aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Ourminds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
Browse by Travel
Browse by Food
TheRoadUnleashed.com
is a japan rail pass worth it?
transportation on a budget

Japan Rail Pass

Let us just say that you're the sort of person who is obsessed with managing money to the penny, who has meticulously recorded every purchase made since she was fifteen in a Quicken document, and, let's just say that you're married to a guy who creates intricate Excel spreadsheets with built-in currency converters to manage all of the receipts accumulated during a year long trip, then this post is for you.  But, really, even if you're not that sort of person, this post is for you because, on an extended trip, $15 saved in Japan could pay for one full day of lodging and food in Thailand

The question of the day: should you buy a Japan Rail Pass for a trip to Japan?  The answer: it depends on your itinerary.  Generally, if you move at a moderate pace --- that is visiting a different place every four to five days --- and travel to major cities to use the Shinkansen trains, it is going to save you money.

{Full geek-out warning here: This post is going to involve numbers and assumptions and, unfortunately, very few pretty pictures . . . unless I get bored, in which case, I might try Photoshopping pictures of Chewy and Abby onto Japanese trains.} 

Japanese trains

First, what is a Japan Rail Pass?  The Rail Pass is Japan's invitation to foreigners to tour their country via the rail system.  Any foreign tourist entering as a "temporary visitor" or a Japanese national living in a foreign country is eligible to purchase a Rail Pass to sightsee around Japan. 

How much does it cost?  There are two general types of Rail Passes: ordinary and green car (first class).  We purchased ordinary passes and were surprised by the comfort in those sections of the trains.  The ordinary cars include clean restrooms at the end of each compartment and have overhead storage for medium sized bags (we fit ours above our head) and storage at the end of each compartment for larger bags/suitcases.  Most ordinary cars are in a 3-2 configuration with three seats on one side and two on the other.  The green cars are in 2-2 configurations, have more space for luggage, and are generally a bit nicer.  If you are used to flying coach, then I suggest purchasing an ordinary pass but, if you opt for first-class flights, then purchase the green pass. 

You can purchase a Rail Pass for 7, 14, or 21 days depending on the duration of your trip.

  Green Adult Green Child Ordinary Adult Ordinary Child
7-day

37,800 Yen 

($378 USD)

18,900 Yen

($189 USD)

28,300 Yen

($283 USD)

14,150 Yen

($142 USD)

14-day

61,200 Yen

($612 USD)

30,600 Yen

($306 USD)

45,100 Yen

($451 USD)

22,550 Yen

($226 USD)

21-day

79,600 Yen

($796 USD)

39,800 Yen

($398 USD)

57,700 Yen

($577 USD)

28,850 Yen

($289 USD)

 *prices based on ACPRail's current Rail Pass prices

What does the Rail Pass include?  The Rail Pass is your one-stop ticket to all JR lines in the country EXCEPT for Nozomi (the super-high speed Shinkansen trains), the Tokyo monorail, and JR ferries such as the ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima.  The Rail Pass may not be used for local city buses (such as those in Kyoto), non-JR lines (much of the subway system in Tokyo), and non-JR private railways (such as the one that we took from Nagano to Chikuma City and to other small cities.)

What sort of itinerary do I need to make the Rail Pass worthwhile?  This may make your head spin a little but this is the sort of calculus you need in order to determine whether to buy the Rail Pass.

The clasic 2-week trip:  Let's assume that you plan on doing a typical 2-week Japan itinerary: Tokyo, with a day trip to Nikko, then on to Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima, and back up to Tokyo.  Here is the break down of the transportation costs for this trip assuming that you don't have a JR Pass:

  Without a Rail Pass With a Rail Pass
Tokyo to Nikko 2520 Yen  
Nikko to Tokyo 2520 Yen  
Tokyo to Kyoto 13100 Yen  
Kyoto to Nara 690 Yen  
Nara to Hiroshima 10990 Yen  
Hiroshima to Tokyo 18,750 Yen  
Traveling around the cities on JR lines
(about 100 -300 Yen per trip)
about 2,500 Yen  
Ordinary JR Rail Pass for 14 days   45,100 Yen
Total 51,070 Yen 45,100 Yen

That's a tidy 5,970 Yen ($63 USD) that you are saving with the Rail Pass; enough for a sushi or kaiseki dinner.

A fast-paced 2-week trip:  If you follow the advice of the fine folks over at Frommers, you might opt for a trip through the highlights of Honshu Island that would take you from Tokyo to Nikko to Takayama to Kyoto to Nara to Mount Koya to Kurashiki to Hiroshima, winding up in Osaka for a flight back home.  Whew!  That would look like this:

  Without a Rail Pass  With a Rail Pass
Tokyo to Nikko 2520 Yen  
Nikko to Takayama 18560 Yen  
Takayama to Kyoto 8780 Yen  
Kyoto to Nara 690 Yen  
Nara to Mount Koya (Koyasan) 1770 Yen 1230 Yen*
Mount Koya (Koyasan) to Kurashiki 4760 Yen 1500 Yen*
Kurashiki to Hiroshima 4930 Yen  
Hiroshima to Osaka 10350 Yen  
Traveling around the cities on JR lines (about 100 to 300 per trip) about 2,500 Yen  
Ordinary JR Rail Pass for 14 days   45,100 Yen
Totals 54,860 Yen  47,830 Yen

*Part of this route is on a private railway

At this more hurried pace, you end up saving a bit more: 7,030 Yen ($80 USD) by buying the Rail Pass.

And, then, what we did: We started off in Tokyo but did not activate our Rail Passes until the day before we planned to leave Tokyo.  So, we went from Tokyo to Kyoto to Nikko to Nagano to Nara to Hiroshima to Aso in Kyushu Island, winding up in Fukuoka, on a 21-day pass.  We moved pretty slowly, spending 8 days in Kyoto, 3 days in Nagano, and 2 days each at the remainder of the cities, but went to some far flung destinations.  So, how did we fare?

  Without a Rail Pass  With a Rail Pass
Tokyo to Kyoto 13100 Yen  
Kyoto to Nikko 18,410 Yen  
Nikko to Nagano 10,270 Yen  
Nagano to Nara 11,970 Yen  
Nara to Hiroshima 10,870 Yen  
Hiroshima to Mount Aso 11,530 Yen  
Mount Aso to Fukuoka (Hakata Station) 5,020 Yen  
Traveling around the cities on JR lines (about 100 to 300 per trip) about 4,000 Yen  
Ordinary JR Rail Pass for 21 days   57,700 Yen
Totals 85,170 Yen 57,700 Yen

We ended up saving a whopping 27,470 Yen ($312 USD) per person because we backtracked quite a bit and went to both Honshu and Kyushu islands.  That's an awesome savings for both of us!

And, another quick itinerary:  Jess, over at To China and Beyond!, started in Osaka, then went to Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kobe, Yokohama, Tokyo, Nagoya, and back to Osaka, within two weeks.  She saved an eye-popping 34,640 Yen ($397 USD) by purchasing the Rail Pass. 

When it's all said and done, the Japan Rail Pass is a great deal for those traveling in a limited time frame in Japan if you move at a moderate pace and/or visit destinations in different parts of the country. 

Vouchers

Vouchers

How do you buy a JR Rail Pass?  The Japan Rail Pass must be purchased outside of Japan before you begin your trip at a participating agent or online (such as from ACP Rail).  If you forget to purchase it outside of Japan, then regions of Japan offer rail passes at JR stations within the country (e.g., Kyushu Pass, Hokkaido Pass) but those passes tend to be much more expensive.  Your travel agent will send you a voucher that is valid for three months.  When you arrive in Japan, you must produce your passport and the voucher to a major JR station (voucher locations are provided with the book that comes with the Rail Pass) and they will provide you with the Rail Pass that is valid for 7, 14, or 21 days from the date you turn in your voucher.

How do you use the Rail Pass?  We walked into any station, asked the agent (who often speaks English) that they make us a reservation onto the next train to wherever we were going, showed our Rail Pass at the ticket counter, and then sauntered onto the train.  We just love those efficient, comfortable Japanese trains.

How do you figure out all these calculations?  Use Hyperdia, possibly the greatest trip planning tool I have ever found for any country.

07/27/2010 10:04
I love your detailed analysis of the pros and cons of the Rail Pass. A lot of people seem to automatically assume that a pass will save them $$, but you actually put a lot of thought and effort in breaking it down.
07/27/2010 11:02
Ha, you should have posted this last week! I just bought my RailPass- got the voucher in the mail monday. I will have to do my best to make it worthwhile during my whirlwind two week trip. Challenge is on!
Stephanie's recent blog post: Finding the “Real” Italy in Florence
07/27/2010 11:52
Nice post. You sound like me. These are exactly the same type of calculations I did before buying the RomaPass in Rome for example, spreadsheets and all. Sometimes, even if it costs a little more, it's worth it for "ease of use."
07/27/2010 12:45
Friends and I are planning a trip for the Spring so this should come in handy! I appreciate the thorough review!
07/27/2010 23:48
YokohamaTodd
I just saw your analysis while looking through Trip Advisor's Japan forums (not that I can use a railpass, since I live here...), and thought that I should correct some figures, since your analysis does not include all of the costs of traveling on the JR trains. You have only included the "ticket" price, but there is no such thing as a "standing room only" ticket, so one has to pay at least for an "unreserved" seat. However, you don't pay that fee when using a Japan RailPass. So, for example, from Tokyo to Kyoto, the basic ticket price is 7980 Yen, but the unreserved seat fee is 4730 Yen (reserved is 5440 Yen), so the total cost is 13,420 Yen. I ran the numbers on your actual trip using the reserved seat prices and while the ticket costs were 50,730 Yen, the seat fees came to 33,690 Yen, for a whopping total of 85,130 Yen. In other words, you saved about $300. You don't have to feel so bad now, since you actually saved enough money to spend a week on Koh Tao!
07/28/2010 03:20
YokohamaTodd: Thank you, thank you for correcting this. This is fantastic. I am going to go through right now and edit the whole thing to include the correct figures. Thank you so much for your help!
Akila's recent blog post: is a japan rail pass worth it?
07/28/2010 03:43
Thanks Eric - I guess, I'm a little obsessive that way. :)

Stephanie, now that I've corrected the figures, I don't think you're going to have a problem. As long as you use some Shinkansen rails, you should be fine.

Kristina, Absolutely. Ease of use is a huge deal!

Thanks Shannon. I'm sure y'all will have a blast in Japan.
Akila's recent blog post: is a japan rail pass worth it?
07/28/2010 14:36
This is an amazing resource for future travelers to Japan. Thanks for the link back to my post - I've added a link back here as well.
07/28/2010 21:05
I love your analysis. This is really helpful! And can I say 'WOW'.. didn't realize how expensive the rail can be in Japan.
Amy @ The Q Family's recent blog post: Orlando With Kids: The Orlando Science Center
07/30/2010 10:31
This is great. My sister ended up doing the rail pass in March, as she was in Japan just a week and wanted to cover a big chunk of the country. For her, it was totally worth it (I think).
Camels & Chocolate's recent blog post: Photo Friday: Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania
08/13/2010 03:17
Jennifer
WOW! Thanks so much for sharing this info. i just moved to Tokyo and was researching the REAL value of the pass for my parents who will visit in October. Well done!
08/13/2010 09:30
Thanks Jess!

Thanks Amy! It is pretty expensive but, unfortunately, most of Japan is expensive.

Thanks Kristin! I think if you're going for just a week and planning to see a lot, it's a great tool.

Thanks Jennifer! Let me know if you have any further questions and I'll try to help out as best as I can.
Akila's recent blog post: south korea in a whirlwind
08/21/2010 22:05
Ambika
Brilliant post! Perfect for helping us plan our Japan trip. Thanks.
08/22/2010 17:08
norberto
hey!!! thank you for your great post. im going to japan for 23 day traveling all around the country, and i was thinking about the pass, but then i heard that bus is much more cheaper than the train, what do you think about it??? is more convinient??? or i would pay the same money than a 21 day jr pass???? thank you again fot the post
12/15/2010 20:46
Michelle
Thank you!!! This post is very helpful. I will be visiting my brother in Tokyo in Feb for three weeks and i want to take a 7 day sightseeing trip around Japan while im there... Do you have any suggestions where to visit?
12/16/2010 09:04
Michelle, thanks! For a 7 day trip in February, I think it depends on your interests. It will be really cold during that time with probably a lot of snow on the Sea of Japan side of Honshu island. If you like ancient temples and beautiful cities, I would highly recommend 3 or 4 days in Kyoto, which was our favorite city in Japan and then head down to Osaka and then Hiroshima and Miyajima for 2 or 3 days. That is the "classic" itinerary and you'll hit some of the highlights of Japan.

However, given that it is the winter time, you might prefer to go to one of the onsen/ski towns in the Japanese Alps around Nagano, which is where the winter Olympics were held. In the winter time, the Jigokudani monkeys spend a lot of time in the mineral baths. So, you could spend 3 or 4 days in Kyoto and then 3 days in the skiing region.

Either way, if you're spending 3 weeks in Tokyo, then I would suggest a day trip (maybe on a weekend) to Nikko and a day trip on another weekend to Hakone. Let me know if you have more questions - we're happy to help!
Akila's recent blog post: overlanding 101
01/04/2011 11:08
Laura
Thanks a lot for this very useful post! If I can pose you one question: I'll be doing a 14-days trip in February which will be (roughly) Tokyo - Yokohama - Kyoto - Osaka - Hiroshima - Tokyo in February. Hyperdia says the total trip would be about 418 yen which would save me about 30 yen compared to the Rail Pass. So, is it really worth it? Or am I overlooking something? I have to make my decision quite soon. I guess my other option would be to get a Suica pass for Tokyo and take slower trains around the country. I'm a student by the way so I'm happy over every penny I can save :)
01/04/2011 17:26
Laura, When I ran your itinerary through Hyperdia it was at 44,570 yen because it looks something like this: 450 + 12790 + 2930 + 10,150 + 18250 = 44570. That's still less than the 14 day pass but depending on how long you are planning on staying in Tokyo, you could just get a 7 day Rail Pass starting after you leave Tokyo. Let me know what your plan is and then I'll be able to help you out!
01/19/2011 21:03
Stephanie
Your article is so helpful. I'm one of the many travelers who is trying to wrap my head around whether to get a rail pass or not. We will be in Tokyo for 7 days and plan on staying in the general area (with the exception of a day trip to Kamakura and another to Mt Fuji). We are going Feb 1 - 8. After reading your comments, I think that since we aren't going to Kyoto or any far distances that we would be better off without the rail pass. What do you think?
01/19/2011 21:03
Stephanie, I'm so glad it was helpful! Given that you are planning on basing yourself in Tokyo and not traveling much outside of the city, I don't think the Rail Pass makes much sense because it looks like you won't be spending much more than 12,000 Yen during your trip. Have a great time in Japan!
Akila's recent blog post: an elephant family
01/20/2011 14:14
Stephanie
Thank you SO much. That's just what I figured.
02/10/2011 00:09
Sam
Hi, my friends and I will be travelling to Tokyo-Kyoto-Tokyo-Hakone-Tokyo in April. is it worth to buy 7-days JR Rail Pass? Will spend 3 days in Kyoto and 4 days in Tokyo. Hakone is a day trip. I am not sure if we can fully utilize JR Rail Pass within Kyoto area and Tokyo area. Thank you.
02/10/2011 09:04
Sam, Yours is pretty tight. Prices run:
Tokyo to Kyoto: 13,220
Kyoto to Tokyo: 13,220
Tokyo to Hakone: 3940
Hakone to Tokyo: 3940
Which leads to: 34,320, about 6,000 above the Rail Pass cost.

So, it would be worth purchasing but ONLY if you are certain that you will go to Hakone (or do a day trip to Nara or Nikko). If you don't go to Hakone, I doubt that you would spend the remaining 5,000 Yen just traveling around Tokyo and Kyoto (especially because the JR line in Kyoto takes you to a limited number of destinations). Hope that's helpful - let me know if you need any other advice. Have a great trip!
Akila's recent blog post: how we (don't) fund our travels
02/10/2011 09:07
Oops, sorry - that should have read . . . the remaining 2,000 Yen . . . not remaining 5,000 Yen.
Akila's recent blog post: how we (don't) fund our travels
02/15/2011 20:29
When you first posted this, and I commented then, I had no idea I'd soon be contemplating buying a JR Pass any time soon.
We now have 8 days in Japan in April; 5 in Tokyo and 3 in Kyoto. At this point I don't know how much money a 7 day pass would save us because I don't know what side trips we will do from Tokyo or Kyoto. Any suggestions? I'm thinking Nara from Kyoto, but I don't know about day trips from Tokyo.
02/16/2011 09:32
First of all, yay for a Japan trip! I know that y'all are going to have a fantastic time. If you're doing 5 days in Tokyo and 3 in Kyoto and that's it, then a Rail Pass probably won't make sense. But, if you do a couple of day trips (for example, from Tokyo to Nikko and/or Hakone or from Kyoto to Nara or to Osaka), then the Rail Pass might save you a bit of money.
Akila's recent blog post: the butt shot
02/20/2011 02:00
Nessa
Hi Japan Rail Pass guru - My husband and I are travelling to Japan for 9 days : Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kyoto - Tokyo. Is this sort of itinerary still worth purchasing the JRP? We are spending one night in Osaka, but rest of our time in Kansai will be based out of Kyoto (4 nights) and wrap things up at a wedding in Tokyo (not much sightseeing planned).
Can you also recommend any other short day trips around Kyoto (besides Nara worth visiting?).
Thanks so much!
02/21/2011 11:16
Nessa: First, LOL at being called a Japan Rail Pass guru! If you just purchase tickets separately, you'll spend about 15,020 Yen plus about 2,500 Yen in the cities themselves. If you only have 4 nights in Kyoto, though there are other day trips worth doing (for example, Himeji, Mount Koya, and Nagoya), I think you would be best off staying in Kyoto because there is a LOT to see in Kyoto itself. We spent 8 days in Kyoto and didn't see everything we wanted to because there are so many gardens, temples, and lovely neighborhoods to explore. So, I think 1 day in Osaka, 3 days in Kyoto, 1 day in Nara, and 5 days in Tokyo would be a very full trip. So, I would not recommend getting a Rail Pass. Let me know if you have any other questions!
05/30/2011 20:14
Nessa, maybe a three day Kansai pass might be worthwhile. Are you catching the train from the airport to Osaka? A pass would cover your travel from airport to Osaka, Osaka to Kyoto and Kyoto and Nara. The conveneience of just showing the pass rather than negotiating ticket booths is great, and sometimes worth the little bit extra if it all doesn't add up to a saving.
Alison (Street Food)'s recent blog post: Fine Modern Australian Cuisine at Henson On The Park
06/06/2011 18:58
Alison, this is a great tip for future planners to Japan. Thank you so much for including it here.
Akila's recent blog post: food unites in south africa
08/18/2011 04:16
Al
Folks, I will be traveling to Japan for two weeks in a couple of weeks. I'm planning to go to Tokyo, Kyoto,Osaka, and Kagoshima. Is it worth it getting the 14 days JR pass or should I pay for train fares as I go ? your help is very appreciated.
08/30/2011 09:09
Al, probably not for such a few spots. I think you'd be much better off just paying for train tickets from spot to spot.
Akila's recent blog post: elizabeth on 37th
08/29/2011 04:48
tricia
We are planning to travel from Narita Airport, Tokyo for 3 days and down to Kyoto for 2days -will travel to Nara one day. Then up to Sendai for 6 days and back to Tokyo and fly home. We think this is worth a pass- would need robe 14 days-asking you as the guru!
08/30/2011 09:23
Tricia, You have a winner here! Tickets from Kyoto to Sendai alone cost 30,000 - 35,000 Yen so you're going to be saving a ton of money by getting the JR Rail Pass.
Akila's recent blog post: elizabeth on 37th
09/15/2011 10:53
Fioon
Hello Akila, we're travelling to japan for 9days alight/board at tokyo. The worry of nuclear gave me a thought to skip tokyo, thus thinking to have gourmet laze around trip at the south area. So far, all forum suggested to osaka,kyoto,nara,miyajima or any other interesting place in south? In this scenario, can i say 7day pass is worth? Thanks/Fioon
09/26/2011 10:08
Fioon, Well, I'm assuming that you're going to fly into Tokyo since it's the main international airport. In that case, yes, the 7 day pass would be worth the expense. If you aren't planning on flying into Tokyo, instead flying into Osaka or Hiroshima, then I would suggest not getting it because you won't recoup your cost.
Akila's recent blog post: lions wake
10/01/2011 10:22
Pat
We are flying into Narita, taking train to Tokyo to board Shinkansen for Morioka, Iwate. And will be making the same return trip after 8 days. We will also probably be taking local train from Morioka to Kona. Would it pay to purchase rail pass? Everything I've read in this blog relates to Kyoto region in South rather than Iwate region in North.
10/04/2011 10:36
Pat, To get from Tokyo to Morioka one way costs around 14,450 Yen and the return will be about the same. Local trains usually aren't all that much --- somewhere around 500 yen, I would guess, so you'll be right over the mark for the Ordinary Adult ticket 7 day pass. The tricky issue is that if you are leaving from Tokyo to Morioka and then returning 8 days later (instead of within the 7 day time period), you're going to need a 14 day pass, which certainly won't be worth the expense. Given your current itinerary, I would not buy the JR Rail Pass. Hope this helps!
Akila's recent blog post: the taste of two years
10/01/2011 23:42
thymery
Hi Akila,
Thanks so much for your detail info in using JR Pass. I plan to visit Japan in mid-Dec for about 10 days, places going are Osaka, Kyoto, Hakone, Tokyo. My flight will landed at Tokyo and return back to my country at Tokyo also. I plan to stay in Tokyo for at least 4 days. I don't think I'm getting the JR Pass because it can't be use in Tokyo subway, I plan to get the Kansai Pass since it can covered areas like Osaka and Kyoto. So, should I station in Kyoto for few days to go to these places or what's your suggestion? What's the cheapest and fastest way to travel from Tokyo to Osaka or Kyoto? What's your suggestion of no. of days to stay in each of these places? Any other place that I missed around this area? This is my first time to Japan.
10/04/2011 11:18
Thymery, I agree with you that you shouldn't get to a JR Rail Pass given this itinerary. You might not even need a Kansai Pass for that matter given the few number of places you're traveling to. I would recommend just paying out of pocket. Kyoto is a phenomenal city - so much to see and do - that I think it's a great place to use as a base. It's only an hour's train ride from Kyoto to Osaka and an hour back.

So, I would recommend something as follows: 3 days in Tokyo; one day traveling to Hakone, there, and then one day to Kyoto; 5 days in Kyoto with 1 day spent as a day trip to Osaka and back; and then the last day heading back from Kyoto to Narita (about a 3 hour train ride) for you to take your flight out.
Akila's recent blog post: the taste of two years
10/04/2011 21:45
Thymery
Hi Akila,
Thanks so much for your reply. Actually, I'll prefer to go straight from Tokyo to Kyoto on the very first day I arrived in Narita Airport so that I can spent the last 4 days solely in Tokyo, including the last day before depart from there. You mentioned there is this 3 hour train ride from Narita to Kyoto, what train ride is that? Is it a direct train from the airport to Kyoto? Do you have the web site that I can visit?
10/07/2011 06:50
Ambika, I'm glad it helped!

Norberto, We didn't take too many buses since we had already purchased the Rail Pass. We took one highway bus between Nagano and the Monkey Park. The bus itself was comfortable but the fare wasn't all that cheap and it was not nearly as efficient as the train system. Again, it is going to depend on your itinerary. If you're planning on just going between Tokyo and Kyoto and not doing too much else than you're probably better off using highway buses or single-ticket trains, but if you're going to be doing a lot of traveling around the country, the Rail Pass may be your best bet. Let me know what you're thinking itinerary wise and I'll try to help you figure out the best solution.
10/07/2011 06:49
Hi Akila! Before you write off the busses, I suggest that people on a big time budget actually price out busses. They are reasonably comfortable (and efficient - like everything in Japan). The busses were always significantly cheaper than the train fare, and we took 2-3 overnight busses as well. Given the price of hostels in Japan this made a huge difference. It was three years ago, so I can't remember our precise itinerary or savings, but I think it was $500+ per person to take busses!
10/13/2011 09:20
Great info - thanks Allison!
Patrick's recent blog post: dining on the queen mary 2
11/01/2011 10:54
Hi, looking for a contact info for a tokyo based architecture photographer who wouldnt mind mentoring a dutch photo student for 6 weeks in april/may 2012......
01/22/2012 05:49
Peter Watkins
Hi, I've come up with a rough itinerary for my trip to Japan in March/April.Do I need a 7 day or 14 day Japan Rail pass or could I get away with buying individual tickets?
Any help much appreciated!

Day 1 Arrive Tokyo late in evening.
Day 2 Tokyo
Day 3 Tokyo
Day 4 Matsumoto
Day 5 Kiso Valley Trek (overnight back in Matsumoto)
Day 6. Takayama
Day 7 Kyoto
Day 8 Kyoto
Day 9 Kyoto
Day 10 Kyoto - day trip to Arashiyama
Day 11 Kyoto - day trip to Nara
Day 12 Kyoto
Day 13 Hakone
Day 14 Nikko
Day 15 Day in Nikko. back to Tokyo PM
Day 16 Tokyo
Day 17 Fly out of Tokyo am
01/22/2012 09:57
Peter,

So, here's what your costs would roughly look like:

Tokyo to Matsumoto - 6710
Matsumoto to Takayama - 9840
Takayama to Kyoto - 9680
Kyoto - Hakone - 12050
Hakone - Nikko - 9290
Nikko - Tokyo - 2520

Totalling: 50,090 + about 3,000 Y inside the cities

So, a 14 day pass would definitely save you money if you pick it up on the last day that you leave Tokyo to ensure that your train from Nikko to Tokyo is covered under the rail pass. Hope that helps!
01/28/2012 03:41
Jeremy
I only started this article, but after only reading the first paragraph, I thought, wow, you describe me so well.
02/10/2012 20:50
barry
hey i'm going to be in japan for 8 day 21st till 29th this month.
would it be worth it to get a jr pass?
I had to book a taxi to hakuba since i wont be getting into tokyo until 5:30pm.

i 'm coming here pretty much to ski but i want to do some sight seeing to.
I'm staying in hakuba but want to make a trip to see the snow monkeys and make a day trip to hakkoda. Im pretty sure that trip alone will make the pass worth it.

and do i have to get to nagano to get on the bullet trains or can i get to hakkoda from hukuba?

thanks
02/15/2012 14:26
Barry, Assuming that you're not taking the train to Hakuba, then you're looking at something like this:

Hakuba to Nagano (near the monkeys): 2,210 Yen
Nagano to Shin-Aomori: 19,400
Shin-Aomori to Tokyo: 16,070

So, definitely it would be worthwhile getting the 7 day pass. And, you'll definitely have to get to Nagano in order to take the bullet trains.
Akila's recent blog post: changing perceptions in madrid
02/17/2012 20:49
Seung
Hi ... great site. Need some travel advice. My wife and I will be vacationing in Japan for 7 days (coming from Okinawa). No agenda. We arrive early morning 4 March into Narita Tokyo and plan to depart late 10 March out of Kobe. How do you recommend we best maximize our 7 day stay??? This is our first time to mainland Japan. We want to visit the "must see" places at a moderate pace (with great food:)! I noticed you put great emphasis on Kyoto. Is there an easy way to get to/from Kyoto to Kobe airport? Thanks SO much for any advice you can provide!!! Seung
03/12/2012 09:10
Seung, I am so so sorry for the delay in responding. We haven't had very good internet over the last month so I haven't been able to respond to comments. I know that you're already in Japan so I hope that you had a wonderful stay. Please let me know if I can ever help again and I'd love to hear about your trip to Japan. Sorry again!
Akila's recent blog post: spain: the low-down
02/18/2012 23:10
Paul Kim
I really enjoyed your article on Japan Rail Passes. I have a question that you might be able to answer. I am off to Japan next month for 8 days, I'll be splitting my time there between Tokyo and Kyoto. From what I gather it will be cheaper for me to buy 2 single rail tickets Tokyo to Kyoto, and Kyoto to Tokyo instead of a 7 Day Japan Rail pass. The only catch for me is I need to purchase my rail tickets on my American Express card so that I can activate my travel insurance (flights have already been paid for on the Amex), do you know if the Rail Ticket offices in Tokyo and Kyoto accept Amex?
03/12/2012 09:41
Paul, Unfortunately, I don't know whether they accept AMEX. You might try calling their rail offices to find out. Also, as boku mentioned below, if you're going to take the Narita Express as part of your 7 days, then it might be worth it to get the 7 day rail pass, even if you're only doing a roundtrip ticket to Kyoto.
Akila's recent blog post: spain: the low-down
02/25/2012 04:24
Thanks for the detailed post! We're heading to Japan in late April/ May. Want to get your opinion on our rough itinerary and whether the JR is worth it. We have 3 weeks to split among Tokyo - Nagano - Kyoto - Osaka with day trips to Nikko and Nara in between. Any advice you can provide would be much appreciated! Thanks!
Kieu ~ GQ trippin's recent blog post: Funny Road Signs in New Zealand
03/12/2012 10:04
Kieu,

Okay, so let's assume that you're going to do something like this:
6 days in Tokyo - with a day trip to Nikko
3 days in Nagano
8 days in Kyoto - with a day trip to Nara
3 days in Osaka
Back to Tokyo for your flight (assuming that you're going to be flying from Narita)

First, I would definitely add Hiroshima to the list because it's a very short train ride from Osaka and both Hiroshima and Miyajima are fantastic places to visit. Similarly, you might want to add Hakone to the list because it's a short train ride from Tokyo and supposed to be gorgeous - we were sorry that we missed it.

Second, you're looking at something like this:
Narita to Tokyo: 2940
Tokyo to Nikko: 2520
Nikko to Tokyo: 2520
Tokyo to Nagano: 7970
Nagano to Kyoto: 19,510 (because you have to come back through Tokyo to get to Kyoto if you want to use the Shinkansen service the whole way)
Kyoto to Nara: 690
Nara to Kyoto: 690
Kyoto to Osaka: 1680
Osaka to Narita airport: 14,680

So, in total about 53,200. If we add another 3,000 for miscellaneous trips, that gets you to around 57,000 Yen.

The Rail Pass costs 57,700 Yen. If you add more destinations, then, yes, it's definitely worth it (and in your case, I would definitely add Hiroshima, Miyajima, and Hakone) but if you don't add destinations, it'll be a close call. Definitely let me know if you have other questions about this because I know that this is an expensive and very confusing part of planning travel in Japan.
Akila's recent blog post: spain: the low-down
03/21/2012 00:04
WoW!!! This is awesome! Thanks so much for the detailed info. I'm not sure if we want to take it slow or add on more stops but I think we should at least put Hiroshima on the map. ;) Looks like we might be better off booking as we go from the looks of it. This is great. Thanks again for all the help.
07/12/2012 16:42
Harry
Akila, this is by far the best source of info for JRP details!great read.

We are heading out to japan in Aug 12-25 (13night from s).

Question, we fly from London to haneda airport and then fly back out from narita airport...will we be able to use JPR both airports?

Also we are not sure how much travel outside of Tokyo we will do but at a minimum we will do the following :-
-Haneda to Tokyo
- Various trips around Tokyo..does the JPR permit travel in and around Tokyo?
- Tokyo to hakone
- Tokyo to Kyoto
-Kyoto to Tokyo
- Tokyo to narita airport

Wondering what the JPR guru would say?:-)
03/02/2012 17:19
boku
If someone arrives at Narita, they can take the Narita Express with the JR pass. With that cost, a 7 day JP pass will be paid for (saving 3780yen) even if a person only goes on one round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto.
03/11/2012 14:53
Boku, that's a great point. Thank you so much for letting me know - I'll add that to future calculations!
Akila's recent blog post: spain: the low-down
03/20/2012 04:30
T
Hello JR Pass Guru,

Thank you for the wonderful article... I was planning to travel to Japan in April end for a week to 9 days and have a below tentative schedule...

April 24th - Fukuoka,
April 25th - Hiroshima
April 26th - Tokyo
April 29th - Kyoto
April 30th - Kyoto
May 2 - Osaka

Would you suggest me to get a 7 day JR pass ? Appreciate your kind advice... Many Thank in advance,
04/13/2012 12:13
T, I'm so sorry for the delay in responding. I didn't see this post until today. You're going to save a ton of money by getting the railpass. Without the pass, you would spend 47,760 Yen, while with the pass, you'd spend 28,300. It's a great savings! Have a wonderful trip to Japan!
Akila's recent blog post: budapest: the low-down
03/20/2012 18:26
Using Hyperdia and planning your route in there can help figure out whether the Japan Rail Pass is right for you. It's great flexibility really and if you plan on making more then a few legs it's definitely worth it. If memory serves the 7 day rail pass is around the same price as a Tokyo - Kyoto return trip, puts things in to perspective.
03/24/2012 08:24
jen
Hi!

My family booked 6 nights at a hotel in Osaka, but we'll be doing daytrips to Kyoto, Kobe, possibly Nara, and Tokyo. Is it advisable to get the railpass? I read that your friend, Jess, purchased it and used it for 2 weeks? However, I assume she slept in different cities.
Thank you!
04/13/2012 12:19
If you do the 7 day pass and don't include Tokyo on the trip, then you would spend only 3160 Y on individual tickets and 28,300 Y on the rail pass, for a 7 day pass.

If you add Tokyo to the mix, then you would spend 31,660 Y for the individual tickets and 28,300 for the railpass.

So, the Railpass is only worth the purchase IF you go to Tokyo. Hope that helps!
Akila's recent blog post: budapest: the low-down
04/01/2012 22:48
AnneMarie
Hi Akila,

I am traveling to Japan in a few weeks and am planning to purchase a railpass for 14 days as I am planning to travel to Yamamoto. My plan is to start in Tokyo for a few days, then travel to Kyoto (2 days), Hiroshima (2 days), then on to Yamamoto for four days. Then back to Tokyo and Yokohama. Does this sound like a good plan?

Thanks for your response.
04/13/2012 12:02
Yep, this works. If you purchase individual tickets, you'll spend 49,330 Yen, but if you buy the RailPass, you'll pay around 45,100 Yen. I think it's a good deal. Have a great trip to Japan!
Akila's recent blog post: budapest: the low-down
04/14/2012 23:52
May Jayne
Hi,
We are planning an 8-day trip to Japan in Nov 2012. Our flight gets in to Osaka and depart from Osaka as well. We are planning the following: (4 nights in Kyoto, 2 nights in Kawaguchiko and 1 night in Osaka)

Day 1 : Arr Osaka, go straight to Kyoto
Day 2 : Kyoto
Day 3 : Kyoto - Nara &/Himeji
Day 4 : Kyoto - Arashiyama
Day 5 : Kyoto - Fuji Kawaguchiko
Day 6 : Kawaguchiko
Day 7 : Kawaguchiko back to Osaka
Day 8 : Fly home from Osaka

Would you recommend the JR 7 day pass, or separate passes?

Thanks.

Regards,
May
04/28/2012 03:37
May, Okay, so here goes:

Osaka airport to Kyoto - 960 Yen
Kyoto to Nara - 610 Y
Nara to Kyoto - 610
Kyoto to Arashiyama - 430
Arashiyama to Kyoto - 430
Kyoto to Kawaguchi - 13730
Kawaguchi to Osaka - 14260
Osaka to Osaka airport - 620

Meaning that your total cost of individual tickets would be 31,650 and you would save money buying the 7 day pass (even if you aren't able to use it on the last day to get from Osaka to the airport).
04/28/2012 03:38
May - one more thing, though. This itinerary is super hectic and you might not have much time to see anything (especially because there's so much to see in Kyoto itself) so I'd definitely think about whether you want to slow down the pace. Kyoto is an amazing city!
05/20/2012 10:34
May Mah
Dear Akila,

Thank you for your advice. We have thought it over carefully, and think that we should leave Mt Fuji for the next time, when we are flying in to Tokyo instead. We will spend more time in Kyoto and perhaps do day trips to places of interest around Kyoto. This will give us more time to walk about, or explore on bicycles !

Thanks again !

Regards,
May
05/23/2012 07:43
May, wonderful! It sounds like a fantastic itinerary. Have a great time in Japan!
Akila's recent blog post: why take guided tours
04/20/2012 23:18
Mari
wow-looks like this has been active for a long time so i thought i'd see if i could get some support too!

I'm looking at the following itinerary
day 1: land at Narita airport in Tokyo and continue to Nagoya
day 2 and 3: nagoya to see a friend
day 4 and 5: Kyoto
day 6: Hiroshima
day 7: tokyo disney to meet a friend
day 8-9: tour Tokyo
day 10: pack
day 11: fly out

is this even possible and should i get the 7 day rail pass?
04/28/2012 03:47
Mari, So you will definitely save a lot of money if you buy the 7 day railpass and start using it on Day 1 and finish using it on Day 8. You'll have to buy individual tickets from the 8th to 11th, but that shouldn't cost too much. So, here's the run-down:

Narita to Nagoya - 12180 Y
Nagoya to Kyoto - 5640 Y
Kyoto to Hiroshima - 10990
Hiroshima to Tokyo Disneyland Station - 18800 Y
Tokyo Disneyland to Tokyo - 460 Y

This totals 48070 which is significantly more than the Railpass price of 28,300. Have a great trip!
05/02/2012 16:33
Andrew
Heyy, just read everything and very surprised you are still posting on the board! Could you help me out? I am traveling to Japan for 3 weeks on May 16th!!
Breakdown:
1st week: Staying with Friend in yokohama. Plan to sight see in yokohama and tokyo.
2nd and 3rd week: Staying with different friend in Osaka. Plan to travel around Osaka and Kyoto within these two weeks.

Would you recommend 7, 14, 21 pass? or anything at all??
05/21/2012 11:47
Andrew, eeks! Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner on this. I know you're already in Japan but, hopefully, it worked out for you. I wouldn't have recommended buying the railpass because you don't know exactly where you're going and you'll mostly be based in two different cities. Hope you're having a great time in Japan!
Akila's recent blog post: weekly photo: portrait of pisa
05/11/2012 23:07
Sade
hi! i'll be studying in japan this summer for 6 weeks from end of may to mid july. the price of 2 21 day passes is insane for my budget.

i'm not sure about my itinerary...i mean, i'll be staying in tokyo, and staying in mobara for a week (then back to tokyo) but other than that i'm not too sure.

with my budget and uncertainty of where i'll be visiting, should i just skip out on the jr pass?
05/23/2012 10:14
Sade, Given that you're not sure exactly what you'll be doing, I would not recommend getting the rail pass. I think you'll be better off just buying tickets separately or if you know that you want to travel for a week or two, you could always buy one of the regional passes.
Akila's recent blog post: why take guided tours
05/15/2012 21:43
C LOPEZ
HI THERE, THIS ARTICLE IS GREAT. I/M THINKING ABOUT WHETHER GETTING A 14 DAY OR 7 DAYS JR PASS. I HOPE YOU CAN HELP ME WITH THIS ONE.
ITINERARY LOOKS LIKE THIS.
DAY 1 ARRIVING NARITA AFTERNOON
DAY 2 TOKYO
DAY 3 TOKYO
DAY 4 KAMAKURA
DAY 5 NIKKO
DAY 6 HIROSHIMA
DAY 7 MIYAJIMA
DAY 8 KYOTO
DAY 9 NARA
DAY 10 KYOTO
DAY 11 OSAKA HALF DAY THEN OFF TO TOKYO
DAY 12 TOKYO MAYBE HAKONE?
DAY 13 TOKYO
DAY 14 NARITA BACK HOME

DO U THINK THAT GETTING 7 DAY PASS WILL SAVES US EVEN MORE MONEY? AND WE WILL PAY OUT OF POCKET DAY TRIPS SUCH KAMAKURA, HAKONE?
DOES THIS ITINERARY LOOKS REASONABLE?
THANKS SO MUCH!!
05/24/2012 14:03
So, for 14 days, your total cost for individual tickets will be 56,980 Yen, compared to the rail pass cost of 45,100 Yen.

Since you're not sure whether you're going to do to many trips outside of Tokyo, you could buy the 7 day rail pass and tack on individual tickets for the remaining days. However, it might not be worth the inconvenience of having to buy those separate tickets (especially because the Tokyo to Narita roundtrip tickets are quite expensive), so I would suggest buying the 14 day Railpass.
Akila's recent blog post: why take guided tours
05/24/2012 20:11
Akila-

You are are like an angel of Japan travel planning. I'm making my first trip there at the end of next month to do some teaching and am trying to figure out the transportation options. Maybe you could give me one of your most excellent analysis:

- Arrive in Tokyo, need to leave for Kyoto the next day
- 6 days in Kyoto (would like to do a day trip or two but not sure where - any suggestions?)
- return to Tokyo, 5 days in Tokyo (maybe a day trip from here - same story.)

I'm not interested in trying to run around and see a whole bunch of temples. I like to be leisurely and just take a place in. I prefer to try and stay off the beaten path.

I came across a Japanican e-voucher for a round trip high speed ticket Tokyo-Kyoto and a one day sightseeing pass (21,000) but it says "non-reserved" which makes me nervous because I do have a meeting I need to keep in Kyoto and need to make sure I can get on a train on that specific morning.

What do you think? E-voucher? Railpass? Day trips you recommend?

Any suggestions will be most appreciated.
If you are ever in Brooklyn, NY and are interested in some free yoga classes, just look me up.
J. Brown's recent blog post: Yoga, Business and Government
05/29/2012 15:07
J. Brown, I totally want to create business cards now with my title as "Angel of Japan Travel Planning." :) Thank you - that's got to be one of the best compliments I've ever received on this site!

Okay, so, here are a couple of thoughts for you:

First, from Kyoto, the most famous day trip is, of course, to Nara. Nara is a lovely town and very peaceful and nice to walk through. I won't say that it's as spectacular as Kyoto but it's a great place to enjoy some nice scenery and a few very relaxed temples. Osaka is also a good day trip from Kyoto though Osaka doesn't have as many "attractions" as Kyoto and Tokyo.

From Tokyo, Nikko is a good day trip (but I would only go there for the day and would not suggest staying overnight).

If you wanted to see a bit of Japan's natural scenery, you could stop at Hakone on the way from Tokyo to Kyoto and stay a night or two to see the Mount Fuji area.

All this being said, you're definitely not going to need a JR Rail Pass because you won't be moving around enough to make it worthwhile UNLESS you did something like this:
Day 1: Arrive in Narita, train directly to Kyoto
Day 2: Kyoto
Day 3: Kyoto
Day 4: Kyoto to Nara; Nara to Kyoto
Day 5: Kyoto
Day 6: Kyoto to Osaka; Osaka to Kyoto
Day 7: Kyoto back to Tokyo
Day 8: Tokyo
Day 9: Tokyo
Day 10: Tokyo
Day 11: Tokyo

With this itinerary, you would spend 30,120 on individual tickets and 28,300 on the Railpass if you bought a 7 day Railpass from Day 1 to day 7 and then the rest of the days, you just used individual tickets. Of course, the problem with this is that it makes the front part of your trip a bit rushed.

The Japanican voucher sounds like a really good deal to me. A roundtrip unreserved seat from Tokyo to Kyoto and return costs 25,420 Yen. Generally, "unreserved" means that you don't get a reserved seat and there is the possibility that you might have to stand the entire way (which would be quite a pain considering that it's a 2 hour journey). However, unless you're going on a holiday, the weekends, or during rush hour, you'll normally be able to find a seat. I would recommend trying to get onto a Shinkansen Hikari train rather than the Shinkansen Nozomi train because the Hikari has 5 unreserved carriages versus 3 unreserved carriages on the Nozomi.

So, this is all a very long-winded way of saying that I think the voucher is going to be the best deal for you and then you can just buy individual tickets to the other locations. Hope that helps and definitely let me know if you need any other advice!

(And, I might very well take you up on that Brooklyn yoga offer because we'll be in Brooklyn next September. :))
05/28/2012 09:57
Claudia
Hi Akila! :) My family and I are planning to go to Japan for a week in June, but we're a little unsure of where to go. So far, all I have is that we're going for 8 days, starting in Tokyo. We'll spend a day there. I have a host family in Osaka, so we want to visit them and the area surrounding them for about three days. So, two questions. Do you have any suggestions on where to go on the way to Osaka from Tokyo? Also, I guess would the JR pass be worth it? We'd need it for stops on the way to Osaka, then around the Osaka area, and then for our return trip back to Narita airport.
Any input would be appreciated!
05/29/2012 13:48
Claudia - I've got lots of suggestions, of course! The Tokyo to Osaka corridor has some of the most famous sites and cities in Japan, including Kyoto, Nara, and Mount Fuji. I personally think that Kyoto is a must see --- it's simply one of the most phenomenal cities in the world and I've never heard anyone regret going to Kyoto. In fact, I usually hear the opposite, that people wish they had spent more time in Kyoto (we've got a lot of posts on Kyoto on our site so feel free to browse around - but here's a good one to start: http://theroadforks.com/worldtrip/japan/kyoto_in_photos)! From Osaka, you can take easy day trips to Nara and Kobe. It is also possible to day trip from Osaka to Kyoto, so I would definitely check with your host family and find out whether they are planning on taking you to Kyoto.

Also, there are great high speed trains between Tokyo and Kyoto and Kyoto and Osaka, so the itinerary below will really help you maximize your time in Japan.

So, if you do the following:
Day 1: Narita to Tokyo
Day 2: Tokyo to Kyoto; Kyoto
Day 3: Kyoto (I wouldn't suggest any less than 2 days in Kyoto because there's so much to see in the city)
Day 4: Kyoto to Osaka; Osaka
Day 5: Osaka
Day 6: Osaka
Day 7: Osaka to Tokyo (I've put this here so that you can maximize your 7-day RailPass)
Day 8: Tokyo to Narita airport (this wouldn't be included in the RailPass)

If you have more time, you could always add in destinations, including Hakone to see Mt. Fuji and Nikko which isn't all too far from Tokyo.

As far as the Rail Pass goes, you're not going to save a lot of money by using the RailPass and might even lose a little bit. Individual tickets would cost 28,890 Yen, while the RailPass would cost 28,300 --- so you'd save maybe $10 and you might even end up spending more because you'd have to pay for the shipping on the RailPass. If you know for certain that you'll be heading out of Osaka to other cities like Nara and Kobe, then it might make sense but if you're not sure, then you'll be about breaking even on the Rail Pass.
05/30/2012 04:39
Ladysensei
Hello Akila!

Can I just say this is an amazing post! Thankyou so much for doing it! I just need a little hand.

I'm heading to Tokyo in a few weeks and just wondering if a rail pass is worth it. I'll be staying for 11 days and going to - Saitama (for a concert), Tokyo for 5 days, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima then back to Tokyo. My partner is also coming. Should I get one?

Thanks!! ^^
06/03/2012 00:01
Robert
Great post. Cleared a lot up... But for me I might be right on the edge, My wife and I plan on going to Japan for a week. The trip will be mostly Tokyo area (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppongi, Akihabara, Odaib, etc). We would probably go to Mitaka and as well as Kyoto or a day.

Would it be worth it for us? I figure if we use the JR trains instead of subway, plus the Kyoto tip, we would be close to value of the pass.
06/09/2012 13:16
Aziz
Hello Akila,

First , thank you very much for this post .

Second, i need your help . I coming to japan for the first time by the end of August 2012.

My plan is :

Day 1: narita to tokyo
Day 2 : tokyo
Day 3 : mt fuji trip
Day 4 &5 : disney land and disney sea
Day 6 : tokyo
Day 7 : tokyo to kyoto
Day 8 : kyoto
Day 9 : kyoto
Day 10 : kyoto to Osaka
Day 11 : osaka
Day 12 : osaka ( trip to Nara )
Day 13 : osaka
Day 14 : Osak to Tokyo
Day 15 : Tokyo to narita airport

Is this a good plan and is the 14-day rail pass worth it ?

I really appreciate your help
06/10/2012 02:34
kayechow
Hi my friends and I (8 ladies) will be in Osaka for 5 nights. We will be visiting places on our own. Would you recommend we purchase a JR pass to get around? We have already booked a tour guide to take us on a one day tour to kyoto.
07/05/2012 12:14
Kayechow, do you know where you are planning on going from Osaka? It's a great place to see a number of different other cities. If you can give me an approximate itinerary, then I can help you decide whether you need the JR Railpass.
Akila's recent blog post: grilled meats of turkey
07/04/2012 20:06
Dave
Hi! Thanks for the great description and analysis of the JR pass. I'm in the process of trying to decide whether or not to purchase them for my wife and I. We will be in the Tokyo area for only one week, during which we are planning to climb Fuji and perhaps take a couple of day trips around the area. I can't decide if it'll be worth it for us. We probably won't be going any further from Tokyo than Nikko and, of course, the Mt. Fuji area. What do you think?
07/05/2012 07:20
Dave, Thanks! If your plan is mostly to stay around Tokyo and see a few sites, then it definitely won't be worth the cost of you buying it. Have a great time in Japan!
Akila's recent blog post: grilled meats of turkey
07/10/2012 14:50
Hi! thanks again for the brilliant post. Much appreciated!
Still...confusion looms...
My wife and I are travelling to Japan in November looking something like this; Tokyo - Kyoto - Hiroshima - Miyajima - Tokyo. Spending a good part in Tokyo itself. Also, being from Orlando, Florida my wife would also like to visit Disney Sea :). Is the pass worth it?

bonus question; is there any way to get to Okinawa cheaply that you know of?

Thankyou!
07/10/2012 16:42
Colin
I am planning a trip at the end of Feb, 2013. I was wondering if I should get a rail pass.

I am planning on landing in Tokyo, going to Nagano/Hakuba for skiing, then Kyoto and flight out of Osaka. I do not mind taking buses and in fact I prefer them sometimes for price. I will reverse my flight plans if the tickets for transportation will change.

Thanks a TON
07/15/2012 09:42
Yvonne
hi!thank you for the comprehensive JR analysis! Brilliant job!
As a first timer to Japan in early Sept, i plan to take the flight to Tokyo, day trip to Takayama (prob a day trip to Shrikawa-go), Kyoto, Osaka and finally to return frm Tokyo.
It will be a 8 days trip in all.
Will i be be better off with the JR pass or should i just do a spot to spot purchase?
Your advice is much appreciated!
08/09/2012 09:13
Karen
Hello and thank you for this discussion thread. You must be getting quite tired of answering rail pass questions, but I have learned a lot.

My husband and I are going to Japan for 2 weeks for work/play and are trying to balance cost and TIME, because the Rail Pass does not allow us to use the fastest trains.

Itinerary:

Sept 29: Land at Narita, take train to Tokyo
Oct 2: Train to Kurashiki, time may matter here
Oct 3: Train to Hiroshima
Oct 5: Kobe
Oct 8: Move to Kyoto
Oct 10th: go to Osaka for the day but back to Kyoto at night
Oct 13: Home from Kansai Airport

We may have 1-2 days trips, but likely not more than that.

So, is the rail pass worth it, but at what price in terms of extra time on trains compared to fastest shinkashen?
08/13/2012 10:07
Tim
Hi! Thank you for being so helpful! If you don't mind, I'd like to ask your opinion about me getting a JR Pass - I'll be on a 7-days trip to Japan in mid-Sept, and our itinerary looks like this:
Day 1) Haneda airport (early morning)- shinkansen to Kyoto
Day 2) Kyoto - Nara
Overnight bus to Tokyo
Day 3-7) Tokyo (Ikebukuro, Akihabara, Mitaka (Ghibli Museum) and so on
Back to Haneda airport.

Do you think the JR Pass will be fully utilized? :D
09/01/2012 07:29
Olga Sempio
Hi I was wondering if you could help me analyse my costs.I tw ould be very much appreciated!

day 1-5: Narita airport to toyko and then stay in toyko for general siteseeing
Day 6-7: toyko to Hakone
Day 8: hakone to kyoto
day 9: day trip to nara, return to kyoto
day 10: day trip to hiroshima, return to kyoto
day 11: kyoto to toyko
09/12/2012 01:10
Fammy
Hi,
This forum is great- thank you! We're visiting Japan for the first time, and I tried to use Hyperdia, but thought I'd run our itinerary by you for some advise.
FromTokyo to Kanazawa, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, Koyasan, Hiroshima, then back to Tokyo. All in 17days. So, from what you say, it would be best to activate the card once we're ready to leave Tokyo. But is it really worth it, as the Kansai area train pass in under $100 for 4 days, and there are quite a lot of private trains which we would have to pay for. The big trip back from Hiroshima-Tokyo is 18700yen. This would be our longest stretch, but we'll still have to pay a supplement for the Nozomi (I think)....
I just need another brain to help me, please...Thank you!
10/25/2012 11:12
Pedal
Hi, I think this forum is going to solve my headache of whether to buy or not buy 7 days JR pass. Here is my itenary:
23 December: arrive at osaka
24 December: osaka
25 December: osaka to kyoto
26 december: kyoto to tokyo
27 december: tokyo to mt fuji
28 december: mt fuji to tokyo
29 december: tokyo disney sea
30 december: tokyo
31 december: tokyo to narita

Pls kindly help me to decide whether I should buy JR pass or not, and if yes from which date should i start to make it worthed.

Thanks so much
10/25/2012 15:35
Kris Leong
Wow, Akila you are quite impressive with responses and knowledge! haha

Can I ask if everything here looks correct price wise?

Narita to Tokyo: 2940
Tokyo to Hakone: 3940
Hakone to Kyoto: 11550 (shinkansen fare + seat fee found on hyerdia)
Kyoto to Nara: 690
Nara to Kyoto: 690
Kyoto to Osaka: 1680
(Then fly back to the US from Osaka)

From those numbers, I don't think the 7-day JR pass is worth it for me.
Oh, also, do I have to buy any of these passes in the US (won't be getting 7 day pass, but will need the JR lines on some of the transportation above)

Thanks in advance!
Kris
11/14/2012 01:02
Jr pass is a lot more convenient compared to other transportation. Although it has a big difference when it comes to rates, it is really worth it. Travelers must consider this vehicle.
11/22/2012 09:01
Jonelle
Hi I will be going to Japan in December for 8 days. I fly into osaka than go to Tokyo from Tokyo to Kyoto and back to Tokyo. We will spend four days in Kyoto and four days in Tokyo. Do you think it's worth getting a JR pass?
01/06/2013 23:17
scalli
Nice post.

Where did you get the fare figres? They seem a little inflated to me. I pulled the following out of Hyperdia for my upcoming trip (in 4 days time) and found that the non-reserved tickets purchased on the day come out cheaper..

Kansai Airport >> Namba ¥1,390
Shin-Osaka >> Hiroshima ¥9,440
Hiroshima >> Shin-Osaka ¥9,440
Shin-Osaka >> Kyoto ¥1,380
Kyoto >> Togari Nozawa-Onsen ¥10,390
Togari Nozawa-Onsen >> Tokyo ¥8,190
Tokyo >> Haneda Airport ¥620

That's a total of ¥40,850, which is cheaper than the 14 and 21 day passes. For my itenery I would need to 21 day pass.
01/08/2013 15:09
We also used Hyperdia to pull up the figures but it might be that the fare prices have changed since we did these itineraries. It's been a little while since I ran those top figures!
01/29/2013 20:21
John
Hi akila

My wife and I are traveling to Japan on the 1 st of feb really short notice I know but we are having troubles planing a itinery we already purchased the rail pass and want to get our money's worth what do you recommend the last three days of our 10 night stay will be in Tokyo as we are meeting friends there.

We really want to go to Kyoto,Hiroshima,Osaka,Okinawa,mt fuji.

Thanks
02/07/2013 06:35
Valy
Hi Akila,

I was wondering if the 7 day JR pass makes sense for my parents that are coming to visit me for 2 weeks...?

Here's a rough plan:

day 1 - Narita- Tokyo
day2-5 - Tokyo
day 6 - Nikko
day 7 - Tokyo
day 8 - Tokyo-Kyoto (shinkansen)
day 9 - Kyoto
day 10 - Nara
day 11 - Arashiyama
day 12 - Kyoto
day 13 - Kyoto-Tokyo (shinkansen)
day 14 - Kamakura
day 15 - Tokyo - Narita

Does this make any sens? :)

Thanks a lot!
02/09/2013 16:35
michelle takenishi
aloha,
I am testing this to see whether I will receive a response. I am planning a trip to Japan and would like some advice regarding Japan railway pass.
02/25/2013 14:37
Michelle, what sort of advice would you like?
02/13/2013 21:38
You mentioned that Patrick is a "a guy who creates intricate Excel spreadsheets with built-in currency converters to manage all of the receipts accumulated during a year long trip." I have one of those! And, I have made a public Google Docs copy for anyone to use. If interested, check it out and compare. I'd love to know who has the more geeky spreadsheet. Find it at:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ar85DmoKZH7_dHNwazM0WXVfYmxKaTg5enJrTlNKYWc#gid=3

Oh, and thanks for the rail pass post. I am heading to Japan in April and will definitely be buying one, though not sure yet if a 7-day or a 14-day.
02/25/2013 15:18
Jeff, thanks for posting this! I'm sure it'll be very helpful to other folks. And have an amazing time in Japan and let me know if you have any qs about your trip!
03/05/2013 17:48
Ed
Hi Akila

I was wondering if 7 Days JPR would be good for me.

I will be over in Japan from 20/03 - 30/03, landing in Haneda on the midnight of 20/03.

Plan:
- 21/03 - 23/03 will fly to Sapporo
- 23/03 - 27/03 land in Haneda and travel to Kyoto/Osaka/Nara region
- 27/03 - 30/03 travel back to Tokyo and spend time in Tokyo before flying back

Can I use the JPR all around the cities that I want to go?

From your opinion would it be worth it taking a "city tour" on each of the cities, cost wise ranging from 10,000 - 15,000 yen for full day? Or can I go around myself using the JRP?

And would I be able to bring my luggage when travelling from Kyoto to Tokyo vice versa?


Thank you,
Ed
03/05/2013 17:49
Ed
Hi Akila

I was wondering if 7 Days JPR would be good for me.

I will be over in Japan from 20/03 - 30/03, landing in Haneda on the midnight of 20/03.

Plan:
- 21/03 - 23/03 will fly to Sapporo
- 23/03 - 27/03 land in Haneda and travel to Kyoto/Osaka/Nara region
- 27/03 - 30/03 travel back to Tokyo and spend time in Tokyo before flying back

Can I use the JPR all around the cities that I want to go?

From your opinion would it be worth it taking a "city tour" on each of the cities, cost wise ranging from 10,000 - 15,000 yen for full day? Or can I go around myself using the JRP?

And would I be able to bring my luggage when travelling from Kyoto to Tokyo vice versa?


Thank you,
Ed
03/11/2013 17:00
Ed, You're looking at something like this:
Haneda to Kyoto: 13,620
Kyoto to Tokyo: 13,220
Tokyo to Narita airport: 2,940
An ordinary Rail Pass for 7 days would run 28,300, so you'd definitely save money even if you only use it on Honshu Island. The rail system runs ALL over the country so you'll be able to use it everywhere, including in all of these cities (though, once inside, you might end up walking or using buses or local trains which are not covered on the JR Pass.) I think the city tours would mostly help you see the main sights in a city in a short timeframe --- given that you don't have very long in each destination, doing a city tour might be a good idea for you. You can definitely do everything on your own but city tours will help you maximize your time.
03/26/2013 16:58
Kichigai Mom
Three of us are going to be travelling to Japan in late July-early August (I know YUCKY WEATHER) for two weeks. Because we are using frequent flyer miles, we are flying into Fukuoka. Our plan is to spend a few days in Nagasaki with friends, then to Kyoto for one or two days, and the rest in Tokyo. We'll have to travel back to Fukuoka from Tokyo to go home. I'm totally confused about whether we need to get a JR pass for this and if so, is it worth it to upgrade to the Green pass since I'll be with my two grumpy teens. Thank you for your advice!
04/12/2013 14:23
SL
I will be traveling in Japan for approximately 7 days and am trying to figure out whether or not to get the 7 day JR pass. I'm reading tons of info online, but it gets to be quite confusing.

I will be flying into Narita airport, and I believe I can take the train from the airport to my hotel in Tokyo? Then I plan on going from Tokyo to Osaka, Osaka to Kyoto and then Kyoto to Tokyo before heading back home...is the 28000 yen pass worth it? I thought it would be, but upon further research I am not sure.

Thank you so much for any insight!!
04/18/2013 19:25
SL, yes, the pass will definitely be worth it for you because you're going to so many different places in such a short time! And, yes, you can go from Narita into Tokyo. Have a great trip!
04/18/2013 16:47
Andrew
Hey Akila, I have some quick questions since you seem the be the guru!

I am traveling to Japan for the first 3 weeks of July (1-22). I have a free place to stay in Tokyo (My girlfriend has an internship there, yay for free lodging). My first question is, do I still have enough time to get the rail pass if my trip is 2.5 months away?

Second, I plan on spending a weekend in Kyoto for sure. I am also interested in day trips to Nikko, Kamakura, Yokohama, Kawagoe. I would like to minimize overnights outside of Tokyo, but I can do a few. So is a pass worth it if I can still get one?

Thanks for any suggestions and info!
04/18/2013 19:17
Andrew, you definitely still have time to get the rail pass. If you're planning on doing all of these trips in one week, then, yes, it definitely would be worth the expense to get the rail pass. If you're going to spread it out over the 2 weeks, then probably not.
04/20/2013 21:08
Mari
Alright, I've decided to just ask you because I can't seem to figure it out. I'll be traveling with my sister to Japan (so excited!) this June/July. I don't know what pass to get or whether its worth it for me. We're landing in Fukuoka, staying one night, and then going to Tokyo for four days, Kyoto for eight, Hiroshima for two, Osaka for three, and then back to Fukuoka to wwoof. Help me please!
04/25/2013 14:12
Yes, definitely get one! If you can squeeze your Fukuoka ride back on the 14th day (right now, it looks like you'd be going back on the 15th day), then a 14 day pass should work well for you. Otherwise, you won't save as much money using the 21 day pass. This is a huge itinerary with lots of traveling so the pass should save you a ton of money.
04/25/2013 18:56
This is a really well detailed and researched article. It's definitely worth doing some research on Hyperdia to see if the Japan Rail Pass is cost effective for you. I believe the Highway buses are now not included in the JR Pass from April 1, 2013 - so that also may impact the decision making process.
04/29/2013 14:20
Thanks Chris for that update.
04/27/2013 16:04
cris
hello and compliments for the article, i have read many answers but dont seem to find an answer for myself.
i will be in tokyo for 14 days of which 3 in kyoto traveling by night bus. my question is, since i will be staying only in tokyo (saitama) visiting tokyo itself ,is the JR pass worth? thx so much
04/29/2013 14:20
Cris, No, it wouldn't be worth the expense. Have a great trip!
05/02/2013 15:43
Jeff K
Hello! This was extremely helpful info. MY family of 4 will be based in Kyoto 12-26 July 2013, and thank to your blog, will purchase "ordinary" 7 day passes, because it looks like our planned roundtrips from Kyoto to:
Nagano
Tokyo
Hiroshima
Plus the one-way trip to Osaka for the return flight to US
would add up to far more than the individual tickets.
If I'm wrong let me know' otherwise thanks for all the valuable trip info and "bonne route!"
05/02/2013 15:59
Jeff, That looks right to me, especially if you're doing all of that in a 7 day time frame. Sounds like a fun but busy trip!
05/11/2013 12:47
May Hwee
Hi Akila,

Could you help to see if a 7-day JR pass would help me save some money?

Day 1 - Kansai Airport to Kyoto
Day 2 - Kyoto > Arashimaya
Day 3 - Kyoto > Uji
Day 4 - Kyoto > Takayama (I guess through Nagoya?)
Day 5 - Takayama > Kamikouchi
Day 6 - Kamikouchi > Osaka
Day 7 - Osaka > Nara
Day 8, 9 - Osaka

Thanks much in advance!!! :)
05/16/2013 09:43
Looks like it's worth it for you to get the 7 day pass.

Day 1 - Kansai Airport to Kyoto - 4470
Day 2 - Kyoto > Arashimaya - 860 (round trip)
Day 3 - Kyoto > Uji - 460 (round trip)
Day 4 - Kyoto > Takayama (I guess through Nagoya?) - 9680
Day 5 - Takayama > Kamikouchi - Doesn't look like you can get there via Rail
Day 6 - Kamikouchi > Osaka - doesn't look like you can leave via rail --- you'd have to take a bus to the nearest town and I am not entirely sure what that would be
Day 7 - Osaka > Nara - 1560 (round trip)
Day 8, 9 - Osaka -

So, in total, around 23,000 (including taking the train inside the cities) which is more than the ordinary 7 day pass.
05/12/2013 18:03
Wing
Hi Akila:
Your discussion blog is a big asset to all travelers to Japan.
Would you mind if I can show you my tentative itinerary to Japan. It will be in July.

Day 1: Narita airport to Tokyo
Day 2: Sleeping in and walk around Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo to Mt. Fuji. Climb to the top
Day 4: Visit friend in Tokyo
Day 5: Tokyo to Osaka
Day 6: Day trip from Osaka to Hiroshima/Miyajima and back.
Day 7: Osaka back to Tokyo
Day 8: Leaving Tokyo to Narita Airport

Thanks a lot,
Wing
05/15/2013 13:38
Sounds like a really fun trip but I would not recommend the rail pass. You'll spend more on it than on just buying individual tickets.
05/17/2013 10:33
lpc
Hi Akila,
We are a family of four will be visiting japan in july for the first time.we will fly in to haneda airport at night. Wl stay in tokyo for six nights with side trip to hakone. Wl then leave for osaka after that and visit kyoto maybe two days and nara day trip n fly off from kansai airport after five nights. Is it worth to get the jr rail pass?
05/31/2013 14:10
Stefani
Hi Akila,

I've been researching a lot online for my upcoming trip to Japan and I am so glad that I came across your site. Your knowledge is vast and quite impressive. I have never beent o Japan before, and I have a couple of questions for you if you wouldn't mind helping me out.

My boyfriend and I will be traveling from Los Angeles to Tokyo (NRT) in November and then plan to take the following route:

Day 1: Land in Tokyo, take Narita Express
Day 2: Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo
Day 4: Tokyo (Day trip to Nikko)
Day 5: Tokyo (Day trip to Mt. Fuji)
Day 6: Tokyo
Day 7: Tokyo to Kyoto
Day 8: Kyoto
Day 9: Kyoto (Day trip to Osaka)
Day 10: Kyoto (Day trip to Nara)
Day 11: Kyoto to Tokyo
Day 12: Depart Tokyo

We may eliminate one of the day trips, but for the most part, this is what we plan on sticking to. Would you recommend that we get the 14-day JRP for apprx. $500 USD? I know that there are some trains, like the Shinkanesen/Nozomi, that are not included in the JRP. Do you think we'd be missing out if we didn't take the fastest train? I'm just not sure if we should book each train individually or do the JRP.

Also, do you have to reserve seats on the trains?

Thank you so much, Akila!
06/09/2013 15:12
Given that you're not doing that much traveling around, the 14 day JR rail pass wouldn't really make sense for you. However, if you bunched up your day trips into a 7 day plan, then it would make sense to get the rail pass for 7 days. It would make your trip more hectic but it would save you a lot of money if you do most of your traveling in the middle chunk and then stay in Tokyo on the front end and Kyoto on the back end. It's VERY easy to buy tickets --- you just go up to the desk and ask them and they will normally reserve seats for you then and there. You definitely won't be missing out by getting the Rail Pass. You can use all of the Shinkansen lines on the Rail Pass except for the Nozomi and the Nozomi only saves you about 15 minutes or so.
06/11/2013 04:57
Hi, we will be in Japan from august 16th-sept 9th. We plan to visit Tokyo, in the beginning or at the end of our trip. A daytrip to Nikko, climbing Mount Fuji, 2-3 days Japan Alps, Kyoto area including Nara and Ise, Osaka and Hiroshima, Kahoshima+Yakushima, Naha area Kerama archipelago. Since it's a whole bunch we are thinking about activating our 14-days railpass only after visiting Tokyo and stopping it in Kahoshima. The last week we would pay seperately for our transport to the islands and fly back from Naha to Tokyo before our flight back home in Belgium. Alternatively+32 475 49 61 87 we would opt for a 21-days raillpass if the flight is too expensive and end with a long railway journey. All suggestions are very welcome, great to find this forum which has already been of great help!
06/13/2013 16:21
I think your first plan sounds like a good one --- active the rail pass after Tokyo, then end it before you head to the islands (at which point it won't be useful anyway), and then fly back. I think you'll get the most out of your pass doing that approach.
06/14/2013 09:47
Great, thanks a lot! We found a real deal with Air Asia for our flight from Naha to Tokyo@5850 Yen. So we will spend 3 days in Tokyo paying seperately for our transport and activate our 14 days railpass when we're heading to Nikko for a daytrip. The next day our real journey will start with Mount Fuji which gives us 13 more days to stick to our pretty tight schedule and arrive in Kahoshima. We can't wait to leave but in the meantime we will enjoy reading about and planning our journey as good as possible. Our railpasses will be ordered @ www.jrpass.com beginning of next week. Keep up the good work, you guys have a great blog!
06/18/2013 01:32
Shaunace
Hi! what an excellent discussion! and well run! I'm heading to Japan next month for 9 full days and am contemplating whether to get a 7 day or 14 day JR pass or just buy the tickets individually. I will be using the trains to get from Osaka airport to Osaka, Osaka to Kyoto, Kyto to Tokyo, Tokyo to Tokyo airport. We spend 2 nights in osaka, one in Kyoto and the rest in Tokyo, so I guess will be using the trains around the big city as well?? Anyways I really am stuck on whether to get a pass or not! I have been quoted AUD $290 for a 7 day JR pass and AUD $453 for 14 day JR pass...
06/20/2013 17:19
I would get the 7 day pass and start it on the day that you leave from Osaka to Kyoto (assuming that you'll have 7 days from that point until you leave to go to Narita.) That should be your best deal --- definitely don't buy the 14 day pass.
06/20/2013 21:43
Eve
Hi there

Thank you for the thread. It has been extremely helpful!

We are going to Japan Dec 28- Jan 9 ( await extension to Jan11)

My current itinerary looks like this

Dec 29-Jan 2 Tokyo

Jan 2- Jan 5 Kyoto

Jan 5- Jan 8 Nagano

Jan 8 -9 Tokyo

As it is winter, we'd hope to do a few winter activities and heard that Nagano is excellent for it.
Would a 7 day rail pass suffice if I start it on Jan 2, and use it on Jan 8 to return to Tokyo. And hopefully it will be worth it?

What do you think?:)
Thank you
07/11/2013 19:34
Eve, Given that you're going to so few destinations, I don't think that the 7 day pass is necessary. You can probably get by just buying individual tickets.
06/20/2013 21:44
Eve
Hi there

Thank you for the thread. It has been extremely helpful!

We are going to Japan Dec 28- Jan 9 ( await extension to Jan11)

My current itinerary looks like this

Dec 29-Jan 2 Tokyo

Jan 2- Jan 5 Kyoto

Jan 5- Jan 8 Nagano

Jan 8 -9 Tokyo

As it is winter, we'd hope to do a few winter activities and heard that Nagano is excellent for it.
Would a 7 day rail pass suffice if I start it on Jan 2, and use it on Jan 8 to return to Tokyo. And hopefully it will be worth it?

What do you think?:)
Thank you
07/14/2013 15:32
Yes! That's a great idea to use the 7 day JR Pass to go to those various cities. Definitely go for it. Sounds like it will be a great trip!
06/23/2013 04:57
San
Hi Akila,

Glad that I found this great website when me and my partner are in the middle of planning our itinerary to Japan. This blog gives a big tips for us. We are planning to visit Japan from 02 Oct to 13 Oct and our itinerary will be:

02 - 04 Osaka
04 - 06 Kyoto
06 - 07 Hakone
07 - 13 Tokyo (planning to visit Yokohama)

Currently, we are thought of getting JR pass 7 days (Osaka - Kyoto - Haneda - Tokyo) + suica card for Tokyo. But then we also found out about ICOCA pass. With so many available pass we start to get confused and have no idea what will be the best option to get and when should we activate the JR pass.

Really need your wise advice in this...

Thank you..
07/14/2013 15:29
The 7 day JR Pass would be perfect for you. Definitely get it!
06/23/2013 08:25
Maria
Hi
I'm planning a trip to Japan in August for 16 days, 9Aug to 25Aug. I'm still deciding on the exact schedule, but Tokyo to Kyoto and a couple of towns in between, or day trips. My issue is Obon festival - 13-15 of August, that's going to be right in the middle of my trip. I've heard it will be difficult to travel around that time. Would I need to book all of my trains in advance to make sure I get a seat? Perhaps I should travel to one city (say Kyoto) and just stay there during the festival?
Whats would be the best solution?
07/14/2013 15:22
Maria,

I agree with Christian. It's hard to say whether it will be worth it to buy the pass without knowing your exact itinerary and where you're thinking about going. Right now, it doesn't seem like it would be worth it.
06/28/2013 00:22
Full disclosure: I work for JTB Australia (Japan Travel Agency)

"The question of the day: should you buy a Japan Rail Pass for a trip to Japan? The answer: it depends on your itinerary. "

We get this question all the time and we give a similar answer. Our general rule of thumb is this: Tokyo to Kyoto return is about the cost of a 7 day pass. So anything more than that (or if you just want the freedom to do more than that) and you should get a JR Pass (unless the two legs are two weeks apart).

"We started off in Tokyo but did not activate our Rail Passes until the day before we planned to leave Tokyo."

Another good suggestion. We would recommend the same thing in general.

Only one thing you didn't mention (probably good that you didn't just for keeping it simple) is that the JR Pass lets you use the Yamanote line of the Tokyo subway. So we wouldn't advise buying it for that purpose but it might be handy if your first or last day of the pass is in Tokyo (say you travel from Kyoto to Tokyo around midday of day 7 of your pass and you're flying out that night then you can save on a subway ticket if everything you're doing is on the Yamanote line. Rare use case but the Quicken-since-15 types will appreciate it ;-).

@Maria: Probably requires more info on your itinerary but here's some info you'll find useful: you can only book seats once you've got your pass (ie. you can't book them in advance from your home country). You could alter your plans to lower costs but that would probably limit what you do on your trip. If it's your first trip to Japan then you could spend the first week in Tokyo and still see hardly anything and then get a JR Pass for 7 days where you cram all the side trips in. For me personally that would be a bit too constricting and I'd go with a 14 day pass and if the seats aren't available for, say, Tokyo to Kyoto then I'd do a trip to Mt. fuji or Nikko instead and just wing it. But that's just me, it's a trade-off of cost, hassle, security (ie. knowing where you'll be staying ahead of time) and freedom which will be different for each person.

I'd suggest posting a specific itinerary (even if you haven't decided) and the feedback you get will be useful in helping you figure out what you want.

Oh and I won't pretend I've read every comment Akila but for the ones I have read your advice has been right on the money. Maybe you should apply for a job at JTB!

Cheers,

Christian Thurston
JTB Australia
07/14/2013 15:18
Thanks Christian! We found the JR Pass to be one of the best values and we LOVED Japan, so I think it would be all kinds of fun to work for the JTB!
07/08/2013 22:03
Charlie
Hi Alika,

I have nothing but praises for all you do to help in this topic over the years. My wife and I will be going for the first time in Japan this coming August 9th for 9 days. After much research we came up with this travel itinerary.

Day 1- Friday: Narita Airport to Narita Hotel (arriving around 6PM from southwest US and thought we might need some rest, wonder if I should spend night there, or right into Tokyo)
Day 2- Sat: Narita Hotel to Tokyo Hotel
Day 3- Sun: Still in Tokyo with day trip to Hakonen
Day 4 -Mon Tokyo to Osaka (base in Osaka due to better nightlife than Kyoto, could you confirm?)
Day 5- Tue: Osaka to Kyoto (day trip)
Day 6 - Wed: Osaka to Nara (day trip)
Day 7- Thu: Osaka to (Kobe? Hiroshima? Kyoto again or else? need suggestion- day trip)
Day 8- Fri: Osaka to Narita
Day 9- Sat: Narita fly out (10:30 am departure)

We will appreciate any advice on the plan and on whether we should consider using the JR Pass.

Also, we heard about some people using luggages delivering services from airport to hotel and vice versa and even from hotel to hotel to avoid getting stressed out with luggages on trains. Any advice here?

Many Thanks-
Charlie
07/14/2013 15:03
Charlie, Thanks! Definitely get the Rail Pass. You're moving a lot and it will save you a lot of time and money! The one change I would recommend is that instead of basing yourself in Osaka, base yourself in Kyoto. There's a lot more to see and do in Kyoto than in Osaka. I think you'll definitely prefer the two. We didn't have any issues with moving luggage around but we pack pretty light. There's plenty of space for luggage on the Japanese trains.
07/21/2013 13:32
Charlie
Thanks Akila for your note. We ordered the pass and modified our plan, adding a stopover in Seoul, Korea. Here is our final travel plan:
Day 1- Friday: Narita Airport to Shinjuku area/Tokyo Hotel
Day 2- Sat: Tokyo
Day 3- Sun: Shikansen Tokyo to Kyoto (hotel in Kyoto)
Day 4 -Mon Kyoto to Dotonbori area hotel/ Osaka (change due to better nightlife than Kyoto)
Day 5- Tue: Shikansen Osaka to Hiroshima & Miyajima Island (day Round trip)
Day 6 - Wed: Osaka to Myeongdong area hotel/ Seoul (Korea) (late afternoon via air)
Day 7- Thu: Seoul
Day 8- Fri: Seoul to Narita area hotel (via air)
Day 9- Sat: Narita fly out (10:30 am departure)
07/22/2013 12:23
Sounds like a great trip! Seoul is a beautiful city and I'm sure you'll have lots of fun there, as well.
07/11/2013 01:34
Hi Alika,

We wrote to you before but have made up our final travel plan with quiet a lot of modifications and thought it might be a good example of an itinerary for a 3-weeks journey. The main alternation is the fact that we decided to leave the Southern part (Kyushu) for the next time and fly to Fukuoka instead of Tokyo in that case. You advised us to opt for a 2-weeks railpass but to make things simple and without hassle we decided to go for the 21 days-pass, knowing that we need to go to Tokyo Ginza area from the airport-will use the Yamanote and Chuo lines in Tokyo City-need transport to Kawaguchi-Ko to climb Mount Fuji-will return by train from Ito to Tokyo before heading back to the airport before flying back home to Belgium. Our final itinerary and hotels:
Tokyo - Hotel Horidome Villa - 4n
Mount Fuji - Climbing one night + 1 night Koe House Hotel
Nikko - Rindou No Ie Hotel - 1n
Japan Alps - Hida-Takayama Guest House Tomaru - 3n
Kyoto - Piece Hostel Kyoto - 3n
Osaka - Hotel Agora Osaka Moriguchi - 2n
Wakayama - Dormy Inn Premium Wakayama - 2n
Izu Peninsula Ito - Historical Ryokan Hostel K's House Ito Onsen - 3n
Narita Airport Tokyo - Narita Excel Hotel Tokyu - 1n

We booked all the hotels and guesthouses @ booking.com with an average cost of 50 EUR per night for room only and mostly shared bath. They all have a minimum trip advisor rating of 8/10 so we are quiet happy with these deals as we thought it would be far more expensive. Anyway, we will keep in touch after our trip and would like to thank u again, keep up the good work and we hope that we were able to add some valuable "tips for trips". Gr.
07/14/2013 14:58
Jan, This sounds like a fantastic itinerary! It looks like you are going to have a great trip and thank you for checking back in to give info to future Japan travelers.
07/14/2013 15:35
Linda
Hi Akila,

I love what you do for those of us who are trying to determine whether the JR Pass is worth it or not. With such a complicated transportation system in Japan, it's hard for me to figure this out on my own, so I'm seeking your advice. Here is our itinerary in late Sept 2013:

Day 1: Narita airport to central Tokyo (hotel in Ginza district)
Day 2: Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo
Day 4: Central Tokyo to Kyoto (hotel near the Kyoto Shiyakushomae station)
Day 5: Kyoto
Day 6: Kyoto (and maybe a day trip to Nara)
Day 7: Kyoto to Osaka airport (KIX) to fly out

What do you think? Should we buy a JR Pass? I can't use it on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, right?

Thank you in advance.

Linda
07/22/2013 14:41
Linda, it's just worth it for you to get the 7 day pass. You can use it for the Shinkansen Hikari (but not the Shinkansen Nozomi which is only about 5 - 15 minutes faster) from Tokyo to Kyoto. You will want to start it at Narita airport to Tokyo to make it worth the expense. I think if you also take day trips to Nara and/or Nikko (from Tokyo), you will definitely save money. Have a wonderful trip!
08/05/2013 05:06
Misu-misu
Hi Akila,

I am really amazed with your responses and knowledge sharing posted on this blog. You are definitely more than a guru, a JR pass hero!

Well, we will be travelling to Japan in January 2014. Arriving on 9th January at KIX airport and departing on 22nd January from the same airport(KIX). To be honest, I don't have a definite itinerary yet and I would like to cover as much as I can. Here's my initial plan:-

Tokyo >> would like to include Disneyland, Mt. Fuji, Hakone Owakudani Valley and 5 lakes. Not sure is taking a tour package for Mt. Fuji would be better?

Nagano >> possible to cover Skiing, Kiso Valley with Tsumago and Magome, and Snow Monkey?

Kyoto >> ??

Osaka >> would like to cover Universal Studio and Nara

Would it be easier for us to go to Tokyo first upon our arrival? Will it be cheaper if we buy 7days JR pass to start travel from KIX airport to Tokyo and Kansai pass separately or a 14days JR pass? Looking at the initial plan, is there still sufficient time for Kyushu island?

Appreciate your advice. Thanks.
10/21/2013 00:49
Misu-misu
Hi Akila,

We have finally worked out the itinerary as below. Appreciate your advice if a 14day JR pass is recommended.

Day 01 - Arrival at KIX Airport at 6.50am >> Kyoto
Day 02 - Kyoto
Day 03 - Kyoto >> Nara day trip
Day 04 - Kyoto >> Hakone/Mt. Fuji
Day 05 - Hakone/Mt. Fuji >> Tokyo
Day 06 - Tokyo
Day 07 - Tokyo >> Nikko day trip
Day 08 - Tokyo >> Kiso Valley (plan to stay at Tsumago)
Day 09 - Kiso Valley >> Takayama
Day 10 - Takayama
Day 11 - Takayama >> Kanazawa
Day 12 - Kanazawa >> Osaka
Day 13 - Osaka >> Universal Studio
Day 14 - Osaka Departure

With this plan, should we get a 14day JR Pass or any suggestions?

Apart from the JR Pass, do we need to get PASMO Tokyo transport pass and Kyoto Subway pass?

For Hakone/Mt. Fuji, is it a better option to buy a 2day/1night package locally?
10/21/2013 12:57
Yep, definitely get the 14 day JR Pass. It will be worth it because you're doing a lot of moving around. You shouldn't need the Tokyo or Kyoto passes. You can just pay for those subway/train tickets separately.

As far as Hakone/Mt Fuji, I think it depends on how interested you are in hiking. I'm assuming that since you're only planning one day in the area, that you don't really want to do too much hiking. In that case, it would definitely be easy to take a packaged tour for that portion so that they can take care of all of the transfers, etc. But, if you'd like to spend more time hiking in Mt Fuji, then I would not suggest a packaged tour. Hope that helps!
10/23/2013 07:12
Misu-misu
Hi Akila,

Yes, you are right. I do not plan to spend much time hiking in Mt. Fuji as we will be there in January which might not be a good time to hike. I am not if the plan is good for first timer but I guess it does cover quite a few. :)

I tried searching for a tour package from Kyoto to Hakone/Mt. Fuji but no luck. It seems to be popular to travel from Tokyo.

If we would like to change the tour to start from Tokyo, would it be a lot easier and smoother for us to travel around as a first timer to Japan? Would you be able to give some advice how should it go from Tokyo?
08/05/2013 11:14
Marcel
Hi Akila,

Like all the people on this forum, I would like to thank you for putting your time and expertise to help all those traveling to Japan.

I am along with my wife and a friend are planning to have a trip to Japan to be arriving in October. Our preliminary itinerary is as follows. Please let me know whether it is a good one and whether it would be worth it to by a two-week JR pass.

Please feel free to adjust the plans below, if you suggest that we omit or add new destinations. I split Tokyo stay in two, at the beginning and in the end to rest a bit from traveling before heading back home on a very long and exhausting trip.

Option 1
Day 1: Narita airport to Tokyo (night)
Day 2: Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo to Nikko
Nikko to Tokyo
Day 4: Tokyo to Kamakura
Kamakura to Tokyo
Day 5: Tokyo to Kyoto
Day 6: Stay in Kyoto
Day 7: Kyoto to Nara
Nara to Tenri
Day 8: Tenri to Kyoto
Day 9: Kytoto to Osaka
Osaka to Kyoto
Day 10: Stay in Kyoto
Day 11: Stay in Kyoto
Day 12: Kyoto to Tokyo
Day 13: Stay in Tokyo
Day 14: Stay in Tokyo
Day 15: Tokyo to Narita airport (morning)


Option 2
Day 1: Narita airport to Tokyo (night)
Day 2: Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo to Nikko
Nikko to Tokyo
Day 4: Tokyo to Kamakura
Kamakura to Tokyo
Day 5: Tokyo to Kyoto
Day 6: Stay in Kyoto
Day 7: Kyoto to Nara
Nara to Tenri
Day 8: Tenri to Kyoto
Day 9: Kytoto to Osaka
Osaka to Kyoto
Day 10: Stay in Kyoto
Day 11: Kyoto to Hiroshima
Hiroshima to Miyajima
Day 12: Miajima to Tokyo
Day 13: Stay in Tokyo
Day 15: Tokyo to Narita airport (morning)
08/08/2013 07:58
Michal
Hi
I am also seeking an advice - my trip (more or less):
1: Kansai airport - Osaka
3: Osaka - Nara (roundtrip)
4. Osaka - Koyasan (roundtrip)
5. Osaka - Kumano Kodo (roundtrip)
6. Osaka - Kyoto
10. Kyoto - Tokyo (I know I can go by night bus for 7000y)
12. Tokyo - Fujinomyia (roundtrip)
13. Tokyo - Kamikochi (Matsumoto?) (roundtrip) //not sure if I will go
17. Tokyo - Narita - Okinawa (I have flight ticket already)
23. Tokyo - Narita

I was thinking about 2 options:
- getting 14 day JR Pass and activate it on the 3-rd day (that it last until flight to Okinawa)
- not getting JR Pass and just pay as i go (I am not sure if I will go to Kamikochi)

What do you think?

Thank you in advance.

Michal
08/14/2013 06:52
C
Hi,

I would like to seek some advice from you.
I'm planning a trip of around 11 days in Japan.
My plan is roughly like this:
Osaka-Kyoto-Nagoya-Tokyo-Osaka.

Would you recommend me to get a JR pass?

Thanks in advance.

C
08/14/2013 11:15
It's really good you've broken down the costs according to several itineraries, but I want to say the JR pass isn't always the cheaper option. For me, the JR pass would have been costlier since I was traveling one-way and only doing a few stops - Osaka to Kyoto to Matsumoto to Tokyo.
If your itinerary is similar to mine, you’d be better off just buying at the train station and taking regular non-Shinkansen trains, which aren’t that bad or slow.

So for instance, take the "Classic 2-week trip", if you minus the return trip from Hiroshima to Tokyo, the total cost would actually be: 51070-18750=32320 yen, so the 2-week JR pass at 45100 yen would actually be more expensive.

On the other hand, with the "fast-paced 2-week trip" or the 3-week trip you did where you go to a bunch of places, then yeah, you do save.

However in your 3-week breakdown, how come you traveled from Kyoto to Nikko, and Tokyo to Kyoto (as Nikko is like an hour from Tokyo)? Did you go back and forth?
08/19/2013 14:55
Jeannette
Hey Akila! Sorry! You seem to get a lot of these questions and I wonder if at some point it gets annoying for you to plan the entire world's trip to Japan! However, since you are so kind and seem to be responding to your best ability, I too will jump on this bandwagon!

I read through your post and love that you talked through the entire breakdown of cost. I, unfortunately, didn't fall into one of your perfect two-week breakdowns! I'm actually only going from September 23-27th. Because of the short amount of time we have available for Japan (we're just stopping by on the way to Korea) we are having a difficult time figuring out whether or not we should get the JR pass. We are traveling in a group of three and have all agreed that we were going to spend the short time there between Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto. We were going to opt for the JR pass because it's so speedy, but wonder if it would be cost efficient. We're at this weird break between saving money but wasting time on buses, or splurge on the train and get around a little faster. We also know that once we get into Tokyo and Kyoto there aren't really JR travel options and we will have to pay additional fees for either taxis or buses which make the JR pass feel wasteful. What would you do?
08/27/2013 22:53
Simon
Hi there,

I am planning a 12 day trip to Japan. Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto and back to Tokyo for my flight home. Is it worth while me purchasing the pass for this? I would be buying the 7-day pass and using it after spending my first 5 days in Tokyo.
10/01/2013 18:58
If you are using it for Tokyo to Osaka to Kyoto and back to Tokyo and to Narita, it will be tight. You'd probably break even either using the rail pass or not, so it would really depend on whether you think you'd add additional spots since you had the JR Pass.
10/02/2013 15:46
Bryan
Hello,

I will be in Japan for about 24 days total. I'm thinking of starting in Tokyo, and may be there from 10 days to 2 weeks. I would then activate the JR Rail Pass upon leaving Tokyo. I have no specific itinerary, but do know that I'd probably want to do something like Tokyo-->Nagoya area-->Kanazawa area-->Hiroshima area-->Fukuoka area-->Kyoto-->Osaka-->Tokyo (to catch flight home)

Now I know this is alot of places, so I'd probably be doing the 2 weeks pass, and I just looked at the map and chose areas, so I probably wouldn't actually go to all these places. I already know I'd want to do like 3 days in Fukuoka and 2-3 days in Osaka, so that already takes up 1 week. Is the 2 weeks pass worth it for someone with a plan like mine? I don't want to do the overnight buses, because I've done it before and they are stressful. I also know hitchhiking is not reliable.

Alternatively, I may just do Tokyo to Fukuoka and then work my way back, not decided yet.
10/20/2013 16:08
Yes, you need to do the 2 week pass! It sounds perfect for the type of itinerary you're looking at becauase you can decide where you want to go on the spur of the moment. I would definitely purchase it because I think you'll get a lot of use out of it on a trip like this. Have fun!
10/21/2013 23:24
Bryan
I appreciate your reply Akila. For the final trip from Osaka to Narita, I'm trying to figure out if I can take a bullet train instead of a regular JR train. I'm trying to time things appropriately, and it was a little confusing when I researched it. How long would it take to travel from Osaka to Narita?
10/22/2013 11:29
Bryan, You can take any of the Shinkansen (bullet trains) except for the Nozomi train on the JR Pass. The Nozomi train is only a few minutes faster than the Shinkansen Hikari, so it isn't a huge deal to take the other Shinkansen trains.

You'd have to do some switching of trains but basically, you would do the following:
Osaka to Shin-Osaka (ordinary short train --- will take you 5 minutes)
Shin-Osaka to Tokyo (Shinkansen - Hikari bullet train --- will take you 2 1/2 hours)
Tokyo to Narita (Narita Ltd. Express - will take you about an hour)

There will be stops in between, too, so I'd say that the whole journey would take you about 4 1/2 to 5 hours, give or take. All of this would be included in your JR Rail Pass.
10/25/2013 22:40
Bryan
Thank You very much for simplifying this for me Akila
10/12/2013 12:45
Shawn
Hi Akila,

I've been researching a lot online for my upcoming trip to Japan and really need your help as I got more confuse as I researched. Is it worth it to get the JR pass or the Kansai Pass in view of the below route?

Planned route:

Day 1: Arrive in Osaka
Day 2: Osaka
Day 3: Osaka > Nara (Day trip)
Day 4: Osaka > Kyoto
Day 5: Kyoto
Day 6: Kyoto > Takayama
Day 7: Shirakawa-go
Day 8: Shirakawa-go > Kyoto
Day 9: Kyoto
Day 10: Kyoto > Omihachiman > Kyoto > Osaka
Day 11: OSAKA > Naoshima (Day trip)
Day 12: Depart Osaka

As you can see, while most of the trip is pretty much confine between Osaka and Kyoto, we also planned to stay a night in Takayama and Shirakawago which are pretty far flung. Thank you so much, Akila!
10/20/2013 16:20
I would buy the 7 day JR Pass and start it on Day 4 and end it on Day 11. The trip from Kyoto to Takayama is 10,000 Yen alone so doing the return trip for 20,000 Yen is almost the cost of a 7 day JR Pass. I think you'll get the most bang for your buck that way.
10/28/2013 06:41
Beck
What an incredible human to be such an amazing help to all for such a long time! this truly is the most useful post ive found on such a confusing topic so a million thanks. i almost feel bad to ask but....
itinery as follows:
Day 1 - Narita to Tokyo
Day 2 - Tokyo
Day 3 - Tokyo
Day 4 - Tokyo
Day 5 - Tokyo
Day 6 - Tokyo Disney
Day 7 - Tokyo or Tokyo Disney to Kyoto
Day 8 - Kyoto
Day 9 - Kyoto to Tokyo
Day 10 - Tokyo
Day 11 - Tokyo to Narita

Not many trips but im confused given that we fall in between the 7 and 14 day pass so would need to purchase additional travel to narita if we only buy the 7 day. also as its been advised that the cost is roughly the price of tokyo to narita should we just bite the bullet and try to enjoy the additional perks of the pass? im thinking we will probably break even either way but if you have a minute for your thoughts!
11/03/2013 16:51
Thanks! You shouldn't buy the pass at all. You are doing very minimal traveling within Japan and you would end up spending way more on the pass than you would get in return. It's very easy to buy one way tickets so I would do that for this itinerary!
11/02/2013 17:43
Bryan
I did not purchase my JR Rail Pass yet. For some reason I thought I could just purchase it and present a receipt of sorts at a station in Japan when I was ready to start using it.. My flight leaves in 2 days. There is no time. Can I just purchase it while I'm still in NYC, then have my brother may it to me at an address in Japan? I didn't plan on activating it until Nov. 20 anyway. Please let me know. Thanks.
11/13/2013 12:42
Miranda
Hello,
Thank you for this wonderful spreadsheet and all the time you have put into it. I need some help deciding if I should buy the 7 day pass or not.

My itinerary as follows:
Day 1 - Narita to Tokyo
Day 2 - Tokyo
Day 3 - Tokyo
Day 4 - Tokyo to Kyoto
Day 5 - Kyoto
Day 6 - Kyoto to Fukuoka
Day 7 - Fukuoka
Day 8 - Fukuoka
Day 9- Fukuoka to Fukuoka airport

I know that my husband and I were planning on getting the green car pass, if we were to get the pass. So obviously that can affect this decision greatly. But if we weren't going to get the green car pass would it be worth it. Ahhh so confusing. Basically would the pass be worth it with the green car pass, if not, would it be worth it with the normal reserved car pass?
12/04/2013 08:33
It's definitely worth it to get a 7 day pass either for the Green Car or the ordinary because the train from Kyoto to Fukuoka is quite long.
11/22/2013 04:03
Wy
Hi there

My parents and I are going to Japan for 9 days and we'll be arriving at Nagoya chobu airport..we are planning to visit kyoto and osaka only within the 9 days

Is it worth it to get the pass, considering kyoto and osaka are not too far from Nagoya?

Your help is very much appreciated =)

wy
12/04/2013 08:34
No, it isn't worth it for you to get the pass because the distances are so close. Have a great trip!
12/27/2013 09:50
Shameel Musthafa
Hello,

I am travelling to Japan with my wife and 3yr old daughter from jan 8th to jan 18th 2014. Basic route is fly-in to Narita airport and fly out through Osaka. I have done some research and i think (not sure) that Jr pass wont benefit me, but i want to go through it with you before i make the jump. here is my itinerary.

Day 1- 8th January Wednesday
Reach Tokyo
Stay at Remm Hibiya in Tokyo till 12th
Transfer from Narita to Hotel? NEX or limosine buses?
we will have luggage- 2-3 big ones, a camera bag)
Should i get the suice card?

Day 2- 9th Thursday
Tsinjuku Market
Imperial Palace
Ueno zoo
Akihabara shopping

Day 3- 10th Friday
Mother farm in Futtsu- Confused on travel.Aqua line? JR? i really dint get it straight.
Calico Cat cafe

Day 4- 11th Saturday (weekend
Asakusa- Half Day
Sumida water cruise
Hama Rikyu Park
Odaiba- Half day

Day 5- 12th Sunday (weekend)
We will check out from Remm Hibiya and check in at Nishitetsu Inn in Shinjuku. Since its a sunday, i hope the trains will be lighter and we can travel with luggage without much trouble. Plus mainly a walking day ahead.
Shinjuku Gyoen gardens
Meiji shrine in Yoyogi gardens
Shibuya pedestrian crossing- Pic spot
Hachiko statue
Roppongi Hills

Day 6- 13th Monday (Holiday)
Jigokudani Monkey park in Nagano.

Day 7- 14th Tuesday
Disneyland
Send luggage to Kyoto

Day 8- 15st Wednesday
Hakone
Hakone(odawara station) to Kyoto by shinkansen
Night check-in at Kyoto hotel

Day 9- 16nd Thursday
Fushimi inari shrine
Philosophers walk
Gion

Day 10- 17rd Friday
Kinkakuji Temple/ Golden temple
Arishiyama side of kyoto.


Day 11- 18th Saturday
Nara
Osaka Airport- Flight at 2350hrs.


So its basically an open jaw kinda itinerary as they call it. So, thats my whole travel plans. Now the big question. JR Pass or not?

Thanks in advance for this help you are providing for other who are traveling to japan and confused about the passes. Esp since the pass itself is costly but if bought right will save big dollars.. Its a great thing you are doing. God bless..
12/28/2013 12:47
I think it's worth getting the 1 week pass and starting it on day 4. I would switch your itineraries on Day 3 and Day 5 so that you can use the JR Pass to take the train from Shinjuku to Chiba for Mother Farm. In general, if you go in the middle of the day, you should have plenty of space for luggage. If you go at peak times on the train, you might run into issues. We never had an issue with space for luggage when we went between 10 to 3. If you use the JR Pass from days 4 to 11, you will definitely get your money's worth! Have a great trip!
01/06/2014 18:05
Derek
Hello, wondering if you could offer some advice on whether a rail pass is suitable for some/all of ourApril trip.
planned itinerary is:

6 April: arrive early AM Narita airport
6-10 April: Tokyo
10-12 April: Shibu-Onsen
12-13 April: Matsumoto
13-15 April: Takayama
15-21 April Kyoto
21-23 April Miyajima
23-24 April Hiroshima
24-26 April Tokyo - Disney parks
26 April: leave late PM Narita airport

We are 2 adults and 2 children travelling. Would like to book ahead all possible trips and interested in minimising transporation time and so would aim for shortest connections.

(Understand it is best option to take 2.5hrs bus from matsumoto to takayama?)

Thanks very much in adavance
Derek
02/07/2014 13:49
Hmmm. You're going at a relatively slow pace and not between too many spots so I'm not sure that you'll really benefit from the longer weeks' Rail Pass. If you wanted to maximize it, I would buy the 7 day pass and start it before you leave Kyoto and use it to go from Kyoto to Miyajima to Hiroshima to Tokyo/Disney and to Narita. One question, though: are you really sure that you want to spend 2 days in Miyajima? It's pretty but I didn't find much more to do than one day there.
01/22/2014 09:56
Ada Trinidad
Hi!
Our family of 5 (all adults) will be going to Japan from Oct. 7 to 16, 2014. I would like to seek advise if a JR pass is a must for us considering our itinerary.
Day 1 - Narita to Tokyo
Day 2 - Tokyo
Day 3 - Disney Sea
Day 4 - Mt. Fuji
Day 5 - Tokyo to Kyoto
Day 6 - Kyoto
Day 7 - Kyoto to Nara
Day 8 - Kyoto to Osaka
Day 9 - Osaka
Day 10 - Osaka to Narita
Do you think this itinerary is feasible? As for the JR pass, if we need to buy one, when do we have to start using it?
Thanks a lot for all your information regarding Japan and I hope you can reply to my queries!
02/07/2014 13:46
Your itinerary is definitely feasible. I would suggest that you get a 7 day pass only and start it on day 4, so that you end it on your last day. That way you'll get the most benefit from it. Have a great trip!
02/09/2014 19:16
Tahla
Hi,

Sorry to be vague but im looking for some help on whether to buy a rail pass or not.

We will be starting in Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Kobe and Toyko. We are just in the pipeline of discussing day trips but haven't gotten too far yet. We do know for sure that we will base oursevles in these places and we are currently staying for 1 month. Would you have a rough idea of how much travel would cost or a better way of doing it?

Many thanks :)
02/11/2014 19:23
Without knowing more, it's hard for me to judge how much your travel would cost. But, roughly, I can tell you that a 21 day pass probably wouldn't be worth your expense given that you are staying in relatively limited places and they are all not too far from each other. Once you've got some places settled down and dates, come back to the site and I'll be able to help you more!
02/11/2014 12:01
VT
Hi Akila,

Thank you for your post. Its wonderful and very helpful.

My question is my itinerary involves 9 days in Japan. Including flying into NRT,staying in Tokyo, then Nikko, then Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima/Miyajima, and if possible fitting in Onomichi as well before heading to NRT.

Am I better off buying the 7 day or 14 day pass? Since I assume the pass starts counting down when I first use it.. perhaps one option is to start using it on day 3 that way my trip from Hiroshima back to Tokyo/NRT is covered on the final day... but that would involve paying extra for Narita Express when I arrive and need to get SUICA pass as well for the first 2 days..Does this seem better or should I just get the 14day pass to be safe.. and easier to navigate as well??

The other option is flying into NRT and then quickly bypass tokyo or head to Hiroshima first, and head north so my last few days would be in Tokyo so no need to worry about the long rail trip (cost) back to Tokyo... But I would still need to pay extra for narita express to airport.. so all in all, it looks the same as my previous option
02/26/2014 03:59
hs chan
9 nites in Osaka. Plan to travel with Kansai area,that is Kyoto and Kobe. Making Osaka as my base. Would you recommend the JR rail Pass OR the Regional (Kansai) JR rail Pass. Can we purchase the Regional (Kansai) JR rail pass in Japan.?
Your advice is much appreciated.
02/27/2014 13:22
Michael
Hi Akila / Aka Japan Rail Guru -

Here is my itinerary. I am very much thinking about purchasing the 14 day Japan Rail pass, even though I am technically in Japan for 11 days. I have a few questions:

1) Given the below itinerary, would you recommend me purchase the rail pass?

2) Do you think the below itinerary makes sense for a first time visitor to Japan? I enjoy big cities. I was initially thinking 3 days in Osaka as well, but have been advised to spend an extra day in Tokyo rather than Osaka, and to have 3 days in Kyoto.

3) What other transportation tickets should I purchase given the below itineary? Is there another pass I should get in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, in addition to this JR Rail pass?

4) Is the "convenince" factor of the JR pass something to consider as well? Ie. is it faster than waiting in line trying to buy the correct train ticket from the agent all the time?

5) Does the JR rail pass work for the airport commute from tokyo airport to the city center?

6) Any other thoughts and advice!

Your post is extremely helpful and your responsiveness to peoples inquiries is really really appreciated. Thanks!

Date Trip Day City
07-Mar-14 1 Arrive Tokyo Airport
08-Mar-14 2 Tokyo
09-Mar-14 3 Tokyo
10-Mar-14 4 Tokyo
11-Mar-14 5 Tokyo
12-Mar-14 6 Kyoto
13-Mar-14 7 Kyoto
14-Mar-14 8 Kyoto
15-Mar-14 9 Osaka
16-Mar-14 10 Osaka
17-Mar-14 11 Depart Osaka Airport
03/04/2014 12:29
Jeffrey
Hi Akila,

You have provide great assistance to us.
Btw, able to help me as I will touch down Narita on 12/05/2014 - 23/05/2014
Intend to visit the below but not sure whether to get JR Pass.
Kyoto
Osaka
Disneyland
Hakone
Not sure where other places in Japan worth the visit.
Should I get the 7 or 14 day pass cos will be in Japan for 11 days?
Any place to recommend?

Million Thanks
03/09/2014 09:34
Hannah
Hi- I looked through all these posts, but couldn't find one similar to my situation. I am travelling to Japan for a month, but am wondering whether you think it is cheaper to get the 21 day pass, or the 14 day pass (to use in the middle of our trip and just buy normal tickets for the rest). This is my itinerary:
Osaka 4 nights (with Kobe day trip)
Koyasan 1 night
Hiroshima 2 nights
Miyajima 1 nights
Kyoto 6 nights (with Nara day trip)
Kanazawa 1 night
Takayama 1 night
Kawaguchi Lake Area 3 nights
Yokohama 2 nights (with Kamakura day trip)
Nikko 1 night
Tokyo 6 nights
I have never been to Japan before, so am open to suggestions for changes to the itinerary!
Thankyou so much for creating this discussion board,

Thankyou!
04/10/2014 09:54
Hannah, I would opt for the 14 day pass and stop using it when you reach Tokyo (or shortly before). I'm surprised that you're staying so long in Osaka. I would drop a day or two there and add it to Kyoto, which has so much more to see!
03/12/2014 08:28
John
HI !!!!
I am travelling to Japan...I will be spending 6 days within the City travelling via train to different parts of the city from Ginza to Shinjuku etc... Then on my last 7 days I will go
Tokyo-Fuji,
Fuji - Nagoya
Nagoya - Kyoto
Kyoto - Osaka
Osaka-Narita
04/10/2014 09:54
Definitely get the 7 day pass! It'll be worth every penny for you.
03/13/2014 20:59
David
Dear JR pass Ninja,

I need your assistance. I am sure I can do this on one week JR but hold I get two weeks out of convenience? I am leaving March 20th 2014, landing at narita the 21st and departing April 4th at narita.

21 land $15 NEX pass
22 Tokyo anime fair
23 around Tokyo
24 hakone free pass $50
25 back to Tokyo and around
26 open (thinking to start 1 week jr here maybe Nikko or Hiroshima)
27 open
28 Osaka
29 Kyoto
30 Kyoto
31 Kyoto
1st back to Tokyo (jr ends at midnight)
2nd around Tokyo
3rd around Tokyo
4th leave Tokyo 6pm to narita $30 NEX

I was thinking that I may spend up to $12 a day or so in Tokyo on travel but that maybe subway and not always JR plus other lines don't have jr like when in Kyoto or like tobu line or hakone line. Is it worth it to get a two week? Seems like I can do it in 1 week. The freedom and convenience is nice but I feel like I'm pretty stationary for 7 days. What are your thoughts? I need to pull the trigger really really soon. Your help is so appreciated!

Thanks,
David
04/10/2014 09:56
I would only get the 7 day JR Pass. Even if you don't have the JR Pass, you can always buy individual tickets and Tokyo is really easy to get around. Plus, once inside Tokyo, you will mostly be using the subway system which isn't on the JR Pass anyhow so you'll have to buy tickets for that. It looks like a very relaxed and enjoyable trip. The one thing I would suggest is adding more time to Kyoto, if you can. There's SO much to see there and it's an amazing place!
04/14/2014 18:11
Will
hello! i'm traveling to japan for 2 weeks in may, and have the following tentative schedule. what would you recommend? additionally i have a friend asking if i want to go to okinawa with him and his wife for the tail end of the trip, but i'm wondering if that's trying to cram too much in? thanks!

Tokyo Fri Afternoon/Sat/Sun/Mon Morning
Hiroshima/Miyajima Mon Afternoon/Tuesday/Wed morn
Kyoto/Osaka Wed Afternoon/Thurs/Friday/Saturday
Okinawa (or more time in tokyo) Sunday AM - Tues PM
Japan Wed - Thursday


Thanks!
05/09/2014 12:53
If you are going to Okinawa, I would suggest only getting the 7 day pass from Tokyo to Kyoto and then flying/ferrying to Okinawa. There is one JR line in Okinawa, but you'll be better off using private transport there.
04/16/2014 17:52
Lost
Where does one even start as a first time to Japan!?! What is a must see? Is it cheaper for me to buy the JR Pass in the states vs in Japan! Help I am so lost!
05/09/2014 12:58
If you want to buy a JR Pass, you can ONLY buy it in the states. It's not possible to buy it in Japan. For starters, try this post and see if it helps you out: http://theroadforks.com/worldtrip/japan/japan_the_low_down

The essentials are Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima, in my opinion. If you've only got a week to spend there, I would do 2 days in Tokyo, 4 in Kyoto, and 1 in Hiroshima.
04/19/2014 16:42
Nancy Bradbury
I just read the JR Pass discussion. Do I understand correctly that if I need to go from Narita to Tokyo, then Tokyo to Kyoto round-trip, and, finally, back to Narita the JR Pass is worth it? Also, I have only four full days in Japan. Is it possible to do both Tokyo and Kyoto on one's own? Should I pay for a tour? Thanks.
05/09/2014 12:59
Nancy, It would be tight with only 4 days because you probably wouldn't go to all of the other side attractions (i.e. Nara, Nikko, etc.). With only 4 full days in Japan, I would consider staying in Tokyo, and simply doing Tokyo and a few daytrips from Tokyo, such as to Nikko and Hakone. Kyoto is a huge trip on its own and we could have easily spent a month there alone.
04/28/2014 23:04
Jimmy Agates
Great work on this page Akila.

I'm heading to Japan next month and arrive in Nagoya then we head to Osaka up to Tokyo back to Nagoya back to Tokyo then all the way down to Hakata then back to Nagoya to fly home! I have purchased a 14 day JR pass for 46390Y and worked out I'll save around 30000Y on all that traveling. We're sightseeing by day and seeing bands and partying at night...gonna be a blast!
05/09/2014 13:01
Wow! That's an amazing savings. Great work! And have a blast!
05/11/2014 04:06
Hey
Im doing this itinerary for ~20 days, and Im pretty much staying with friends thats why.

Narita to Tokyo
With 6 days in Tokyo
Imperial Palace
Akihabara
Mitaka
Yoyogi Park
Meiji Shrine
Disney Sea
Shibuya cross
Odaiba
Couple museums there

Tokyo to Osaka
With 4 days in Osaka
Castle
Museum of History
Bunraku Theater
Kita
Minami
Food exploration. Lol


Osaka to Tokyo to Gunma
Pretty much relaxing here maybe do onsen? 4 days here too.

Gunma to Tokyo
Tokyo to Narita (Seoul)
With 3 days in Korea

Narita to Tokyo/Yokohama
With 3 days in Yokohama
Sankeien Park
Chinatown
Yamashita Park

Yokohama to Tokyo/Narita

Should I get the JR pass, or other?
Tokyo to Narita via NEX Is covered by JR pass right?
07/14/2014 15:27
I wouldn't get the pass since you're going to be mostly staying in a few places. It won't be worth the cost. It sounds like a great trip, though!
05/11/2014 18:57
Lost in translation
Hi, we have been thinking about getting a pass for awhile, and still cant figure out which is best for our travels (see below) If you could help that would be so good, not sure if to get one at all, of the 7 or 14 day pass. Also is the a link/map as to all the line that is avaliable for the JR pass.

Arriving at Narita Airport
4x Nights in Tokyo
2x Nights in Hiroshima
3x Nights in Naoshima
3x Nights in Kyoto
1x Night in Koyasan
2x Nights in Kyoto
3x nights in Osaka - Inc day trip to Nara
Fly out at Kansai Airport
07/14/2014 15:27
I would get the 2 week JR pass and start it when you go to Kyoto. Then, you'll get the most use out of it and it will be worth your while. Hope that helps!
05/15/2014 18:37
AK
akila,

I am going to be travelling to japan in june for 12 days. It will be me, my wife and 2 kids aged 4 and 7. We plan to spend a 4 days in tokyo and maybe some halfday trips around tokya, 4 days in Kyoto and the surrounding areas, and then back to tokyo for the last 4 days...I know I cant be very ambitious with travel with little kids but for sights in and around tokyo and kyoto will the japan rail pass be useful. I am flying in and out of haneda, and will be staying near shiodome towers in tokyo. Will I be able to use this rail pass from Haneda to my hotel.
07/15/2014 09:26
AK, No, I wouldn't get the RailPass since you are mainly planning on staying in one place. Have a great trip! Akila
06/09/2014 09:44
Vikas Nangia
We will be Travelling to Japan for 11 days with the following itinerary :

Arrival at Kansai Airport and 1 night stay at Nankai
Next day Osaka - Kyoto (Stay in Kyoto for 2 nights)
Kyoto - Tokyo by Shinkansen
Tokyo - Mt. Fuji and return to Tokyo
Tokyo Shinjuku - Disneyland and return
Shinjuku - Narita

I wanted to check if it is even worthwhile for my trip to obtain a JR Pass or maybe better to buy the train tickets which turns much cheaper
07/14/2014 15:19
You could buy a 7 day pass and start it on the last day when you leave Kyoto. That way you'll get the most out of it. I wouldn't recommend the 14 day pass given your schedule.
06/27/2014 07:01
Malin
Can I find a website that tells me exactly where (destinations) I can be travelling with that Rail pass? I?m going to
Narita - Tokyo
Tokyo - MT Fuji
Mt Fuji - Kyoto
Kyoto - Osaka
Osaka - Shimoda
Shimoda - Tokyo

But I can?t find if it?s possible to go to Shimoda with that pass??
07/14/2014 14:49
You can go to anywhere that the JR Rails take you. The best way to find that is by looking at hyperdia.com/en. It is possible to go from Tokyo to Shimoda on the JR lines, taking the Shinkansen to Hachinohe.
07/09/2014 02:06
dg
Akila,

We will be doing 15 days Japan trip, which currently still have a bit of sketchy plan & think whether JR pass is worth to purchase in this scenario. What we're thinking is to visit the following places with arrival-departure point is from/to Narita:

Tokyo 5 days
Mt Fuji 3 days
Kyoto 5 days
Nara 1-2 days

Could you please also tell us if you think there is any other places that you think we shouldn't missed as we're a first timer in Japan?

cheers
dg
07/14/2014 14:46
DG, I would drop 2 days from Tokyo and only do 3 days in Tokyo. I think that Hiroshima is wonderful and definitely worth a visit. Aside from the Peace Museum, Miyajima is beautiful and the okonomiyaki is sensational there! I definitely think it is worth it for you to get a 2 week pass. Have a great trip and let me know if you have any other questions!
07/16/2014 22:56
dg
thanks a bunch Akila!
We're going rearrange our itinerary as suggested!.

cheers,
dg
07/15/2014 10:32
Neo21
Dear Akila

I will be traveling to Japan in early September for 8 days 7 nights, my draft itinerary would be as following:

Option 1
Day 1: Narita Airport --> Tokyo --> Tokyo Sightseeing (6 Sept 2014)
Day 2: Tokyo --> Kyoto Sightseeing
Day 3: Kyoto --> Osaka --> Kyoto
Day 4: Kyoto Sightseeing
Day 5: Kyoto --> Hakone
Day 6: Hakone --> Tokyo
Day 7: Tokyo --> Tokyo Disneyland
Day 8: Tokyo --> Narita


Option 2
Day 1: Narita Airport --> Tokyo --> Tokyo Sightseeing (6 Sept 2014)
Day 2: Tokyo --> Hakone
Day 3: Hakone --> Kyoto
Day 4: Kyoto --> Osaka --> Kyoto
Day 5: Kyoto (Sightseeing)
Day 6: Kyoto --> Tokyo
Day 7: Tokyo --> Tokyo Disneyland
Day 8: Tokyo --> Narita

Would like ask your opinion whether I shall buy a JR Pass based on this schedule? Or do you think anything I could change to make my schedule more efficient?

ps. Understand that in order to reach Hakone, I need to purchase local train ticket in addition to my JR Pass...

Your kind assistant is much appreciated =)
07/20/2014 13:25
June
Hi:
We are planning a trip in November to Tohoku as follows:
Day 1-4: Tokyo (taking the Keisei Skyliner in from Narita)
Day 5 : Utsunomiya
Day 6 : Hanamaki Onsen
Day 7-9: Aomori, with possible sidetrip to Shimokita a
and/or Hirosaki
Day 10 : WeSpaTsubakiyama, on the Resort Shirakami
Day 11 : Akita, on Resort Shirakami
Day 12 : Yonezawa
Day 17-20: Tokyo, leaving on Day 20 back to Narita via N'ex

My question is: Would we be better off getting a 5-day JR East pass,to use for the 5 most expensive legs of our journey, or a regular 7 or 14-day pass(which we wouldn't activate until a few days into our trip)?

Thank you.
07/21/2014 15:03
June
oops I meant Day 13-16 Tokyo, leaving on Day 16 back to Narita via N'ex.
07/24/2014 16:13
A nice post. I would like to know how much it is to go Fukuoka to Tokyo (one way) rail ticket compared to a JR Rail Pass. I'm considering not getting a rail pass because all I want to do is go to Fukuoka to Tokyo.
08/03/2014 19:17
Ricky Lim
Hi Akila,

Currently here is my plan,

Day 1 - 3 : Nagoya (Flight reached at Nagoya)
Day 3 - 5 : Nagoya to Mount Fuji (Mount Fuji Climbing)
Day 4 - 9 : Mount Fuji to Kyoto
Day 10 - 11: Kyoto to Nagoya

is it worth getting a pass?
09/04/2014 12:30
Nope! Stick with the point to point tickets. Have a great trip!
08/13/2014 05:55
Nick
Hello Akila,

Many gatitudes for you advice as given already.
Soon I will be on a three week trip to Japan. Since I like taking photos of people I will travel at a slow pace.
I arrive at Tokyo and was thinking to stay there for four days. After that I want to go to Kyoto, Nara,Hiroshima and maybe one or two cities more.
Will it be worthwhile for a 14-day JRP?
Looking foreward for your advice.

Nick
08/15/2014 18:46
Nick, That itinerary sounds like a good one for the 14 day pass, especially if you go to a few other destinations. Have a great trip!
08/28/2014 01:21
Felicia
Hi

Would you please be able to advise if its worth for me to buy the rail pass (and if so how many days).
My itinerary looks roughly like this:

Day 1:
Narita Airport - Shin Urayasu Hotel (Tokyo Disneyland)

Day 3:
Shin Urayasu Hotel - Osaka (Namba Oriental Hotel)

Day: 5:
Namba Oriental Hotel - Kyoto (Ibis Hotel Kyoto Station)

Day 8:
Kyoto (Ibis Hotel) - Tokyo (Shinjuku Prince Hotel)

Day 9 to 11, Would like to go to fit in trips to (all department from Shinjuku Prince Hotel):
a. Hakone and Mt Fuji
b. go around to harajuku, shibuya, surrounding tourist places in tokyo

Thank you!!
09/04/2014 10:36
This is a tough one. You're not really traveling around enough to make it worth your while to buy the pass but you're just on the cusp, especially since you're doing the majority of your travel at the end of your trip. I would suggest that you not buy the pass and instead buy point-to-point tickets. If you bought the pass, you might not get any savings or the savings would be very minimal.
09/08/2014 01:48
kintush
Hey,

Super-awesome post my friend! I wonder if my 12 days trip to Japan (October 2014) worth buying a JR Pass?

Arrive to Narita Airport ->
5 Nights in Tokyo ->
1 Night in Hakone ->
1 Night in Kanazawa ->
4 Nights in Kyoto ->
1 Night in Osaka ->
Departure from Osaka Airport

Thanks!
09/11/2014 15:50
Marcia
Hi-I was doing the same calculations. It seems I am pretty close, with or without a pass. We want to buy a green pass. My husband and I are going 2 weeks: Tokyo with day trip to Nikko, Kyoto with day trip to Nara, Naoshima, back to Tokyo. And the pass works on the Narita Express to and from the airport correct? Is it more flexible in general without a pass when you can also use the Nozumi line? I am looking for ease, convenience and of course if either makes more sense monetarily. Thanks so much!
10/11/2014 06:10
Vivi
Hello, and thank you so much for all the amazing info you have detailed here.
I'm travelling to Japan for a week and in two minds about the 7 day pass not just because of the pass but I have limited time and understand the non-JR bullet trains are considerably faster.

Itinerary is Tokyo-Kyoto, Kyoto for 2 days, then Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima and back to Tokyo for 2 days. It's pretty tight but it's all the time I have unfortunately. Would be really grateful for your advice.
Thanks v much
11/27/2014 04:43
Nice
Hello!

Appreciate that detailed review! I've been computing our inter-city fares via Hyperdia. Based from my estimate, we won't be able to utilize the 7 day JR Pass. Hope you could take a look and see if I got it right or otherwise.

Nov 30 Kansai Airport to Osaka (Namba)
Dec 1 Osaka to Tokyo
Dec 3 Tokyo to Kyoto
Dec 5 Kyoto to Osaka
Dec 6 Osaka (Temmabashi) to Kansai Airport

The question, to purchase 7 day pass or not? Thanks in advance!
11/27/2014 04:48
Nice
Hello!

Appreciate that detailed review! I've been computing our inter-city fares via Hyperdia. Based from my estimate, we won't be able to utilize the 7 day JR Pass. Hope you could take a look and see if I got it right or otherwise.

Nov 30 Kansai Airport to Osaka (Namba)
Dec 1 Osaka to Tokyo
Dec 3 Tokyo to Kyoto
Dec 5 Kyoto to Osaka (w/ Nara day trip)
Dec 6 Osaka (Temmabashi) to Kansai Airport

The question, to purchase 7 day pass or not? Thanks in advance!

*Name:
*Email (won't be shared):
Website:
*Image text:
To personalize your comment with a picture, get a gravatar.