Japan Rail Group, which offers the discounted Japan Rail Pass to foreign visitors, announced a sharp price increase which will raise the price of a standard 7-day pass from the current JPY 29,650, to JPY 50,000 from October 2023.

The press release published on the JR East website on April 14, outlines both the new prices and some changes to the pass itself.

What are the changes?

Big price hikes for all national passes

Besides the price rise for the regular pass from JPY 29,650 to JPY 50,000 (69% increase), the 14 day pass goes from JPY 47,250 to JPY 80,000 (69% increase), and the 21 day pass rises from JPY 60,450 to JPY 100,000 (65% increase). The Green Car passes will also rise by similar amounts.

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No difference in prices for passes purchased outside Japan

At present, passes purchased outside Japan through agents are cheaper than those purchased inside Japan. After the change both will sell for the same price.

You’ll be able to take the fastest Nozomi service using your pass

With the current pass, you can’t ride the fastest Nozomi service on both the Tokaidō Shinkansen (between Tokyo and Shin Osaka) and Sanyō Shinkansen (between Shin Osaka and Hakata,) or the Mizuho service running on both the Sanyō Shinkansen and the Kyūshū Shinkansen. With the new price rise, pass holders will be able to ride both.

shinkansen nagoya aichi japan
Photo by iStock.com/winhorse

There will be discounts available for JR Pass holders

The press release mentions discounts at attractions for JR Pass holders. There are already a few discounts available, but this indicates they might try to expand this.

What is still unclear?

The press release is vague on the implementation date, stating “around October”. However, this just means it will be an as yet unannounced day in October, so there’s little chance it will happen in September or November instead.

The release also states that the prices may change before implementation, so JR Group might be watching for the response before confirming the prices.

Another thing that isn’t clear is whether passes purchased before the price change will be valid for travel after the price change. Also it’s not clear when sales of the passes at the current prices will cease.

Will the JR Pass still be worth it?

At JPY 50,000 for 7 days, the JR Pass is much harder to justify than at present. The price of a regular return ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto with a reserved ticket is currently JPY 28,340 (price varies slightly depending on time of travel) so it’s not difficult to justify the JPY 29,650 pass for anyone considering this journey. However, at a price point of JPY 50,000, even a 10 hour return trip to Fukuoka at JPY 46,140 comes in cheaper than the pass.

Traditional wooden buildings and a pagoda in Kyoto
The pass no longer makes sense if your only destination from Tokyo is Kyoto. | Photo by iStock.com/Blue Planet Studio

Why is JR Group doing this?

We’re not sure exactly why, but it seems the JR Pass is a victim of its own success. The JR Pass as it is, is an incredibly good deal and is wildly popular with foreign visitors. Additionally, the only part of the network that is under pressure, is the Tokaidō Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin Osaka. Perhaps not coincidentally, both this route and sales of the JR Pass itself are controlled by JR Central.

What are the alternatives to the JR Pass?

As of the writing of this article, there have been no price rises announced for regional passes. A drop-in alternative for travel between Tokyo and Osaka which adds the lovely city of Kanazawa to the route is the Hokuriku Arch Pass, which is available for JPY 24,500. For more options, see our guide on alternatives to the Japan Rail Pass.

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