couple of articles of onsen I’ve used in both.

      With the pass it’s cheaper and more convenient to purchase it before you leave home, they are still doing the trial selling them locally in Japan but not at all stations. Once there you can exchange that voucher you received for the JR pass at any time that’s convenient, you just specify which date you want to start using it for travel on for your 14 days. You can then book any of the trips you want ahead. Remember you can also use it for the NEX airport train if that’s convenient possibly at one end of your trip. Have fun!

  • Hi 2 Aussie Travellers, Terrific article – thank you very much.

    My wife and I are travelling to Haneda Japan 11/03 returning 15/04. We plan a couple of days in Tokyo to acclimatize and assemble our bicycles and then and will start pedaling south hoping to end up around the Kitakyushu general area. Our idea then is to catch a train back to Tokyo and spend the last week…ish disassembling the bikes and seeing Tokyo and nearby sites. We are considering the JR 7 day pass and activating it for the return journey to Tokyo. Your advice on this would be greatly appreciated. I have tried using the HyperDia link but could not really work it well enough (likely my fault not the links).
    Is the JR pass a viable option for the long return trip and for daily use around Tokyo and surrounding cities/sights. Or would we be better just purchasing a one way ticket back to Tokyo on the day and utilising daily subway and train options abck in Tokyo.

    Thanks in advance.
    Regards
    Pete

    • Hi Peter. The cost to get back to Tokyo on the bullet train from Hakata/Fukuoka is around Y22,130, well under the cost of the JR pass but I don’t know much about doing it with bikes. I do know that you are allowed bikes on trains including the Shinkansen but I heard something about them needing to be in a special carry bag, which I can see for those fold up city bikes but unsure if that will work for you. If you have done your sightseeing on the way down and are travelling directly back that is a long train journey, have you priced out the early booking discount airfares as an alternative? I guess that option may have an excess charge for the bikes and I haven’t travelled with oversize but those deals could be competitive for something like that.

      The JR Pass around Tokyo and surrounding cities if you are thinking places like Yokohama and Kamakura is unlikely to work out more cost effective than individual tickets.

      • Hi Toni,
        Thank you very much for the reply and info. We do have the bags for train travel (Rinko’s) and did consider domestic flights but comments from experienced travelers to Japan and supported by your article suggest that that the Japanese Rail System is as much an experience as any of the attractions. We will however take your advice and give the JR Pass a miss and just sort travel as we need.
        Once gain thank you very much for your assistance.
        Regards
        Pete

  • Hi Toni
    What would be the most reasonable priced option to get to the Tokyo Hilton in Shinjuku please from Narita airport ?
    2 persons 2 suitcases with wheels
    Also do i book reserved ( green seats ) in advance or when I turn up at the station for departure ?
    We are doing 3 legs– Tokyo/ Kyoto, Kyoto/Himeiji/Hiroshima return , Kyoto /Tokyo
    regards Wayne

    • From Narita the Airport Limousine Bus is Y3100 and goes directly to the hotel. Another option is the Narita Express train which is Y3190 but it’s a 1.5 km walk which is a fair way for luggage wheels on uneven paths so you will probably need a taxi or the Hilton Shuttle from the station to the hotel. These are the options I would use with suitcases but you can do it cheaper if you are prepared to use local trains rather than the express and changes trains.

      You can book your seats either in advance or immediately before you board the train, if it’s a busy time you will have more choice doing it early but normally it’s not too much of an issue. When I have a clear itinerary as you do I’d normally book those main legs all at once in advance although if you are looking to stop at Himeji then continue on you may want that next leg to be more flexible.

  • Hello, great blog thank you for the useful information. My partner and I are in the process of ordering a pass for either 2 or 3 weeks. What I wanted to understand was the process for making reservations on specific trains? How is this carried out as we would rather this than just rocking up on the day and catching the train. Thanks and happy new year

    • Hi Harry, at the major stations there is a JR booking office and you can pop in and book them there. Just tell them the date where you want to go, where you will be going from and to, and the time you want to leave, they’ll find the best option you don’t need to know the exact trains. We normally have a rough outline of our major trips (bullet train / limited express) and book them all, or a week at once. In the bigger stations (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagano, Odawara) we’ve never had any issue with making the bookings in English, normally any station that is a limited express or shinkansen stop would be fine.

    • Hi there,

      We’re heading off to Japan on first feb and finding it overwhelming deciding on the JR pass – I believe if we do a 7 day it would be suitable

      So far we fly into Tokyo Narita – 4 nights there with a day trip somewhere mixed in
      1 night hakone
      3 nights Kyoto
      1 night Osaka
      Then fly out of Osaka next day

      Needing to make this decision pretty quick if I’m needing it

      Your help would be greatly appreciated – really enjoying reading your info!

      • Hi Rachel, unless you are planning on doing a very long distance day trip from Tokyo the pass won’t pay off and you’ll be better with individual tickets and possibly an IC card to use within the cities. Flying into one city and out of another as you are is a great way to save the time and cost of the return train trip.

        • Hi Toni,
          Wow thank you for the prompt response!
          We may do a day trip to Nara from Kyoto and the longest day trip from Tokyo would possibly be Nikko.
          So I’d stay stick with the advice and not bother?
          If we don’t get one does this just mean we can’t book the trains ahead and we just go to the station on the day? I’m guessing there will still be people to help us in the right direction?

          • You can still book the trains ahead at the JR office at the station, there is a small additional fee but still not worth buying the pass. You’ll have no problem getting the help you need. For Nikko you may find Tobu Railways from Asakusa more convenient and cost-effective than JR anyway. Nara from Kyoto isn’t an expensive trip but a lovely spot if you can fit it in.

  • Hiya!
    I’m off to visit my partner in Japan in a couple of months. I will be entering on a temporary visitor visa so I believe I am eligible for the JR pass, however he is on a working holiday visa. I believe this means he doesn’t qualify for the JR pass, but is there an alternative for him? Or is he able to get the JR west pass (for example) instead of the full country?

    Thanks heaps and really appreciate how helpful your blog is!

    C.

    • The Japan Rail Pass and other tourist passes such as those issued by JR West are only available to those on a temporary visa and they do check the passport to confirm. I don’t know of any that are able to be used by residents or people on other visa categories.

  • Hi 2 Aussie Travellers! I’m currently planning a trip to Japan for the Spring this year. I’ve already decided a rail pass will be a good investment. It is a 16 day trip, and my group will activate the (14 day) pass on day 3 when we go to Nikko from Tokyo.

    Do you know a good method for searching through transit options so that I know my rail pass will be valid for use? I don’t want to accidentally plan on using a bus that isn’t under the JR Pass. So far I’ve just been using things like Google maps to figure out transit options, and I have never used a subway before (I live in a smaller suberb).

    • Hi Chris, the best website to use is http://www.hyperdia.com which will tell you the price if you are trying to work out the pass value (use the total in the top left) anywhere you need to change, how long it takes, what company it is and your best options for getting from a to b. With the JR Pass the main thing to remember when looking at the options is that is it only Japan Rail (JR) not the private railways, subways and buses. Nikko for example can be accessed with JR or Tobu Railways so you’ll want to pick the JR option – it does take a bit of research as they generally have their own infrastructure and run from different stations.

      You’ll be fine with the subway but I have a few tips for first timers, it’s often the best way to get around in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka but the pass doesn’t cover it, we use an IC card to tap on and off, the SUICA, ICOCA and PASMO all work.

      We’ve planned a lot of trips now so if you need suggestions on getting to any particular places just ask. Have fun with your planning!

  • Hi Toni,

    Thanks for all your Blogs, I’m using them to plan my trip around Japan during the Rugby world cup this year. Just wondering what your thoughts are on whether my family and I should purchase the JR Pass. We are travelling in a party of 5 (2 adults, 13 year old, 6 year old and a 2 year old). I am trying to fly into Sapporo and then look to activate my pass once we leave Sapporo.

    1) Sapporo to Hanazono (7 days – also visit Tokyo and Kyoto)
    2) Hanazono to Kumamoto (7 days -also Visit Osaka and Kobe)
    3) Kumamoto to Hanazono (7 days – also visit Hiroshima and Miyajima Island)
    4) Hanazono to Osaka – fly out of Osaka

    Do you suggest I buy a 21 day pass?

    Thanks
    Mel

    • Hi Mel, if I understand correctly that you will be going from Sapporo in Hokkaido, through Tokyo and Osaka and down to Kumamoto in Kyushu and back to Osaka in the 21 days then the 21-day pass will be great value, even more so with the stops and trips you are planning. It is a lot of time on trains but you will see some diverse scenery along the way. What an amazing trip.

  • Hi, I am loving your blog and info on Japan, as I plan our trip.

    Just a question, with the Pass, does it cover ALL of the bullet trains? As I thought I read that it doesn’t cover the Nazami, (the fastest one). If it doesn’t, how do we make sure we don’t get on the wrong one?

    I am thinking of purchasing the 14 day pass, as we are there for 13 days. I see we can use the pass straight up from the Narita Airport to tokyo station, so we will activate it at the airport. After a few days in Tokyo and Disneyland we plan on heading down to Hiroshima via Hakone and Osaka, back to Kyoto then back to Tokyo. Visiting Miyamiima island as well. So I think we will get good use out of the pass.

    Again, thanks for all the info. It is great, and I am feeling much more confident travelling to Japan with my 2 teenage daughters.

    • Hi Lara, the JR pass doesn’t include the Nozomi, Mizuho or Hayabusa. These ‘faster’ trains are quicker because they stop at less stations along the way so where you are on a longer trip that can make a difference but you can get to the same places on other bullet trains. All the trains can travel at speeds well in excess of the allowed speeds on the track. The NOZOMI is the one you need to watch out for on the route you are doing but it’s well marked so you won’t catch the wrong one. When you buy or book your ticket you will see what platform you need to go to.

      To decide if you could use the 7-day rather than 14-day pass check how many days you’ll have in Tokyo and at Disney as you won’t get much use out of the pass there – if between leaving and returning to Tokyo it’s 7 days or less you could use the cheaper pass and buy single tickets for the airport train tickets. If not then you will still be getting great value out of the 14-day pass. Have a fabulous trip!

  • I am absolutely loving your blogs, so much information and for being a first time Japan traveller I am so thankful! Please forgive me if you have answered this question before, but I was wondering if you could give me some insight into our itinerary and whether or not the JR pass will be worth it and if we have enough time in each place.

    Fly into Narita – spend three nights in Tokyo
    One night in Mt Fuji
    Two nights in Kyoto
    Three nights in Osaka (including a trip to Nara)
    Two nights in Hiroshima
    Two nights back in Tokyo
    Fly out of Narita

    thank you so much for your help 🙂

    • Hi Claudia, that itinerary looks fantastic and the 14-day pass will be good value, even if you went directly Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and back the individual tickets would cost more and you have plenty more use of the pass beside that. In addition to what is listed above you can use it on the train to and from Narita and also if you get out to Miyajima Island in Hiroshima it covers both the train and ferry.

  • thank you for sharing your blog I have found it very helpful. Hopefully you can help me out with my question. My husband and I and our 3 kids – 13 year old, 6 year old and 18monrh old will be travelling to Japan for the Rugby World Cup in Sep/Oct 2019. We will be traveling and trying to find things to do in each city in between games.

    Arrive Tokyo – 1 night
    Arrive Sapporo – 6 days ( Rugby game first night then remaining days looking sightsee in the area or possible travel back to Tokyo)
    Arrive Hanazono – 6 days
    Arrive Kumamoto – 6 days
    Arrive back at Hanazono – 1 day
    Back to Tokyo to fly out of Japan.

    We are looking to spend about 21 to 25 days in Japan and looking to see much of the country as we make our way down the country to the rugby venues in Sapporo, Hanazono, Kumamoto. Each game is 1 week apart so we want to fit in the main spots – Hiroshima, Osaka, Miyajima Is, Kyoto, Mt Fuji, Universal Studios, Disney land.

    Do you think we should purchase the JRP? Last time I was in Japan was over 10 years ago and I did use the JRP then however I was only there for about 2 weeks.

    If you could advise and let me know if there are any other places I could take my kids that would be great.

    Thanks
    Mel

    • Apologies for the delay Mel, we’ve been off-line over the holidays and just catching up now. I think the train questions were answered in your message below. We don’t have children so that part I’m not so familiar with at the various ages but you have so much diversity planned I’m sure there is something for everyone. Both Disney and USJ come highly recommended from families who have dropped us a message after their trips.

  • Hello, these are the places I’d like to go:

    Kawagoe
    Kakunodate Samurai Village
    Kamakura
    Edo Wonderland
    Mount nokogiri
    Mount Takao
    Nikko

    Would a jr rail pass cover all this? And would it be worth it?

    • Hi Charles, for most of the destinations you can get to the nearest station by JR Trains and are therefore covered by JR Pass. Mount Takao is in Tokyo so a short fare and you need a local train for at least the last part but could use JR part of the way if you want to. I cover Mt Takao in this post.

      What period of time do you plan to cover the destinations in, the JR Pass comes in a 7, 14 or 21-day pass, often a 7 day will be cost effective where the others are not but that can be a very busy itinerary. Also are they all day trips from a central base (Tokyo?) or do you plan to move accommodation? It makes a difference as to whether you are calculating return trips or continuations in which case sequence will matter more.

      As a general rule, I’d say any 7-day itinerary including a return trip between Tokyo and Kakunodate will be cost-effective as that bullet train trip alone is more than the pass. Therefore addition trips fitted into that week are all added value you gain from the pass.

      • Thank you for the reply. Sorry for the lack of info.

        I’ll be staying in Tokyo Ueno in March for two weeks. Don’t plan to stay at another place. Just like to take day trips for the last week, so I was thinking of 7 day pass.

  • Hi, terrific article and such helpful responses for everyone!

    I have just booked my rail pass for Japan and after opening this blog post fear I might have made the wrong decision in ordering a 21 day pass and a 14 day pass. I really screwed up my maths there and thought it could be used in tokyo for whatever reason. I think I may need to cancel one but I don’t even know if it’s possible. I’m heading to Japan & Seoul for a total of 6 weeks, I plan on staying in tokyo (~5 days), fuji 5 lakes, kyoto, nara, osaka, okayama (for naoshima) and hiroshima finishing off in Seoul (~7 days) and Tokyo (~4 days). I’ve emailed the distributor and hopefully will be able to recoup my losses, probably not much more I can do (especially before Christmas. Thanks for providing so many people with information and assistance so there are less people making my mistakes!

    • Hi Claire. That is so annoying but there is still hope. Many of the providers do have a cooling off / cancellation period so I will keep my fingers crossed that you fit into that. It’s not that you can’t use it at all in Tokyo but there is limited use and it’s not an economical or convenient choice generally. So many people with good intentions tell first-time visitors that they MUST get the pass that I decided to write this article to give a bit of balance. Are you flying back from Seoul to Tokyo rather than crossing the country by rail again?

      • Hey Toni, thank you so much for the crossed fingers! It was such a silly mistake and I’m already cutting it close timewise hence rash decisions. The only other long term rail pass I’ve ordered was the eurrail (10 trips in 3 months) and I was thinking about total travel days. Of course, it’s naturally very different in a different continent! I’m flying from Seoul to Tokyo and spending a few days there before I fly home. With both passes I’d be paying for so many days in Tokyo and from reading this blog post and all the comments, that’s not economically worth it. We’ll see how it goes, thanks for the kind words!

  • Hi,

    Thank you so much for this article. So informative and helpful!

    I was hoping you could help me with some advice on whether you think my family should purchase a rail pass? We’re flying into Tokyo and heading straight to Nagano for five days, then back to Tokyo for four days, then three days in Kyoto and flying out of Osaka.

    Thank you for your help!

    • Hi Helen, with the 5 days Nagano, 4 days Tokyo, 3 days Kyoto split I wouldn’t use the pass. If the Nagano and Tokyo were the other way around it might be worthwhile with a 7-day pass to cover the 3 longer journeys.

  • This is a great site and I’ve only just discovered it. Thank you. We are a family of 6 adults and 2 young children. We will be in Japan for 15 days. (January 9 to 24, 2019) 4 nights in Tokyo, 8 nights in Hakuba and 3 nights in Hiroshima before departing from Tokyo. I think it is good value for us to purchase a 7 day pass and activate it when we leave Hakuba. We are staying nearby Tokyo Shinjuku Station. Is it more time efficient to exchange the coupon at the airport or Shinjuku?
    Also I have read different views on whether to buy and book a seat in advance for our first train journey to Hakuba or to try our luck in the unbooked carriages. What is your advice? On the ticket search, I see 2 prices- one for the journey and another for the seat. Is the price different if you don’t book a seat? If not why wouldn’t everyone book a seat?
    Do the trains have wifi?
    For the trip from Hukuba to Hiroshima I settled on the train in preference to flying because of the wasted time in airports. Is that a correct assumption?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Wendy,

      When you look at Hyperdia thre will be a price against total, fare and seat fee. When you change your seat type where that is an option, say from reserved to unreserved, or to green car the seat fee price will change but you will always pay a seat fee – even if you go unreserved and end up standing on a busy day you will pay the unreserved seat fee. If you are going Tokyo to Nagano the difference from a reserved seat or unbooked carriage is Y720.

      Some trains have free WIFI in Japan, they are rolling it out progressively across various routes and trains, so far we haven’t found it consistent or reliable more of a bonus if you end up with it and it works. We travel with a mobile wifi device as I need to be able to get online over there.

      For simplicity I would use the train to Nagano and the bus transfers to Hakuba, you can get there by local trains but there are likely a few switches and with a bigger group and children it might be worth weighing up the additional cost.

      Through to Hiroshima I would also take the train. There is a regional airport at Matsumoto but the chance of a conveniently timed and well priced flight getting you there any faster is low and if you have to go back to the Tokyo airports then your costs will be higher and it will likely take just as long or longer.

      If you are using the train then the JR pass will be worthwhile. You could change it either at the airport or Shinjuku station, whichever will fit with your timing. As you have 4 nights in Tokyo and are near the station I would do it there at either the JR East travel centre or information centre but only because you are likely to be passing it a few times, I usually can’t wait to clear the airport once I get there and you don’t need to use it immediately.

      • Thank you so much for taking the time and informative advice. Sorry I have 2 more questions

        Is likely to be snowing and wet in January in Tokyo and Hiroshima to the extent we should purchase special waterproof shoes and will the weather make it very difficult to walk from stations to hotels with bags?

        We arrive in terminal 3. Narita IA. Is the only way to terminal 1 and 2 on foot and exposed to the weather?

        • You are very unlikely to experience snow in Tokyo or Hiroshima, on average they get a light fall once or twice each winter and it won’t impact moving around on foot it rarely sits on the ground for long before melting away. Rain is definitely a possibility at any time of year but we’ve had much heavier rain in summer than winter in Japan. I just wear leather boots or casual shoes/sneakers in the cities during winter and the cooler seasons.

          Terminal 3 to terminal 2 is a covered walk or you can take the free shuttle bus that runs every 10 minutes or so. To terminal 1 take the bus.

  • Hi! Thank you so much for this informative and useful article. However, I am still slightly confused at how all of this works and was wondering which rail pass you would recommend.

    We are staying in Japan for 12 days in total (19th – 31st Jan)
    ~ Tokyo (19th – 23rd)
    ~ Kyoto (23rd – 26th)
    ~ Osaka (26th – 29th) – Planning to have Nara day trip
    ~ Tokyo (29th – 31st)

    These are probably our major movements around japan, but we may also likely make some smaller day trips around each city. I am also travelling with 2 other friends.

    Also i was wondering where we could purchase these tickets? (I heard online was easier and a better experience).

    Thank you so much for your help!

    • Hi Daniel, the 7 day pass to cover the trips to and from Kyoto, Kyoto to Osaka, and the Nara day trip are approximately the value of the pass. Individual tickets would cost you Y30,320 and the pass is Y29,110. There’s a small saving with the pass, free booking for the Tokyo-Kyoto legs to make sure you get your choice of seats and I find it slightly more convenient. To get a bit of extra value you have a JR loop in Osaka but where you are staying will impact how convenient it is to make use of that, subways stop are more common. Tokyo also has a JR loop. In Kyoto if you go out to Arashiyama or Fushimi Inari there are JR options but within the central city again subway or buses are usually the better option.

      We recommend online purchase and always do it that way ourselves now. We use these guys and have been happy with the service, speed and price but there are a number of reputable online providers.

      We personally have only had issues once and it was with a major travel agent in store in Australia, one experience isn’t a trend but still our choice since has been to go online. The main thing we are told by friends and through this website is that travel agents are often trying to upsell travellers to longer passes that just don’t make sense for the persons itinerary. Most people don’t need the pass for their full stay and no one wants to throw their travel dollars away.

  • Thank you for your japan rail pass article. However just going to ask you for advice as well if you dont mind if i should just get the 7 day or 14 days pass. Hope you dont mind. Travelling with me is 2senior and 2kids
    We arrive in Haneda airport on the jan 13th and then go to Osaka.
    Osaka stay is jan 13 -17. While in Osaka, plan is visit USJ and the aquarium in addition to visiting Nara or Kyoto if time allows. Staying in a hotel near Jr Namba station..
    Then shinjuku 17-19 jan. Hotel near JR shinjuku station
    Then hotel okura near disneyland 19-23 jan.
    23 leave japan via Haneda airport.
    No set day trips yet planned unfortunately.
    I am alloting 2days for disneyland (jan 20-21) Other day (jan 22, jan 19) no concrete plans yet – depending on the energy level of both seniors

    • Hi Juliana, the 14 day pass won’t be economical but the 7 day (13th-19th?) activated from arrival for the trip from Tokyo to Osaka would save you a little. You’d use it for the return trips from Tokyo to Osaka, the day trips to Nara and Kyoto, it’s a JR line out to USJ and you can use the JR loop line to get to, or close to many places in Osaka. For the aquarium for example the closest you can get to Bentencho station which is a 4km walk so you might take the subway closer. Honestly I use the subway more often in Osaka but if you are staying near JR Namba it’s a 3 minute ride to JR Imamiya station which is on the loop so it’s possible to minimise your subway use without tiring out other family members to much.

      The pass will still be active when you get back to Shinjuku and there is a JR station there and a similar Tokyo loop plus you want JR to get out to the Disney resort area.

      Have a great trip!

  • Hi. Wow, thank you so much for sharing all this information.
    It’s so insightful and helpful – amazing!

    We have our first trip booked for Japan in Dec / Jan and can’t wait (just the two of us). We are in the process now of looking into the Japan Rail Pass, however from our own online research it may not benefit us. Our itinerary is as follows;
    Arrive Tokyo – stay 3 nights
    Tokyo – Kyoto – via bullet train – stay 3 nights in Kyoto
    Kyoto – Mount Koya – train / bus – stay 1 night in Koya-cho, Mount Koya
    (our understanding is the trains required to get you from Kyoto to Mount Koya aren’t covered by the Japan Rail Pass)
    Mount Koya – Osaka – bus / trains – stay 3 nights in Osaka
    Osaka – depart international flight

    We plan to explore these three main cities and don’t have day trips planned, although we’ve considered a trip to see the Tori Gates. We will need to use the train to get to and from the airport and get around the large city, unless the subway is the preferred method people use?

    Would love and appreciate anything feedback you have and if you tend to also agree that in our case the Japan Rail Pass might not be the most economical solution.

    Thank you so much! Julie

    • Hi Julie, I agree that the JR Pass won’t be useful for you on this trip. Using multi-city flights can save both travel time and cost on internal transport and most of the trip to Koyasan uses local transport and not JR. It sounds fabulous, up there in winter will be so pretty.

      • Thank you so much for your reply Toni. Appreciate it!
        We hadn’t even thought of multi-city flights and will look into it.
        We can’t wait to experience the place in winter.

  • Hi there,

    This blog has been very useful in helping us plan our trip to Japan in April 2019, so thanks!
    However there is just one thing I can’t decided – to buy or not to buy a JR pass!

    Our itinerary looks something like this:
    – Land Narita to Disneyland (4 nights)
    – Disneyland to Skinjuku (7 nights)
    – Skinjuku to Kyoto (5 nights)
    – Kyoto to Osaka (5 nights)

    We are travel as family of four (2 adults, 2 children but one is 13 so adults prices apply).

    I’ve been quoted just over $2500 for the JR pass by a travel agent but not sure if its worth the expense – some advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Kelly, it doesn’t look like any of the JR passes would be economical if I am understanding correctly that you fly into Narita and out of Kansai (Osaka)? Also that price looks much too high, how many days was she quoting the JR Pass for?

      • Hi Toni,

        Apparently we couldn’t fly home out of Osaka, therefore we are flying to Narita from Osaka and then back to Melbourne.
        The quote was for 21 days.

        Cheers,
        Kelly

        • Hi Kelly, I don’t know why they’d recommend a 21 day pass for your itinerary. You need to travel around a lot in the 21 days for that to pay off. Your only long distance train trip is Tokyo to Kyoto on the bullet train, an adult ticket for that is Y13,600 (around A$170). You would be able to use the pass for other parts of the trip but there are also other options that might suit you better. For example you could use JR trains from Narita to the Disney Resort but thats a few transfers, it’s often easier, especially with children and luggage to use the Limousine buses (around A$22 for an adult) they load and unload your luggage into the hold and depending where you stay you can be delivered directly to your hotel.
          You can also use the JR trains from Kyoto to Osaka, and from Osaka to the Airport but depending where you stay there may be more convenient options too. Within the cities you are far more likely to use the subway than JR trains very much. I can’t see any way that even the 7 day JR Pass can pay off.

          If you want the pass it’s not for me to say not to but it will be a very expensive option without any real advantage.

          Feel free to ask more questions here in the comments but if you want to chat offline you can email me or message me on our Facebook Page.

  • Hi!

    Thanks so much for your dedication and enthusiasm in answering all of these JR questions…reading through them as helped so much! I just wanted to confirm I am on the right page in purchasing a JR pass based on the following itinerary for 2 adults, 17, 15 and 7 year old child:

    Arrive Tokyo (Haneda)
    4 nights Tokyo with possible Disneyland day trip (staying 5 mins walk from JR Yoyogi and 10 mins walk from Shinjuku Station which I think both have JR lines?) No other day trips outside of Tokyo planned
    Bullet Train (Hikari) Tokyo to Osaka
    4 nights Osaka with 1 day trip to Kyoto
    Bullet Train (Hikari) from Osaka back to Narita Airport for flight home

    After looking at Hyperdia, I’m thinking if we purchase the 7 day JR pass and activate it on the 2nd day it will be more cost effective than buying individual tickets? Also, does the JR pass help in getting to Disneyland?

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Melissa, that is what I would do, it’s not a big saving but any saving is worth having. I you time the 7 day JR pass to be sure it goes through until you fly out of Narita you can use the NEX plus whatever earlier days it might cover in Tokyo to get that extra value.

      • Sorry I missed the question on Disney transport. JR is the best way to get out there from the city, you want the Maihama station. From Shinjuku take the JR Chuo line to Tokyo station then either JR Keiyo or Musashino line out to Maihama Station. The Disney Resort line into the park is private not JR and you cross from Maihama station to Resort Gate Way station on foot to use that.

  • Hi,
    I am planning to visit Japan 24th January – 2nd February 2019 (10 days), and will arrive and take off from Haneda Airport.
    Could you kindly advice which type of JR Pass should I buy with best value?
    My plan is:
    24-26th January: Tokyo, Shirakawago and snow monkey
    27-31st January: Hokkaido area: Asahikawa and Sapporo
    1-2nd February: back to Tokyo

    Can I use the JR Pass for trip : Tokyo to Sapporo and return?
    where can I buy the JR Pass with a good price?
    If you have any advise, I will be more than happy if you let me know, my plan is flexible.

    Many thanks,
    Li

    • Hi Li, you can use the JR pass to travel all around Japan on their lines including the route from Tokyo to Sapporo, however this is a very long trip, are you planning to break it in destinations along the way? If not you may also want to look into the early booking discount airfares to Sapporo, these can be very cost effective at around Y10,000 one way and we have used these a few times.

      While all train lines are available on the pass all trains aren’t and the most direct and fastest way to get all the way to Sapporo is the Hayabusa which, like Nozumi, isn’t included in the pass. It makes a big difference to time and train changes along the way.

      Shirakawago is a 700 km round trip from Tokyo, you can do part of it with JR but a train to Toyoma then bus is the most effective, the bus isn’t included on the pass. Do you plan for those first three days staying one night in each of Tokyo, Shirakawago and Nagano?

      We book our Japan Rail Passes through Japan Rail Pass but I’m not sure I’d use a rail pass for this trip if the priority is time in the target destinations rather than exploring towns along the way

  • Hello!
    amazing blog 🙂
    i’ve been to japan couple years ago but only went for the snow so didnt explore much
    i’m going again in march with my partner dates as below:
    Tokyo March 20-22
    Osaka March 22-25
    Hiroshima March 25 – 27
    Kyoto March 27-31
    Tokyo March 31 – April 4

    i was looking at getting 2x 14 day JR National Passes

    just wanted to know if you think this is best. i havent had many friends utilise this and gets a bit overwhelming trying to find the answer! aaha

    thanks! 🙂

    teish

    • Hi Teish, you will have a saving with those 4 trips using the 14 day pass, any additional trips you do on JR will be a bonus, so maybe train from airport, Miyajima in Hiroshima or anywhere like Nara or Fushimi Inari will all have JR options.

    • Hi. We are a family of 6 (3 adults, 3 children between 12 and16 years) travelling to Japan in early January. We arrive in Tokyo 3rd Jan and will head straight to Hakuba for 8 nights. We then travel back to Tokyo and travel around Japan for 6 nights. We definitely will buy the JR Pass for the last 7 days but am wondering if we should buy the 14 day pass for travel between the airport at Tokyo and Nagano. Thanks

    • Hi Toni!
      Thank you so much for this! It’s incredible help.
      My sister and I are making a trip to Japan in late 2019 for two weeks and I was wondering if you thought our itinerary was alright? And just to make sure that the JR pass is useful for us?
      We want to fly in to Tokyo, spend 3 nights there before heading to Kyoto for 5 days, Osaka for 3 afterwards and then back up to Tokyo for another 3 days to rest and just explore.
      Thanks again! (This might be in January as well – if that changes any of your thoughts)

      • Hi Tiare, The trip sounds great and a good length for exploring the 3 cities and surrounding parts if you wanted to. The 3 cities are very different and offer at lot of options. You have 8 nights between the trips to and from Tokyo so the 7 day JR pass isn’t an option and the 14 day won’t be economical, as it stands individual tickets for the shinkansen seem to be a better option. We have been in these cities at both times of year and our preference is November to early December as the autumn leaves are so beautiful in the parks, gardens and around the temples. The winter lights are also usually up by the end of November and some of those displays are fantastic. January is winter and while you are unlikely to see snow in those cities (we have experienced it in Kyoto and Tokyo on different trips but it is rare and doesn’t stay around long) the gardens are quite bare and the grass dies back, it’s beautiful in it’s own way but quite a different experience.

  • Hi Toni,
    Can you help with our trip, whether we should buy JR pass or just buy individually using Pasmo/ICOCA? The itinerary is :
    arriving osaka stay 2 nights (1 day around city maybe use osaka amazing pass what do you think?, 1day at universal studios), nara 1 night, kyoto 1 night then tokyo 3 nights but early flight on last day from tokyo. first night tokyo to disneyland, 2nd night to Mt. Fuji (joining tour or by ourself, any suggestion?),last night city tour in tokyo.
    We are so confuse with a lot of type of JR pass, whether it’s better to buy Japan wide JR Pass or individually if we want to try shinkansen as this is our first trip to Japan (travelling on April 2019). Whether to buy Osaka Amazing pass or Yokoso pass or just use the IC card. The same with Tokyo. Thank you so much for your help. your blog is very informative, glad we found this bfore we go to Japan.

    • The one way trip from Kyoto to Tokyo being the most expensive ticket and the only pass that covers this is the JR Pass so it won’t be economical for your itinerary, individual tickets will be a better option. In Osaka we have used the Osaka Amazing Pass and the linked article may help you decide if it would be good value for the things that interest you in the city. The Tokyo Wide Pass is another pass but is unlikely to be economical either for Mt Fuji and airport trip so again probably staying with individual tickets.

      • thank you for your reply, so your suggestion it will be better if we just buy individual tickets rather than JR Pass, how about from Osaka – Nara – Kyoto, is this route using normal train or JR line ? our flight is from Haneda airport, can we travel to Haneda airport using the JR pass ?
        thanks again.

          • do you by any chance know how much it’s cost for the individual ticket for those routes? or the link to the web to check the train fares? so i can check and calculate ? thank you.

  • Hi there, great information you shared here.

    Can you please help to advise if we should buy the JR Pass? Can the JR Pass be used for commuting within Otaru and Sapporo? Even if it is cheaper to buy individual tickets, will it be too troublesome as we are a family of 4 with 2 young kids plus 3 big luggages. Our route is :
    New Chitose Airport to Otaru
    Otaru to Sapporo
    Sapporo to Rusutsu (via free shuttle bus)
    Rusutsu to New Chitose Airport (via booked bus)

    Thanks lots in advance for your advice.

    • Hi Kelyen, It would be cheaper to buy individual tickets than the JR pass for those trips and it is only a few trains so won’t make it much less convenient. At the airport you can buy tickets from the service desk in English so they’ll be able to point you in the right direction for getting to Otaru.

  • Hi guys
    This is the most useful traveller-friendly site I have found ever. Well done !
    We are travelling to Tokyo on March 27 2019 and staying 5 nights until April 1 when we head to Kyoto until April 6 , back to Tokyo until April 8 to Sydney. I was thinking Himeji whilst in Kyoto and working on Hyperdia it appears that I am better using 7 day pass commencing April 1, seems to be a $100 saving per person standard, and a bit more using Green reserved?
    Am I correct please?

    • Hi Wayne, yes the current saving would be just of $100 for the Tokyo-Kyoto return and Kyoto-Himeji return ticket with the standard 7 day pass and $150 saving on the green pass.

      Thanks for your kind words and motivation to keep building our Japan resource articles.

      • Hi Tony,
        I’m really enjoy your blog, it’s so helpful. We (8 adults and 1 kid under 2) will go to Japan in April 2019. Our itinerary will be: Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Hiroshima or Nara, Tokyo and Kamakura ( it’s 1 day trip). We’ll arrive and depart from Narita. Therefore, do you think it worth for us to buy 7 days pass of JR Pass? Or should we find a car tour in overthere? Do you know any car tour agency with an affordable price to recommend? Thank you very much. I’m very appreciated it.

        • Hi Tram, are you saying your group will be visiting all of those cities, leaving and departing from Tokyo within a 7 day window? If so then yes in general a 7 day JR pass would be very good value against individual tickets. However I’ve not traveled with a group that size, 9 of you with luggage would require quite a large vehicle and I don’t know of companies doing private tours on that scale.

  • Hi Tony, you wouldn’t believe that I have actually printed and read so many of your posts about Japan! Your posts have been incredibly detailed and helpful! We are planning a family trip to Japan (the first time) early April to late April next year with three kids, so was wondering if you could shed some light on our itinerary.

    Public transport (first week):
    Osaka 2 days
    Kyoto 1 day
    Himeji 1 day
    Nagoya 1 day
    Hiroshima 1 day
    Kobe 1 day

    Reason for this is these cities are actually so close and we could utilize the JR 7 days pass the most.

    Then Self-driving from Osaka toward Hokkaido (and visit some cities on the way) then return the vehicle at Tokyo and stay in Tokyo for couple days. this is because of the JR pass for 5 persons is still quite a bit and self-driving might enjoy the far north with less cost.

    We fly into and fly out both from Tokyo.

    • Hi William, thanks for that, it’s great to hear our articles have been useful. The JR Pass is very good value with those day trips in the first week but I agree, especially for a family, it can get expensive. We’ve been driven in Japan by a local but not rented a car and driven ourselves, if you’re confident to do that especially as you get further north you will be able to see much more that’s not so easily accessible to train stations.

      • Hi Toni, the website has been a bit delayed of displaying the message, :), so i didn’t note your response till now. you say about further north of Japan there will be much more to see and those scenes are not easily accessed from train. i am still planing my trip with self-driving in the second part of our travel, so could you give some suggestions of which city/towns worth for visit with self-driving? thank you!

        • Hi William, it will depend so much on your interests. I really like Aomori prefecture especially down by lake Towada, the parts of Nagano prefecture we have seen have been a lot of fun and with a vehicle the lakes around Mt Fuji and the lower stations up the mountain will be far more accessible than they are by public transport. Driving in Japan can also be expensive though with all the tolls so I don’t know how far you want to go.

  • Hi Toni,

    Fantastic blog, your posts have been more than useful in planning our upcoming trip. I would love to get your opinion on whether a JR Rail Pass is worthwhile for our trip (I believe it will be), and if you have any recommendations on altering our itinerary to improve the flow of travel/experience. We prefer to be based out of cities and then go for day trips rather than continual hotel skipping.

    Our current itinerary is (end of Dec to mid/late Jan:
    Fly in and out of Narita
    5 nights Tokyo
    2 nights Mt Koya (unsure where in the schedule this destination would best fit)
    4 nights Kyoto (a day trip to Nara at least from here or Osaka)
    4 nights Osaka
    7 nights Nozawa Onsen (skiing)

    Thanks very much.

  • Hi there

    I’m heading to Japan in February and will be doing some traveling around for nearly 3 weeks as follows:

    – Fly into Narita
    – Shinjuku stay (I have been there before)
    – Heading to Hakuba for a week
    – Kyoto for 4 days
    – Osaka for 4 days
    – Back to Tokyo for a couple of days

    Given we are spending at least 4 days in each place I wasn’t thinking the JR pass would be good value, as in most big places you use the local travel subway/buses etc. What are your thoughts?

    I am familiar with buying train tickets around Tokyo but not for the Shinkansen or across country.

    I’ve been using Hyperdia as you recommended and it’s very helpful working out routes, times and ticket prices. My question is though – for the big journeys, say Shinjuku to Hakuba, do I just go to the station machines, put in the destination and it will charge me the full cost of the entire trip including seat reservation for the bullet train?

    Sorry for sounding so ignorant but any help you can give me for booking long distance travel and the Shinkansen, seat reservations etc would be amazing.

    Thank you very much

    Jess

    • Hi Jess, sorry I’ve just answered your earlier message after being away myself. If you aren’t doing the Hiroshima day trip or other long day trips from the Kyoto/Osaka base then the JR Pass won’t be worth while. You can use either ticket machines or the counter to buy the tickets for the Shinkansen you’ll be prompted if there are options such as green car or reserved seat but usually I think it’s easier to go to the counter, there’s usually not much of a queue and the staff are very helpful even suggesting things like best side of train for sun because it’s too hot or to see Mt Fuji and I’ve never had an issue with an international credit card paying at the counter, some machines won’t allow it. For local trips within cities or shorter distance I use an IC card (Pasmo, Suica, Icoca) for convenience but you can use the machines with individual tickets if you prefer.

  • Hi there

    Firstly I love your blog it was so informative!

    We have been to Japan before but just stayed in the Tokyo area so we found out way around easy enough just using the Tokyo metro subway.

    We are going again in February for longer this time and I was hoping you could help me with train ticket advice.

    We are staying in Tokyo and then heading into Hakuba for a week of snowboarding. Should we book the Shinkansen before hand and where should I go to find tickets, timetables etc? Also I understand there is a bus we need to catch as well?

    Then we are heading to Kyoto for 4 days and will be doing a day trip to Nara. Then Osaka for a few days and a day trip to Hiroshima.

    Would it be beneficial to get a JR pass for the Kyoto/Osaka leg of our trip?

    Thanks so much

    Jess

    • Thanks Jess. There are a couple of options for getting to Hakuba depending on your preferences and whether you have a JR passs for that section of the trip, as most people stay at least a few days skiing it usually won’t be worth the pass unless it’s tacked onto the end of some prior travel which isn’t the case for you. As you are already in the city not at the airport the best options are to get the shinkansen to Nagano which you don’t have to book but I usually would in ski season if you want a specific train then once in Nagano you can take another train to Hakuba or take the bus there from Nagano station. I think the bus is most popular as you’d likely be carrying ski gear, take the east exit and it’s bus stop 6. This is the timetable.

      If your time from leaving Hakuba in Kyoto and Osaka is within the 7 day window the JR Pass should be good value. The most expensive parts of that trip are the Nagano to Kyoto and the return trip from Osaka to Hiroshima which would be Y34,310 vs the 7 Day pass at Y29110. The Osaka transfer and Nara daytrip would add to your saving. Also if you are going to the airport from there that can also be done with JR although how convenient that is depends on what area you are staying at.

  • Hi. Can you help me please? I’ll be doing 5 trips in 14 days in Japan, shall I get the 14 JR pass or individual tickets? Tokyo-Kyoto, Kyoto-Hiroshima, Hiroshima-Osaka, Osaka-Hakuba, Hakuba to Nosawa Onsen. Thanks for your help

    • Hi Lisa, the 14 day JR pass would give a small saving on the main journeys but you might want to break your trip down to check there isn’t a better combination with a 7 day pass and individual ticket depending on how long you have in each place. Also for the Hakuba to Nosawa Onsen often the direct shuttle is preferred over the bus-train-bus route for simplicity and that route isn’t fully covered by the JR pass.

  • Hi Toni
    We (5 of us) are going to Tokyo for 5 days, then 2 days in Osaka, and 1 day to Kyoto (day trip from Osaka), and then back to Tokyo to fly back to US. Do we need a JR Rail Pass? We will probably take JR train from Narita to Shinjuku, then Tokyo to Osaka on bullet train, Osaka to Kyoto and back to Osaka, then on the last day will take Osaka to Tokyo, Tokyo to Narita, and fly back. We will use subway, hotel shuttles, walking and taxi for rest of the city trips. Do you recommend the JR pass for this 9 day trip? thanks in advance.

    • If you use the 7 day pass for the trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, then Osaka, then back to Tokyo then to the airport you will make a small saving but as you say with such a short time in Kyoto/Osaka you are unlikely to use JR other than between the two points and around the cities other forms are transport are generally more convenienent.

  • G’day Toni & Drew,

    Firstly, I love your blog! So informative and this post especially has been super helpful with planning our upcoming trip to Japan in December. I’m fairly certain, after reading this post that the 7 day JR pass will not be beneficial for this trip BUT I want to get a second opinion so that I can be satisfied I’ve made the right decision as I’m likely to be wrong. Our itinerary is this (travel is with husband and 12yo daughter):

    4 nights TDR
    3 nights Tokyo
    4 nights Kyoto
    4 nights Osaka with day trip to Nara (or is it better to day trip from Kyoto to Nara?)
    Flight out of Osaka.

    I hope I’m right, however, happy to be proven wrong and get the pass if its going to be more beneficial.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Danielle, I agree on the Tokyo to Osaka portion but I not sure what TDR is for the first 4 nights, is that Tokyo Disney Resort? If so yes, individual tickets and perhaps an IC card for convenience in the cities is the best option. Have a great trip!

      • Hello there! Please help me out!
        Our itinerary is:
        Osaka 2 days
        Kyoto 9 days (day trips to Nara, Kobe, Hiroshima, Myajima, Himeji)
        Tokyo (5 days)

        I’m wondering what JR pass should I get? Thank you

        • Hi Karen, while it would mean grouping the longer day trips together I would use the 7 day pass and include at least Kobe, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Himeji and the trip through to Tokyo. That will give very good value from the 7 day pass, around Y52,780 value for Y29,110 price, more if you plan to do Hiroshima and Miyajima on different days. Have fun!

  • Hi. Love your travel blogs. I will be flying into & out of Narita airport in the morning & staying in Ueno area as my base in Tokyo. My plan is as below :-
    Reach airport early morning straight travel to Hakodate 2 day 1 night
    Yokohama day trip
    Hakone day trip
    Kamakura day trip
    Balance 3 days explore Tokyo
    Morning Flight back home

    Can JR flexi 6 days east south Hokkaido pass be used for the above including trips to & from airport?
    As for the balance 3 days in Tokyo was planning to purchase the Tokyo 72 hrs metro/subway pass to use.
    Is it true that even if I purchase the 2days Hakone freepass, I can’t use it for 2 day trips there cos they will collect back the pass once you get back to Tokyo?

    • Hi Tammie, We’ve not used the JR East -South Hokkaido pass personally so I only know what is on their website. Last year I flew back from Hakodate to Tokyo as that train trip from Narita to Hakodate by the fastest train option is over 6 hours each way. As you are only planning the one night up there an alternative if you still have enough time and are interested is the advance purchase flights deals as you’ll already be at Narita. We’ve used them on an Osaka – Sapporo – Tokyo itinerary and they were easy to book in English from overseas.

      The Sakitoku fares could be quite price competitive for you as your other trips are quite local and have reasonable priced options available on single tickets or other deals. A few Japanese airlines offer the early booking deals but you can see the JAL option here

      The Hakone Freepass is valid for 2 days but assumes you’ll be staying overnight in the Hakone area so it only covers the one return trip from Tokyo to Hakone. If you wanted to make consecutive day trips from Tokyo you would need to pay for the second trip between Tokyo and Hakone then use the pass in the region. I don’t recall what happened to the ticket back in Tokyo but if you were going to do it and wanted to be sure of no problems you could use the pass to get there on the first day, use individual tickets back to Tokyo that night and returning in the morning then use the freepass back on the second day.

  • Hi 🙂

    I have been desperately trying to work out if we will get value out of a JR Rail Pass for our journey, but I am struggling. It all seems so confusing.

    We head off next month. Flying into Tokyo for 5 days –> Hakone for 1 night –> Kyoto 3 nights (which I am also struggling to work out how to from Odawara to Kyoto!!) –> Osaka 3 nights and flying out of Osaka.

    Can you please help me! I am lost.

    • Hi Emily, it can be tricky the first time to work it out which is why too many people end up buying the pass when they don’t need it.

      Odawara to Kyoto won’t be a problem, the shinkansen (bullet train) line that runs across the country from Tokyo to Kyoto is called the Tokaido line. Odawara is a stop on that line so you’ll get the same bullet train you would have caught if you’d gone directly from Tokyo, you’ll just join it at another station.

      Your main trips in this itinerary are Tokyo to Odawara (Hakone) at Y3220 | Odawara to Kyoto is Y12290 | Kyoto to Osaka is Y1120 | Osaka to Kansai Airport Y1190. As the 7 day JR Pass is Y29110 it will be much cheaper to buy individual tickets.

      You also may not choose to use JR for all of these trips depending on where you are staying. For example if you are near Shinjuku in Tokyo you might want to look at the Hakone free pass taking the Romance train from Tokyo. In Kyoto if you stay near Kyoto station JR is very convenient but if you are near Gion then the local Hankyu railway to Umeda in Osaka would be an option. Likewise in Osaka if you are staying in Namba area then Rap.t to the airport is direct and much easier than JR.

      I hope that helps your decision. Have a fabulous trip.

  • Hi 2AussieTravellers this is probably a silly question but when u leave Japan what do u do with the JR Pass…. your articles are so helpful and interesting I hope I get to Japan one day

    – Rhiannon 😊

    • Thanks Rhiannon. The JR Pass is valid for a fixed period once it’s activated (7, 14 or 21 days) so we will just dispose of that. The IC cards like ICOCA, PASMO or SUICA has a residual value (Y500 I believe plus the remaining balance). We hold onto ours as we know we’ll be back but you can hand them back in and take the refund if you prefer before you leave Japan.

      • Hi Toni,
        Thanks for the time and effort you have put into you travel blog, it is really very useful and makes planning for a trip to Japan easier.

        I am in the process of buying rail passes and was having trouble finding what appears to be a trustworthy agent in Australia. I then clicked on your link about checking prices and it took me to Japan Rail Pass website (www.jrailpass.com) where I found the price slightly cheaper.

        Have you used this website/ company personally? I’m hesitating as when I read the terms and conditions/ privacy, the company’s address is in Barcelona, Spain.

        Thank you, Sam

        • Hi Sam, I had similar concerns but I link to them because I’ve had a good experience personally and have heard many others with the same feedback. The only negative experience I’ve had buying JR Passes was through a local travel agent in Australia (and that turned out OK, it was just a lot of messing around and stressful because it took over 3 weeks to resolve and get the voucher.) Since then I’ve always purchased online with no drama.

  • Hi Toni,

    Firstly Amazing blog, it has so many useful articles and is giving me lots of idea.

    My wife and I are planning on going to Japan for our Honeymoon in December/January and is our first time.

    We need some help with our itinerary, we want to utilize the rail system but only have the following places we wish to visit.

    Tokyo
    -Hakuba
    -Kanazawa
    -Hakone
    -Yokohama
    -Nikko
    – Fujigokoro (Mt Fuji) Overnight stay

    Kyoto or Osaka
    -Nara
    -Kobe
    -Himeji
    -Hiroshima

    Our main question is – should we base ourselves in certain cities and then do day trips? Or do 2 or 3 days in each place? We have 20-25 days and want to squeeze 6 nights in Hakuba to ski.

    Any help would be very helpful 🙂

    • It really comes down to preferred travel style. We like to base in a couple of places and do others as day trips. For us packing up, checking out and checking in too often really cuts into our time to explore and we prefer to spend a little more time in transit on a day to day basis instead. This is partly because we generally go for 2-4 weeks at a time and travel with full size suitcases, if we were backpackers or had mastered the art of fitting the essentials in a cabin bag we might feel differently.

      For this I would base from Tokyo, Hakuba, Kyoto and do an overnight in Mt Fuji with an overnight bag leaving the suitcase at the previous hotel or using forwarding to send it on to the next destination if that worked better. We might also stay in Hiroshima if we wanted to do both the city and Miyajima Island, then use a locker at Himeji to do that as a stop as we’d be going right passed.

      It’s a good selection and could flow well with a number of options although if day tripping I’d put Kanazawa in the Kyoto/Osaka group. We’ve done quite a comprehensive day trip there from Kyoto on the limited express which is really comfortable. You’ll find articles on the site on most of these destinations, or feel free to ask any questions as you go through the planning.

  • Hi!
    We have 2 weeks in Japan from 25th of February to 11th of March. We are flying in and out of Narita.
    I was thinking of Tokyo as a base and then doing day trips or max 1. night trips to Kamakura, Hakone (overnight), Nikko, Kawagoe, Yokohama, Takao, Enoshima, Nagano (maybe overnight).

    Basically thinking of not going to rush into Kyoto on this trip and not necessarily even rush into all of those places. We want to take it easy but still get away into nature as well. And it seems there is so much to discover also around Tokyo.

    Am I correct that the 7 day JR pass would not be worth it for these trips?
    I also did read about the Tokyo Wide Pass (3 days), do you have any experience in that?

    Thanks a lot! Your blog is absolutely great!

    • Hi Miia, yes you are right, the 7-day JR Pass is not worth getting for this trip. I have looked at the Tokyo Wide Pass a couple of times for our trips but its never made sense for us, always coming out more expensive than individual tickets, or other railways lines are more convenient for us than JR. For example on these, I might look at using the Romance Car with the Hakone Free Pass for Hakone, Tobu Railways for Nikko and Kawagoe, then Keio Railways is best for Mt Takao. Even for Kamakura /Enoshima I might look at using Shonan or taking the hanging monorail at least one way to Enoshima.

      You can use the Hyperdia website to check prices, compare timing and other options but we have have some experience with all of these places so if you want to bounce options around just ask, either through the comments of any post, social media or email. Tokyo absolutely has enough to do to fill a trip especially when you add in some of these great side trips. Have fun with your planning.

  • Hi!
    This is a fantastic resource you’ve created! Thank you.
    I’m trying to figure out if the 7 day JR pass is worth it for an upcoming trip for my husband and I.
    We are flying into Haneda.

    Tokyo 2 nights
    Hakone 1 night
    Nagoya 1 night (husband really wants to do Toyota factory tour)
    Kyoto 3 nights
    Flying out of Osaka

    Thank you!

    • Hi Christina, it would be a lot cheaper to buy the individual tickets on this itinerary than the JR Pass as you’re travelling all in the one direction. The individual tickets would be around Y19,000 and the pass Y29,110. Have a great trip!

      • Thanks! That’s what I thought, but I keep reading that the JR pass is a great deal. I thought I was missing something. Can’t wait to explore a bit of Japan!!

  • Hi! I’ve been doing a lot of research on transportation in Japan, and this blog post was definitely among the most helpful.

    Like other folks here, I too could use some guidance on whether the JR Pass it the best value. Our trip is fairly short, unfortunately, and it’s:

    Tokyo – 2 nights
    Kyoto – 1 night
    Back to Tokyo – 1 night
    Hakone – 2 nights
    Back to Tokyo – 1 night

    Is the JR Pass the best value for that? I understand that for Hakone we’d need to buy a Hakone Free Pass to get from the Odawara Station over to Hakone itself, which ends up being about $45 per person.

    Do you think that sounds like a good plan? Any insight is appreciated!

    (P.S. does the JR Line to Odawara to Hakone take longer than a Romancecar from Shinjuku? I’m also curious about what the transport experience is like from Odawara to Hakone, but I’m sure I can find that out somehow!)

    • Hi Raph, From Tokyo to Hakone (Odawara) you can use a JR local train or the bullet train, the bullet train is faster than the Romance Car. If you plan to use the Bullet train for both the Tokyo-Kyoto return trip and Tokyo-Odawara then the 7 day JR Pass will be better value than individual tickets.

  • Hi! Thank you so much for all this valuable information. This blog is amazing. I was just wondering if you would recommend getting a 14 day JR pass for the following itinerary:
    – Osaka (2 nights)
    – Kyoto (3 nights) – Nara day trip
    – Hakone (1 night)
    – Tokyo (3 nights) – Nikko day trip
    – Nagano (4 nights)
    – Tokyo (2 nights)

    We are flying into Osaka and out of Tokyo. Travelling to Nagano from Tokyo to ski in Hakuba Valley (transfers organised from Nagano station to Hakuba). Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

  • Hi there – I wondered if you could “cement” my queries about whether to buy a JR pass or not for our upcoming trip? The itinerary is:
    Tokyo 27-30 December
    Kyoto 30 December – 2 Jan
    Hiroshima 2 – 4 Jan
    Shiga Kogen 4 – 10 Jan
    Fly out from Narita on 10 Jan
    We will want to do all the normal sight seeing around Tokyo and Kyoto. I know we will have to probably go to Nagano then bus to Shiga Kogen which won’t be included on JR Pass.
    Any advice would be appreciated on which JR pass to get, any tips and whether you think we should book seats when we get there as it is peak season. Thank you

    • Hi Emma, I would buy the 14 day pass and activate it to take you through to your last day in Japan. This is based on the Tokyo – Kyoto – Hiroshima – Nagano – Narita route being roughly Y59,950 and the cost of the pass around Y46,390. Use the Narita Express rather than the Skyliner to get through to Narita Airport as it’s the JR option covered by the pass.

      The days around New Year are busier than usual for travel in Japan mostly because many Japanese will travel to their hometown to spend the time with family. I suspect the trip through to Kyoto on the 30th would be the most busy. Personally I would book the 4 main trips when I exchanged my pass voucher because there are couple of longer trips in there and I like to be sure of getting my choice of travel time/seat and I find it faster overall to do it all at once, then I just make my way to the platform on the day which I appreciate if it’s an early departure. But I can also tend to be a bit over organised so it’s likely not really necessary if you prefer to keep it more fluid.

      • Hi Toni, sorry to bug you again but I’ve been advised that I could get a 7 day pass as Tokyo sightseeing trains at the beginning of our trip won’t be included in JR Pass so we should buy a single from Narita to Tokyo on 27th, single from Nagano to Narita on 10th and use a 7 day pass from 30 Dec to 4 Jan. Oh my I’m so confused. Do you mind letting me which one you would do? By my calculations, I would be saving about $37pp by getting 7 day pass and 2 single journeys as mentioned above vs getting a 14 day pass. Thanks Toni

        • It’s going to depend on your final itinerary but the 7 day pass from the day you leave Tokyo through to Nagano then individual tickets will work. I’m travelling at the moment and can’t run the numbers but it sounds as if you have done it with Hyperdia which will give the answer.

  • Hi there! Your blog has been incredibly helpful! I was wondering if you could shed some light on our itinerary. We are going end of March to mid April next year for our honeymoon!

    Osaka 4 days
    Kyoto 5 days
    Fukuoka 4 days
    Hiroshima 2 days
    Kobe 3 days
    Tokyo 8 days

    We fly into Osaka and fly out from Tokyo.

    • Hi Kay, you can’t get a better choice in my opinion for your honeymoon than Japan during cherry blossom. It’s a great selection of cities and well spaced, I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time.

      As you’ve asked your question on this post I’m guessing you are thinking about the transport and JR Pass options. You are crossing the country so the only pass that works is the main JR pass. The 14 day pass would cover your main journey from Kyoto to Fukuoka (Hakata) to Hiroshima then Shin-Kobe and finally Tokyo leaving a few days to add to the Kyoto or Tokyo end depending on your plans. However the 14 day pass is Y46390 and individual tickets on these are Y44660 so while you are likely to easily use up the difference while in those cities with day trips (such as Miyajima Island, Kamakura, Nara etc) you will find that within the cities you use subways and local train lines more than JR so probably it will only work out about even not the huge saving that many experience on more compact trips. It really is personal choice whether the convenience of paying in advance and and pre-booking your major train travel is a benefit to you or if you prefer to buy tickets and pay as you go.

      • Hi Toni,

        Yes, this was regarding the JR pass and transportation options. So sorry I wasn’t more clear. It was getting really late in my hometown! Thank you so much for your insight. I realized I also miscalculated the number of days we’re staying in a few places. For example, when I read Apr 4-6 on my notes, I assumed it was 2 days but it’s actually 3… I’ve added up the proper number of days in each city and it looks like we’re more in a pickle since I counted more than 14 days but less than 21 days.

        Osaka Mar 24 – 27 (4 days)
        Kyoto Mar 27 – Apr 1 (6 days)
        Fukuoka Apr 1 – 4 (4 days)
        Hiroshima Apr 4 – 6 (3 days)
        Kobe Apr 6 – Apr 9 (4 days)
        Tokyo Apr 9 – 16 (8 days)

        I don’t mean to be bothersome but do you have any more thoughts about our honeymoon trip? I apologize for the mistakes. We’re even more excited for our trip after reading your comments! We can’t wait to see the cherry blossoms! We really trust your expertise and opinions. 🙂

        • Hi Kay, no problem at all, ask any questions you want. I shuffle my itinerary around plenty of times during the planning process. I think your earlier calculation is correct though, your major rail travel days (from leaving Kyoto on the 1st until you arrive in Tokyo on the 9th) is 9 days, so it’s more than 7 days but less than the 14 day pass. You’re double counting your days when you move between cities eg the 1st in both Kyoto and Fukuoka so while you will be in both cities that day it’s only one day for the train pass, accommodation etc.

          I normally make a plan like the sample one below, this might help with visualising a longer trip like this. I use excel but pen and paper works too.

          Sample travel planner

          • Hi Toni,

            Thanks so much for your insight and tips! I will look at our itinerary again with my fiance.

            Cheers,
            Kay

  • Hi Toni,

    Thanks so much for all of this helpful information. Can you please help me with which would be the best pass for me to buy? I am thinking 14 day pass.
    Fly into Tokyo and stay 4 nights
    Hakone and Mt Fuji – 1 night
    Kyoto – 2 nights
    Nara – 1 night
    Osaka – 3 nights
    Hiroshima & Myajima – 2 nights
    Kamakura – 1 night
    Tokyo -1night and fly out the next day
    Any help would be so greatly appreciated.
    Thanks Ros

  • Hi,

    I need some advice, also, please.

    Travel from Haneda to Yokohama + suburban train in Yokohama.
    Yokohama to Kobe + suburban train in Kobe
    Kobe to Tokyo + suburban train in Tokyo (Sayamashi station)
    Tokyo to Ito station.
    Ito to Narita

    All of this within a week – don’t ask!

    I’m struggling to distinguish between JR pass -approved train lines and those not covered. It there a decent site to search point to point on JR-only lines?

    Love your site. Thanks for providing it as a great resource.

    • Hi John, the JR pass can be use on all Japan Rail lines including the bullet train and some of their buses and ferries but for your route it’s the trains you are concerned with. It doesn’t cover subways or local train companies so for example Sayamashi station is on the Seibu company line and isn’t covered and you’ll use non JR from Haneda to Yokohama. If you’re looking on Hyperdia and the route has a green train symbol or the blue and white Shinkansen one, that is JR.

      The 7-day JR pass will pay off on this route, the trip from Yokohama to Kobe and back to Tokyo is within a dollar of the 7-day pass price and you’ll also use it for Tokyo-Ito which is around Y4520 and can use it for Ito to Narita if you use the Narita express option rather than Skyliner which is another Y7880 included so a reasonable saving.

      Sounds like you’ll be busy, enjoy your time in Japan!

  • Hi there,

    Thanks for a great post.

    Just wondering whether JR Pass would be cost-saving for the following trip:
    3 nights Tokyo
    1 night Gunma
    6 nights Kyoto (including day trips to Osaka and Nara)
    1 night Miyajima
    2 nights Tokyo

    Also, what would be the best way to get to Gunma from Tokyo?

    Thanks heaps.

    • Hi Ivan, sorry for the delay getting back to you, we’ve been travelling ourselves. I’m not sure where in Gunma prefecture you’re headed but I’ve used Maebashi in the calculation and have assumed you’ll want to use the fastest train option allowed within the JR Pass for each route, there are a couple of longer travel days going through to Kyoto and back to Tokyo. The 14-day rail pass would be the best value for this trip even though you may not use it much in Tokyo and Kyoto. Have a fabulous time in Japan!

  • Hi

    Thanks so much for posting so much useful information. Would you be able to let me know whether you think a rail pass would be beneficial to me? My sister and I are travelling to Japan next March for around ten days. Our tentative itinerary is as follows:

    Tokyo – 4 nights
    Hakone – 1 night
    Kyoto – 4 nights
    – Daytrip to Osaka
    -Daytrip to Nara
    Hiroshima – 2 nights

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. We may knock a day off Tokyo to bring it down to ten days.

    • Hi Trish, I’m assuming you plan to fly into Tokyo and out of Hiroshima? If so I wouldn’t necessarily use the pass. The bullet train from Tokyo to Hakone to Kyoto to Hiroshima one way would cost Y26,390 as single tickets and the 7 day pass is Y29,110. Although you could also use it on the day trip to Osaka and Nara, or the train and ferry if you go to Miyajima in Hiroshima to get value from it, the saving would be minimal and you may decide to use non-JR transport options between Kyoto and Osaka, or Tokyo and Hakone depending on where you are staying in the city.

  • Hi~
    I’m planning a trip to Japan with my friends in November and was wondering if you could help me in deciding if a JR pass is worth it for our trip?

    Narita airport → kyoto (3 nights)
    kyoto → osaka (2 nights)
    osaka → tokyo (5 nights)
    tokyo → Narita airport

    Thanks for your help!

    • Depending on where you go and what you during your time in Osaka and Kyoto the 7 day pass is likely to provide some small savings on this itinerary as the Narita – Kyoto and Osaka – Tokyo trips would cost Y29,920 against the pass price of Y29,110. If you then use it between Kyoto and Osaka, Nara or other attractions from those cities that adds to its value. Even when the saving if relatively minor like this we tend to buy the pass for the convenience and included reserved seats but as you will see the difference is not so much so really it is a personal preference.

  • Great blog.. We’re (2 adults) going to Japan in October, flying in to Tokyo, and then ….

    3 nights Tokyo
    2 nights Takayama
    1 night Shirakawa-Go
    2 nights Kanazawa
    4 nights Kyoto
    1 night Osaka, Flying out of Osaka

    Would you recommend 7 days JR pass for above itinerary?
    Thanks Gene

    • Hi Gene, the long distance trains that fit within the 7 day window are Tokyo to Takayama and Kanazawa to Kyoto. Depending how you get to and from Shirakawa-go which doesn’t have a train station you may also go from Takayama to Kanazawa or continue on directly by bus. The price of the individual tickets is less than the 7 day pass so I wouldn’t buy one for this trip.

  • Hi 2AT this is article and even reading through the comments were incredibly helpful!

    Would like to know for myself and my partner specifically, we have split our 2 week Japan trip into 7 days in Osaka, where we will arrive at first and we will then travel (one-way) to Tokyo which it will end there.

    Our most significant ‘day trips’ will be from Osaka to Nara and then Shibuya (Tokyo) to Tokyo Disneyland.
    Otherwise everything else will be one way e.g. From Kansai ITL airport to Osaka, Osaka to Tokyo and then from Tokyo to Narita Airport.

    We aren’t visiting many long distance cities as we would like to save that for our next trip to Japan.

    Do you think a 7 day JR Pass is even worth it?
    And also I have been using hyperdia and I am still a little confused. Are we able to use JR Lines without a JR Pass?

    Thanks so much guys and would greatly appreciate the advice!

    • Hi Rebekah, I wouldn’t recommend the 7-day JR Pass for this trip, it will cost you more than the individual trips. You can either buy tickets each time or consider getting an IC card such as ICOCA, SUICA or PASMO. They aren’t discount cards but can offer a lot of convenience as you can use them on all sorts of trains, buses and subways in the destinations you’re visiting and just touch on and off which is quicker and less frustrating when you are using them over a period of time as you are.

      You can use all JR lines both local and inter-city with individual tickets, the JR Pass can be a fantastic deal with some itineraries but with many, including this one it’s not cost effective.

  • Hi There

    Thanks for posting your blog!

    My partner and I will visit Japan for the first-time in October (1st – 10th)

    Our itinerary is:

    – Arrive in Osaka (3 days)
    – Hiroshima ( 1 day)
    – Kyoto (3 days)
    – Fly back from Tokyo (4 days)

    Should we buy JR Pass?

    What is the best transport to travel between cities?

    Thank you

    • Hi, the trips from Osaka to Hiroshima, Hiroshima to Kyoto and Kyoto to Tokyo by bullet train are Y35,520 while the 7 day JR pass is Y29,110 so I would buy the pass. You could skew the extra days to either the Osaka or Tokyo end depending on what you plan on doing on those days and whether it involves JR. If for example you are going down to Fushimi Inari or Nara while in Kyoto you can also use the pass for that. Have fun!

  • Hi there,

    My wife and I are trying to decide whether it is better for us to get a 7 day JR pass or a 14 day pass.

    We will be in Tokyo for 5 nights, then travel to Osaka/Kyoto/Nara for 5 nights and then back to Tokyo for 5 nights.
    So we are wondering if it is better value to get the JR pass for 14 days and use that to get around Tokyo as well? Or just get a 7day pass for the period we are going to be out of Tokyo, and use other transport options within Tokyo?

    Hope that makes sense!
    Thanks Shaun

    • I would suggest the 7 day pass. In most instances the use of Japan Rail during the 10 days in Tokyo would be quite limited, it could depend on what day trips you are planning to do but most of them involve local trains or have other options that would be a lot more economical than the 14 day pass.

      A stored value card such as SUICA or PASMA is good for convenience and can also be used for subways in Osaka and Kyoto. There are multi-day subway passes available for Tokyo that can offer some savings if you plan to use the subway a lot and the Osaka Amazing Pass can be a cost saver if it’s your first time in Osaka and wanting to do the included attractions as it includes entry to many and unlimited transport within the city.

  • Hi 2AT,

    What an amazing and helpful sight! Our family of 5 will be travelling to Japan in the New Year. Itinerary is as follows:

    Arrive Tokyo New Years Day (1 x night) > Hakuba (7 x nights) > Tokyo Disney Resort Area (4 x nights) > Kyoto (4 x nights, will do a day trip to Hiroshima whilst here) > Tokyo (1 x night) > Depart

    Unfortunately, I didn’t think about how best to take advantage of the JR pass when planning my trip. Regardless, I was thinking the best option for me is as follows:

    Purchase 7 x day JR Pass online & get voucher > Once in Japan, collect ticket (set activation date to be a couple of days before leaving for Kyoto) > Use JR Pass for remainder of trip (including Shinkansen between Tokyo & Kyoto / Kyoto & Hiroshima).

    This will mean I will have to separately pay for travel (including Shinkansen ride between Tokyo and Hakuba). I don’t think it would be worth purchasing the 14-day pass to cover the Shinkansen ride to Hakuba as well.

    This will be our first trip to Japan, so your thoughts/advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Jeannie, yes I think you are right in this instance, the individual return tickets to Nagano on the bullet train are Y16,400 and the difference between the 7 and 14 day pass is Y17,280 and as you aren’t likely to use the train at all during your ski week you are best to use the individual tickets for that portion. It sounds great, have fun!

  • Dear Toni,

    Your blog and articles are amazing for the detailed and easy to understand information they present. I am so excited to have come across these articles and am going to plan my entire trip to Japan using your site 😊.
    We’re going over for the Cherry Blossom festival…Fly into Osaka on 28th Mar 2019 and out of Osaka on 7th Apr 2019 . My plan is , to base ourselves in Osaka for the entire 10nights/11 days, buy a Green JR pass and then do day trips to pretty much all the places you’ve listed as sakura destinations and maybe some others as well ( incl. Tokyo and Hakone ). I do realise it may get a bit tiring, but I prefer that to having to move to a new destination each night.

    1) We plan to stay next to Shin-osaka station …..with all the day trips planned , will that be the best station to stay next to, to use our JR passes, or is JR Osaka station better ?

    2) As we will be returning late a few of the nights, is the Shin-osaka a safe area to be in ?

    Would be very glad for any information you can give me. Thanks in advance , and sorry if this question has already been answered elsewhere.

    • Hi Kirthana, we understand wanted to base in 1-2 places and not move around too much, we often do the same. Shin-Osaka is a transit station so there isn’t much around there in the way of attractions, there are hotels and some restaurants but not the choice you’d get in other parts of the city. We haven’t stayed there, only transferred trains or passed through but have not really felt unsafe anywhere in Japan during our travels and haven’t heard anything negative about the area so that wouldn’t concern me. While we do stay near Kyoto station that is a bit more of a hub with many shopping and restaurant areas nearby, in Osaka we’d generally choose to stay in Namba or Umeda (around Osaka station). It’s only 3 minutes on the train from Osaka to Shin-Osaka and covered by the JR Pass and there are a lot more restaurants and things to see around there. Another favourite of ours is Namba which is a 14 minute (Y280) subway trip to Shin-Osaka but Namba has plenty of attractions, shopping, restaurants, the Dotonburi area and market which give more options on those evenings and mornings when we want to eat locally or just wander round and see something locally for a few hours. Just a few options to consider, I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous trip with any of the options.

      • Dear Toni,

        So sorry , I thought I’d replied, but never too late to say a big thank you for replying with all that information. Definitely very helpful.

  • Hi there. I have read through so many questions on this page but rail travel is still confusing me.
    We will be 4 adults and 1 child and travelling in December to Hakuba for 7 nights. Will make our own way there. Then we will travel by train from Nagano via Kanazawa to Kyoto on 21 Dec. Stay there for 4 nights with a day trip to Hiroshima. Will also try to fit in a day trip to Nagoya if time permits.
    We will then travel from Kyoto to Tokyo on Christmas Day. We will have 7 nights in Tokyo before flying home. From Tokyo we will travel to Hakone/Mt Fuji on a day trip. Is a 7 day or a 14 day pass worthwhile?
    I have looked on HyperDia but there is so much information there!
    Thanks very much in advance. Your website is extremely informative.

    • Hi Sue, As you’ll go from Nagano to Kyoto, the Hiroshima & Nagano day trips and on to Tokyo within a 7 day window you’ll get excellent value from the 7 day JR pass by activating it from the 21st when you leave Nagoya. Even if you decided in the end not to do Hiroshima and Nagoya trips you still wouldn’t be out of pocket with the pass so I would do that.

      If you arrive in Tokyo Xmas day you’ll still have 2 days on your pass so if you were to do a day trip to Hakone on one of those days it would also cover the bullet train back to Odawara, an ideal starting point if you wanted to use the Hakone free pass and do the circuit. If you do it later that week you don’t need to use the bullet train, it’s nice if your pass is still active but not necessary.

      Although your total itinerary would save money with the 14 day pass it would be most economical to buy the 7 day pass and use individual tickets after that because that last week in Tokyo you only have one day trip planned and you’ve done your big distances and made your savings in the first 7 days.

      Have a great trip!

  • Hello,

    Which site would you recommend buying the JR pass from? the one that you share a link too?

    Also how soon should you book a trip say from Tokyo to Kyoto? I’m traveling to Japan for the first time this October.

    • Hi Danny. Yes we now use JRailPass as linked in the article, we’ve found it reliable and cost effective purchasing through them. This is an affiliate link which means we get a small commission towards the running costs of the site at no additional cost to the purchaser but I’m sure there are other providers that are also good, we link this one because it’s the one we use and trust.

      In October you shouldn’t find the trains overly busy so it’s not necessary to book in advance if you don’t want to. We sometimes just book our return trip on the day for peace of mind and a guaranteed seat especially if taking one of the last trains back from somewhere or the day before if we have an early departure. We’ll also often book all our main trips at once when we get the pass for convenience, then you just turn up and jump on the train on the day.

      Have a great trip!

  • Hi,
    I have travelled to Japan three times and have bought the rail pass every time and they are great, but this time we are cruising from Hong Kong and my friends that have never been have asked if we can do a bullet train ride. The only port that we will have time to do this will be from Osaka and I thought a ride to Tokyo would be good, however one way is $136, is there a one day pass at all?
    Thanks for your time.

    • The passes are designed to get visitors travelling around Japan so for a single day trip you really are left with individually purchasing the tickets. Osaka to Tokyo crosses the JR East and West route so the only pass available for that is the full JR pass which as you know won’t pay off on a single day return trip. If you wanted to go west (Okayama, Hiroshima, Hakata) there are JR West pass options for that although they are multi day some might still be cost effective depending on the trip. Just be careful when booking these as there are many variations issues by JR West that allow you to use different areas of travel, number of days and not all include the Shinkansen.

      • Thanks for that. I think I will just take them from Osaka to Kyoto, it’s only fifteen minutes and under $20, but they may want to spend the extra. Great website, Japan is amazing.

  • Hi There,

    Love reading all your articles, they are so infomative!

    We are thinking of getting the JR Pass for 21 days.

    fly in to Fukuoka – stay 2 days
    Hiroshima – stay 3 days
    Osaka – stay 5 days (day trip to Nara)
    Kyoto – stay 5 days (day trip to Nagoya)
    Yokohama – stay 4 days (day trip to Hakone)
    Tokyo – stay 10 days

    In your experience, would you think it best to get the JR pass for the 21 days, then once we get to Tokyo, just use Tokyo subway?

    Thanks very much,
    Sally

    • That looks a fabulous trip with good time to explore but we do find these trips the hardest to work with the passes for the best value. The 21 day pass won’t be economical on the routes listed here. Using the fastest train options you would only get Y55,030 value for Y59,350 spent on the pass. If you want to use a pass the one I would recommend is the 14 day pass activated when you leave Fukuoka which will get you through to Yokohama, there are then quite cost effective options for the trip to Hakone and into Tokyo as single tickets. This is only a small saving though but depending on your plans you may get extra use out of it for example trips like Fushimi Inari in Kyoto, Miyajima including the ferry or out of the central city in Hiroshima and other cities are often on JR trains where the pass is valid.

      In Tokyo there are JR trains you can use depending on where you are staying but generally the subway is far more convenient and I wouldn’t extend a JR Pass to use on the trains in Tokyo unless you are doing some long day trips because it will be more expensive.

      Have a great time!

  • Hi there!

    May i get your opinion – i will be travelling from Tokyo to Osaka on 3 Jan, and returning back to Tokyo on 4 Jan. Would the shinkansen be very packed and difficult to get a reserve seat? I will be arriving in Tokyo on 31 Dec 2018 – and hoping to exchange my JR pass and reserve seats for the shinkansen to Osaka. Thanks!

    • I can’t say for certain but even in peak travel times I’ve not had trouble getting a seat booking, the trains run frequently on that route so I doubt you would have any issue. You’re also travelling on the Friday and Tokyo locals visiting family homes for the New Year celebration will most likely be coming the other way back into Tokyo by then.

  • Hi,

    Love this info! Thank you.

    The only trouble I’m having is getting from my hotel to the airport and back.
    My trip will be
    Narita to the Shinjuku area for 1 night, I am looking a the Knot Tokyo, which I can grab the limo bus to a nearby hotel and walk the extra little bit.
    I am then going from Shinjuku Station to Koriyama Station for a ski trip.
    After that i will be going from Koriyama station to Shin-Aomori station and then a bus to some more snow adventures (this bus seems to be a JR bus)
    Then I will head back from Shin Aomori to Shinjuku for a few more days then fly out from narita again.
    Adding the trips i know the price will be just under the cost of the rail pass (not including trips to and from the airport).
    Do you think it will be worth going the pass just incase i do a couple more trips from tokyo on the last few days i am there? I will be getting the 14 day pass.

    Thank you so much

    • Hi CJ, the Airport Limousine bus can be an easy no stress way to get to and from the airport if it’s running at the time you need it and it stops at or near your hotel. Recently I’ve had a few trips where it’s not been an option due to my flight time. For Shinjuku your alternative would be the NEX, if you get the right one (station staff will help with that) it’s direct and costs Y3390 but it would be covered by the JR Pass if that is still running. I believe your hotel is about 1.5 km from Shinjuku station which is a close distance for normal use but a longer walk with luggage.

      I would normally only buy the pass if I know I am going to get value from it although I do like the convenience and free bookings so I know I have a reserved seat on intercity trains. From Shinjuku the JR Yamanote line is an option for getting around Tokyo so you may use it for that rather than the subways, I’d weight up how close the price is and whether I was likely to use it enough for the airport, around the city or a side trip at the end to be worthwhile.

      Have fun, we love winter in Japan, I just wish I’d learned to ski at a much younger age

  • Hello!
    Thanks so much for this post. I need your advice.

    We will be going to Japan for cherry blossoms season next year 19 March 2019 to 16 April 2019. We will be staying at Tokyo and we plan to go to
    -Tokyo – Osaka day trip back to Tokyo
    -Tokyo – Kyoto day trip back to Tokyo
    -Tokyo – Hirishima day trip back to Tokyo

    And other places we can visit.

    Shall we purchase a 7 day JR pass?

    Thanks heaps,
    JJ

    • Those are some long day trips from Tokyo, Hiroshima is 4.5 hours on the train each way but if you are up to doing all 3 within the 7 day window you would get great value from a 7 day JR Pass

    • Hi,
      Our planned itinerary is as follow:

      Arrive in Hadena Airport (Day 1)
      Myoko (5 Nights)
      Disneyland (2 Nights)
      Tokyo (3 nights)
      Kyoto (7 nights)
      Tokyo (2 nights)

      We plan to do day trips to Hiroshima, Nara, Kobe, Osaka (from Kyoto) and Mt Fuji (from Tokyo). I was thinking of getting a 14 day JR Pass and activating on the return from Disneyland to Tokyo. Would it be worthwhile?

      • Hi Ty, the return trips for Tokyo-Kyoto and Kyoto-Hiroshima on the shinkansen would give you value on the 14 day JR pass so using it for other JR travel to (or within) the other cities you intend to visit would only add to that. Have a great trip.

  • Thank you for sharing. This is a very informative and helpful blog.
    My family (4 adults and 1 child – 5 yo) and I are travelling to Japan next month for the first time, and here I am still undecided whether to get a JR pass or not.

    So far, our itinerary is:

    Arrive in Narita Airport (Day 1)
    Tokyo (5 nights)
    Kyoto (2 nights)
    Osaka (2 nights)
    Travelling back to home country via KIX airport

    My question is, is 7-day JR pass really worth it?
    We would also like to go to Hakone (not sure if we will spend a night there) and might go to Disneyland.
    Also, should I get my son who is 5 yrs old his own JR pass?

    Thank you so much.

    • You’ll find individual tickets are cheaper than the JR pass with those cities and flying out of KIX. Depending on where in Tokyo you are staying there are a variety of ways to get to Hakone and Disney land. Often going to Hakone with the Hakone Free Pass from Shinjuku in Tokyo is the best option and the hotel I stayed at last week near Asakusa even had a free shuttle to Disney, it’s not common but worth checking out out your options.

      • Thanks Toni…
        Appreciate your reply. I also bookmarked your blog for future travel inspiration 🙂

        God Bless.

  • Hi Toni,

    We plan to visit Japan in Jan next year. Our itinerary is as follows:

    – Arrive at Narita airport and take the train to Tokyo (about 3 days)
    – Travel from Tokyo to Kyoto (with a day trip out to Nara) (about 3 days)
    – Travel from Kyoto to Hiroshima (with a day trip out to Miyajima) (about 3 days)
    – Travel from Hiroshima to Osaka (about 2 days)
    – Travel from Osaka to Hakone (about 3 days)
    – Travel from Hakone to Tokyo
    – Travel from Tokyo to Narita airport

    Could you please advise if it is worth to buy a 14 day Rail Pass for the trip?

    Thank you

  • Hi Toni, thank you so much for your advice and information. I was wondering if you could please have a look at my itinerary for a trip in October and let me know if you think I am on the right track for train travel/ passes?
    My partner and I will be in Japan for 19 days and plan to buy 14 day Japan Rail pass + other passes as follows:

    1. Kansai airport – Osaka (purchase single ticket)
    Osaka day trip to Koyasan (koyasan world heritage ticket ltd express)
    2. 2 nights Osaka (Osaka Amazing Pass)
    3. 2 nights Takayama (start 14 day Japan Rail Pass)
    4. 2 nights Hakone (Hakone 3 day pass)
    5. 3 nights Tokyo (subway 72hr ticket)
    6. 1 night Kyoto for festival
    7. 2 nights Hiroshima
    8. 3 nights Kyoto
    9. 1 night Osaka
    10 Kansai airport(single ticket)

    Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • Hi,
    We have 23 days in Japan in April / May for us as 4 adults and 2(4 & 6 years) kids traveling in and out of Narita ( needed day flights)
    Thinking if the pass is worthwhile.
    4 nights Tokyo
    3 nights Disney
    3 nights takayama
    3 nights Kanazawa
    6 nights Kyoto ( side trips from here)
    3 nights Osaka
    1 night Narita airport

    Any ideas on where I should just buy a 21 day pass and use nex train in from Narita. Or just buy tickets as we go?

    • Hi Amber, it could depend on where your side trips from Kyoto are too but unless they are multiple long distance like Hiroshima then the 21 day pass won’t be worthwhile and there are no obvious shorter segments that would work for the shorter duration passes either. I would use individual tickets for the itinerary. When you have a nice length of time to explore as you are planning in each spot the pass often won’t work out. It looks a fabulous itinerary though – have fun.

  • Hi There!

    I wanted to know if you thought the pass would be suitable for my itinerary.

    Day 1 – 4 Arrive in Tokyo to Nagano
    Day 4 – Nagano to Kanazawa
    Day 5 – Kanazawa to Kyoto
    Day 9 – Kyoto to Nara
    Day 10 – Nara to Hiroshima
    Day 14 – Hiroshima to Osaka
    Day 17 – From Osaka, Fly to Seoul, South Korea
    Day 20 – Land in Tokyo from Seoul, South Korea. Train from Tokyo to Fukushima
    Day 22 – Fukushima to Tokyo
    Day 29 – Fly home

    I really appreciate the help!

    • Hi Lindsay, you’ll save a bit using the 14 day JR pass at the start of your trip in Japan, it’s not as significant as on some itineraries but still worthwhile. What a fabulous trip, have a great time!

  • Hi, thank you for the post. Perhaps this is a silly question, but how do you physically leave an unmanned JR station if all you have is a JR pass and the ticket gate requires you to have a ticket to open up the gate?

    • As the JR Pass is only for tourists they don’t often end up at stations that are unmanned as they are really out in the countryside generally. However if a station is unmanned there won’t be ticket gates and you can walk straight in and out. There are ticket machines and a machine to touch on and off with an IC card if you are using those and with the JR pass you can be asked by an inspector on a train or station to see a ticket at any time.

  • Hi there 2aussietravellers,

    Very informative post on Japan’s railway passes.

    I was wondering if I could get some advice on the JR passes since I will be in Japan for 1 month in August.

    My itinerary covers 6 cities:
    Tokyo (6 DAYS) > Kanagawa (5 DAYS) > Hakone (4 DAYS) > Kyoto (7 DAYS) > Hiroshima (4 DAYS) > Fukuoka (5 DAYS) > Tokyo (2 DAYS) [in this chronological order].

    Do you reckon that I should get the 3 week JR passes, on top of that 1 week of the JR passes?

    I was also looking into the IC Cards, and was planning to also get the SUICA card for Tokyo, and Hayakaken card for Fukuoka, but at this stage I am unsure as I do not know what is most cost effective and beneficial for my 1 month trip.

    Thanking you and I am looking forward to hearing your recommendations!

    Clare,

    • Hi Clare, it’s a good spread of places to see and time in each which means the JR pass isn’t as useful as it is on more compact trips. Tokyo to Kanagawa is only 30 minutes and the JR fare is Y610 so if I used a pass it would be the 21 day one from leaving for Hakone to the return to Tokyo. That said it wouldn’t quite pay off on the base fares but with a small amount of incidental travel in Hiroshima, Fukuoka and/or Kyoto it would. There aren’t significant savings to be made so it’s really about what use you’re likely to get from JR in the other cities, whether being able to book seats is a benefit to you and general convenience.

  • Thank you for such a great post! I would LOVE your advice on what you think we should do for our upcoming trip… our itinerary is as follows

    Day 1-5: Tokyo
    Day 6: Hakone
    Day 7-10: Osaka (and surrounding areas, eg Kobe, Nara)
    Day 11-14: Kyoto
    Day 15-16: Tokyo

    Should we get a 21-day JR Pass?

    Thank you SO much for your help in navigating a complex system!

    • Hi Alicia, the 21 day pass or the other pass combinations won’t pay off for your itinerary, it would be more cost effective to purchase the individual tickets. Depending on the timing of your trip, if you are concerned about it being a very busy time you can still pre-book the tickets but it costs slightly more to book so you may only want to only do that if having it pre-sorted makes you more comfortable or it’s a holiday week for example.

      • Hi Toni,

        Thank you so much for your response! The dates that I will be there are Oct 4-21. Do you think I should pre-book?

        Thank you again.

        • Hi Alicia, we would usually book if we had the JR Pass as the bookings are free, when we travel without it I wouldn’t worry about it at that time of year myself as it’s unlikely to be an issue but it will depend on how comfortable you are with travel and adapting to perhaps catch the next train if it was necessary. If it’s essential you get that train, to make a connecting flight or it’s the last one of the day for example then I would book it.

  • Hi, have been researching into whether I should opt to buy a JR pass.

    Our schedule is briefly as follows:
    – We will fly in via Narita airport and stay in Tokyo (about 2weeks)
    – Travel from Tokyo to Hiroshima (stay about 3days)
    – Hiroshima to Kyoto (with day trips out to Nara etc) (about 5days)
    – Kyoto to Osaka (about 3days)
    – Fly out from Kansai airport Osaka

    Would we need a JR pass ?

    Thanks

    • Hi Jeremy, the cost of the Tokyo to Hiroshima, then Hiroshima to Kyoto legs on the bullet train are slightly more than the cost of the 7-day pass so I would purchase it to cover the 7 days from when you leave Tokyo. It’s not incredible savings but you may also use other JR trains in Hiroshima that are covered, the ferry to Miyajima is included and an excellent day if you have the time and you could do the Nara trip in that window which would give value from the pass. Enjoy your trip!

  • Hi, great blog! very helpful!
    My family will be travelling from Tokyo to Osaka one way on bullet train, then staying in Osaka to do day trips to both Kyoto and Hiroshima by trains. Will a 7 day JR Pass be worth it for the one way trip and then the 2 round trips between Osaka and Kyoto/Hiroshima? Can it be used on normal trains around Osaka and Kyoto lines too?

    • The price of individual tickets for the Tokyo to Osaka trip then the Hiroshima return trip is Y35,100 vs Y29,110 for the 7-day pass so the it would be worth while, any other trips you do on Japan Railways trains, to Kyoto for example will also be covered. There are a number of different train networks in the Osaka / Kyoto area and the pass is only for JR, so the subways in either city or the private railways will be an additional cost.

  • Hi 2AT,

    First of all let me say, this is a wonderful website. I came across it while googling how to understand the JR Pass and it has given me so much information. I have several of your other articles pinned for me to read later on while I still plan my Japan travels for this coming November. However, I have some questions which I am hoping you can clarify for me.

    My boyfriend and I are traveling to Japan (his first time and my 2nd time). Last time I was in japan, it was for a quick weekend (side trip from the Philippines) and spent most of our time in Osaka so the JR Pass was not really an option then.

    Our itinerary is:

    Nov 7: Flying into Narita at 3pm and (hopefully) taking another flight to Osaka ITM (staying near Namba/ Dononburi station) [Haven’t bought the flight yet, should I consider taking the 2.5 train ride hopefully if they have a train from narita?]
    Nov 8: Universal Studios
    Nov 9: Morning trip to Nara then head to Kyoto (check in) and do some parts of Arashiyama
    Nov 10: Full day in Kyoto (I have your free things to do in kyoto pinned)
    Nov 11: Take a train to Tokyo
    Nov 12-17: Tokyo with a side trip to Mt. Fuji/ Hakone

    My question to you is, from what I understand of the JR Pass:

    1) If I purchase the JR Pass – it is an unlimited pass to use a JR line traveling from city to city (Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Tokyo, Hakone/Mt. Fuji)?
    2) Can the JR Pass be used to travel on the regular metro or do I need to purchase an Iccoca card to use the regular metro?
    3) I have an iccoca card from 2/2017 from my previous travels with about 100 yen on it still. Can I use it again or does the money/ card expire? You seem like a frequent traveller and I was wondering if you constantly purchase a new card or just bring your previous one.

    Thank you so much in advanced!

    • Hi Mae, to answer your questions (1) yes that’s right, you can go between these cities with the JR pass, it’s where you’ll get most of the use. You can also use it within some cities and into the suburbs but that is minimal extra value, I work out whether it’s worth buying on the major trips only. (2) The metro is not run by JR (Japan Rail) it’s another company so you can’t use the pass there, an IC card or individual tickets work on those. (3) I think they say the IC cards expire after 10 years, I still have PASMO from 2010 and ICOCA from 2011 that still work, back then you needed a different card in different parts of Japan, now they are nationwide and I just take one and reload it for each trip.

      On the flight vs train to Osaka there’s not a clear cut answer so a couple of things to take into your decision. If you book early, I think the bookings open about 90 days out, you can get really good domestic flight deals also many domestic flights go from Haneda so you don’t have to get all the way out to Narita again. Arriving at 3pm you still have a good part of the afternoon and evening to use in Tokyo so I’m guessing you’ll want to stay in the city, although the flight is quicker than the train trip we often end up choosing the train because the overall elapsed time is about the same and the train is a more relaxed option. Consider time and cost to get from your accommodation to the airport at both ends, plus check in and wait time at the airport. The train stations are central, the airports aren’t. It’s a personal preference both have advantages and disadvantages. If flying you probably just need individual tickets not the JR pass but with the right flight deal the cost could be similar. If you do get the JR pass you’ll want to do the Hakone trip in that first part of your time back in Tokyo to make best use of it. From Hakone you’ll (assuming a clear day) see Mt Fuji from the train and various places like the lake and Odawara. Going to Mount Fuji will take longer and we wouldn’t fit the 2 into a day, possibly a tour of faster pace might, it would depend what you want to see and do in Hakone. Have a fabulous time, it sounds like a great trip.

  • G’Day!

    I am going to Japan next month and I was wondering if you could help me on which JR pass I should be purchasing? I will be there for just under two weeks.

    Flying into Tokyo (Narita)
    Tokyo to Kyoto
    Kyoto to Hiroshima
    Hiroshima to Osaka
    Osaka to Tokyo
    Flying out of Narita

    Any help would be amazing, thanks so much!

    Jonnie

  • Please Please please help me figure out the transport system in Japan and the best way to go about it. I leave in 10 days and am struggling to understand the transport system.

    We are travelling:
    Day 1: narita airport to tokyo
    Day 3: Tokyo to Maihama (disney)
    Day 3: Maihama (disney) to Tokyo
    Day 4: Tokyo to Kyoto
    Day 6: Kyoto to osaka
    Day 8: NAMBA NANKAI (osaka) to KANSAI AIRPORT

    Now I don’t know if its better to buy the JR PASS or to get an IC Card. Also, if I get an IC card, do I just buy it when I get to Japan? Which is the best way to go about this? Which type of JR pass do I need, and will it cover all the trips above (minus one day) ? Could you please let me know how to go about it? Thankyou in advance. SO grateful!

    • Hi Marina, you won’t want a JR Pass as it wouldn’t be economic for the itinerary, those multi-city tickets flying into Tokyo and out of Osaka or the opposite are a great way to save a bit of time and cost, just buy the Shinkansen ticket at the station. I would use an IC card such as ICOCA for the convenience within and between the other cities but it’s worth knowing that they don’t save you cash, just time and convenience of buying individual tickets when you are travelling around a bit. Another ticket you might want to look into is the Osaka Amazing Pass if this is your first time in the city and are looking to get a overview of the highlights it can be good value and covers the transport within the city as well as entry to the top attractions, cruises etc. I’ve done a value assessment on our use of it in this post. https://www.2aussietravellers.com/osaka-amazing-pass-is-it-good-value/

  • Hi Toni,
    I will be in Japan early of July for 7 days (6nights)
    My plan is:
    I will stay in Osaka hotel ( 6 nights, already booked hotel) and catch public transport to Kyoto for visiting some places around Kyoto (it might takes 4 days backward and fordward , but do not want to stay hotel in Kyoto). It might take 2 days around Osaka.
    I am considering to buy JR west railway for 7 days, can you please advise if it is useful and cost effective? and please advise where I can buy it? I live in Australia (Melbourne)

    • The main consideration with the JR West pass for your travel within Osaka and Kyoto is that it’s only for JR (Japan Railway company) trains. While you can use JR for getting between Osaka and Kyoto you won’t necessarily choose to do that as the Keihan railway for example might be more useful and cost effective when you want to get to Gion and the eastern part of Kyoto where a lot of the attractions are. Also within central Kyoto you will use subway and buses mostly that aren’t covered and in Osaka subway and private railways depending on where you go. With your planned itinerary it is unlikely that you will find the pass cost effective. With a lot of travelling within and between the 2 cities you may find an IC stored value card very convenient but it’s not a discount card.

      JR West is great if you are basing in Osaka and visiting

  • Hi There,
    I will be in Japan (Osaka) fly from Vietnam for 7 days in July 2018. I have booked hotel in Osaka 7days. My plan is going backward and fordward between Osaka and Kyoto.
    I have seen few options for tickets, can you please advise what kind of tickets is suit us (our group is 4 persons)
    Thank you

    • For getting around within Osaka and between there and Kyoto none of the Kansai passes are likely to be cost effective. I’d use one of the IC cards like ICOCA for convenience as you’ll likely be using a variety of different train companies plus the subway. For getting to Kyoto the Keihan main line is often more useful and cost effective than JR especially if you are heading into the Gion / higashiyama area.

      • Thank you Toni.
        Can I please ask the IC card (ICOCA), It can used to travel around in Kyoto suburb also?
        Once again thank you Toni so much.

  • Hi,

    We are planning to have 9 days in Japan, and I was wanting to please seek your advice on obtaining the JR pass or not.

    So far, the plan is:

    – Flying into Narita (I believe the NEX is covered by JR pass) and spending a few days in Tokyo
    – Heading by train to Kyoto (or Osaka or potentially a night or two in Osaka as well) and staying there for a few days
    – Take train back to Tokyo and fly out from Narita

    Since we are going to relatively few destinations, do you think a 7-day JR pass would be worth it?

    I appreciate any assistance you can please provide!

    Thank you!

    • Hi Ash, the pass will save you money but it won’t be much. The return trip from Tokyo to Kyoto plus one of the NEX trips in individual tickets will cost slightly more than the 7-day Japan Rail Pass so you won’t go wrong buying it but equally it’s not going to save you much either. If you do head through to Osaka that’s covered but again it’s only Y560 on the special express each way for the 30 minute trip so not a deal breaker. Within any of the cities you might use JR for a trip or two but they aren’t the most common and with only a short time to spend it’s more likely you’ll want to use whatever is the closest and most convenient option. Have fun!

  • Hi from Canada

    I receive my vouchers in Canada. Can I book trains before exchanging the vouchers?
    I would like to book in advance some trains before leaving Canada.

    • Hi Denise, you need to exchange the vouchers for a JR Pass before you can make the bookings so you won’t be able to do it in your home country. Even in busy seasons like peak sakura we’ve never had a problem booking a seat on the train we want so you should be fine.

  • Hi, I am travelling to Japan in August and lookin at buying a JR rail pass. My itinerary is:

    8th Aug. Tokyo to Kyoto
    11th Aug. Kyoto to Hiroshima
    14th Aug. Hiroshima to Tokyo

    This falls within the 7 day pass JR rail pass, which at the moment is AUD$469 for the Green pass. My understanding is that the pass cannot be used on the Nozomi train but OK for the Hikari and Sakura lines. I checked on Hyperdia and this looks OK for the Tokyo – Kyoto part but the rest seems to be that I will need to go via Osaka and change trains to go to Hiroshima and to get back to Tokyo. Is this correct?

    • Hi Grant, you are correct, you can use all the trains on that route except Nozomi, the trains are the same but they stop at a couple more stations meaning the trip takes slightly longer. I think the Tokyo to Shin-Osaka was about 10 minutes more last time I looked at it. The switch at Osaka is very quick and easy. A reasonable portion of passengers will make the same change so it is announced what platform you need to switch to in English just before you need to get off in Osaka. The savings of using the pass on your route should be significant so it’s worth it. You can book your tickets right through before you start in Kyoto so you know you have allocated seats and if you are at all concerned just tell the person on the counter when you book that you have large luggage or need a little longer to make the platform change and they will book it correctly. We’ve had the book it many times and never had to rush for (or miss) a connection.

  • Hi 2AT,
    Thank you for your sharing. However I am still not sure if I should get the JR Pass. My family of 6 adults will be going to Japan in November this year. We will arrive in Osaka & stay 3 days before we go to Tokyo & stay another 3 days before we fly home from Tokyo. We may plan to make a return day trip to Kyoto when we are in Osaka. Is it worth to buy the 7 day JR Pass? Can we travel to anywhere at any time within the 7 days period? Do we need to make bookings as to when & where we are to use the JR Pass? How does the Pass look like? Hope you can clarify these for me. Thank you.

    • You can travel when and where you want within Japan with the 7-day Japan rail pass for 7 calendar days from the day you activate it. While you can make bookings at no additional cost with the JR pass you don’t need to. Without a booking you use the unreserved carriages and there is a chance of not getting a seat if it’s a busy time. We’ve always booked the longer trips like Osaka to Tokyo for that reason but have also never had the car we were in completely full even in sakura season.

      For the travel plan you describe of a one way trip from Osaka to Tokyo and a return trip from Osaka to Kyoto the pass would not be economical for you. Depending on where you are staying in Osaka and where in Kyoto you want to go for your day trip you may prefer to use a private railway rather than JR. If you are heading to the Gion or Higashiyama area then the Keihan line can be more economical and convenient.

      • Hi Toni

        I am travelling to Tokyo next January and then to Hakuba on one of the Snow Shuttles direct from Haneda Airport for 5 days skiing with my daughter. We are then doing a brief trip from Hakuba to Kyoto for 1 night, then to Nabari for 2 nights (where she spent a year on a Rotary student exchange) then back to Osaka to fly home, a total of 4 calendar days.

        Which regional JR pass (if any) would be the one to buy for this part of the trip? and would it permit any local train or bus use in or around Kyoto, Nabari and Osaka? Or would we be better to just buy 3 separate tickets, ie Habuka/Kyoto, Kyoto/Nabari and Nabari/Osaka(Kansai Airport)?

        Thanks very much

        • Hi Don, With the 3 main train trips over 4 days I don’t know of a pass that would cover the destinations and be economical. As far as I know Mie isn’t covered in the JR West passes and the only one that would cover Hakuba through to Kyoto is the main JR Pass but that isn’t going to be economical. For convenience on the local travel I’d use an IC card such as PASMO or SUICA but individual tickets work if you prefer.

  • What a great site to find.
    We are off to Japan arriving March 27 2019 at Narita and spending 5 nights Tokyo, 5 nights Kyoto, 2 nights Hiroshima, 2 nights Okayama ( Naoshima and Teshima), 1 night Kanazawa, 2 nights Nagano , 1 night Matsumoto and 1-2 nights Tokyo before flying home to Sydney. All travel is expected to be rail.
    May I ask what pass would suit this itinerary please ?

    • Hi Wayne, that sounds like great timing, you should get some gorgeous cherry blossom as you travel around. I would use the 14-day rail pass for that itinerary activating it when you leave Tokyo for Kyoto and it will get you back to Tokyo again at the end of your trip. I work the prices in yen so based on a 14-day pass the cost is Y46,390. The tickets for Tokyo-Kyoto-Hiroshima-Uno-Kanazawa-Nagano-Matsumoto-Tokyo individually would be approx Y64,410. Given you may have other incidental JR travels for trips out of Kyoto or other parts of your trip that would be my pick. Have a great time!

      • Hi Toni,
        I think I will be booking green seats and reserving : how does one go about doing this please, is it done on Hyperdia?

        • For the green seats/carriages you will buy the Green JR Pass, it’s more expensive than the cost I quoted in the calculation yesterday but the assessment that the JR Pass over individual tickets is worth getting remains the same. We’ve used the green pass several times and it’s nice if you can, a bit more space, less crowded carriages so stowing luggage at the back has never been a problem and you are seated in 2’s. You’ll exchange the voucher in the same way once in Japan and then you can go into the office at any shinkansen station to make the bookings, you can do that with the green or standard pass. I take a list of my main trips and get all the tickets at once although of course you don’t have to. If you prefer to keep it flexible you can do it at any time before you take the trip but it gives you an allocated seat and no-one will be standing in your carriage.

      • Hi Toni
        Thank you very much; and by the way, your website is one of the most readable I have encountered and by that, I mean it holds one’s attention and makes one want to explore more throughout your site for information; well done

  • Hi!

    If I am going to Japan for 8 days, will I need to buy a 14 day pass?

    I won’t be using the train on all of the 8 days – I am wanting to get the train to Kyoto and back so will only actually use the train on 2 of the days I am there, so hoping this means I can just get a 7 day pass!

    • Hi Em, you won’t want the 14 day pass for an 8 day stay. You don’t mention where you are basing from before you go to Kyoto, if it is Tokyo AND you will be doing the return trip within 7 calendar days it may be worth while considering the 7-day pass but it will depending on what else you plan to do. The 7 day pass works out slightly more expensive than the return tickets between the two cities purchased at the station. You might want to wait until you have an idea of any other side trips you might do before making your decision.

      • Thanks so much for replying Toni 🙂

        Yes I am only going travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto and back. Do you just purchase return tickets at a JR station when you get to Japan?

        • You can buy the bullet train tickets when you get to the station, it doesn’t need to be done in advance. Follow the signs to the shinkansen (bullet train) part of the station and you can buy the tickets either from the machines (they have an English button) or from the ticket desk.

  • hey there , great blog post it is big helper for me but i have two questions, i will be travelling from Osaka to Hiroshima on a JR pass from what i have read i can use the sakura train with the pass, but i have had a look on hyperdia and it says under ‘fare’ Y5,620 now does this mean i have to pay an extra 5620 yen or is that covered by the pass?
    second question i cant seem to find much info on the hikari train, is that also covered on the jr pass from Osaka to Hiroshima?
    thank you.

    • Hi Ash, when you are using the JR Pass on one of the included bullet trains you don’t pay anything, the fare shown in Hyperdia is the standard fare and can be useful when working out whether it’s worth buying a JR pass or for any portion of your trip that you aren’t using one. When you read it you will see ‘fare’ shown there which is the Y5620 but you need to look at the top left for “total” as that is the amount you pay (or save with the pass) and includes seat fees or supplements, those aren’t optional charges so the cost is the total amount. On a local train those two numbers will be the same as there is only a base fare charged.

      That route from Osaka to Hiroshima is called the Sanyo line and the Sakura, Kodama and Hikari bullet trains all run on it and are included under the pass. The trains are all equally good but it changes how many stations they stop at along the route, the Hikari stops at the least meaning it’s usually the fastest although other factors can impact it too. The Kodama stops at every station so it’s a tiny bit slower. They are only the bullet train stations though so it’s usually only around 5 minutes difference.

  • Hello! This is so informative thank you so much for writing it, I’ve just booked a trip for my partner and I to Japan and have been finding it hard to figure out how to do things, but you’ve broken it down so well. I hope that its okay I ask for some advice as I see many others have (looked through the comments but i still have questions!)

    We are going to Japan from the 22nd of November – 9th of December. This is what I think we should do:
    Tokyo 22nd – 29th
    Kyoto 29th – 3rd
    Osaka 3rd – 8th
    Tokyo 8th – 9th

    Is a 14 day rail pass worth it for us? Would we even use it for the first week if we are just exploring Tokyo? (also side question: Do we need it to get to Disneyland or are there other methods?)

    Because if it’s not worth it for the first week I was thinking of flying one way into Kyoto (could also take overnight train like you mentioned but prefer flight) on the 29th, Then start the 7 day rail pass on the 2nd of December by taking a day trip to Nara, and then using Osaka as a base to take a few more day trips while also exploring Osaka, before getting us back to Tokyo to catch our flight home.

    What do you think of this? Is the 7 day rail pass sufficient or will the flight to Kyoto / travel in Tokyo warrant for a 14 day pass? Would so appreciate your advice on this!

    • The 14 day pass won’t pay off. You won’t need it while exploring in Tokyo or for getting to the Disney parks, the best options for those can vary depending on where in Tokyo you are staying. Whether it would pay off as a 7 day pass for the portion you suggest would depend on which day trips you plan from Osaka, shorter distance ones like Nara and Kyoto together with the return to Tokyo won’t make the pass worthwhile in itself. Within Osaka, like Tokyo you are likely to use options other than JR such as the subway and private train lines. Flying is an option between Tokyo and Osaka and many prefer it, depending on your reasons if they are cost or time remember to factor in getting to and from the airport at both ends which is more expensive and time consuming than to the train station. We have used domestic flights in Japan and you can get some good deals even at busy times or year if you are ready to book the recurring deals on the day it opens for your travel date. If you would like a second pair of eye to check the price comparison on the individual train fares vs the JR Pass once you have an idea on your side trips you can leave another message here or send me an email, my details are in the contact section.

  • Hello, thank you for publishing your very informative blog on JR passes. We are travelling to Japan for an 11 day trip and if you could glance over our itinerary to confirm that a 7 day pass would be our best option, I would appreciate that. I am 99% sure it will be the best value, but always reassuring to have another opinion. We have three nights in Tokyo BEFORE we activate the pass to travel to Uno for two nights, via Okayama. After the visit to Naoshima, we travel back to Kyoto for two nights, then two nights in Kanazawa, then onto Narita Airport on the seventh day. I understand that all our destinations are covered by theJR pass, however excluding two particular bullet trains. Thanks in advance for any comments you may have.

  • Hi 2AT,

    Thanks for such a detailed well-written article on this! It’s certainly helped answer a lot of my questions about the JR Rail Pass.

    I was hoping to get some more detailed suggestions on what to do with my trip though. I will be in Japan for a total of 16 days — 10 in Tokyo and 6 in Osaka. Here is my proposed itinerary:

    10 days in Tokyo, traveling around the city with 2 planned day trips to Yokohama and Mt. Fuji
    Plane flight to Osaka
    6 days in Osaka with 2 planned day-trips. 1 to Hiroshima and 1 to Kyoto.

    Given this plan, I’m not sure if buying a 7-day or 14-day JR Rail pass would not be worth it. Also, I was reading that many of the train route options to Mt. Fuji would not be covered by the JR Rail pass and the faster bullet train to Hiroshima is also not covered. Is that actually true? If so, it seems like it would be more cost-effective (but perhaps more confusing) to just buy the tickets I need when I arrive in Japan.

    Any tips for the easiest but most cost-effective method would be appreciated!

    • You’re right that you can’t use the NOZOMI which is the fastest bullet train with the JR pass, but on your longest trip to Hiroshima the different between that and the one you can use is around 4 minutes so for me that wouldn’t factor into my choice to use the pass or not. The NOZOMI doesn’t actually travel faster it just has a couple less stops on the way, all the JR bullet trains max out their speed above the speed they are allowed to travel on the route so it’s not a slower train as such and there isn’t a quality different in the fitout that I could tell. That said, with your planned travels and a flight booked to Osaka I wouldn’t use the pass, it won’t be economical. If you hadn’t booked the flight you might have used a 7 day pass from Tokyo through to departure as I find the timing for the flight and train not much different by the time I get to and from the airport both ends and I find the train more relaxing and comfortable.

    • Hi, what a great blog, informative and concise, thank you! I also like a lot of travellers are confused as to whether to obtain a 7 or 14 JR pass. My daughter and I are travelling to Japan on 29/6/18 flying to Narita and then directly to Osaka. We arrive in Osaka (Kansai apt)late & will stay at Namba ( apparently the best area to stay) I believe we shouldn’t use the JR pass for this one journey into Namba but my confusion is to when we start using the JR pass if its a 7 day pass, from 30/6 (next day) or should we purchase another local pass? Can we purchase a local pass in Japan or do we buy this also in Australia?The itinerary is : Osaka 3 days, Nara 1 day, Hiroshima ( 1 day possibility) Naoshima 2 days, Kyoto 3 days then back to Tokyo 3 days before flying out of Narita Apt on 11/7. Should we get a local rail pass for the first 5 days then start using our JR passes for the last 7 days of the journey? Sorry for relying so heavily on your answer, but you guys seem to have this so sorted and it is our first time to Japan. Thanks in advance most confused Liz

      • Hi Elizabeth, thank you for your kind words. It sounds like you have a fabulous trip planned and I’m happy to give my thoughts if they can be any help. I would use a 7-day JR pass and start it on the day you go from Osaka/Nara to Hiroshima, it will then get you back to Tokyo if I understand your plans. This will give approx Y38,990 value for Y29,110 price. For Naoshima as you probably know you get the train through to Uno then the ferry across, it’s not a JR ferry so the pass won’t cover that portion. I wasn’t clear if you will be day tripping to Hiroshima (I’ve assumed not) or have accommodation in Osaka you will be returning for, as the train to Uno changes from Okayama half way between the two either works.

        I wouldn’t persoanlly use a train pass for the rest (being the time in Osaka, Tokyo and trip to Nara) as around the cities you’re likely to use a variety of subway and train companies and the 14-day JR pass won’t be economical. I would use an IC card such as SUICA or PASMO that you preload with cash then then touch on and off the stations as you travel on various train lines, it’s not necessarily cheaper but makes it simpler. As it’s your first visit to Osaka you might want to consider the Osaka Amazing Pass which includes transport and activities, I share a value assessment and a sample itinerary based on our use in this post https://www.2aussietravellers.com/osaka-amazing-pass-is-it-good-value/

  • Hi 2AT,

    This is a fabulous blog and has helped me immensely with planning our trip to Japan – just the JR pass that I am confused with. My husband and I are going there for 18 days/17 nights at the end of May with our son who will be 11 months old. I think a 14 night JR pass would be best for us, activated once we leave Tokyo, but I wouldn’t mind some advice. This is our itinerary:

    Tokyo – 4 nights
    Kyoto – 5 nights – Side trips to Nara and Himeji, possibly Kobe
    Hiroshima – 3 nights Side trip to Miyajima
    Osaka – 2 nights (Only staying here to break up the travel and make it easier with a baby)
    Hakone/Gora – 3 nights
    Fly out of Narita

    I was thinking of getting a Suica and N’EX package for our time in Tokyo and activating the 14 day pass when we leave for Kyoto as we are going directly to the airport from Hakone. But my other thought is it may be better value to activate the pass immediately and then buy a separate ticket from Osaka to Hakone where we can get the Hakone Pass and then go directly to Tokyo airport. But this seems more longwinded! Would appreciate any advice. I guess my main concern is that we get value.

    Thanks!

    • That sounds great Angela. I’d activate from the day you leave Kyoto and it will last you through to the airport on the way home – including all the planned day trips it’s approx Y74,370 value for the 14-day ticket price of Y46,390. You can use the JR pass for the ferry to Miyajima but in the cities although there are JR trains you will likely find yourself using subway and other local trains more, if you do get a SUICA in Tokyo (or any of the IC card options) you can use that in the other cities too. For Hakone area itself once you leave the train at Odawara the JR pass isn’t used. As you are there a couple of days take a look at the Hakone free-pass, with the transport options and discounts it can be good value depending on what you plan to do. https://www.2aussietravellers.com/hakone-freepass-value/. Also I think the SUICA and NEX package was stopped a few years ago (maybe they started again?) otherwise the return ticket discount probably won’t be worthwhile as your JR pass should cover it on the way home, just a standard ticket or buy SUICA and use it from there.

      Have a fabulous trip, it sounds amazing.

    • One more thought. As you are travelling with a baby, if your hotel in Tokyo is on the Airport Limousine bus route that is another option when you arrive. After a long flight (not sure where you are coming from) sometimes it can be a bit exhausting and you just want to get to the hotel. If that’s the case it’s a coach with comfortable seats and they load up and unload the bags taking some of the effort out of it, you just need to get on and relax and they tell you when you are there. Not that the train is difficult, I just find that if my hotel is a drop off and pickup point the limousine buses are a less stress option.

  • Good evening, I have just discovered your wonderful site! I am a Japanese teacher from Australia and am finally bringing my family to Japan.. (only my second time and the first was 17 years ago). I am struggling to work out how to organise our internal travel. We are coming from 26 Sept to 13 Oct.
    If you could, would you please advise what you would do in terms of hiring a car, JR pass and general train travel?

    We are flying into Narita, and thinking of 4nights in Tokyo..(currently looking at a place near Machiya station). We then want to head to Gunma for a couple of nitghts and come down through Gifu 2 nights. We then want to head to Osaka for 4nights, day trip to Kyoto etc. Thinking of then heading up to Hakone for a couple of nights before heading back to Tokyo for the last night or two.

    I am wondering whether we de the Keisei line from the airport and then just get a Suica pass for our Tokyo time, possibly hire a car to drive to Gunma and Gifu before activating a JR pass to travel Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto, Hakone and back to Tokyo.. or we could drive to Osaka, give the car back and then activate a pass. There are so many options it is all very confusing. We have 4 children aged 11,12, 15 and 16…6 of us in total,

    Would SO value your advice!!
    Simone

    • I think our situation is so different that I’m not going to be much help Simone. As a Japanese teacher I presume you speak and read fluently which gives you a big advantage. I have 3 reasons why I don’t drive in Japan, the main one being not understanding the language or being able to read the road signs. Also the tolls plus rental can make it very expensive and I do actually love the train system and just enjoying the journey not being stressed by driving.

      Of course I can see the attraction with driving to Gunma, the options getting there and around are more limited depending on what you are planning on doing (National park, onsen?) and in Gifu a road trip there would mean more easily getting to places other than Takayama and Shirakawago. Also a party of 6 is quite different to our travelling as a couple. I would use the trains / highway buses myself but would need to finalise the itinerary before deciding if a pass or individual tickets are a better option due to the date spread and what side trips you plan from the cities. It sounds fabulous, would love to hear about your experience renting a car and driving if you do go that way.

  • Hello,

    Thanks so much for a very helpful article. One question for you: Because our trip is 16 days and we have the 14 day pass, we’re activating our JR pass a couple of days after our arrival. But the first day we’re scheduled to use the pass (Tokyo to Magome), we’re departing Tokyo on a tight schedule beginning squarely at 5:50 AM. Does the pass, on delayed activation, begin at 12:01 AM on the scheduled day? We’d hate to arrive at the station only to learn the pass begins at like 7 AM or something.

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Brandon. The pass works on a calendar day so once the trains are running the pass is valid. The only thing is that although you can exchange the voucher in advance so you’re ready to go I’ve not tried making an advance booking before the pass the active, although for that early morning train I’m sure there will be no issue purchasing at the station when you arrive.

  • Hello I’m in wondering what would be the best way to get to Hiroshima from Osaka using the JR rail pass, I have already bought my rail pass and will be exchanging it after I have done the 7 day tour I will be on and then will be staying in Japan for an extra 5 days. Also I’m wondering is it possible to go from Hiroshima to Tokyo because I want to go back to Tokyo for a couple of days before I head back to Osaka for my flight home. Thank you!

    • With the JR Pass you’ll want to use the shinkansen for the quickest and most comfortable trip. From Osaka you’ll take the Sakura Shinkansen to Hiroshima. Coming back you’ll do the same to Osaka then change to the Hikari shinkansen through to Tokyo. It sounds a bit daunting having to change with luggage but is easy to do, it’s just a change of platforms. If you use the service of getting the ticket desk to book those tickets they know the stations and the time they allow to make any changes has always enough to make the switch without stress. If you want a bit extra time to pick up a bento box or other snacks in Shin-Osaka on the way through just ask them for that. Have fun!

  • Hi there 2aussietravellers!! Love your blog, is a real help for me while I am finalizing our trip in 10 days time. Am about to purchase the 7 day pass for my husband and i, then a 14 day pass for my 18 year old’s that are staying on to discover more places when we leave. So, a couple of questions. We are happy to buy economy seats, once the pass is purchased can we still book seats on the economy pass ie not the green 1st class option? If so, where do we book seats? I am guessing at the train station where we receive our pass. We will travel from Tokyo to Kyoto/Osaka on the bullet train return. We have 4 days booked in Tokyo to discover the City, then was going to stay in Kyoto for 2 nights then Osaka for 3 nights. Checking in and out of hotels wastes time I think, especially if so close, ie Kyoto to Osaka, do you agree? Should we base ourselves at Osaka maybe for the 5 nights, then take day trips to Nara and Kyoto. Out of those 3 locations is Osaka a good place to make our base? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks again…Nadine

    • Hi Nadine, yes both the standard and green passes allow you to book seats ahead for bullet train and limited express trains. You can do it in the ticket office of most, probably all, stations that have those trains stopping at them. What we do find though is the bigger stations like Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto have staff who speak excellent English (although they always say they only speak a little) so if I have doing a bulk booking for a number of trips and have some variables it’s often quicker and easier to do it in those ones. That said I’ve booked in Kanazawa, Hakone, Hakata and Nagano in English too with no problems.

      I agree on minimising bases to avoid wasting time switching hotels when the areas are close and easily travelled between, we usually use Kyoto as the base city but that’s just a personal preference, Osaka will work just as well.

      • Thanks Toni for your advice, much appreciated 🙂 One last question, have I left it too late to order my JR Pass today. I should of done last week, being that next Friday is a public holiday here I am allowing a tight delivery of 4 days from Fed Ex?? Any advice?

        • Hi Nadine, was it the 31st that you need it by? The company I use say up to 4 days (96 business hours) for Australia. I’ve had them through faster but yes it is tighter than ideal,are you in a major centre or smaller town.

          • We live in Canberra, so would imagine they can get here by Thursday. A risk though booking $2,000 worth of JR passes and they don’t arrive??

          • It is. Your other option is to try buying them locally once you arrive, they are doing a limited time trial selling within Japan but the price is a bit higher doing it that way and there are limited outlets. Although I do mention it in the article as an option I haven’t recommended it as I have been contacted by readers once in Japan who are having trouble buying them. I prefer to have the vouchers in my hands before I go but in your case it might be an option to try given the time constraint? I’ve read that Haneda and Narita Airport stations sell them and other major stations – I would assume Tokyo station must be one but don’t know for sure.

  • Hi 2AT

    Thanks for posting your blog!

    My husband and I will be visting Japan for the first-time in May (1st – 26th)

    Our itinerary is:

    Arrive Tokyo (Haneda), staying in Shinjuku area for 6N

    Fly from Tokyo to Sapporo and staying in Sapporo for 3N

    Fly from Sapporo to Kanazawa and staying in Kanazawa for 3N (day trip to Takayama?)

    Train from Kanazawa to Kyoto and staying in Kyoto for 4N

    Train from Kyoto to Hiroshima and staying in Hiroshima for 3N (day trip to Fukouka)

    Train from Hiroshima to Osaka and staying in Osaka for 6N (day trip to Kobe)

    Fly to Hong Kong from Osaka

    Do you think we should get a 14 day pass and only activate it when we reach Kanazawa (but that means the pass will expire 2 days before we leave japan) or should we get a 21 day pass?

    • Hi Michelle, the trip sounds fabulous. Neither the 14 nor 21 day pass will pay off on just the trips listed, A 14 day pass is Y46,390 and listed trips are Y42,290. Personally we would be likely to get the 14-day anyway as it is close and for us we would use enough additional JR rides that it would cover the cost although not give the sort of savings that some get from it. For example with the time in Kyoto and Osaka you may want to plan side trips to Nara, Kobe or other destinations that use the pass, or in Hiroshima take the train and ferry to Miyajima island that are also covered making it worthwhile. While I wouldn’t want to pay just for convenience it is a benefit for me on touring trips like this because you can book ahead for the main train tickets like the ones listed above then just flash the pass as you go through the manned gate. Just a note if you do buy it consider if you are more likely to do side trips from Osaka than Kanazawa you might want to start the pass before you leave Kanazawa but not the first day so it takes you through to the airport at the Osaka end? Have fun!

      • Hi Toni
        Thanks for your quick reply!

        Are you able to buy ‘top-up’ days? So if we get the 14 day pass and decide when we arrive in Japan that we need more, are we able to upgrade to the 21 days and just pay the difference or pay for extra days as we need?

        • Unfortunately you can’t top up Michelle, you could only buy a new 7 day pass which would cost more than getting the 21 days initially. If you’re having problems with the cost comparison when you’ve finished the itinerary and want a second pair of eyes to run it through Hyperdia before you make a final decision just message me to take a look.

  • Hi 2AT,

    Your blog has proven to be a priceless resource as I plan my trip to Tokyo – thank you!

    I am having difficulty figuring out best travel routes, however. My boyfriend and I bought our JR passes. We plan to travel by bullet train to Kyoto, spend the night, then we want to go from Kyoto to Osaka for the day and head back to Tokyo. We also want to do Hakone.

    1) What is the best way to get from Kyoto to Osaka?
    2) What is the best way to get from Osaka to Hakone?
    3) What is the best way to get from Hakone back to Tokyo?
    4) Do the trains run at the early morning hours to take advantage of the limited time we will be able to spend in these cities?
    5) Are we being overly optimistic by trying to fit Osaka and Hakone in on the same day?

    Thank you!!

    • Hi Lexy, if you have another day you can use for Hakone I would suggest Osaka and Hakone on separate days, both easily have a a days worth of things to do just hitting the highlights, I’d suggest working out what are your ‘must do’ things in each to get the most out of your time, if you only have one of two things in each it could work, there’s a bit of travel time too.

      From Kyoto to Osaka depends on where you are staying and what you want to see in Osaka. If you are near the JR station where the bullet train arrives I’d suggest the bullet train to shin-Osaka then you can use local trains or subway to the specific areas you want to explore from there. Kyoto station through to Osaka station would be 30 minutes. If you are staying in central Kyoto the Keihan lines from a station such as Gion may be better, it takes closer to an hour into Osaka but you’ll save the time getting across Kyoto with luggage. This option doesn’t use the JR pass though.

      Hakone is on the main bullet train line between Tokyo and Osaka so you’ll use the same train regardless of whether you stop at Hakone or go straight through to Tokyo. With the JR pass you want the fastest option which is the Hikari shinkansen, it’s a little under 3 hours to Tokyo or 2 hours 20 minutes to Odawara (the Hakone station). It’s about 35 minutes back to Tokyo on the same line from Odawara, you can use Hikari or Kodama shinkansen.

      Trains generally stop just after midnight, if you need a connnecting train on to your hotel in Tokyo allow for that too. Try Hyperdia to test out the different scenarios once you know the stations you want. Have a great time!

  • Hi 2 Aussie Travellers

    We are planning a 2 and a half week trip to Japan for cherry blossom season this April.

    We will be in Tokyo for 3 days when we arrive and then travelling to Osaka via rail. We are basing ourselves in Osaka for 6 days and travelling out to Kyoto, Nara, Himeji and Kobe for day trips. We will be returning to Tokyo from Osaka via rail again. This time for 6 days primarily based around Tokyo.
    Could you please recommend what rail pass options we should select for our trip and if we should have a separate rail pass for our Tokyo stay?
    Thank you!!

    • Hi Sally, as you will be going from Tokyo to Osaka and returning again within 7 days, and you have day trips planned that will use JR trains and ideally the bullet train the 7-day JR pass will be well worthwhile. For the days in Tokyo, unless you are doing very long day trips it won’t be worth having the longer JR pass. Instead you are likely to want to use the subway far more within the city. We find it’s worth also have an IC card each (PASMO, ICOCA and SUICA are all equally good), you top it up as you go and can use it on non JR trains, subways and buses all across Japan. You may find you also want to use it in Kyoto and Osaka to zip across the city.

      Have fun and enjoy that sakura!

  • Hi 2AT,

    Thank you for such detail article, I am planning a trip to Japan end of March for my family, with 2 young children, it is our first time travel to Japan, mainly visit main attractions within major cities, total of 21 days. We will arrive in Tokyo stay (4 nights) -> Kyoto (6 nights) day trip to Hiroshima -> Osaka (4 nights) day trip to Kobe and Nara -> Nikko (2 nights) -> Tokyo (5 nights) day trip to Hakone.

    Base on the above itinerary

    1. Is it worth getting an JR pass, if so what Pass should I get 7, 14, or 21 days?
    2. What is the best way to get from Osaka to Nikko?
    Thanks,
    Vi

    • Hi Vi, the best value would be the 14 day pass if you can activate for the day you leave Tokyo for Kyoto it should then run until the day after you get back to Tokyo, even better if you can plan to do the Hakone trip that day so you can use the bullet train to Odawara. You would still save money on the 21 day pass but really as the extra days are all based in Tokyo and you’re likely to use the subway more than JR trains while you are there the 14 is much better value.

      I work it out in Yen on one adult ticket, the cost benefit doesn’t change with additional tickets. A 14 day ticket is Y46390 which is less than just the Kyoto, Hiroshima and return to Nikko section, you are also doing Osaka, Kobe, Nara and returning to Tokyo in that period, and potentially a return trip to Hakone too.

      From Osaka to Nikko you are basically returning to Tokyo on the bullet train then heading out to Nikko. If you have the JR pass I’d change at Tokyo to the Shinkansen Yambiko (the one that heads up to Sendai) for 50 minutes to Utsunomiya station, then the JR Nikko line (about 40 minutes) the rest of the way to Nikko.

      Have fun, sounds great and a lovely time to be there

  • Hi 2AT,

    My partner and I hope to travel from Osaka to Himeji, Himeji to Nara, Nara to Koyasan then back via Nara to Kyoto, Kyoto to Takayama, Takayama to Kanazawa and Kanazawa to Tokyo. Of course there is a train change when the destination changes, but when there is only one destination can you just get on the correct JR train in each city and travel to the next city WITHOUT changing trains on the way?

    Great blog. Thank you for posting.

    • Hi Liz, it is possible to use direct trains for some legs such as Osaka to Himeji, Nara to Kyoto and Kanazawa to Tokyo but others will require a transfer. If you have the JR pass you can book them in advance which is an included service with the pass, we’ve found the JR staff are great at sorting the best options for you, including minimum transfers. Otherwise use Hyperdia and in the sort order select transfers. Himeji to Nara needs a change of train line at Osaka, and Nara to Koyasan is usually accessed via the Nankai train from Namba in Osaka, the planning for that one is a bit more involved. Kyoto to Takayama you’ll transfer from a bullet train to the limited express train and continuing on to Kanazawa is also a limited express / bullet train combo. While I always choose direct when I have the option for the simplicity and to save a bit of time the stations are all well marked in English and easy to navigate between platforms. Either Hyperdia or the JR staff put up options with viable transfer times between platforms and Japan trains run very strictly to time which helps.

  • Hi 2AT,
    We are going to Japan the first time in June, we will have 7 nights in Osaka-Kyoto and then 4 nights in Kanazawa then we will go to Tokyo for 6 nights, during the time in Tokyo we may visit Hakone. After Tokyo we will have another 4 nights in Shirahama and then back to Osaka to flight back home. Could you please advise which pass I should buy and for how long. many thanks for your help.
    Catherine Aldred

    • Hi Catherine. If these are the only longer trips you will be doing (ie no day trips from the various bases) then it’s likely that individual tickets will mostly work out better for you than pass. When working it out I look at the blocks of travel and see if there are significant clusters in the 7, 14 or 21 day windows. For yours you have it nicely spread out but that isn’t as effective for the JR passes. I then use Hypedia to price out the travel in Yen and compare that to the pass prices in Yen (I believe the current rates are Y29,110 for 7 days, Y46,390 for 14 days and Y59,350 for 21 days.

      The 21 day doesn’t work out cost effective for the destinations listed, neither does the 14. The only block that may work for you is the 7 days from the day you leave Kanazawa for Tokyo, a return trip to Hakone (Odawara) while you are there and on to Shirahama. This assumes you are doing Shirahama by train not flying? I assume you would use the bullet train back across to Kyoto then the Limited Express down to Shirahama the same day? If so the Kanazawa-Tokyo is Y13920, Tokyo-Odawara return is Y6440 and through to Shirahama is Y16800 so would work out Y29,110 instead of Y37,160 and you could use the pass in Tokyo for any JR travel (not subways).

      I’d suggest you do your own checks on your itinerary with Hyperdia in case I have misunderstood you plans but that would be my choice for the route. Have a fabulous trip!

  • Hi! We are landing in Tokyo, then going to Hakone, Kyoto, and then back to Tokyo. We read that the JR Pass is the best for our situation – but are wondering which pass we should get; North, South, Central, East, West?
    We also have a day trips throughout and are trying to figure out what the smartest option to Kamakura would be from Tokyo too.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Jordan. There’s a few variables that do into working out what the best pass options are, as a general rule if you were going to go between those cities in a 7 day period then the main 7 day JR Pass which is valid nation wide is the one you need. However if you are spread over a period of more than 7 days and add in other destinations is where the variation comes in. For Kamakura if it’s within the period you have a JR pass then that is a good option as the cost is covered for the transport, however if not there are some other options to consider.

  • Hi 2AT
    My husband and I are heading to Japan for the first time in 6 weeks time. We are there from the 30th December late afternoon and have 9 nights with my husband flying out at 7pm on the 8th Jan from Narita and me staying on to meet a school group on the 9th at Haneda.
    We would like to do two nights in Tokyp (one being the night we fly in)
    3 Nights in Kyoto
    3 nights in the snow (either Hakuba or Niseko)
    1 night/2 days Hakone area

    Do you think a JR pass is worthwhile for this trip and are you able to suggest a good order in visiting these places to maximise our time and travelling?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Lauren. I’d first decide where you want to ski as getting to Niseko (Hokkaido) and Hakuba (Nagano) are very different. With your 9 nights and what you want to see you would need to fly to Hokkaido whereas for Hakuba you would take the bullet train to Nagano then a bus to Hakuba. In December your snow will be better and more certain in Niseko whereas it’s quite early in the season in Hakuba and whether there is sufficient quality snow is less certain.
      Also Hakuba is very popular with Australian and Japanese skiers in January so it will be quite busy. From Hakuba you could see the snow monkeys though, one of my favourite winter things to do in Nagano.

      If you decide on Hakuba the JR Pass would pay off. As you want 7 nights away from Tokyo that won’t fit with a 7 day JR pass, if you don’t want to drop a day away from Tokyo I would suggest doing the Hakone night last then paying that final train trip from Hakone back to Tokyo separately as it’s a short trip and the lowest cost section. So you would use the 7 day JR Pass for Tokyo – Nagano -Tokyo (passing thru) – Kyoto – Hakone.

  • Hi 2AT,
    I am traveling with my daughter to Osaka and then on to Kyoto in October.
    Several friends told me that I need to get a JR Rail Pass.
    When I plunk all the places into Hyperdia, the value is much cheaper than getting a pass.
    We plan to go to Himeji from Osaka. Then to Kyoto from Osaka…
    The hope is to see Arahiyama, Enryakuji, Nara, and North and South Higashiyama areas.
    This should encompass 7 days.
    I add up to about $150 per person. Does that seem to make sense?
    Is it hard just buying individual tickets each day?

    Appreciate your time and any input. Thank You…

    • Hi Sean, You won’t need a JR pass for the trip you describe. It’s not difficult to buy the tickets individually, there’s an English button on the machines. You can use a stored value card like the PASMO or SUICA to make it quicker and earier if you want to just load it up once then touch on and off local trains, buses and subway. You generally need to do at least one long return trip such as Kyoto to Tokyo and back to make the JR pass pay off. Have a wonderful trip.

  • Hello! my fiancé and I will be going to Tokyo for our honeymoon for 7 nights. We want to spend 2 nights in Disneyland area to go to Disney for 2 days, and we would like to see Kyoto (open to a day trip or one over night, whichever you recommend) Will the rail pass get us to and from the airport to our hotels? And to and from Disneyland from Tokyo airport? And then Kyoto and back? Would that in itself make the 7 day pass worth it? Also, is Kyoto pointless for a day trip? We land in Tokyo at 710am and were thinking of just getting right on the train to Kyoto since we can’t check in anywhere anyways, spending our first night there and then riding it back to Tokyo to start out Disney/Tokyo portion. Any help would be so appreciated!! Thank you!

    • Hi Colette. Congratulation to you both and I hope you’ll have a wonderful time in Japan.

      There’s likely to be a very small benefit using the JR pass, assuming you fly into Narita and are planning to take the NEX to the city (return) and Kyoto (return) within the 7 days it’s around Y34,000 to purchase tickets and Y29,110 for the pass. These prices vary with dates so is just an indication you can check yourself using Hyperdia.com. There are multiple ways to get from the Airport to the city and the city to Disney, depending on which airport and your hotel location you may or may not choose JR to get there.

      We love Kyoto and always manage to squeeze it into our trip somehow, having said that a day trip is a push but by the time you land, collect your bags, get to Tokyo Station and on to Kyoto you’re unlikely to be there before lunchtime. Half a day is a very short time to see much of the city and if you’ve flown any distance overnight that might impact your decision too. What would you prioritise to see in Kyoto? If there are one or two main things that would really make your trip it could be done, also knowing how spread out the places you want to get to are might help you decide? We don’t usually do tours so can’t recommend a specific one but possibly a half day tour might be an option if you decide to do it. That way it takes the hassle out of getting between sites quickly.

  • Hi,
    My wife and I are planning our 2nd trip to Japan in October. Overnight at Kansai Airport and take Shinkansen to Hiroshima for three days w/ day trip to Okayama/Kurashiki Then to Kyoto for four days w/ day trips to Kanazawa, Enryukuji and Nara. The on to Osaka for two days before we fly home. We plan on buying the regular JR Rail Pass and are thinking of “upgrading” to the green car for the Shin-Osaka – Hiroshima and Hiroshima – Kyoto trips due to luggage and length of trip and plan on riding regular cars for day trips. This is the first time we will be using the Shinkansen and are thinking upgrading the two trip would make it easier on us. any thoughts?

    v/r David

    • Hi David, personally we have purchased the green car version as it’s a lot less busy and we have never had an issue getting the suitcases in storage space at the back of our carriage even at the busiest train times and during peak cherry blossom etc. We also like the setup of the seating in 2’s so we always have our own space. I guess it is a splurge and not technically necessary but as we usually do some longer trips and move our luggage with us rather than using forwarding services so I would do it again. That said it’s not technically necessary, really just a personal choice, have also experienced the standard seating and carriages and there is nothing wrong with them, much more space and comfort than economy in a plane

    • Hi 2AT

      I’m loving your blogs. We are first time visitors to Japan. 10 -25 Dec. We like to travel as you do. We are thinking about first 6 nights in shinjuko then 6nights Kyoto and last 2 nights back in Tokyo. I think we would be best using the subway to get around Shinkuko/Tokyo and buying a JR rail pass to get us to/ from Kyoto, using it for day trips out of Kyoto. Do you see any issues with us doing it this way. Many thanks Vanessa

      • That’s what we would normally do Vanessa unless we were taking longer day trips from Tokyo (eg Nagano), even if you want to do some smaller day-trips like Yokohama, Enoshima, Kamakura, Nikko and even Hakone they are either cheap enough to just pay individual fares or there are better pass options.

  • Hello!

    Very detailed and informative article. My wife and I are planning to visit Japan for 6 days (3 days in Tokyo, 1 day trip to Hakone and 2 days in Aomori in the Tohoku region) during late October. We chose Aomori to experience the fall scenery since we heard it is quite beautiful.

    We are contemplating two options to travel from Tokyo to Aomori:

    Option 1: Round trip flight via JAL Explorer Pass (~100 USD per person) – 1.5 hour flight
    Option 2: Round trip train ticket using JR East pass (~$170 USD per person) – 3.5 hour train

    While this may seem like a no-brainer decision in favor of option 1, we were wondering if the JR East pass offers any additional benefits to make it a worthwhile alternative? We like the flexibility of having multiple train departure times to choose from and think the door-to-door time using option 2 may ultimately work out to be similar (if we factor in transit to Narita airport and bus to city center from Aomori airport).

    1. Do you happen to know if JR East pass offers subway train access within Tokyo or local train/bus access in Aomori that may offset the higher cost?
    2. Could we possibly use it to travel to Hakone?
    3. Could the JR East pass offer any other benefit that we may not have thought of?

    Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks so much!

    • Hi Jim it sounds like a great trip and a less common choice to see the fall colours which sounds great. Japan Rail is a different company to the ones that operate the subways so you can’t use the JR pass on the subway within Tokyo. There are JR trains in Tokyo although we find them less useful, the Yamanote loop may work if you have a JR station near your hotel as it’s 29 stops are mostly in areas visitors will want to go (Shibuya, Ueno, Shinjuku etc) and most connect with subway stations if you need a connector. You can also use it on the Narita express and the monorail but not out to Hakone.

      In Aomori you may use the pass for example if you want to get to Hirosaki castle but I think many of the fall locations like the lake are accessed by bus and I don’t think the JR east pass covers the JR buses like the JR pass does. While the JAL Explorer Pass offer great deals something we have found is that the time difference in domestic flights vs trains is quickly used up in the longer checkin process, wait times and getting to the Airport which is usually much less convenient that just getting to Tokyo station. Also there are costs in getting to and from the airports at both ends which are usually quite a bit more than the train station to the hotel.

      Either option I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous trip, enjoy!

  • Hi, thanks for posting your blog – it’s so difficult to get my head around the Japan transport system! I’m wondering if it is worthwhile getting a JR pass. I will be going to Tokyo then Mount Fuji (Hakone area) and then Kyoto. We will be doing several day trips from Kyoto which will be Nara, Osaka and Kobe. We won’t need to return back to Tokyo as we are flying back from Osaka airport. Do you think it will be worthwhile to get a JR pass?

    Also can this pass be used within the Tokyo and Kyoto cities?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Lisa, the easiest way to tell is to use the Hyperdia site. You haven’t mentioned a timeframe but based on what you have said above and assuming the trip is within the 7 day window, a 7-day JR Pass at the moment is around Y29110. The train fares, using bullet trains when it makes sense, would be Y27390. That assumes one way from Tokyo to Odawara, One way Odawara to Kyoto, Kyoto to Nara return, Kyoto to Osaka return, Kyoto to Shin-Kobe return, Kyoto to Kansai Airport. You can use the JR trains in Tokyo although personally we do find the subway more efficient around the city itself, it will depend where you are staying and how close the stations are to that. Also if within the 7 day window you can use the train from Narita Airport to Tokyo. On that it probably isn’t worth it or only a minimal saving. Have a great trip.

  • We are planning to visit Japan for the first time. We decided to go Tokyo, Haknone, Osaka and Kyoto. We are planning to do Sankensen (bullet train) just to experience it. Do you think its worth buying Rail pass?

    • If you just want to experience the shinkansen on a single trip and not using the trains for much else then probably not. However if you are going from Tokyo to Kyoto/Osaka return within a week then the Japan Rail pass will cost about the same as the individual tickets so will be worth while as you can also use it for any other JR trains and ferrys you use in that 7 day period.

  • We are heading to Japan with our teenage boys in March (super excited) I love your blog and will be pouring over it to plan some day trips from Kyoto and for exploring Kyoto.
    I have a JR pass question for you. Where is the best place to buy one? I have a great travel agent that can buy me JR green passes for about $525 each but I just did a google search and found a site where they are $437. Do you purchase online yourself? or go through an agent

    • Hi Annette. I’ve done it both ways, from a local travel agent and several times online. Personally, my online experiences were better, the travel agent was one of those situations where if it could go wrong it did, it was one of those ‘how not to do business’ experiences but it is just about the particular situation at the time in that office so I don’t want to name them. As for online on a bigger ticket purchase I do a bit of research to see other people’s experience, was it delivered promptly or any other issues but I will buy ours online again next time.

  • Hi guys!

    Terrific article on the JR. We would have been kicking ourselves if we didn’t do our due diligence and discover the JR prior to boarding our plane, crunch the numbers and realise that it was going to work for us. For anyone seriously interested in covering a bit of distance while they’re in Japan, it would seem silly not to consider whether a JR pass would suit them.

    After reading your post, it makes me want to get back over to Japan this year! Thanks for a detailed and helpful post!

  • Train passes are extremely helpful for mid budget travels. I had availed it in Switzerland. Saving up this info for a possible trip to Japan someday in near future.

  • Great travel tips for those looking to explore Japan by rail. By reading other’s experiences, looks like you nailed it! Your comment section here looks to be another wealth of information~ Great post!

  • Great resource article. Super clear and really well laid out. We are planning on making a few visits to Japan in the next few years after we (hopefully) relocate to HK or Shanghai. Good tip about buying them in advance. I would of just thought you could purchase a rail pass when you arrive, but that’s not obviously the case in Japan!

  • We loved our experience with the Japan Rail pass during our visit to Japan. You’ve covered all of the items needed very well! I wish I had come across a post like this before our trip. I completely agree with purchasing your pass ahead of time.

    • Alice as far as I know none of the subway systems are run by Japan Rail (definitely not in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka or Sapporo) so you can’t use the pass on them. There are some surprises though, JR do run some buses and the ferry to Miyajima Island so it’s not just the trains.

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