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Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it? Everything you need to know

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.  

Using your Japan Rail Pass on the Shinkansen

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

Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?

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

419 Comments

  • 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?

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