Which Japan Rail Pass to Choose

Greg Lane

Japan Rail Passes (JR Passes) are available to anyone visiting Japan on a short-term tourist visa. They provide a fantastic discount on bullet train (Shinkansen) and regular train travel, but if you don’t have experience with Japan’s rail transport system, it’s difficult to know a) if you need one, and b) which JR Pass works with which Shinkansen. To add to the confusion, the various regional companies that constitute JR (JR East, JR West, JR Central, JR Hokkaido, JR Shikoku and JR Kyushu) all have their own passes! Each is priced differently and has different conditions. Read this guide for a better idea of which JR Pass to choose.

Jump to:

Pro tip: If you want to keep it simple, order the main Japan Rail (JR) Pass online before your trip. This pass is excellent value, and if you’re traveling to more than one major city within seven days (or three/four cities within 14 days), it’s very likely you’ll be saving money.

The Japan Rail Pass (this one gives you access to the entire country)

japan rail pass
Photo by Carey Finn

The Japan Rail Pass is the mother of all travel passes, allowing you unlimited use of all JR trains from Kagoshima in the south of Japan right up to the northern tip of Hokkaido. You can ride everything from the super-cool Shinkansen (that’s the bullet train) to local JR commuter trains, JR buses and even JR ferries.

Note: JR Pass holders cannot use the Nozomi and Mizuho bullet trains, aka the fastest ones. The other bullet trains are perfectly good, but expect slightly longer travel times. For example, getting from Tokyo to Osaka may take 30 minutes longer on the Hikari bullet train.

JR Pass prices

The duration of each pass is the number of days from when it is first activated—including that day. There is no option to split up travel—so once you activate your JR Pass, the clock starts.

Type of JR Pass Ordinary Green (First class)
Adult (12+) Child (6-11) Adult (12+) Child (6-11)
7 day ¥29,650 ¥14,825 ¥39,600 ¥19,800 Reserve online
14 day ¥47,250 ¥23,625 ¥64,120 ¥32,060 Reserve online
21 day ¥60,450 ¥30,225 ¥83,390 ¥41,690 Reserve online

*Prices are accurate as of October 3, 2019.

Where can I buy the JR Pass?

Up until March 2017, the Japan Rail Pass could not be purchased in Japan—you had to buy it either online or through an authorized travel agent before arriving. JR Passes are currently available for purchase in Japan on a trial basis until the end of March, 2020. However, since it’s quite a bit more expensive if you buy a JR Pass after arriving (think an extra ¥4,000 or so for the 7-day national version), it’s only on sale at a limited number of stations, and you may have to use Japanese during the transaction, it’s a much better idea to buy your JR Pass before coming to Japan.

Note: You are only eligible for a JR Pass if you’re entering Japan with a “temporary visitor” visa, with a stay not exceeding 90 days.

Photo by Fredrik Rubensson used under CC

Do I need a JR Pass?

If you are planning two or more inter-city return trips from Tokyo to somewhere like Kyoto in the southwest or Sendai in the north, or one really long trip to Hokkaido or Kyushu, then the main JR Pass is worth getting. The regular price for a return ticket on the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Hiroshima alone is roughly ¥38,000, which is basically the same as the cost of the 7-day Green Car (First-class) JR Pass!

However, if you plan to spend all of your trip in and around Tokyo (or Kansai, for that matter), then you almost certainly don’t need a national JR Pass. You might want a regional JR Pass, though (see below), or a single-use Shinkansen ticket. You could also look at the prices of Japan’s low-cost airlines (more on non-rail travel later).

While the Shinkansen may provide a better view of the country than you would get from the middle aisle of an airplane, it’s worth noting that large parts of the bullet train network are either underground or have sound barriers beside the tracks—so you might spend most of the journey dozing. You’ll still get plenty of glimpses of everyday Japan, though, and it’s possible to see Mount Fuji as you hurtle between Tokyo and Kyoto or Osaka (they’ll announce it, so just listen out).

Pro tip: Many of the bullet trains have power points available in front of or next to your seat, so that you can charge your phone and use your laptop. You can also connect to free wifi on an increasing number of Shinkansen. Read more about wifi in Japan.

Which JR Pass should I get?

Since the main JR Pass encompasses countrywide JR travel, you only need to choose based on the number of days you’ll be traveling around Japan (7, 14 or 21 days), and whether you want ordinary or First-class (Green Car) passes. They’re all a good deal compared to regular bullet train tickets (we mentioned that a return trip between Tokyo and Hiroshima will cost you almost the same as a 7-day Green Car pass), but you should choose carefully, because you won’t be able to change the duration of the pass after you arrive.

Pro tip: For ideas on where to go and what to do with your JR Pass, check out this 7-day DIY rail itinerary that takes you from Tokyo to Niigata and then down to Kansai, and this Northern Explorer option that sees you going deep into the heart of Tohoku and Hokkaido.

japan rail pass
The JR Chuo Line in Tokyo. | Photo by Gregory Lane

JR East Passes

If your travels are going to be concentrated in the central, eastern and northeastern parts of Japan, i.e. Nagano, Tokyo, Niigata, Tohoku and Hokkaido, one of the JR East Passes may work out to be more economical for you than the main JR Pass.

There is no general JR East Pass. Instead, you have four regional options for JR East Passes: the JR East Tohoku Pass; the JR East Nagano-Niigata Pass; the JR Tohoku South Hokkaido Pass; and the JR East South Hokkaido Pass. Here’s how they compare:

Type of JR East Pass Major Destinations Validity Period Classification Price (purchased online or overseas) Price (purchased in Japan)
Tohoku Area Pass Unlimited travel on JR East trains within the Tohoku area. Recommended for travelers between Tokyo and Aomori, Nikko, Sendai, Akita, Fukushima. Pass valid on the Shinkansen, Narita Express and Tokyo Monorail. Pass can be used in Izu and Nikko on certain non-JR trains as well. Flexible 5-day pass used within 14 days of issuance. Adult(12+) ¥19,000 ¥20,000 Reserve online
Children(6-11) ¥9,500 ¥10,000 Reserve online
Nagano & Niigata Area Pass  Recommended for travelers between Tokyo and Nagano, Niigata, Karuizawa and Gala Yuzawa resort. Pass can be used on Shinkansen, Narita Express and Tokyo Monorail. Flexible 5-day pass used within 14 days of issuance. Adult(12+) ¥17,000 ¥18,000 Reserve online
Children(6-11) ¥8,500 ¥9,000 Reserve online
East-South Hokkaido Pass Recommended for travelers between Tokyo and Hakodate and Sapporo (Hokkaido), as well Aomori, Nikko, Karuizawa and Sendai. Flexible 6-day pass used within 14 days of issuance. Adult(12+) ¥26,000 ¥27,000 Reserve online
Children(6-11) ¥13,000 ¥13,500 Reserve online
Tohoku-South Hokkaido Pass Recommended for travelers between Sendai, Hakodate and Sapporo (Hokkaido), as well Aomori, Iwate, Fukushima and Akita. Flexible 5-day pass used within 14 days of issuance. Adult(12+) ¥19,790 ¥20,000 Reserve online
Children(6-11) ¥9,870 ¥10,000 Reserve online

Where can I buy these passes?

You don’t have to buy JR East passes before arriving in Japan, but you can if you want to—and it is often cheaper if you do. Passes can be purchased at both Haneda and Narita Airport on arrival, or from major JR East stations. In Tokyo, you can pick one up at Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Ikebukuro and Ueno Stations, as well as other major JR stations. You can also purchase a JR East pass through authorized travel agents in the same way as the JR Pass, or online.

Note: JR East passes have the same eligibility requirements as the main JR Pass, so you’ll need to show that you’re a tourist on a (maximum) 90-day visitor visa to buy and activate your pass.

Do I need a JR East Pass?

While you may have thought Japan runs roughly in a north-south axis, according to JR and indeed many Japanese people, it’s basically divided into east and west (which makes sense, if you look at a map). The JR East passes are ideal for inter-city travel from Tokyo to major destinations like Niigata, Nagano, Sendai, Aomori, Nikko, Izu, GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort and more—even all the way up (east) to Hakodate in Hokkaido. But if you’re likely to be in Tokyo the whole time, or in one of the larger metropolises such as Sendai, you probably won’t need one of these regional rail passes.

Which one should I get?

The JR East Pass you choose will be dictated by where you want to go—investigate the destinations and boundaries for each pass before you make a decision. The Tohoku Pass is recommended for travel between Tokyo, Sendai, Aomori and Nikko, while the Niigata & Nagano Pass is recommended for—you guessed it—Niigata and Nagano, along with the mountain resort town of Karuizawa.

japan rail pass
You can get to most places on JR trains. | Photo by Jeff Laitila used under CC

JR Tokyo Wide Pass (formerly the Kanto Area Pass)

If you’re going to be based in Tokyo, with a couple of day trips or an overnight adventure to one of the nearby prefectures, this may be the best rail pass for you.

The JR Tokyo Wide Pass allows low-cost travel to notable spots such as Nikko, ski resort GALA Yuzawa, Izu and even Mount Fuji. It also takes you deep into Nagano Prefecture—as far as Sakudaira Station (but strangely not as far as Nagano Station) on the Nagano Shinkansen and Jomo Kogen on the Joetsu Shinkansen.

Perhaps the handiest destination, though, is the resort town of Karuizawa. A regular one-way ticket to Karuizawa from Tokyo costs around ¥6,000, so using the pass for a return trip to Karuizawa alone is good value.

Note: The Tokyo Wide Pass cannot be used on JR buses or on the Tokaido Shinkansen (the bullet train running between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka).

Type Classification Price
Tokyo Wide Pass (3 consecutive days) Adult (12+) ¥10,180
Child (6-11) ¥5,090

Where can I buy a JR Tokyo Wide Pass?

You can buy this pass at major JR stations, including hubs on the Yamanote Line (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Ueno, Tokyo, Shinagawa), as well as Yokohama and both Narita and Haneda Airport.

Note: Unlike the other Japan Rail Passes, this one is available to foreign residents in Japan—all you need is a non-Japanese passport.

Do I need a JR Tokyo Wide Pass?

Don’t get the JR Tokyo Wide Pass if you’re just traveling around the Tokyo/Yokohama area—buying regular tickets or using a rechargeable IC card is generally cheaper. However, you’ll get your money back on any trip on the Shinkansen within the Kanto region, or on trips slightly further afield—such as to Yamanashi, Nagano, Tochigi and Gunma.

Pro tip: Read our guide to the JR Tokyo Wide Pass to see if it suits your travel needs, and discover what you can do with it.

japan rail pass
Look out for special JR trains in Tottori. | Photo by John Daub

JR West Passes

The JR West Pass is divided into a few different passes (±10, to be exact).

If you’re just interested in visiting the major cities and tourist destinations of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe, you’re best off with a Kansai Area Pass. However, if you’re looking to travel within Kansai and then dip out to other major destinations, consider some of the other passes (like the Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass), or even purchasing two passes (like the Kansai WIDE Area Pass + the San’in-Okayama Area Pass). Here’s an overview of eight key JR West Passes:

Type of JR West Pass Major Destinations Validity Period Classification Price (purchased online or overseas) Price (purchased in Japan)  
Kansai Area Pass (Most popular) Covers the Kansai area, including travel from Kansai Airport to Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Wakayama, Shiga, Tsuruga, Iga-Ueno and within those areas. (Does NOT include Shinkansen or Limited Express trains (other than Haruka) 1 day Adult  (12+) ¥2,300 ¥2,400 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥1,150 ¥1,200 Reserve online
2 day Adult  (12+) ¥4,600 ¥4,800 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥2,300 ¥2,400 Reserve online
3 day Adult  (12+) ¥5,600 ¥5,800 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥2,800 ¥2,900 Reserve online
4 day Adult  (12+) ¥6,600 ¥6,800 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥3,300 ¥3,400 Reserve online
Kansai WIDE Area Pass Covers all of the Kansai region, like Kansai Airport, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Himeji + other areas of interest outside of Kansai including Okayama, Kurashiki, Shirahama, Kinosaki Onsen, Takamatsu and the Shingu area. (Includes some Shinkansen travel) 5 day Adult  (12+) ¥9,200 ¥10,200 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥4,600 ¥5,100 Reserve online
Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass Covers travel in Kansai area + route from Kansai Airport to Okayama, Hiroshima and Takamatsu. Includes the JR-West Miyajima Ferry. (Includes some Shinkansen travel) 5 day Adult (12+) ¥13,500 ¥14,500 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥6,750 ¥7,250 Reserve online
Hiroshima-Yamaguchi Area Pass Covers the route from Hakata to Yamaguchi and Hiroshima. Includes travel on the JR-West Miyajima Ferry. (Includes some Shinkansen travel) 5 day Adult (12+) ¥11,000 ¥12,000 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥5,500 ¥6,000 Reserve online
Sanyo-San’in Northern Kyushu Area Pass In addition to the Kansai area, it covers the route between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. Includes the JR-West Miyajima Ferry. (Includes some Shinkansen travel) 7 day Adult (12+) ¥22,400 ¥23,420 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥11,200 ¥11,710 Reserve online
San’in-Okayama Area Pass Covers routes within the San’in and Okayama areas. (Does NOT include Shinkansen travel) 4 day Adult (12+) ¥4,580 ¥5,600 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥2,290 ¥2,800 Reserve online
Kansai-Hokuriku Area Pass Covers the routes between Kansai Airport and the Hokuriku area (Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui), as well as travel within the Kansai area. (Includes some Shinkansen travel) 7 day Adult (12+) ¥15,000 ¥16,000 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥7,500 ¥8,000 Reserve online
Hokuriku Area Pass Covers travel within the Hokuriku area. (Includes some Shinkansen travel.) Not to be confused with the broader Hokuriku Arch Pass. 4 day Adult (12+) ¥5,090 ¥5,600 Reserve online
Child (6-11) ¥2,540 ¥2,800 Reserve online

Where can I buy the JR West Passes?

These passes can be purchased either overseas before your arrival, online (also before arrival) or in Japan (the first two are recommended because you get an “early bird” discount). If purchasing in Japan, you’ll need to prove that you are a short-term visitor by presenting your passport and air tickets. Choose carefully, as you can only purchase each pass once—so you can’t come back for more later on in the trip!

Do I need a JR West Pass?

Since there are so many pass options for the west of Japan, it really depends on where you’re going, for how long, and how much moving around you plan on doing there. One bit of insight though: the Kansai Area Pass (the most popular) is a bit different to other regional passes—since the cities and attractions in Kansai tend to be a bit more spread out than in Kanto (the broad Tokyo area), the pass actually makes more sense for daily travel than major inter-city travel.

Which one should I get?

For the Kansai Area Pass, you’ll need to decide how many days you’ll be moving around, since it offers 1, 2, 3 or 4 days. It’s good value for getting between the various towns and cities in Kansai.

If you travel from Shin-Osaka to Hakata (in Kyushu) on a regular Shinkansen, it will cost you about ¥31,000 return—that’s 1/3 of the price more than the Sanyo-San’in Area Pass for 7 days, which includes that route plus travel within the Kansai area—a no-brainer!

Hokuriku Shinkansen
Photo by Carey Finn

The Hokuriku Arch Pass

Another rail pass to consider is the Hokuriku Arch Pass, which is most useful for those traveling between Tokyo and Osaka, with the time and inclination to stop off and explore the beauty and culture of places like Kanazawa, Itoigawa and Nagano along the way. It’s made for somewhat slower travel. Read more about the Hokuriku Arch Pass.

Summary: What you need to remember when choosing a JR Pass

Here’s a quick recap of the main tips:

  • DON’T buy any Japan Rail Pass if you’re just traveling around the Tokyo/Yokohama area. It’s cheaper to buy individual tickets or charge money onto a Pasmo/Suica card.
  • DO buy a JR Pass if you’re planning a fair bit of intercity travel. It’s best to plan your travels first, and then pick a pass accordingly.
  • If you’re exploring Osaka, Kyoto and surrounds, a Kansai Area Pass is good for even daily travel, since many attractions are pretty spread out.
  • If you plan on taking the Shinkansen anywhere, it’s almost always a good idea to buy a rail pass. As we mentioned, the regular price for a return ticket on the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Hiroshima is around ¥38,000, which is basically the same as the cost of the 7-day JR Green Car Pass! However, if you’re only making one long-distance trip, a one-way Shinkansen ticket may work out to be cheaper. Use our Shinkansen fare calculator to help you figure out the best option for your travel plans. You can book single-use Shinkansen tickets in advance (for a fee).
  • Be sure to check the official websites for the exact routes that each pass covers, and which trains you can use (most passes have a few exceptions, like being valid only on certain Shinkansen [usually the slightly slower ones], or not being valid on certain limited express trains, etc.).

Video guide to choosing a JR Pass

How to activate your JR Pass

Whichever pass you choose, the procedure for activating it will be the same. You will receive an exchange order for your rail pass, which you need to take, together with your passport, in person, to a JR ticket office or JR travel center (found at all major JR train stations and airports in Japan). There, you will be given the actual pass. You will be asked when you would like to activate it from—this can be the same day, so you can start your travels immediately.

You can make seat reservations for Shinkansen and limited express trains at the same time—provided it’s not super crowded, e.g. cherry blossom season, you should be able to make reservations for all of your journeys at once.

To use your JR Pass, simply show it at the staffed ticket gates and wait to be waved through. Be sure to keep it with you at all times.

Alternatives to Japan Rail Passes: Using non-rail transport

Seeing as the Japanese railway system is so on point, we’re sure you’ll be using its services at some time or another during your stay. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have other travel options.

For nationwide bus passes, you can find out more at Willer Express—just scroll to the bottom and click through to “Japan Bus Pass”. You can also take to the seas with a Japan Ferry Pass.

And for route information between Tokyo and major destinations that includes air or bus travel, check out our “fast vs. cheap” transportation articles—starting with Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka, Sapporo and Hiroshima.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This guide was last updated on June 25, 2019.
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Filed under: Getting around, Transport
Tags: Budget Holiday, Bullet Train, Discount, Japan Rail Pass, Japanese Trains, JR East, JR Pass, JR Rail Pass, JR West, Kansai, Kanto, Kyoto, Osaka, Rail, Rail Passes, Shinkansen, Tokyo, Tourist, Train, Transportation, Traveling
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226 Responses to “Which Japan Rail Pass to Choose”

  1. Avatar
    danica003 November 14, 2012

    For the tourists, the use of rail pass is even more convenient and faster compared to other vehicles. There are several kinds of rail pass that can be considered by the travelers. You just have to find out the which rail is more convenient and suitable for you.

    • Avatar

      Thanks so much. Which night bus, by the way, do you recommend that is cheap to travel from Beppu Japan to Hiroshima.

  2. Avatar

    What would you recommend for someone traveling withing Japan for a month? should I even get JR pass?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg January 10, 2013

      Definitely – it’s excellent value. The only reason you wouldn’t need one is if you planned to stay in one place for a prolonged period of time. For example, if you planned to arrive and then stay 5 days in Tokyo, then you definitely shouldn’t activate your pass at Narita Airport. However, it would make a lot of sense to activate it after you leave Tokyo and start travelling around the place over greater distances.

      • Avatar

        All right. I do plan to stay in certain areas for about 5 days with friends. Are there bus services that also travel within Japan? and those are cheaper?

  3. Avatar
    Michelle January 31, 2014

    Should I buy a JR Pass (and if so which one) if we are spending the first 2 days in Tokyo sightseeing, then need to travel to Nagano for one night, then back in Tokyo sightseeing again for 4 more days. Sucia for the first 2 days then JR??? Help! Thank you 🙂

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg February 5, 2014

      Sorry for the slow reply! A regular return ticket from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station on the Shinkansen is about 15,000yen. A return N’EX + Suica pass including 1,500yen of credit will cost 5,500yen, The JR East flexible 4 day pass costs 20,000 yen. You could use the pass on arrival, going to Nagano, returning from Nagano and then returning to Narita – but the N’EX + Suica will give you more flexibility in central Tokyo. If you’re planning additional rail travel in Nagano or say a trip down to Kamakura on one of your four designated days, then it tips back in favour of the Rail Pass. Either way, it’s not going to make an enormous difference. If you had two long distance intercity trips planned I would definitely go for a pass.

  4. Avatar

    How about moving between towns/ districts in tokyo? Does the ticket cover these? Can u give a bigger picture please…

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg May 26, 2014

      A bigger picture? I think perhaps you mean you’re not sure about the scale of Tokyo? First, central Tokyo is mainly served by subway lines – which aren’t covered by the Japan Rail Pass. So if you’re going from Ginza to Asakusa, You don’t even touch JR. Even if (for some unknown reason) you decide to take the JR Yamanote Line from Shibuya to Sugamo, the ticket price is only 194yen. In general you’d struggle to spend more than 500yen/day on JR lines in central Tokyo. Central Tokyo is generally defined as in and around the JR Yamanote Line. Tokyo Station to Maihama (Disneyland) costs 216yen. Using your Japan Rail Pass for these trips would be a complete waste of money. I even took a trip yesterday on the Chuo Line from Yotsuya to Tachikawa (a suburban city in far west Tokyo) and the cost was 1,100yen return. Your JR Pass costs you about 4,100yen/day. Excellent value for travelling inter-city, terrible value for getting around in Tokyo. My biggest recommendation is to spend your money on a good pair of shoes – you will likely do a lot more walking than you expect. Last time I showed some family around, we walked 12.5km in a day – and I was going easy on them!

  5. Avatar

    Dear Greg, do I need a pass if I want to travel around in Tokyo? I am visiting Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku and Chuo mostly. Thanks in advance!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg July 12, 2014

      You can travel between those places for a few hundred yen. Buy a Pasmo/Suica loaded value card instead. The JR Pass would be a complete waste of money.

  6. Avatar

    Hi Greg. Would you recommend a JR pass for Kansai I Airport-Tokyo-Mt. Fuji- Tsumago-Kamikochi-Kyoto or it would be cheaper to get regular tickets? Thanks a lot in advance. Jose

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg August 11, 2014

      The pass is definitely worthwhile. A return trip from Kyoto to Tokyo alone (with no stops) costs 26,000yen. Throw in your connections to and from KIA and another stop and you’re already way over the 29,110yen for a 7 day Adult pass.

  7. Avatar

    Hi Grey,

    1) Would you recommend that I get the 7 days JR Pass with my following itinerary ?
    2) Can I exchange the voucher for the JR Pass at Shibuya Station on Day 2 but to be used only on Day 3, i.e. start day on Day 3 ?
    3) SInce August is peak season, should I go to Shinagawa Station to reserve seats (3pax) on Day 2 ?

    Day 1, 23 Aug ’14
    Haneda Airport -> Central Tokyo

    Day 2
    Central Tokyo

    Day 3
    Tokyo to Kyoto

    Day 4

    Day 5
    Kyoto to Tokyo

    Day 6
    Central Tokyo

    Day 7
    Mt Fuji (half-day trip)

    Day 8
    Central Tokyo

    Day 9
    Central Tokyo

    Day 10
    Departs Tokyo

    Thank you in advance for your advice.

    Best regards,

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg August 11, 2014

      Ni Nanc,
      I do have a few grey hairs but not enough to be called “Grey”! 🙂
      I’d say with that itinerary a 7 day JR Pass is the best bet – and don’t use it at as soon as you arrive! I’ve never actually activated a JR Pass but I do have experience with a JR Kanto Pass. The day before, I went to Shibuya Station, bought the pass and reserved the seats for the next day so you can reserve seats before you decide to use it.
      Also, peak travel time is mid August – basically this week. By the 25th things will be a lot less crazy.

      • Avatar

        Hi Greg,
        Oops, Typo error, Sorry ! 🙂
        Thanks for your quick reply.

  8. Avatar
    Danielle August 12, 2014

    Hi Greg:

    I’m planning to spend about 15 days in Japan, with the following itinerary would you recommend a 7 day or 14 day pass?

    5 days in and around Tokyo and then 6 days in and around Osaka and then 5 days in and around Kyoto and then heading back to Tokyo to Narita Airport.


  9. Avatar
    hironohaha August 15, 2014

    I am a foreign resident in Japan.
    Could you suggest me any website to check JR campaign or something?
    I want to travel cheaply, but beside using JR Kanto, 18 kippu or bus.

  10. Avatar

    Hi Greg, your website has been most helpful. I’ve done trip planning in several countries, but I think Japan has been the most challenging. My trip in November will mainly be Tokyo-Lake Kawaguchi-Kyoto-Tokyo, with perhaps a side trip to the islands (still researching that part). I’ve looked at the 3 day bus pass with the idea of night travel to and from Kyoto. However, in researching how to get to Lake Kawaguichi it seems a train might be the better option. So now I’m back to looking at the JR Pass. If those are my only travel destinations, do you have any other transportation recommendations? Is there something I’m missing ? I’ll be in Japan for 10 days. Many thanks.

  11. Avatar

    Hello Greg, i´ll arrive in narita airport in 2 of december and gonna stay until 21 december. So, i just want to know places around tokyo, such as shinjuku, shibuya and other. But, i really want to go to Kyoto and Nara. Do I need to buy any of the JR´s or just regular ones?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 15, 2014

      it all depends if your set on taking the Shinkansen (otherwise known as the bullet train) during your trip. The price of a regular fare to Kyoto and back is about 26,000yen. From Kyoto to Nara and back is 1,420yen. The 7 day pass is 29,110yen. If you don’t really care about riding the high speed rail, you can get pretty comfortable and cheap overnight buses for 5,000 to 8,000yen each way depending on your level of comfort.

  12. Avatar

    Hi Greg. Thanks for the info above, but I’m still not sure which JR Pass I should get. I’m planning to go to Osaka and Kyoto. So, the flow would be Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo. Could you maybe guide me to which pass is the best for me to get, or maybe no pass at all? Also, it’d be nice if I could take a Shinkansen to at least one of these places. Thank you~

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 27, 2014

      Hi there,
      If you split it up and start buying individual Shinkansen tickets then it starts to get quite expensive. Also, unless you’ve got about 10 hours spare and you don’t mind changing train about 5 times, then Shinkansen is the only practical method to go by train from Tokyo to Kansai. The regular cost (all shinkansen) from Tokyo -> Shin Osaka -> Kyoto -> Tokyo is 28,660yen – and you’re able to take the Nozomi (the really fast one). But if you need to do any extra trips, then the rail pass becomes cheaper.
      If you’re really on a budget, you might want to consider a bus pass. The buses are generally quite comfortable and they’re much cheaper.

  13. Avatar

    Hi Greg,
    I have never been to Tokyo. Am planning to go Tokyo, and the next morning to Sendai via Shinkansen and back on the same day/same mode of transport to Tokyo; and the other 3 days all within Tokyo between Shinjuku and Central Tokyo area.
    Would you recommend me to get any JR pass (if so, which one? ). Also, I understand certain JR passes cam only be purchased outside of Japan or via online. Would you advise this as well? Thanks in advance!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 27, 2014

      Catching the train from Narita to Tokyo and then Tokyo to Sendai return will cost you about exactly the same as the JR East pass, so you might as well get the JR East pass if you want a little flexibility. And yes, you need to purchase the JR East pass outside Japan – either from your travel agent or using the purchase link in the post above. With your travel agent, make it clear that you want the “East” pass – they may only be aware of the general JR Pass.

  14. Avatar

    Hi Greg, so it seems like the Kansai Pass isn’t really necessary if you’re flying into Osaka and just taking a few day trips to the cities around there over the period of 5-7 days?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 27, 2014

      It all depends how much you intend to travel. The various cities in Kansai are a little spread out and the train fares are relatively high, so it might be worth it. For example, the regular return fare from Osaka to Nara is 1,600yen. From Osaka to Kobe return is 820yen and Osaka to Kyoto return is 1,120yen. This is for the regular trains – limited express trains will cost more. Also, Osaka is kind of in the middle, so if you’re in Kobe instead, getting to the other places is going to be more expensive. Don’t forget the fare from the airport either – 1,190yen each way. By way of comparison, if you put a 6,000yen charge on an ICOCA card instead, you can go to and from the airport, and visit Kyoto and Nara without any time restrictions.

  15. Avatar

    Hi Greg
    3 of us are arriving in Tokyo and will spend 1day travelling around Tokyo & 2 days on arranged tour. Then by bullet train to Osaka staying for 3 nights. I day arranged tour to Kyoto and Nara and 2 days on our own in

    Osaka before leaving from KIX. What pass, etc would you recommend pls?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 27, 2014

      I’d buy regular tickets if I were you. The JR Pass only makes sense if you’re making 2 or more long distance trips by Shinkansen. Since you’re flying into Tokyo and out of KIX, your JR train fares will only come to about 16,000yen. You might need a Suica/Pasmo card with a couple of thousand yen for getting around on the Tokyo subway and in Osaka, but that’s not covered by a JR pass anyway.

  16. Avatar

    Hi Greg:

    I’m going to spend about 7 days in Japan between 31 December 2014 -7 January 2015, what pass would you recommend during this holiday season?

    Start from Haneda airport, around tokyo such as shinjuku, shibuya, odaiba, day trip to mount fuji or day trip out of Tokyo.


  17. Avatar

    Hi Greg, thank you for this guide. We’ll be visiting Japan for the first time this year end of Nov to Dec. Will fly into narita and go around Tokyo for the first 7 days (including trips to lake kawaguchiko, ghibli museum, shin yokohama ramen museum, maybe puroland). Then take shinkansen to Kyoto stay for 2 days, then Osaka for the last 3 days (fly out of kansai).

    What passes do u recommend for us? Will it be better for us to get the 3-day metro/toei subway combo ticket? Or is it better to take the JR loop? We will be staying at the JR shinjuku blossom hotel.

    We are thinking of getting the daily bus passes while in kyoto & osaka.

    Also, can you suggest any other day trip destinations we can make from tokyo?
    Would love to try a nice rotemburo with nature views but most are far from tokyo right?

    Thank you so much for your help! 🙂

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg November 7, 2014

      It’s not really possible to stick to only one train line company. JR, private lines (there are lots), Tokyo Metro, and Toei Subway all need different tickets. You’re probably best off just getting a Pasmo or Suica (pre-paid card) and loading it up. Whatever is left over at the end you can get re-funded. You can also use it to buy things like drinks – which is better than struggling with coins.

      For onsens, here are some we’ve covered on the site -> https://tokyocheapo.com/?s=onsen

      If you want the countryside onsen experience, somewhere like Kinugawa Onsen in Gunma might be good. You can also use the JR Kanto Pass to get there – which is good value for long distance. If you can do it within three days, you can use the same pass to go to Kawaguchi-ko as well.

      For the Tokyo to Kyoto leg you might as well buy a regular ticket. Combining Kawaguchi-ko, Shin-Yokohama, Kinugawa Onsen and Kyoto you could probably get some good value out of a regular JR Pass. However, take out the Kinugawa Onsen and you’re ahead just buying tickets.

  18. Avatar

    Hi Greg, very helpful information on this site but still confused as to what’s the best option. Seek your help. Visiting Japan for the 1st time from mid Nov for 9 days, arriving into Nagoya. Stay in Nagoya and plan for 1 day trip to Mikimoto Island, Toba and next 1-day to Kyoto. Plan to depart Nagoya on 5th day to Tokyo by rail. Would it be advisable to buy Kintetsu Rail Pass Wide? Can you please recommend on best rail option for these destinations? Many thanks for your help 🙂

  19. Avatar

    Hi Greg, what a very informative website you write here 🙂 very helpful for someone who never been to japan before, just like me. I have a question here about the JR Pass. Im planning to visit Japan on January 2015 will start the journey from narita then directly take the shinkansen to osaka, and stay there for 2 days, and then move to Kyoto for another 3 days, and will be visit Nara and Kobe during my trip in Osaka and Kyoto. and then heading to Tokyo and finish my trip there.

    So I’m thinking purchase the ordinary 7 days JR Pass, so i can use it from narita to osaka by using shinkansen, and city trips osaka-kyoto-kobe-nara for abt 6 days, and moving to tokyo before the 7th day JR Pass expires. In tokyo i will just use bus or regular subway.

    Do you think my plan to purchase the ordinary 7 days JR Pass is the right thing to do? Since the price is not really suits for us cheap, but to think for only single trip using shininess from narita to osaka will be the same as the 7 days JR Pass cost…

    Thank you for time, highly appreciate it 🙂


    Jimmy Ray

  20. Avatar
    Laura Haslam January 4, 2015

    I’m planning a trip to Japan for New Year; I’ll be staying in Tokyo but plan to go to Kyoto for a couple of days. I’ll be staying for two weeks but I was thinking about just getting a 7 day pass from when I land, so I can use it to get from Narita Airport to Shinjuku, then to Kyoto and back and then walk or get local trains if I need to for the next 7 days. Since I’ll only be making one long-ish return trip to Kyoto, is it worth it getting a JR Pass? What do you advise? This website has been so invaluable to me since I started planning my trip!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg January 23, 2015

      Laura, really sorry I missed your comment! It seems I’m having a few issues keeping up. I hope you had a good trip.

      • Avatar
        Laura Haslam January 25, 2015

        It’s alright, don’t worry about it! Actually I haven’t been yet, I meant this year coming, 2015-2016. I know it’s a bit early but I wanna be prepared haha xD

  21. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    Thank you for sharing so much information! My friend & I are planning to take a trip around Japan (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Tokyo & Hokkaido) in the upcoming April 2015. Can I ask for your suggestion – how should we plan our transportation in terms of the cheapest cost?

    Would love to hear your input! 🙂

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg January 11, 2015

      Hi there,

      Given the distances you’re talking about, I’d say a JR Pass is probably the way to go. Alternatively, you could use a cheap Shinkansen coupon like this one -> http://www.japanican.com/en/tour/detail/VJOPENTK1/?aff=tokyocheapo (about 7,000yen cheaper than the regular 1 week JR pass) and then try your luck with a LCC airline to get you to Hokkaido. Hokkaido has a lot of flights from Tokyo and Osaka so there’s a good chance of getting something cheap. Airlines to try are Jetstar, Skymark and Peach.

  22. Avatar

    HI Greg,
    Thanks for the info above. We’re travelling in March from Osaka to Kyoto (three days there), Kyoto Hakuba (8 days there), Hakuba to Tokyo and Tokyo to Narita.
    Would it be possible to buy a Kansaipass for 4 days and a JR east pass for the rest? Does the Kansai area connect to the JR east area? or should we opt for the JR pass?


    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg January 21, 2015

      Hi there Krijn,
      That won’t work because you’ve got JR Central in between JR West and JR East. You might be better off just buying regular tickets. The shinkansen and limited express from Kyoto via Nagoya to Nagano is 10,150yen, Nagano to Tokyo is 7,680 and the Skyliner is 2,470yen to Narita Airport. That combo alone is less than the price of the JR East pass.

  23. Avatar

    Hi! Excellent post! My boyfriend and I are planning to go to Japan for 2 weeks on April, so we are staying in Tokyo for a week and the next week we’re going to Osaka, which pass should we get? It’s a bit confusing for us because we’re from Ecuador, and even reading in english is a little bit hard haha! So, what would you suggest? P.D: In Osaka, we need to get back to Tokyo to catch our flight (sorry if my writing it’s all over the place 😛 )

  24. Avatar

    Hi Greg,
    I’m still trying to decide if I need to purchase a JR Pass or not, I plan on traveling alone and staying in Tokyo for 3 days, then going to Kyoto and Osaka for a total of 2 days, and then back to Tokyo. I was told by a friend that it may be cheaper to just buy a roundtrip ticket on the nozomi to Osaka and then make a stop in Kyoto on the way back. Is the JR pass just for trains?

  25. Avatar
    rockurworld January 26, 2015

    Hi Greg!

    Great post.
    I’m flying to Tokyo this March and will be touring around the city for 3 days. Which pass should I get? Then go to Kyoto for 3 days and Osaka for another 3 days. Should I get the JR Pass? Thanks!!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg February 2, 2015

      HI there, You don’t need a JR Pass for looking around Tokyo. Also, if you’r not coming back to Tokyo, you’re only talking about the trip from Tokyo to Osaka on the Shinkansen. In that case, you’re best off buying your ticket for Tokyo to Osaka separately. It costs 13,260yen from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka.

  26. Avatar
    MJun Lew January 29, 2015

    isit advisable to travel from shibuya or shinjuku to Osaka & Kinosaki via JR Pass..? How much would it usually cost..? For JR Pass we could buy at any train station..?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg February 2, 2015

      Shibuya and Shinjuku aren’t Shinkansen stations, but from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka it will cost you 13,620yen. Shin-Osaka to Kinoshita return is 10,160yen. If you have a few other side trips planned, a JR Pass is probably worth it.

  27. Avatar

    Hello Greg,
    My Husband and are travelling to Japan in a few days.
    Your website has been most helpful but still tossing up as to whether to purchase a JR pass.
    Our itinerary is as follows:

    Arrive Narita airport- Tokyo for 3 days
    Tokyo- Hakuba for 4 days
    Hakuba- Kyoto for 3 days
    Kyoto – Mt Koya 2 days
    Mt Koya- Osaka 3 days
    Osaka to Osaka airport
    Any suggestions of the best rail pass would be great.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg February 2, 2015

      Hi Carey,
      For a JR Pass, you’d probably be looking at a 2 week pass for 46,000 – but you’d have to either pay your fare from Narita at the start or to KIX at the end (I’m assuming it’s KIX – there are two airports down there) so total cost would be about 48,000yen. If you paid for each leg it would cost slightly over 30,000yen (probably about 31,000 to 32,000). By not using the JR pass, you may have a little more flexibility too. For example, the direct connection from Tokyo to Hakuba by train isn’t very good – after getting to Nagano you have to catch local trains for a couple of hours. For Hakuba, going by bus would be a bit easier. The connection from Hakuba to Kyoto is pretty good though, so you could go by train for that part. It looks like the trains to kouyasan aren’t all JR either so you wouldn’t be able to use the JR pass all the way anyway.
      Hope you have a good trip!

  28. Avatar

    Carey • 11 hours ago

    Hello Greg,
    My Husband and are travelling to Japan in a few days.
    Your website has been most helpful but still tossing up as to whether to purchase a JR pass.
    Our itinerary is as follows:

    Arrive Narita airport- Tokyo for 3 days
    Tokyo- Hakuba for 4 days
    Hakuba- Kyoto for 3 days
    Kyoto – Mt Koya 2 days
    Mt Koya- Osaka 3 days
    Osaka to Osaka airport
    Any suggestions of the best rail pass would be great.
    Thank you, you advice would be great!

  29. Avatar

    Hello Greg!

    Wonderful article!

    Our family is planning to visit Japan for 8 days on April 2015. We will be arriving on Sunday afternoon via Narita and leaving on the morning of the 8th day via KIX. The plan will be as follows: Spend 4 days in Tokyo (and take a day trip to Mt. Fuji), leave for Osaka in the morning of the 5th day and take 1 to 2 day trips to Nara and/or Kyoto from Osaka for the remaining days.

    We would appreciate your suggestion for the best kind of pass for our trip. Thank you!

  30. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    loving the information you’ve provided (and this site has been a godsend) but I was hoping you could give me some further guidance. I’m traveling to Japan in April, and my likely itinerary consists of flying into Haneda and spending 5 nights in Tokyo (inc day visit to Kamakura), then 4 in Kyoto (including Arashiyama), traveling via Nara for 3 nights in Osaka and 3 in Hiroshima, including a day on Miyajima (flying out of KIX).

    I had been planning on just purchasing a JR Pass to cover the full two weeks, but I’m not sure this will be the cheapest option. I’ve noticed you’ve previously advised not to bother with the JR pass for traveling in Tokyo, or for one way travel to Kyoto (hence my consideration of an overnight bus to save on accommodation and transport).
    It would seem then that the best option would be a JR West pass, but i’m not really sure on this (and i’m also pretty keen to take a shinkasen at some point). Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg February 10, 2015

      Hi Lachle,
      The part from Osaka to Hiroshima would be on the Shinkansen – you don’t have to get your Shinkansen fix from Tokyo to Kyoto! For the first part, get the discount N’EX ticket into Tokyo (or take the Skyliner) then just buy a SUica/Pasmo for getting around. Even Kamakura is less than 2,000 return.
      From the sound of it, the JR West “Sanyo” pass might be the best for the Osaka to Hiroshima leg.
      Overall, buying tickets, catching the bus and getting the JR West Pass is probably still going to cost you about 35,000yen vs. the JR Pass which you don’t have to really think about.
      Good luck!

  31. Avatar

    Hi Greg
    can you help? Would it be worthwhile buying a 7 day JR pass for a shinkashen trip Kyoto to Hiroshima return, then a limited express train Kyoto to Kanazawa, then onto Tokyo. From Tokyo we were thinking of doing a day trip to Mt Fuji. If it is worth buying the pass – can we reserve tickets before we activate the pass in Japan? I’ve been on the Hyper Dia site and even get confused about where the station is in the big cities. We have travelled by rail in UK and Europe and by comparison they were a breeze. Thanks Mandy

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg February 10, 2015

      The pass most definitely makes sense for that itinerary! If you added those up it would probably total more than 50,000yen in tickets. I have reserved tickets before activating a pass (it wasn’t the JR pass though) so it should be fine. In terms of rail, Tokyo is like nowhere you’ve ever been. Almost all of the top 10 busiest train stations are in Tokyo. The others are in Osaka! It can take a little while to get your bearings but after a day or so you should be fine.
      For the Fuji trip, I’d recommend the bus leaving from Shinjuku station. The train is a bit slow and you’d need to catch a bus when you get there anyway.

  32. Avatar

    hi greg we are going to japan next week what is the best way to use on going to our hotel from airport…we will be staying around ginza area. and we are going to osaka from tokyo how can i purchase the nozomi train ticket since JR pass cannot b use in nozomi train…please help us it is our first time in japan,

  33. Avatar

    Hi Mate.We are staying in Tokyo for 1 week next month.Is There a weekly or daily subway pass we can use for travel around Tokyo itself?Just save us buying a ticket each time we want to jump a train

  34. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    Was scrolling through your website, thanks for putting all the info up! I am planning a trip of 7 days, flying into Tokyo and departing from Tokyo with perhaps a side trip to Nagoya. Since a one way single fare to Nagoya costs 10,000+ yen, would it be more practical to get a regular JR pass?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg February 26, 2015

      It depends if you plan to take some side trips on JR lines as well. The pass is 29,100yen, so you need to take side trips that total more than 9,100yen for it to be worthwhile. A day trip to somewhere like Nikko would cost about 8,000yen, so if you did something like that, it would definitely be worth it. With the pass, you get flexibility and great value if you travel really long distances (Hiroshima for example) but you can possibly get by marginally cheaper if you don’t plan to travel extensively.

  35. Avatar

    Hi Grieg,

    Thank you for the article. I am planning a trip for the first time to Japan. Will reach Narita Airport on 10 May 2015 > Kyoto for 5 days (Inari, Arashiyama, Nara)>Kamakura (1 day, staying in Yokohama)>Tokyo(2 days, Asakusa, Shinjuku)>leaving on 18 May.

    Used Hyperdia but feeling insecure 🙁 Would like to verify that JR Pass for 7 days is indeed worth it…

    In additional, can you advise if I can use my Suica in Kyoto area as well. Online explanations were a bit confusing for me, but I got the feeling that we can.

    Thanks for your guidance!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg March 2, 2015

      Hi there, I think I might have replied to another one of your comments somewhere. Anyway, 7 day JR pass would be the way to go. Activate it after your arrival and then get around with a pasmo/suica for your last couple of days in Tokyo. Yes, you can use your Pasmo/Suica in Kyoto. It’s called an ICOCA down there but it’s the same thing.

  36. Avatar
    Madison March 1, 2015

    Hi there,
    My brother and I are travelling to Japan for the first time. Our point of entry is in OSAKA (Namba/Shinsaibashi) will stay there for 4 days (touring around the city/Universal Studio) then will Travel to Shinjuku Tokyo for 6 days ( will just stay in the City) then will take the Haneda airport to go home. Would like to know which passes should we purchase?
    Any help is much appreciated! Thanks!

  37. Avatar

    Hi Greg

    I have asked questions on a previous thread however this one seems more appropriate. I would like to know if a 14 day JR Pass or the new Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Tourist Pass is the better/cheaper option for our following itinerary this April. Arrive Haneda, 4 days Tokyo based at Setagaya. 2 days Nagoya, 3 days Kyoto, 2 days Hiroshima, 1 day Osaka, fly out from Osaka. Thanks Megan

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg March 2, 2015

      I think I answered this on your comment on arriving at Haneda, but the regular 7 day JR pass makes the most sense – activated when you leave Tokyo for Nagoya.

  38. Avatar
    cutiepie March 5, 2015

    Thank you for sharing! Me and my family are travelling around Japan 5 persons March 23-31 (Tokyo – Disney Sea, Mt. Fuji, Hakone, Tour arond Tokyo, Osaka- bullet train , Kyoto, Nara and Kobe) Arrived in Narita airport and leave Kansai Airport. Should we get JR pass and icoca card?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg March 15, 2015

      You can probably do it cheaper with tickets instead of a JR Pass, but it depends on your threshold for messing around with booking things. For convenience (especially with a family) the JR pass can be quite good.
      Are you going straight to the Disney Resort area? If so, the easiest way to get there from the airport is actually by bus. The Hakone area is not that well served by JR either so you’ll probably end up catching non JR transport around there as well.

  39. Avatar

    hi greg,
    I m planning to stay in Osaka with my wife n 2 kids for a week in july. which rail pass would u recommend me to purchase. this is my first time in japan.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg March 15, 2015

      It all depends how much you intend to travel around. Either the JR Kansai Pass or the Kansai Thru Pass should do the trick. The Thru Pass is for private railways and subways – which is actually a bigger network than what is covered by JR. If you’re just hanging around Osaka, an Icoca card will be fine.

  40. Avatar
    Precious Kymn Kayleigh March 8, 2015

    Hi Greg,
    Greetings. I’m first timer to Japan and would like to seek some advice.

    Will JR pass be useful or worth if my trip is as planned below:

    April 5: Singapore to Kansai Airport (reaching 9:30pm – using exchange order to change JR pass)
    April 6: Osaka-Kyoto-Osaka (day trip)
    April 7: Osaka-Nara-Osaka (day trip)
    April 8: Osaka-Tokyo (morning train timing)
    April 8-11: Within Tokyo, would love to visit Mt.Fuji is time and budget permits (Using local subway card within Tokyo?)
    April 11-13: Tokyo-Osaka-Kansai Airport

    Are there any other passes or cards for consideration as well? I remembered reading somewhere that a local card is used within Kansai area.
    I will be staying at Hotel Nikko @ Tokyo. That’s another different private subway line, is that correct? Does Pasmo card covers that?

    Thank you for your attention. Looking forward to your kind advice.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg March 15, 2015

      Hi there,
      The JR pass should fulfill most of your needs. There are private lines down in Kansai that don’t accept the JR pass, but you probably don’t need a separate pass – just stick to the JR lines. No subway lines are covered by the JR pass so you’ll need to either get a Pasmo or buy tickets for that part. Subway trips are really not expensive though – from 165 yen to 240yen per trip. I’d recommend a Pasmo/Suica just for avoiding the annoyance of buying tickets and figuring out fares.

  41. Avatar

    Hi Greg,
    I am going to be in Japan for 2 weeks. We will be in Tokyo for 7 days then travel to Kyoto for 3 days the Osaka for 4 days then leave at Kansai Airport. What would be the best option?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg March 15, 2015

      Unless you plan on doing extensive day trips to far flung destinations, just buy tickets direct from the JR ticket office and get a Suica/Pasmo.

  42. Avatar

    Hi Greg!

    We will be spending 5 weeks in Tokyo from 20th March 2015 till end of April. At the moment our itinerary is :

    Tokyo 2 weeks
    Kyoto 4 days
    Osaka 3 days
    Tokyo again for 2 weeks

    Due to budget constraints we are thinking of opting out on the JR Pass (so we have more $$ for accommodation in Kyoto) . Our only long distance will be from Tokyo to Kyoto area as Osaka is reachable via normal train.

    Will we save more money on transportation with the JR Pass or just a Kansai pass?

    Thanks so much for the article!

  43. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    Would need some advice whether I should get a 7 days pass

    Below is my itinerary:

    Will be arriving via Narita Airport

    09-10 Apr: Tokyo
    11 Apr: Tokyo to Lake Kawaguchiko
    11 – 12 Apr: Lake Kawaguchiko
    13 Apr: Lake Kawaguchiko to Kyoto
    13-15 Apr: Kyoto
    16 Apr: Kyoto to Tokyo
    16 – 17 Apr: Tokyo

    Will be leaving via Narita Airport.

    Based on my calculations, it seems like it’s not worth it to get the 7-days JR Pass. If I activate the pass from 10-16 Apr plus buying N’EX return tickets (4000YEN Promotion), I will end up paying 33110 YEN.

    Would like to verify if that is correct?

    Secondly, is there any way where I can purchase all the train tickets online so as to reduce time buying at the station? I will be travelling with my 8 months old baby, and from the timings given by HyperDia, some of the train transfers only have about 7-10 mins.

    I am wondering if I can make it for the transfer with the baby and luggage and having to purchase tickets at the station.

    Appreciate your advice..

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg March 15, 2015

      I would go with the 7 day pass if I were you. If you activate your pass when you leave Tokyo, then you’ll only need to buy the ticket from Narita to the city. You don’t need to take the N’EX either. With a baby I’d recommend the limousine bus – much less stressful for getting to your hotel. There’s no way to get tickets online, but you only need additional tickets for the parts of your trip that require a reserved seat – like on the Shinkansen or limited expresses, otherwise you can just show your pass to get through the gates. If you can decide the exact times for your trip, you can get all the reserved seating tickets at the same time.

  44. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    Thank you so much for posting this informative article.

    We will be in Japan for about 16 days beginning of May.

    Arrive in Tokyo, will spend 2 nights.
    Travel to Kyoto and will be staying there for 7 nights. Hoping to do day trips to Hiroshima, Osaka, Nara, etc while in that area.
    Travel back to Tokyo for 7 nights.

    What would you recommend for this itinerary?

    Thank you!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 19, 2015

      If you can do all the ‘outside Tokyo’ stuff within 7 days, then a 7 day pass is all you need. At roughly 4,000/day the pass is absolutely not worth it for travel in Tokyo. I could take 25 subway trips for that amount of money!

  45. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    I’m going to Japan for 7 days April 11th (arriving in Narita on the 12th) and leaving on April 19th for the first time. I will be spending the first few days in Tokyo and want to spend 3 days in Kyoto and then head back to Tokyo to spend the remainder of our trip. Would you recommend getting the JR pass just for this one trip? It’s so confusing with the different options available.



    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 19, 2015

      Hi Gordon, Apologies – we get lots of comments so I missed yours. Hope you had a good trip. You could have made a 7 day pass work.

  46. Avatar

    Hi Greg! Saw your blog and this is really awesome. First time traveling to Japan and there are so many options and I’m wondering if you can help me decide if a 7 day and a combination of other passes or 14 day JR Pass is right for me since I will be there for 9 days?

    Day 1 – Narita to Tokyo – 4pm arrival
    Day 2 – Tokyo
    Day 3 – Tokyo – Hakone
    Day 4 – Tokyo
    Day 5 – Tokyo to Kyoto
    Day 6 – Kyoto
    Day 7 – Kyoto to Hiroshima
    Day 8 – Kyoto to Nara
    Day 9 – Kyoto to Narita – 6pm departure


    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 19, 2015

      Hi there, I’d get a 7 day pass but activate it on Day 5. Getting around Tokyo/Hakone is relatively cheap – not worth the extra cost of a 14 day pass.

  47. Avatar

    Hi Greg, thanks for the information. Me and my friend (2 of us) are planning for a trip to Japan in August. Can I ask for your suggestion in terms of the railway pass?

    Our itinerary is as follows:
    Day 1 – Tokyo
    Day 2 and 3 – Tokyo Disneyland
    Day 4 and 5 – Tokyo
    Day 6, 7 and 8 – Kyoto and Osaka

    We would like to hear your input. Thanks a lot.


    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 5, 2015

      Hi Jing,
      For getting around Tokyo, all you need is a Pasmo/Suica card – a rail pass isn’t worth it. If your departure is from Osaka, a JR Pass also doesn’t make sense. Buying a 1 way reserved ticket on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto is only 13,080yen – less than half the price of the JR pass. If you plan to do lots of travel around Kansai, one of the JR Kansai passes or the Kansai Thru Pass (the first is for JR lines, the second works on subways and private lines) might be a good idea.

  48. Avatar

    Hello Greg,
    We are going to Aomori in late April, arriving from Narita airport, taking Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori on the same day. We brought the JR East Passes and trying to reserved our seats online. However, the JR East did not allow us to pick up the tickets the same day of departure, which is our arrival day to Japan. Do you have any advice for us please. We appreciate your any feedback. Thank YOU.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 5, 2015

      There could possibly be a communication problem there. Although I haven’t actually used a JR East pass before, I suspect it’s because you don’t actually have your passes yet. Your travel agent has probably given you coupons which you can use to exchange for a pass once you get to Japan. Once you have the pass, you should be able to reserve seats – so it won’t be until the day that you arrive. Given the time of year (almost Golden week) you might need to be a little flexible with your travel – either taking a slow shinkansen or lining up early for the unreserved carriage. The early morning and the early evening trains are usually the most booked out as business people from the regions are going to or returning from business trips in Tokyo.

  49. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    I was wondering if you could give an advice on which pass to purchase.

    I am traveling form Tokyo to Tsuruoka on May10th, then Tsuruoka to Kyoto on May 13th, and finally from Kyoto to Tokyo on May 17th.

    I’m struggling to decide whether I should get two regional or one comprehensive JR Pass.

    Could you please help me? Thanks a mil!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 19, 2015

      You can’t use the regional passes to travel between regions. You would have to get off at a ‘border’ station, leave the station, validate your new pass and then re-enter and book a new ticket that might not even be the next train. Also, there is the JR Central region between Tokyo and Kyoto so you would need THREE regional passes.

  50. Avatar

    Hi Greg,
    Totally like this write up!! Appreciate your input on which pass i should get. My itinerary is as follows:-
    Day 1 Tokyo
    Day 2 Kyoto
    Day 3 Tokyo
    Day 4 Tokyo disneyland
    Day 5 Tokyo

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 19, 2015

      Either the JR pass or the Japanican vouchers would work fine with that. The JR pass is handy if you want the flexibility to change your mind. Also consider that transport in and around Tokyo is not expensive. The return fare from Tokyo Station to Maihama (Disney) is only 440yen!

  51. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    Very nice and informative post!

    I am going to Japan on the 2nd week of June. I will be coming from Narita Airport and was thinking of staying in Tokyo.

    My rough itineraries are as follows:
    Days 1 & 2 – Tokyo
    Day 3 – Kyoto
    Day 4 – Tokyo


    Day 1 – Tokyo
    Day 2 – Kyoto (or Osaka)
    Day 3 – Osaka (or Kyoto)
    Day 4 – Tokyo

    Which pass should I buy? Also are day trips to Kyoto and Osaka possible?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg April 19, 2015

      You can make a 7 day JR pass work with that itinerary. The vouchers through Japanican are also a viable option, but you’ll be hit for the transport from the airport and the day trips in Kansai. I would definitely not recommend a day trip to Osaka/Kyoto. It would be like someone doing a day trip from London to Paris. It’s possible, but what’s the point! I once did a 1 night stay in Kyoto and I regretted making it so short. Should have been at least 2 or 3 nights.

      • Avatar

        Thanks for the response Greg!

        We have then decided to do 2 days in Tokyo and 2 days in Kyoto. Flying in from Haneda and flying out of Osaka (since I just found out that Kyoto is just an hour away from Osaka airport rather than going back to Tokyo for Haneda).

        Is that more viable? What transport passes can you please recommend?

        Thanks again for being so helpful!

  52. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    Thank you for this very helpful article, I am hoping you could offer a bit further advice. my wife and I (and out 9 month old daughter) will be heading to Japan with the following itinerary:

    29 June – 6 July: Tokyo (and close surrounds)
    6 July: Tokyo to Nagano
    6-10 July: Nagano area
    10 July: Nagano to Kanazawa
    10-15 July: Kanazawa and surrounds
    15 July: Kanazawa to Osaka
    15-23 July: Kanazawa (day trips to Nara, Kyoto, Nagoya,Hiroshima)

    Any advice would be most appreciated!!

    Kind regards,

  53. Avatar

    Hello Greg, I have a very urgent question to make:

    I ordered a JR pass to be delivered to my home country before leaving Japan, but it took longer than estimated and it arrived long after I already left to Japan! Because of it, I tried re-sending the JR pass to the place I’m staying on within Tokyo, but again it will arrive around 3 days after I leave this place (I have to go to Shizuoka). So what I am asking is if there is another way to buy another JR pass and get it sent to my new location and asking for a refund on the previous one, or am I already busted?

    Thanks in advance!

  54. Avatar
    ashish mittal May 5, 2015

    Hi Greg
    This thread, and the comment section has been super helpful for me so far. I have a query myself. Our family is planning a 12 day trip as below. My main query here is whether to go for a 7-day or a 14-day JR Pass to get maximum value.

    Day 1 – Train from Kansai Airport to Kyoto.
    Day 2 – Kyoto sightseeing
    Day 3 – Kyoto sightseeing
    Day 4 – Arashimaya, Onwards to Osaka for day trip.
    Day 5 – Day trip to Nara
    Day 6 – Day trip to Hiroshima, and the Itsukushima Shrine. Think the ferry ride is also included in JR Pass.
    Day 7 – Departure to Tokyo
    Day 8 – Day trip to Hakone/Mt Fuji
    Day 9 – Day trip from Tokyo to either Nikko or Kamakura. This is tentative, as we may find anything more to do in Tokyo. Might do Studio Ghibli museum.
    Day 10 – Tokyo Sighseeing
    Day 11 – Tokyo Sighseeing
    Day 12 – Tokyo Sighseeing
    Day 13 – Morning flight back home from Narita.

    I think we can manage on the 7 day pass, if we keep the itinerary strictly as above. But that leaves out the airport express at both ends. And leaves out flexibility, as I havent planned the Tokyo leg thoroughly yet. Do you feel I should go for the 14 day pass here.

    Would also like to ask here, what remains the best card/pass to move around locally in Kyoto. For Tokyo I have gathered its the Pasmo card

    Much Thanks

  55. Avatar

    Hi Greg 🙂
    Thank you very much for you blog, thats exactly what I’ve been searching for 🙂

    but just to confirm me and 5 of friends are traveling to Japan, and we arrive 07-07-2016 and leave early morning 24-7-2016

    we are staying mainly in tokyo most of the time always on the move, though we have a trip to kyoto on the 16th to the 17th where I have considered to buy bus tickets from Willer Express back and forth.

    also on the 19th we want to travel to Hakone where I considered buying a Hakone free pass

    and lastly on the 20th visit some beach close to tokyo where we buy a Seishun 18 Kippu ticket and split it, dont know what to do with the last guy 😛

    would you say that its the cheapest way to travel around??

    Thank you for your response in advance 🙂

  56. Avatar

    Hi Greg, Thanks for this great article!! What is your recommendation for my planned trip? I don’t think I’ll be travelling THAT much so I’m not sure if JR pass is required.

    ~*2 Weeks—Tokyo and Kyoto*~

    *Tokyo*– Would like to visit Central and Western Tokyo.
    Side trips to Nikko and Fuji Five Lakes. Possibly Kusatsu Onsen.

    *Kyoto* — Eastern Kyoto, Arashiyama, Higashiyama, and Northern Kyoto.
    Side trip to Nara, Mount Koya, and possibly Himeji castle.

    Should note I’ll be traveling in the summer when the Seishun 18 Kippu pass is valid, which I heard is 11,850 yen for 5 non-consecutive days.

    Do you recommend a certain pass for my case?
    I think for the travel within Tokyo city you can’t use JR pass right–would have to use IC card? In Kyoto I heard you mostly walk/bike

    Arigato gozaimasu Greg-san!!!

  57. Avatar
    Marisse August 18, 2015

    Hi Greg,
    Can I get advise whether I am on the right track with just getting a 7-day JR pass with the ff itinerary:
    8 days in Michado district – no JR pass, plans to go around Tokyo e.g., Shinjuku, Harajuku Yokohama,
    7 days in Osaka – plan to activate JR pass to a day before, 7 day pass with plans to go to Kyoto, Hiroshima, etc.
    4 days in Taito district – no JR pass, focused on surrounds e.g., Asakusa, Akihabara, Skytree, Sensoji

    Just not sure if 7 day pass is the best option for the Osaka one,or I should just go for 14 days? There are four in our family so trying to find the best out of this. Thanks very much, looking forward to your feedback!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg August 19, 2015

      I’m not sure where the ‘Michado’ area is, but from what you’re saying a 7 day pass for the portion of your trip to Kyoto and Hiroshima should be fine. The pass isn’t really very good value for day to day travel around Tokyo.

      • Avatar
        Marisse August 19, 2015

        Ooops, apologies — I meant Machida 🙂

        Final question – the previous link you sent out to someone — http://www.japanican.com/en/tour/detail/VJOPENTO1/
        — I can use that too for our 7 day stay in Osaka?

        Thanks very much.

        • Avatar
          CheapoGreg August 19, 2015

          You can definitely use that – it’s a good deal for the ticket portion only. Of course if you travel extensively in Kansai or you extend your journey to Hiroshima then the JR Pass is much better value.

          • Avatar
            Marisse August 19, 2015

            Hi Greg — thanks so much.. Excuse my ignorance (first timer), but the offer saying “Open Package” means from the activated date — we can use the tickets to go anywhere from Osaka to anywhere (other than Tokyo because that’s the return) for the next 7 days ?

          • Avatar
            CheapoGreg August 19, 2015

            Not quite. It means you can activate the ticket any time you like (you have to give them a tentative date though). The ticket is only for travel from Tokyo to Osaka and back again. The tickets are unreserved as well. Most trains going to Osaka have a few unreserved carriages which are first-in first-served – so you need to queue up in advance on the platform. You shouldn’t have any problems though – unless you’re travelling during the absolute peak hours (probably 7am to 9am) or on/before a national holiday. If you decide to do it, use the link below. It’s an affiliate link – the cost to you is exactly the same, but Tokyo Cheapo gets a small reward for referring you.

  58. Avatar
    ridwan naim August 22, 2015

    Ill ne travelling in February 2016,
    Rough itinerary:

    2 days in tokyo
    1 day mt fuji (kawaguchiko)
    2 days nikko – okunikko
    1 day disneyland
    and round trip narita – shinjuku
    Do I need any pass? Because I wanna have an experience boarding shinkansen going to nikko (by utsunomiya)

    Thank you

  59. Avatar
    Christina September 6, 2015

    Hi Greg,

    We will be going to Japan this coming November for 14 days and our point of arrival is KIX (Osaka) and point of departure is Haneda (Tokyo).

    We will be covering few cities as below :

    Our planned itinerary are as follows :

    12 Nov – Home country to KIX
    13 Nov – Osaka
    14 Nov – Osaka/Hiroshima/Himeji
    15 Nov – Osaka/Kobe/Miyajima
    16 Nov – Osaka/Kyoto
    17 Nov – Kyoto
    18 Nov – Kyoto/Nara
    19 Nov – Kyoto
    20 Nov – Kyoto/Tokyo
    21 Nov – Tokyo
    22 Nov – Tokyo/Hakone
    23 Nov – Tokyo/Nikko
    24 Nov – Tokyo
    25 Nov – Haneda back home country

    Really appreciate your suggestions on which transportation plan in terms of the cheapest mode.

    Many thanks in advance.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg September 11, 2015

      The return trip to Hiroshima and Himeji completely makes a JR pass worthwhile. If it was just Osaka to Tokyo I couldn’t recommend a pass, but if you throw in Hiroshima return, it definitely flips it in favour of the JR pass.

  60. Avatar
    Rex & Briana Solway September 9, 2015

    Hi Greg,

    My future husband and I are planning our month long honeymoon to Japan this October. We will be staying in Nagano for a few nights, then Tokyo, then we will be going to the Yamanashi area, then to Hakone, then to Kamakura, to Kyoto, to Osaka, back to Tokyo for the duration of our trip (sorry, that was probably an ear full!)- we’re stumped on what JR pass we should get, if any.

    Any suggestions would be so helpful!

    We’d love to hear your input, thanks!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg September 11, 2015

      If you can compact all the long distance stuff into 7 days then you can’t beat the 7 day JR pass. The key is to not waste the pass on travel around Tokyo. Travel in Tokyo shouldn’t set you back more than a couple of thousand yen per day, so activating your JR pass for travel around Tokyo doesn’t make sense.

  61. Avatar

    Hello Greg, Oh my god! I’m so confused! I’m just going to Tokyo and I think I’ll stay there since I’m going for 7 days. What should I buy? I need to move from Narita airport to Tokyo and the other way around plus moving inside Tokyo. Can you help me?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg September 11, 2015

      Zuka, you don’t need a pass. Just buy a Pasmo/Suica and load it up with a few thousand yen of credit. As long as you don’t have any mobility issues, you’ll spend most of your time walking anyway.

  62. Avatar

    My wife and I are going on the 18-28th Dec. We are staying in tokyo for the first five days and our hotel is a bit out of town so we will probably need to use the metro a lot. We are then heading north to the myoko kogen on the bullet train to go skiing before coming back to tokyo to fly home on the 28th. Is it worth getting a pass for the metro and one for the bullet train?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg September 30, 2015

      Hi Paul, You might be able to get a JR East Pass to work – especially if you take another side trip. You don’t really need a pass for the metro – just grab a Pasmo/Suica and charge it with a couple of thousand yen. The advantage is that you can use it on JR, Toei and private railways as well.

  63. Avatar
    Laura Lim September 13, 2015

    Hi Greg,

    Thank you for sharing! My friends and I will be going to Japan this November for the very first time. Which rail pass would you recommend us to purchase? My itinerary is as follow:

    14th – 16th : Tokyo
    17th – 18th : Kyoto
    19th : Nara
    20th – 21st : Osaka
    22nd – 24th : Tokyo

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg September 30, 2015

      A 7 day JR pass would work. You would need to activate it just before heading to Kyoto so that you can also use it on your return to Tokyo.

  64. Avatar

    Hi Greg, I know that you have answered a lot of similar questions but if you don’t mind I’d like to add one more to the list. My wife and I are visiting Japan for the first time and will be there for 10 days. The first 3 days we will be in Tokyo, then the Kyoto area for 4-5 days and finish up in Tokyo again. What are your thoughts on being there for 10 days, but the JR Rail Pass being offered in 7 or 14 days increments?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg September 30, 2015

      Hi there, You don’t need a JR pass for travel in and around Tokyo – transport costs are minor. Just get a 7 day pass and activate it before you go to Kyoto.

  65. Avatar

    I am planning to travel at TOKYO only and only 7 days. Maybe we will planning 1 day to Mt, Fuji.
    Can you please recommend how should i buy the ticket to save more money on transportation, thank you very much.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg September 30, 2015

      You should just get a Pasmo/Suica for daily transport and pay for the Fuji trip separately.

  66. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    I was planning to get JR Rail 14-day passes for my husband, son and I. My question is, is it better to buy regional passes (JR West and JR Central), or the 14-day pass? After time in Tokyo, here is our schedule (total 14 days after Tokyo):

    – Tokyo to Nagano (2 days)
    – Nagano to Hakone (Pass through Tokyo. Romancecar between Tokyo and Hakone) (2 days.)
    – Hakone-Kyoto (Pass through Tokyo. Romancecar between Hakone and Tokyo) (3 days)
    – Kyoto-Koyasan (Pass through Osaka. Nankai Electric Railway Koya between Osaka and Koyasan.) (1 day. )
    – Koyasan-Nara (Pass through Osaka. Nankai Electric Railway Koya between Koyasan and Osaka.) (2 days)
    – Nara-Haneda Airport (Pass through Kyoto and take NOZOMI not on JR Pass and Tokyo Monorail.) (1 day)

    THANK YOU! Thoroughly confused!!


    • Avatar

      Sorry, total 11 DAYS after Tokyo)

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 12, 2015

      Hi Katina,
      Sorry, I thought I’d replied to you but apparently I didn’t. I wouldn’t recommend getting a regional pass uinless you intend to travel exclusively and extensively in that region. Using three passes to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto is completely impractical – you’d have to get off at the border station, validate your pass, get new tickets and then continue your journey.

  67. Avatar
    maete05 October 3, 2015

    Hi Greg! I’m planning to get a JR West Kansai Pass for 4 days, we’ll be travelling to Kyoto, Nara, Universal, and Himeji from Osaka. Can this pass be used for the local commuter trains in Osaka (and the other cities), or would I need to buy another pass to get around Osaka?

  68. Avatar
    Myra Batuang October 3, 2015

    Hi Greg I found this article very helpful. Thanks so much. I just want to inquire if I am eligible for a Kansai Wide Pass. I’ve checked the condition: Those holding a passport issued by a government other than Japan’s who come to Japan with a “short-term stay” residence status (15 days or less) or those from a visa exempt country on a “90-day short-term stay.”. My country Philippines is not visa exempt. I have my visa categorized under Temporary Visitor. Can I avail of the pass?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 12, 2015

      My understanding is that the basic qualification is not being a Japanese national and not being a resident – so you should be fine.

  69. Avatar
    Billy Moon October 8, 2015

    HI Greg,

    I plan on going to Japan in November 2015. I plan on staying in Osaka for 6 days. From there we will travel to kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima. After that we’ll stay in Tokyo for 6 days. I was just planning on getting the 7 day pass because I wouldnt really need the pass while in Tokyo. Would this be correct or do you ahve any other suggestions? I would really love to hear your input.

    Thanks =D

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 12, 2015

      Correct – you won’t need a JR pass for your time in Tokyo. It only makes sense for intercity travel.

  70. Avatar

    Hi Greg
    I would like your advice on which transportation and JR pass to purchase for my 9 days Japan trip in early Dec as follows:
    Day 1 & 2 – Tokyo
    Day 3 & 4 – Tokyo/Hakone
    Day 5 – Hakone to Kyoto
    Day 6 – Kyoto
    Day 7 – Kyoto to Tokyo
    Day 8 & 9 – Tokyo/Singapore
    Thanks and appreciate your reply.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 25, 2015

      A 7 day JR pass would do. You would activate it before leaving Tokyo – make sure you don’t avtivate it when you arrive or it will expire before you return from Kyoto.

  71. Avatar

    Hello. I will be in Japan in the late december. My itinerary is as follows:
    1st day – Narita airport to Shinjuku, asakusa (tokyo town)
    2nd day – kawaguchiko (mount fuji)
    3rd day – gala yuzawa
    4th day – shinjuku to narita airport
    I am wondering if it would be better for me to get either one of these:
    a) NEX/Suica package at 5500 Yen
    b) JR Kanto Area Pass at 8300 Yen
    or are there other option for me?
    thanks in advance.

  72. Avatar
    Lee Peak Ping October 27, 2015

    HI Greg,

    I am planning to travel to Hakkaido, then go to Disneyland> tokyo, > Osaka> Kyoto. Understand that i need to buy a JR pass. BUt which type of JR pass i need to purchase? from Hokkaido to Disneyland, can use the JR pass? or i need to take flight? which is cheaper?

  73. Avatar
    JOanne TOh JingQing October 30, 2015

    Hi Greg,
    I will be travelling to the following places and need your advice whether which type of pass should I get?

    14th to 19th Nov – travels from home country and arrive at Narita airport and heading to Osaka (one day trip to kyoto)

    19th to 26th Nov – tokyo (day trip to Mt fuji)

    Sorry to take up your time and hope to hear from you soon. Thank you


    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg November 17, 2015

      Hi Joanne,
      Sorry for the slow reply. I would get a 7 day pass for the first week of your trip. You don’t need a JR pass for travelling around Tokyo and bus is the best way to get to Mount Fuji..

  74. Avatar

    Hi Greg,
    I will be going to Japan next month for a week long. I will be flying in Narita airport to stay in Tokyo for 4 days then from Tokyo –> stay in Osaka for another 4 days. Within that 4 days, may take a day trip or two day trip to Kyoto. Would you suggest buying a JR pass? I wasn’t planning on buying a JR pass until I read your article. Please help! Thanks!

  75. Avatar
    chitesnoo November 3, 2015

    Hello there! My husband and I are Americans currently residing in Japan on teaching and dependent visas. We know we aren’t eligible for the JR pass (*sniff*) but we have friends coming to visit us from the states, and they are going to be buying JR passes.
    So here’s the thing.
    We want to travel together.
    Other than biting the bullet and dropping thousands of bucks on all the full price Shinkansen tickets and such or splitting up and traveling by slow train on our own… are there any rail pass options for foreign residents who want to travel with their lucky JR pass carrying friends/family?
    For reference, we live in Fukuoka.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg November 17, 2015

      Hi Emily,
      I’m afraid you might be out of luck. Almost all the passes are only available to people on a “temporary visitor” visa. Off the top of my head, the only one I know that is also open to foreign residents is the Kanto Pass. It might be worth visiting one of the JR travel shops at a major station. Sometimes they have off season deals. Package deals with accommodation can sometimes be quite good value too.

  76. Avatar

    Hi, I will travel with husband to Osaka in the middle of Nov. Will direct to Kyoto and spend 6 days there. Then, will travel to Nara for another 4 days. After that, will back to Osaka for another 3 days before fly back. Can anyone suggest what pass should we get and transportation plan in term of cost saving. We would like to try Shinkansen bullet train as well. Thank you very much.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg November 17, 2015

      Either a Kansai Area Pass for JR lines or a Kansai Thru Pass is sufficient for travel around Kansai. It’s a little confusing though – you can get most places with either JR or private railways. The Kansai Area Pass is JR while the Thru Pass is for private railways.
      If you must catch the Shinkansen, I’d recommend a short trip to somewhere like Himeji. From Shin-osaka, it costs about 3,220yen one way. You could use your Kansai Area Pass for the return journey. You should accept that you’ll have to pay for some other tickets – get an ICOCA for that as neither pass will cover everything.

  77. Avatar
    Ng Chiew Pang November 4, 2015


    i’m really confused with all the different passes and I’m hoping if you can advise me.
    I’ll be arriving a Haneda airport on the 13/12 for a 7 day trip and departing on the 19/12.
    I’m interested in going Hakone for 2d1n , day trip in yokohama, Mt fuji and gala yuzawa(if possible).
    Do you recommend me to get any pass?

    • Avatar
      Ng Chiew Pang November 4, 2015

      do you recommend me to stay in Tokyo (shinjuku area) for the rest of the trip and make half/full day trips to mt fuji, gala yuzawa and yokohama?

      • Avatar
        CheapoGreg November 17, 2015

        Hi there, That’s tough to do with a pass. The best way to get to and around Hakone is on Odakyu (private wailway – not JR) and the best way to see Mt. Fuji area is by bus. For Gala Yuzawa, day trips are possible but you’ll have to leave really, really early! Here’s a day trip package that Japanican is offering -> http://www.japanican.com/en/tour/detail/SKI1G003A_/?aff=tokyocheapo

  78. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    As a first time traveller to Japan, I am very much confused on which pass to buy.Can you see whether you have some suggestion on this ? Below is our itenary .

    I am bit confused abt the type of passes I have to buy. Let me put my itenary here,can someone suggest me the best pass(es) which suit me well?

    Day 1.Landing in Narita by 6.30 PM ; 2. Travel to Asakusa ; Stay at Asaskusa

    Day 2.Asakusa to Hakuba (Asakusa-Tokyo-Matsumoto (all by train);then from Matsumoto to Hakuba by express bus).Stay at hakuba

    Day 3.Hakuba to Omachi – Alpene route (Ogizawa-murodo-ogizawa)Stay at hakuba

    Day 4.Hakuba to Takayama (If time permits,go for shirakawago trip);Stay at Takayama

    Day 5.Shinhotaka Ropeway – Takayama to Kyoto – Stay at kyoto

    Day 6,7 – Kyoto sightseeing

    Day 8 – Kyoto sightseeing;Then travel to Tokyo – Stay at Tokyo

    Day 9 – Mt.Fuji tour (Mt.Hakone) – Stay at Tokyo

    Day 10 – Tokyo sightseeing – Imperial palace,Ueno park,Skytree – Stay at Tokyo

    Day 11- Early morning – Tokyo to Narita

    Also, is there any baggage size limit that we can carry in buses/trains ?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 2, 2015

      You could probably utilise a 7 day JR pass for this itinerary. However, you would have to be careful when you activate it. It would probably be best to activate it on Day 2 so that you can use it to get back to Tokyo on Day 8. If you have a Mt. Fuji tour, it probably doesn’t include JR so it will be a separate expense anyway. Tokyo and Mt. Fuji are actually quite poorly connected by JR – most people take a bus anyway. I guess there is some baggage limit, but a few suitcases will definitely be OK on buses and long distance trains. On local trains you might have to squeeze in. I would strongly advise to not catch the regular trains during morning or evening rush hour with lots of luggage.

  79. Avatar

    Hi Greg’
    Appreciate all the info. I am staying in Tokyo 4 nights then Kyoto 6 nights doing day trips is it worth getting a JR pass?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 2, 2015

      Hi Maree,
      It kind of depends how much travel you’re planning from Kyoto, but if you fly into Tokyo and then out of KIX then you don’t really need the pass. The one way fare for a ticket to Kyoto on the Shinkansen is 13,000yen – and you get to go on the faster trains than with the pass. If you’re leaving from Tokyo, then it makes more sense to get the JR pass.

  80. Avatar

    Hi Greg

    I need your advise.

    We are travelling to Japan in December (3 adults 4 children 12, 7, 5 and 1).

    Our Itinerary are as follows:

    Osaka (3 days) – Hakuba (3 days) – Tokyo (4 days)

    It would probably involve little sight seeing.

    Should we purchase the JR pass?


    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 2, 2015

      The Osaka -> Hakuba -> Tokyo part with regular tickets will cost you about 22,000yen each for the adults. Kids, up to and including the age of 12 are half price. If they don’t need a seat (perhaps you want to carry the 1 year old) then you don’t need a ticket. So the total cost for all of you would be 99,000 vs. 130,000yen and a bit for the JR passes. However, if your departure from Osaka and your trip to Narita(?) airport fall within a 7 day period, then you can also use the passes for getting to the airport – an expense of about 15,000yen. So with a few side trips in Tokyo you could probably justify it, but you don’t need it. Also, with kids I’d recommend the bus from your hotel to Narita. Sometimes the lowered stress levels are worth paying a little more for.

  81. Avatar
    Jamie Woon November 22, 2015

    Good day, Greg! Thanks for sharing so much information! Indeed useful for newbies like me who is planning a 6-day trip for a family of four! My family (with husband and 2 elementary school going children) will be arriving in Narita on 11 Dec. We need to make our way to Hotel Gracery in Shinjuku.. We would like to visit the Tokyo Tower, Disneyland, Asakusa, Tsujiki fish market and Up Garage.. Is it advisible for us to buy the JR pass?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 2, 2015

      Hi Jamie, If you’re staying in and around Tokyo I would definitely recommend you DON’T get a JR pass. Daily sightseeing travel around Tokyo should cost between 1,000 and 2,000yen per day and half that for the kids. Use the ticket vending machines to get either a Suica card or a Pasmo card and load some credit on it (they’re exactly the same – just provided by different companies).

  82. Avatar

    Hi Greg, Im planing for a 8days trips to Japan Dec 10th which make it 4days in tokyo – mt fuji ,yokohama and shinjuku areas than will go to osaka (stay in osaka ) but plan to kyoto a day trip thn nara a day trip and universal studios before departing home thru KIX (osaka). What type of pass do you recommend for my family of 4 which included a child (11yrs). Thx

  83. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    I will be traveling to Tokyo in April 2016.
    But i’m just going to travel within Tokyo and visit Mount Fuji.
    As I understand from your article that if traveling within Tokyo, there’s no need for JR Pass.
    If we’re only on Tokyo we will use a lot of Tokyo Metro.
    Is there any passes for Tokyo Metro Subway?
    We’ll be there for 10days.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 2, 2015

      Hi Melissa,
      Yes, that’s correct. You don’t need a pass for just Tokyo. For Mt. Fuji, access by bus is best.
      There are passes for Tokyo, but they tend to be for either the subway or JR, so if you need to cross from one mode to the other, you can’t use it. To get value out of a pass in Tokyo you really need to go crazy with your sightseeing. Even with intensive sightseeing you would struggle to take more than 4 trips in a day – so I would recommend just getting a Pasmo or a Suica card and loading a few thousand yen.

  84. Avatar

    Hi Gred,
    Thanks for such an extensive explanation on those different passes! They were quite confusing before. Anyways, I am thinking of going from Tokyo to Takayama (going back to Tokyo 3 days later). I understand that I need to do train transfer at Nagoya. I have been looking for the best pass to suit this travel but none seems to do the job (or maybe I overlooked something). Do you have any suggestion?
    Thank you.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 2, 2015

      Hi Farah,
      If you’re looking for a pass, the 7 day JR pass is your only realistic option. Regular tickets from Tokyo to Takayama would cost 27,860yen – only 2,000yen cheaper than the pass. So if you use the Narita Express to get into Tokyo and take another trip or two (down to Kamakura for instance) then you can definitely make the pass pay. If you’re thinking about combining regional passes, don’t! That’s not how they work.

  85. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    Thank you for the awesome guide but I’m still a bit confused >_ Kyoto (3days) -> Osaka Namba (5 days) -> Nara (1day trip) -> Osaka -> Osaka Kansai airport and it came to a total of 16,510Y (not sure if accurate). However, in one of the routes it says to catch the JR rapid service line and I was wondering do I need to purchase a JR pass to go onto that service? Also, overall would you recommend to buy a 7 day JR pass (activate as I leave Tokyo to Kyoto) or should I just use the IC card? Thank-you !

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 10, 2015

      That cost sounds about right – and you don’t need a JR pass. Also, you should be aware that you can’t use an IC card for any travel with reserved seating – such as the Shinkansen – you have to buy separate tickets for that. You can either buy them at a ticket vending machine or a ticket office at any big JR station.

  86. Avatar

    Hi Greg,
    Me and my hubby will be going there to spend New Year. My question is, can I use my 7 Day JR Pass going to Gala Yuzawa by Joetsu Shinkansen, it is includes on the JR lines.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 10, 2015

      Hi Mary,
      Yes, it is. You can catch the Nagano Shinkansen straight from Tokyo Station to Gala Yuzawa.

  87. Avatar
    Jack Collins December 10, 2015

    hey greg,

    I’m planning on going from tokyo to fukuoka, then getting on the ferry and continuing on to seoul in south korea. Maybe stopping in osaka on the way to fukuoka. Is a pass worth it? or is it cheaper to buy train/bus tickets as I go?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 15, 2015

      Hi Jack,
      Bus tickets will totally be cheaper – they are by far the cheapest way of getting around – unless you are thinking of walking or hitching. Shinkansen tickets from Tokyo to Shin Osaka and then Shin Osaka to Hakata (Fukuoka) cost about 28,000 if you buy them over the counter – marginally cheaper than the rail pass. However, if you want a bit more flexibility or if you travel a little in Kansai, you can absolutely make it pay.

  88. Avatar
    kanirasta December 13, 2015

    Hi, we’re 4 couples travelling to Japan. We want to order 4 passes, but we’re not sure we would be able to use them independently. (Each couple will be traveling to different areas at different times). Do you know if the passes would come sepparately and not all in the same card? Thanks for the info!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 15, 2015

      I’ll have to check on that one for you. To the best of my knowledge you’ll receive a coupon which you exchange for the actual passes. So you’ll need some way to give each person their pass at the beginning of your trip. Are you all arriving together? JR will need to check each of your passports at the time when you exchange the coupon for the passes.

      • Avatar
        kanirasta December 15, 2015

        No. That’s the thing, we all arrive at different times (some days difference). We wanted to get them all together to save shipping costs. But we need to activate them separately. If you learn anything about it let me know. Thanks a lot!

        • Avatar
          CheapoGreg December 16, 2015

          I emailed our contact at the company we work with on rail passes and they had this to say -> “The passes are valid for three months once we’ve issued them. So as long as all of their travel is within the three month it won’t be a problem. Then they can each exchange the passes and choose the activation date they would like, this the only time that the traveller will need to show their passports. Just ask him / her to double check the first and last names as they appear in everyone’s passport, as the JR Pass and Passport must match. ”
          So it would seem that as long as you’re all travelling within a 3 month window, you should all be able to exchange and activate your passes separately.

          • Avatar
            kanirasta December 16, 2015

            Thanks a lot Greg, for taking the time to help us sort it out. Much appreciated!

  89. Avatar
    Naida Ftp December 16, 2015

    Hi, Im planning to travel to Japan nx yr. Is it Worth to buy JR Pass? From Narita-Osaka-Kyoto-Takayama/Gifu-Yokohama-Tokyo.

    Thank you.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 16, 2015

      If you’re planning all of that within a week, then the JR Pass is ideal for that itinerary.

  90. Avatar

    Hi Greg
    My wife and I are coming to Japan in February for three weeks. We are spending the first week in Tokyo and then we will be heading out to Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto etc. If we buy JR Passes, can we also use them when we are using the subways in Tokyo?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 16, 2015

      Hi David,
      No, you can’t use the JR Pass on any Tokyo subway lines nor can you use it on the numerous private lines. Given that the 1 week JR Pass costs you more than 4,000yen/day and most subway trips cost less than 200yen, it doesn’t make any sense to activate your pass while staying in Tokyo. For inter-city travel however, it’s unbeatable.

  91. Avatar
    Justin Clifford Chong Ang December 21, 2015

    Hello! My family is planning a 7-day trip around theses areas: Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Tokyo. The Kansai Area Pass is only up to 4-days max, so I’m wondering if I can buy a 4 day pass and then a 2 day pass?

    Our residence will be in the Osaka Area, so I was thinking maybe on the last 2 days, we’d go shopping. If I do choose to go shopping on the last 2 days, do you think it would be smart to still buy a 2 day pass?

    • Adriana Mazza
      Adriana Mazza December 21, 2015

      Hi Justin,

      If your plan is to shop in only the Osaka area, then I don’t think it’s worthwhile to get an extra 2-day pass – seeing as the price is 4,500 yen, you’ll have to use the pass more than 20 times (at approx. 200 yen a ride) in 2 days. If you don’t think you’ll do that much traveling you should just get a rechargeable Suica/Pasmo card for inner-city travel.

      One thing to keep in mind about passes is that you must use them within a set period. Make sure the starting date is on the most appropriate day for you when you make your purchase as “[t]he starting date of the rail pass and the duration cannot be changed after purchasing”.

  92. Avatar

    hi i am planning a trip to japan in march 2016 with focus area narita/tokyo gotemba outlet/ mt fuji lake kawaguchi. which pass will be the best one to get

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg January 5, 2016

      Hi Mahinder, I don’t think your itinerary suits a regular JR pass. However, you might get some value from a JR Tokyo Wide pass, although it’s actually easier to get to places like Gotemba outlet mall and Mt. Fuji by bus. Another option might be the Fuji Hakone Free Pass which includes lots of other things (onsen discounts etc.)

  93. Avatar
    Soléda Graham January 1, 2016

    Hi Greg,
    My friends and I are travelling to Japan and are staying in Tokyo for a week, Osaka for a week and then heading to Sapporo and back to Tokyo. We will do day trips to the Iya Valley, Kyoto and Nara. The whole trip will be about 21 days, but we can’t decide whether it would be more cost effective to just buy a 14 day pass and use non-JR transport for the first few days and last few days in Tokyo. Would love yo hear your opinion on this.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg January 5, 2016

      Hi Soléda, You definitely don’t need a JR pass for pootling around in Tokyo. If you go crazy on the trains in 1 day in Tokyo it’s still difficult to spend more than 1,000yen. Also, about 90% of the rail lines in Tokyo don’t accept the JR pass – they’re either private lines or subway lines.

  94. Avatar
    Melissa Chin January 4, 2016

    Hi Greg,
    I love how you’re so detailed with things as it gets so confusing for travellers! Just wanted to run through itinerary iwth you and see what you think. We are going to be in Japan for 16 days. So was thinking of
    taking limousine bus. skyliner/sky express to Tokyo when we arrive (staying in tokyo for 4 days)
    getting a hakone free pass for the next 2-3 days in Hakone.
    Activating 7 day JR pass for next 7 days to get to Kyoto-Osaka-Kanazawa-Tokyo
    Then few more days in Tokyo before just taking skyliner/limo bus back to Narita airport.

    THat would be cheaper than just taking a 14 day JR Pass isn’t it?

    Thanks so much!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg January 5, 2016

      Hi Melissa,
      Looks good to me. Also, the Hakone Free Pass is not included in the JR pass so you would have to buy that separately anyway. IMHO the Limousine Bus is a better (and slightly more expensive) way to get to Narita than the JR Narita Express. At the end of a long trip it’s nice to just throw your bags on the bus and relax. Also, Japanese road traffic almost always flows smoothly so road delays are really rare.

  95. Avatar
    Myat Thuzar January 4, 2016

    Hi Greg,

    Great website! Glad I stumbled upon this. I am planning to go to a couple of cities in Japan coming April. Flying in and out from Narita. So far the plan is Narita – Osaka – Hemeiji – Nara – Kyoto – Tokyo – Narita. I am thinking of getting the JR rail pass for the first 7 days since I’ve booked my hotel in Tokyo in April 7th. Osaka, Hemeiji and Nara will just be day trips while I will be spending 3 to 4 days each in Kyoto and Tokyo. What is the best way to get around locally in each city?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg January 5, 2016

      Try to use the pass when you leave Tokyo only – don’t use it as soon as you arrive. You can use it to get to Himeji on the Shinkansen – normally that trip alone would cost 8,000yen from Shinosaka. Of course you can use local trains for less, but you might as well use the pass if you’re also using it for the Tokyo -> Kyoto -> Tokyo part of your trip.

  96. Avatar
    Michael Nakajima January 7, 2016

    Good day. Traveling to Japan in March 2016. Osaka in to Kyoto. One day in Osaka and the rest of the time (7days) in Kyoto area and a little north but still in Kyoto Pref. What is the best for getting around as well as back and forth from Airport to Kyoto. Thanks Much

  97. Avatar
    shieleen January 8, 2016

    Travelling next month (Feb 2016) to Osaka, Kyoto (side trip to kobe/nara) and Tokyo + Hanoke and maybe hokkaido for snow crab, which pass to get?

  98. Avatar

    travelling Hiroshima to Ngagano around March 14th then to Tokyo on 20th which rail pass do you recommend

  99. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    I’m considering to stay in Japan for 11-12 days. I’m wanting to visit Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka (maybe Nara), but not sure of the best ways to save. I’ll be visiting Tokyo Disneyland also. (to go around in a reasonable time as well) Most probably I’ll be residing near Shinagawa. I appreciate your help, it would mean a lot.

  100. Avatar

    Hi Greg,
    Thank God I found this site. It is probably the only place where someone would answer everybody’s questions so ever patiently. Hope you still have time to answer mine.

    My plan for March 2016 is stay in Tokyo (3 days), Disneyland (1 day), Mt Fuji (1 day), then probably go out of Tokyo to Kyoto for 2 nights, then back to Tokyo for our flight back. Questions :

    1. For my 2 or 3 days in Tokyo, I saw a 3 day Metro Pass advertised on Tokyo Metro + 2 way limousine bus to Haneda airport costing 3500 yen only per person. Does it sound good for 3 days around Tokyo (Asakusa, Shinjunku, Akibahara, Harajuku, Ginza etc) plus the airport transfer ?

    2. With the metro pass, it says you can only use it on Tokyo Metro or Toei lines.so what if you need to get onto JR lines in Tokyo ? You have to buy separate ticket ?

    3. For Disneyland – maybe we just pay for the trip ? I am not sure how much.

    4. For Mt Fuji, our plan is to take the Hakone Free Pass which is 5800 yen per person but you mentioned it is better to take a bus ? Is the bus part of Hakone Pass ? Where should we go for the best view of Mount Fuji ? And we would like to take the cruise on lake Ashi and the cable car as well. This is all included free with the Pass right ?

    5. We like to include a return trip to Kyoto in our trip so maybe it is worth to buy a JR 7 day as our trip include a return shinkansen to Kyoto, do we still need to spend extra to buy the daily tickets on subway within Tokyo ? Or is it better to just buy a separate shinkanses return ticket to Kyoto ?

  101. Avatar

    Hey Greg!

    Thank you so much for your post. I would like to ask if the JR Pass is useful for us if we want to travel from Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka? It will be a 9 days trip so we are wondering if it will be worth it for us to get a Pass.

    Also, are there any overnight trains from Tokyo to Kyoto so perhaps we can save on one night accommodation. What will the duration be? Does the Pass includes overnight trains?

    Thanks in advance for your advise! 😀

  102. Avatar

    Hi Greg, thank you so much for your detailed information. I wonder if you could please advise because I’m still not sure if the JR East Pass includes travel around Tokyo itself? Or, if it does include Tokyo, is it fully included, or just a discount, i.e. on local trains/buses?

    Our itinerary is roughly 11 days = 4 days Tokyo –> 3 days Akita –> 4 days Kyoto/Osaka. I was initially going for the JR Pass but the 7 consecutive day usage was problematic as we don’t need transport once in Akita, so I was thinking of the JR East Pass + JR West Pass (either 2 or 3 days) for more flexibility. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg January 26, 2016

      Tokyo is included in the JR East Pass area, but only a subset of travel options in Tokyo is covered by JR. There are two municipal subway systems, the city buses and atleast 5 or 6 private rail companies that aren’t covered by the pass.
      Also, you can’t travel from Tokyo to Kyoto/Osaka using a JR East Pass and a JR West pass – JR Central is in between! If you can manage it, I would get a regular JR Pass, activate it on leaving Tokyo and then complete the Tokyo -> Akita -> Kyoto -> Tokyo travel within 7 days. Travel costs within Tokyo are minor – intercity travel on the Shinkansen is a major cost.

  103. Avatar

    hi greg!
    i almost got it figured out (thanks to you!) but i’m still pondering if it’s worth it. i am traveling to tokyo only..we are planning some day trips around the area(nikko, yokohama, kanagoe and maybe nagano which is the furthest location)..should we get the jr pass or settle on buying seperate tickets?and if so, which one?because that is the biggest headache!

  104. Avatar
    Ferdinand Bart Alst February 7, 2016

    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for all the info, I have just one question remaining:
    We’ll do a roundtrip tokyo, nagano, kyoto, koyosan, osaka, fuji, tokyo.
    I understand that buying a JR pass is the cheapest way to get around.
    But I could not figure out if there is just one JR pass that covers all regions or do we need to but different passes for different regions?

  105. Avatar

    Hello Greg,
    Hi I would like to ask help from you in deciphering if it is worth getting a JR Pass with our itinerary as follows:
    Feb.13 Narita- Shinjuku-ku Tokyo
    Feb.14 Tokyo
    Feb.15 Tokyo-Osaka
    Feb.16 Osaka-Universal Studios
    Feb.17 Osaka-Kyoto
    Feb.18 Osaka-Nara
    Feb.19 Osaka-Kaiyukan
    Feb.20 Osaka-Nagoya-Chubu Airport.
    Which form of transportation do you suggest? Is it worth it to get the Amazing Osaka Pass? I hope you will enlighten me on this before we leave for Japan. Thank you very much. God bless!

  106. Avatar

    Hi Greg,

    I have read all your explanation and still get confused with the transport system.
    I will be traveling to Japan, I will be landing in Narita then heading to Tokyo and spend 3 days then heading to Mt. Fuji, after Mt. Fuji I will be heading to Osaka for 1 day and Kyoto for 1 day. Then, I will catch up my flight back to my country thru Narita Airport.

    I still have no idea of this JRPass.
    If I purchase the 7 days JRpass, does it covers all the line, JR East, JR West, Kansai, etc.?
    Please, enlighten me.

  107. Avatar

    Hi Greg, looking for a bit of help regarding the JR pass for the following travel in April/May 2016.

    Arrive Narita airport – stay in Tokyo for 2 nights.
    Travel to Kyoto for 8 nights (to explore Kyoto, Osaka, Himeji and Nara)
    Travel to Kamakura for 2 nights.
    Travel back to Tokyo for 1 week before flying out of Narita.

    Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg February 19, 2016

      The 8 nights in Kyoto in the middle means you would have to get a 2 week JR pass which is 46,000yen. Given your travel schedule, that would be pretty poor value. You also can’t use the Japanican discount ticket because it’s only valid for 7 days. Check our Shinkansen Fare Calculator for regular costs for catching the Shinkansen. https://tokyocheapo.com/shinkansen-fare-calculator/

  108. Avatar
    Jacklyn Lee February 29, 2016

    Hi Greg,

    Thank you for your details information but I still feel a bit confusing as this is my first time to Japan. I will be travelling by middle of March 2016. If my itinerary is Narita – Tokyo (1 day) – osaka (3 days) – Kyoto (2 days) – Tokyo (2 days) – Narita, is JR pass worth? Do you recommend to buy any others pass? Actually what does JR pass cover?

    Please give me some advise. Thank you very much!

  109. Avatar
    Mark Mendoza March 9, 2016

    Hi Greg!

    What you wrote is very informative. I’d like to ask if I will need to get a JR Pass for my Japan trip late this March. My itinerary will be: Tokyo (4days)=>Osaka (2days)=>day trip to Nara=>Kyoto 2days)=>Tokyo (3days).

    Thank you!

  110. Avatar
    Tiffany Chin March 11, 2016

    Hi Greg,

    Was wondering what type of itinerary or rail pass I should consider. I’ve been to Tokyo and Hakone already and want to explore outside of Tokyo. We don’t really have any itinerary set, so any recommendations for our short trip would be great! Seems like everyone wants to go to Kyoto, Osaka, etc. We don’t mind going anywhere in Japan and we don’t mind a fast paced trip.

    We arrive in Narita on 2pm on Sat and have to leave Thursday at 6pm from Narita. That really leaves us 4 full days in Japan. Is it worth buying a 7 day pass or discounted voucher?

  111. Avatar

    Hi, Thank you for sharing. I’m just wondering if JR wide pass covers train ride going to Narita Airport (i.e. NE’X) — based on their website it covers narita airport but it didnt mention which line.

    Thanks and regards,

  112. Avatar
    Matthew Paul Price March 28, 2016

    Hi Greg,

    I’m going to Tokyo in May from Narita airport to Tokyo, then I am just doing one night in Kyoto and trying to return later the next day. I will only be there for a week so is it cheaper for me to pay the one way trip from Narita to Tokyo from the airport each way, then just a typical round trip price from Kyoto to Tokyo? I heard the a JR pass is the same cost as a round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto so it’d be worth it anyway because I could use it from Narita to Tokyo as well? So would this include regular rail travel in Tokyo if I got a JR Pass? Or is it not worth it and just pay everything separate as I go since I’ll only be there for a week and only traveling to Kyoto and back? Any info would be helpful.



  113. Avatar

    Hi Greg

    I plan to visit Japan this Oct for the Japanese GP, will stay in Osaka and Nagoya (travel to Suzuka daily), plus a day trip to Hiroshima. Which pass would you recommend? Thanks.

  114. Avatar
    Veronika Dia May 1, 2016

    Hi Greg, me and my sister are visiting Japan. Our itineraries will be Fukuoka, trip to Hiroshima-Miyajima, back to Fukuoka (for seminar), than from Fukuoka to Kyoto, then Nara and Osaka. Which rail pass best suitable for us? thanks

  115. Avatar
    Ong Fen Fen May 12, 2016

    Hi Greg,

    Appreciate if you can give me some advice on the transportation – been getting mixed responses to whether or not JR Pass is necessary. Been very confused.

    This is my itinerary:

    Day 1 – touch down Haneda airport & go to Osaka straight. Overnight in Osaka

    Day 2 – day & night in Osaka

    Day 3 – depart to Kyoto. Overnight in Kyoto

    Day 4 – depart to Hankone. Overnight in Hakone

    Day 5 – depart to Tokyo. Overnights in Tokyo

    Day 9 – depart to Narita express

    If I don’t get the JR Pass, should I get other pass / I don’t need any at all?

    Many thanks!


  116. Avatar
    Lyn Hardway May 19, 2016

    Our base is Osaka. Traveling to Hiroshima and back. And Kyoto and back. 7 day pass is what I am thinking??? Can I use it to get around in Osaka…that part is confusing. Also does it need to be purchased before I arrive in Japan also confusing…Thx Lyn

    • Avatar
      Lyn Hardway May 20, 2016

      This must be difficult. My husband is already there and his Japanese co-workers can’t explain.

      • Avatar
        CheapoGreg June 5, 2016

        Japanese people won’t know about the pass since it’s not available to them. You can use the pass for getting around Osaka, but considering that it costs 4,000yen/day and daily travel within Osaka might cost you only a few hundred yen, it’s not ideal if you’re spending all the time there. To get an idea of the cost from Osaka to Hiroshima and back, take a look at Google Maps.

  117. Avatar
    Benjamin Ong June 6, 2016

    Hello Greg,

    Thanks for this awesome website with so much information shared. Unfortunately as a 1st timer some of the stuff here sounds confusing hence you’d hopefully be able to share your experiences with travelling.

    I mostly intend to stick around Tokyo metropolitan area and is staying very nearly Ikebukuro train station. If you could help me on the following:

    1) should I get a Pasmo card for city travel or a friend recommended something similar but unlimited daily travel which is only available at Haneda and Narita?
    2) outside of Tokyo, I only intend to visit Gotemba Premium Outlets to shop and have a good view of Mount Fuji. Would this be a good idea? Or is there a way to get closer to Mount Fuji from Gotemba Premium Outlets?
    3) What’s the best way you would suggest to get from Ikebukuro to Gotemba Premium Outlets? Is it possible by train? It seems that buses goes out in the morning and returns early evening which is inflexible.

    4) What’s the best way to get from Ikebukuro to Hakone Shrine?
    5) It seems from the map that Hakone Shrine is along the same ‘Romancecar’ line (www.odakyu.jp/english/romancecar/) and on the way to Gotemba Premium Outlets. Is it possible to stop at Hakone and then proceed on to Gotemba on the same day and is this advisable?
    6) On a nutshell, please advise which is the most economical way and which ticket/pass to purchase.

    Appreciate your help.

  118. Avatar
    Joshua Taang July 17, 2016

    Hello Greg,
    My friend and I are actually going to Japan coming October.
    I’m a little confused as to whether I should buy the Kansai area pass or the Kansai WIDE area pass.
    We would like to sightsee and hang around Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Kyoto.
    Would be very appreciative if you could advice me on this! 🙂

    Thanks, Josh

  119. Avatar

    Hi Greg

    I have been reading your recommendations, and it sounds like you’d be able to help me through my major confusion. I cannot figure out on my own which pass or transport system to get. My tentative itinerary:

    Haneda-Shinjuku (1 night)-Takayama (2 nights with side trip to Shirakawago)-Kyoto (4 nights)-Osaka (incl Universal Studios and Nara, total 4 nights) and if we can squeeze it, Himeji (day trip from Osaka) and Hakone (1 night) and back to Tokyo (3 nights).

    Hakone looks difficult to travel to, but if it is worth it, and economical to travel to, would be great. I have heard of JR pass and others mentioned Kansai Pass, Osaka amazing Pass combined with single tickets etc

    Can I have your expert opinion what makes sense? We want some convenience being first time in Japan and do not speak the language but would want to travel cheapo where we can.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  120. Avatar
    katherine d. September 16, 2016

    Hi Greg,

    I would love to hear your expert advise . Me and my friends will be travelling to Japan this Nov 19-27 . I just want to ask if JR Pass will be a good choice or Kansai Thru Pass.

    Our entry and exit point is NAGOYA and we plan to visit below places:

    Day 1 : Nagoya Tour
    Day 2: Nagoya – Kyoto Tour
    Day 3: Kyoto- OSaka Tour
    Day 4 : USJ
    Day 5 : Osaka to Nara
    Day 6 : Osaka- Tokyo
    Day 7: Tokyo Tour
    Day 8 : Tokyo to Nagoya

    Thank you in advance 🙂

  121. Avatar
    Vaun Vaun November 12, 2016

    Hi, This is a very good info and site. My family has purchased the JR Pass voucher and will be reaching Tokyo Haneda airport at 7am in the morning. We are planning to go straight to Hakone via Odawara station, then to Osaka after staying there for one night.

    1) Can someone suggest what line to take and change from the airport to Hakone ? Making use of the JR Pass.

    2) First time to Japan. Downloaded Hyperdia, but it does not seems to help me in searching for only JR pass line and the train schedule … Can anyone help ?

  122. Avatar
    Ameron Sanchez November 14, 2016

    Hi Greg, Need your advice on which pass to get for our upcoming Japan trip. We will be in Osaka from November 25-27 and planning to go to Kobe and Kyoto ( we will include Nara if we still have time). Then, on the 27th we will be travelling to Tokyo (via bullet train). We will be in Tokyo until December 1 ( fly out via Narita Airport). Given this, should we purchase the JR Pass or should we just get the Kansai WIDE Area pass for our Osaka trip and Suica card for Tokyo? Thanks in advance for your help.

  123. Avatar
    Marita Villegas November 28, 2016

    Hi Greg
    thanks for your comments. This is my first time in japan wanted to travel from Osaka to Tokyo in the bullet train and from Osaka to Kyoto. What rail pass do you recommend?

    Can we use the local train with this JR pass in Osaka and Tokyo? or do you need to pay this separately?



  124. Avatar
    Olga Bouryak December 18, 2016

    hi, Greg!
    I would be thankful for your advise!
    we arrive to NRT & plan to stay in Tokyo for 4 days. After that we plan to go to Kyoto & Nara for 4 days also & then we leave from NRT.

    is it ok if we buy not a JR pass, but Japanican Discount Return Ticket? will it cover trip Tokyo-Kyoto-Tokyo & a trip to Nara?
    as far as I can understand, Japanican Discount Return Ticket would let us go to NRT from Kyoto directly, only with transfer on Tokyo station for additional fee.

    that’s our first trip to Japan.
    Thanks in advance,

  125. Avatar
    Dian Chandra February 8, 2017

    Hi Greg,

    Thank you very much for this website. Great work. But I do need to ask some questions tho :). We will visit Tokyo and probably just Kyoto (total stay in Japan only about a week). So it’s better to just pay at the counter right away, without buying passes? Or is there any MTR pass just for Tokyo?
    Thanks 🙂

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