The Greater Tokyo Pass is the hipster alternative to the Japan Rail Pass. Forget the Yamanote Line, take the metro and explore the city and surrounds instead.

Offering unlimited rides on 12 private railways and 52 bus companies in and around Tokyo, this pass certainly gives you options. Rather than asking which lines are included, it might be easier to say which aren’t—basically JR and Limited Express trains. While you might think missing those options would be a big deal, in Tokyo it isn’t actually too bad. The biggest inconvenience is probably the Yamanote Line, but you’ll soon forget about that.

Recommended Service
Cellular Voice and Data Plan - No Contract Required
Get a Japanese cell phone number, with voice calling and 7GB of monthly data, quickly and easily—in English—through our partner Mobal. No contract required, and flexible payment options. Bonus—the majority of profits go to charity!

The biggest decider for getting this pass is whether or not you plan on venturing out of central Tokyo because, if not, a regular top-up IC Pasmo/Suica card would be cheaper. But read on to find out about your choices.

Greater Tokyo Pass details

  • Price and validity: An adult pass costs ¥7,200 and (¥3,600 for children) for three consecutive days of travel.
  • Who can use it: It is available to visitors who can present a foreign passport with temporary visitor status.
  • Valid trains lines: Odakyu, Keio, Keikyu, Kesei, Seibu Sotetsu, Tokyu, Tokyo Metro, Toei Transportation, Tobu, Minatomirai, Yokohama Municipal Subway.

    The 52 bus companies can be found on this map, which also highlights the different routes and locations you can visit.



Where to buy the Greater Tokyo Pass

JR Shinjuku Station South Entrance
Photo by istock.com/bennymarty

The pass can be purchased online or in person:

Online: Purchase the Greater Tokyo Pass through Voyagin. You simply present your QR confirmation code at one of the designated counters, and your ticket(s) with passenger name(s) and date range will be ready for you. This is the easier option if your Japanese skills are limited.

In person: There are ticket counters at both Narita and Haneda Airport, and at 37 different Tokyo train station pass offices and tourist information centers. These include central stations (Tokyo, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku) as well as smaller ones (Ginza, Ochanomizu, Takadanobaba). In Kanagawa Prefecture, you can head to either Odawara Station or Yokohama to pick up the pass.

The distance decider

Divided between three days, the pass has a “daily cost” of ¥2,400, which can be surprisingly hard to reach if you’re doing regular sightseeing in the central Tokyo area.

For example, a very busy day spent traveling the following route would still only cost ¥1,800 with an IC card: Shinjuku – Harajuku – Shibuya – Tokyo Station – Ueno – Asakusa – Akihabara – Ikebukuro – Shinjuku.

So the only way to get your money’s worth is to go beyond the central spots and rack up those miles. Luckily, the pass covers quite a wide area and includes some popular sights that are probably already on your list like Nikko, Yokohama and Enoshima. (See below for trip ideas and a sample itinerary.)

The downsides

hamamatsucho station ticket gates for transfer to/from tokyo international airport (hnd)
Photo by iStock.com/mizoula

While the Greater Tokyo Pass has an impressive roster of train lines, there are always going to be some limitations.

The pass does not cover Limited Express trains. That means traveling those longer distances will be slower. However, since those trains can be pricey anyway, consider if they fit into your budget in the first place.

The pass does not cover JR lines. While bigger stations are always going to have a few private-line alternatives, you will still have to pay a little extra to reach some locations like Kamakura and Takasaki, which only have JR or uncovered line access. This also means you may end up changing trains a little more often if there isn’t a direct non-JR line.

On a practical front, the pass is paper-only, so you will have to present it at each staffed ticket booth rather than using the ticket gates. While this isn’t a problem in quieter stations, in places like Shinjuku and Shibuya, the enter/exit process can take a while when busy. Also, you are required to have your passport on you (although you may not always be asked to present it) to prove the pass is valid.

Greater Tokyo Pass: Popular destinations

Enoshima | Photo by David Ishikawa

The pass covers some great Tokyo destinations—plus a few in the surrounding prefectures. In addition to allowing you to access everything from the Imperial Palace to Harajuku to Sensoji Temple, it covers trips a little farther out as well.

  • Mt. Takao is Tokyo’s favorite easy hiking spot and offers some local specialty dishes, unusual temple sights and beautiful views.
  • Enoshima is another hit-list location with caves, seascapes and beaches too. It is next to the famous city of Kamakura (only a few hundred yen to detour there).
  • Yokohama is host to the beautiful Sankeien Garden, one of the world’s biggest Chinatown, the scenic Minatomirai area, the Cup Noodle Museum, the Raumen Museum and some unusual art.
  • Nikko is the farthest spot from Tokyo on this list and the best way to make use of the pass. The area is famed for its beautiful natural sights like autumn foliage and waterfalls as well as impressive temples and shrines.
  • Up in Saitama Prefecture, Hitsujiyama Park is a great alternative trip especially during the flowering season in spring.
  • Last but not least, Odawara is home to the closest castle keep to Tokyo as well as some delicious seafood.

Intrigued by all the travel options? Order your Greater Tokyo Pass.

A 3-day plan: In and out of Tokyo

nikko bridge
Photo by iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

For how to make the most of the pass, here is a three-day itinerary that includes main attractions. We use Shibuya as a base for traveling to and from, but prices will stay pretty similar wherever you are in central Tokyo. The offical Greater Tokyo Pass site provides its own impressive savings examples, but it relies heavily on users arriving from and returning to Narita Airport. If that’s you, it’s pretty simple to make the pass worthwhile. If not, it can be a bit of a struggle to reap the benefits of the pass. Hence, we’ve included one day of airport travel and combined it with inner-city sightseeing, followed by two days of trips a little further afield.

If we’re being honest, it was pretty tough to come up with a schedule that significantly beat the price without creating impossibly busy days. The comparison prices uses the best available route and includes JR lines if they offer a quicker option, but not Limited Express trains.

tokyo shrine
Meiji Jingu torii entrance | Photo by iStock.com/coward_lion

Day 1

  • Route: Narita – Shibuya – Shimokitazawa – Harajuku – Tokyo – Akihabara – Shinjuku – Shibuya
  • Your day: So this is a busy one, and heavily depends on when you arrive in Tokyo—assuming you have one day to enjoy the city before heading off to explore the highlights. It involves around 3 hours and 20 minutes of traveling paired with seeing the trendy streets of Shimokitazawa for a coffee before heading to see Meiji Jingu and Harajuku. Then, on to Tokyo for the Imperial Palace, Akihabara’s otaku escape, Shinjuku’s nightlife and home to Shibuya.
  • Price without the pass: This busy day of sightseeing would set you back ¥2,710 on a regular transport card (Suica/Pasmo), but it would be a bit shorter if using the JR lines.
  • Savings: ¥310
  • Day 2

  • Route: Shibuya – Asakusa – Nikko – Shibuya
    • Your day: This is a pretty travel-heavy day (6 hours), but it hits two of the biggest sights in Tokyo: Sensoji Temple and the beauty of Nikko. While the travel times are a bit long, Nikko is worth it: There are shrines, autumn foliage and waterfalls to enjoy. You could potentially spend the night there and travel back, there’s certainly plenty to see. Here’s an alternative pass if you’re considering focusing on the area more.
    • Price without the pass: On the same route (JR doesn’t add much here), the day’s travel would clock in at ¥3,200.
    • Savings: ¥800
    Minato Mirai
    Minatomirai waterfront district. | Photo by iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

    Day 3

  • Route: Shibuya – Tsukiji – Katase-Enoshima – Minatomirai – Roppongi – Shibuya
  • Your day: With an early start at Tsukiji Fish Market (or Toyosu), you can then explore the little island of Enoshima before enjoying dinner in Yokohama’s Chinatown—paired with the beautiful evening views of Minato-mirai. If you have the energy, why not have a night out in Roppongi before heading home? If you don’t mind spending a few extra yen to get to Kamakura on the Enoshima Electric Railway, you can squeeze them both in before dinner—it’s 20 minutes and costs ¥260 one way.
  • Price without the pass: The same day would cost you ¥3,130 with the occasional JR train thrown in, which is pretty good even if you do spend the extra to visit Kamakura (which you definitely should).
  • Savings: ¥730
  • Japan castle
    Odawara Castle | Photo by iStock.com/Vincent_St_Thomas

    Summary

    The pass itinerary saves a total of ¥1,840. And if you squeezed in even more sights, you’ll save even more. Making a trip down to see Odawara Castle is a good option if you have an extra day for the inner-city sightseeing too. If you have another trip to Narita or Haneda, the pass is better value—otherwise prepare to be busy!

    Ask our local experts about Tokyo

    Get our Tokyo Cheapo Hacks direct to your inbox

    Watch this next