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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.  In this section we’ll do our best to answer all the questions we get regularly.  If you want to know something that isn’t answered here please ask in the comments section below.  We’ll do our best to answer all queries personally and also update the post where relevant to keep it as a current as possible for anyone planning a trip to Japan.

As we refer to the Japan Rail pass often in our posts I want to put our experience and information about it in one place.  It’s a fundamental part of our Japan travel planning and one of my top tips for anyone planning a visit to look into it early in their trip planning process.  That said I’m not trying to convince anyone to buy it, just to be aware it’s available and I’ll be pointing out a number of situations where it won’t be your best option too.

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 What is the Japan Rail Pass?

The passes are a deal offered by Japan Rail on their network exclusively for foreign visitors to Japan who are visiting on a tourist visa (under 90 days).  This is why it’s important to know about them early in your travel planning.

Since April 2017 Japan Rail have been trialing having the passes available to purchase at a very 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 land 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 them in Japan and I always have a whole lot better things to do with my travel funds than overpaying for something so if stretching your travel dollar is a priority then early planning is still worthwhile.

When you purchase, either through a local travel agent or an online distributor you will be sent a voucher.  Once 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 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 Japan wide.  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 like the ferry across to Miyajima Island in Hiroshima and JR buses.  The pass however is only for Japan Rail services, they don’t operate the subways or inner city buses and there are a number of other private railway providers you may come across where the pass can’t be used.  That said you can traval pretty much from one end of the country to the other using the Japan Rail Pass with no additional out of pocket cost.

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 and calculating the value.  In each case the pass has give significantly more value than the dollars we spent.  We’ve used both the 7 and 14 day options and generally get around twice the value, or half priced travel, plus the convenience the pass brings.

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.  Backpackers who 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 for you.  There are cheaper ways to get around Japan than trains, the trade off is time and potentially convenience and comfort so it comes down to which of these is your priority.

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 a good option.  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 by it?

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, so given it’s likely you’ll do at least one or two other trips in that week it’s a safe assessment to say 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 good starting point for deciding whether or not you will buy it.

However if you are planning a different route, even one way and flying 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.  This is one of our most used tools both in planning and in country, 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 for the route you pick not the component price along the side.  We have found this resource to be extremely useful and very accurate but I will put a short post up soon on using Hyperdia as although I find it an invaluable tool there is so much information included that initially it can seem a little overwhelming.

Japan Rail Pass Banner

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

Absolutely!  If you’re spending your visit mostly exploring in Tokyo with a few local day trips out of the city such as Hakone, Nikko, Kamakura or Enoshima it will almost certainly not be money well spent.  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 much better value on those longer 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 basing yourself in most Japanese cities if 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.  However unless you plan to do a number of longer distance trips (for ideas see my 10 top day trips out of Kyoto or Osaka) it’s still not likely to be cost effective.

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.  During peak times or seasons, or if you want the last train back but don’t want to miss getting a seat 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 save time as you then just have 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 is that you are required to carry your passport with you.  I can’t recall being asked for it at any gate or on any train but it is a requirement of the pass.  You are apparently supposed to carry it as a tourist in Japan at all times for identification anyway.

The only other disadvantage or risk I can think of is getting caught up in maximising the pass value and trying to squeeze too much into a too short period of time and ending up stressed or not doing what you really wanted to do.  Or alternatively buying the pass and finding you don’t really need it.  I believe both of these can be avoided with a little bit of planning and research.

Types of Japan Rail Pass

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

Which Pass

The Japan rail pass can be used right across Japan, 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.  The JR East pass and JR West pass are for extensive travel in specific regions and the isolated areas are less common choices for tourists.  When I’ve considered these in the past for parts of our trips I’ve found it more cost effective and flexible to buy individual tickets or use a stored value card in this situation.

How long do you want to use it for

The Japan Rail Pass comes in a 7, 14 and 21 day option.  Ideally 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 staying 2-3 weeks in Japan you may only need the pass for the week when you do your longer 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 have what are called ‘green cars’ on shinkansen and other long distance trains.  These aren’t ‘green’ as in environmentally friendly it is their equivalent of a business class.  The seats and larger and grouped in 2 not 3 on each side of the carriage.  You usually have a bit more leg room, more comfortable foot and leg rests and sometimes additional facilities like charging of electronic devices.

Adult or child

The final variable is whether the passenger is an adult or 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 doesn’t require their own pass BUT they are also not entitled to a seat if you take this option.

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 site or discuss with the travel agent before you make your payment.  However 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 JR buses and ferries
  6. The pass can’t be reissued in the event that it is lost of stolen.

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 bit of time to play with.  What you receive at this stage is a voucher for a Japan Rail Pass, not the pass itself.

Where to purchase: We normally organise our passes about a month before we travel but that is a personal preference.  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 apparently ‘unexpected quit’, the courier tickets showing them being sent 3 times back and forwards between the branch and head office 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 stress and it took almost 3 weeks to get the pass – hence my commitment to planning ahead whenever I can.

We now always use and recommend these guys.  They have been competitively priced, quick delivery and we have had no issues dealing with them.

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.

Etiquette on Japanese trains

There were a couple of things we did notice on Japanese trains to be aware of:

  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.  Japan is a very populous country and what keeps it running so smoothly is polite and considerate behaviour, it would be uncomfortable for most Japanese people, even the conductors to have to ask you to move.
  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 never had any issue with getting luggage space on the trips when were moving around 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 rubbish off the train at the end of your trip and out of courtesy not to bring overly ‘fragrant’ food onboard.
  4. Again it is normal practice in Japan to keep your voice low if you converse on public transport, talking loudly or being on the phone is generally considered impolite.  Again it’s just part of living harmoniously in crowded confines.  Children should have activities to keep them amused and quiet.  There is some tolerance for children being children but not running around the train and shouting.
  5. Japan is generally very orderly and queuing is normal.  Be waiting at the marked area of the platform before your 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.

In summary we have consistently found the Japan Rail Pass to be easy to use and represent excellent value on our travels.  That said everyones circumstances and travel style will differ and an hour to two planning to make sure you get the right pass for your needs, or no pass if that makes more sense, is worth the effort.

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 periodically to cater for that.  However before purchasing you should always read the agents website details carefully or ask them to clarify for you 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.

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The Japan Rail Pass - All your questions answered

322 Comments

  • 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.

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