Japan Rail Passes (JR Passes) — good for unlimited travel on bullet trains (Shinkansen) and regular Japan Rail trains — are a fantastic deal. However, 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 Hokkaidō, JR Shikoku, and JR Kyūshū) 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 for your trip.

Important! Most Japan Rail Passes can only be used by travelers entering Japan on a foreign passport with a “temporary visitor” visa (aka a tourist visa).

Not eligible? The following passes are also available to long-term foreign residents of Japan (meaning you have a foreign passport but some other kind of visa, like a work visa): the JR Tokyo Wide Pass, the JR Tōhoku Area Pass, the JR Nagano & Niigata Area Pass, and — through September 30, 2022 — two new regional JR Hokkaidō passes and all of the JR Kyūshū passes. Scroll down for more details.

Another options is to get a Japan Bus Pass — these can be used by anyone with a foreign passport!

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 at the bottom end of Kyūshū right up to the northern tip of Hokkaidō. You can ride everything from the super-cool Shinkansen (that’s the bullet train) to local, rapid, and limited express JR trains; JR buses; and even a ferry.

Note: JR Pass holders cannot ride Nozomi bullet trains (on the Tokaidō Shinkansen) or Mizuho bullet trains (on the Sanyō and Kyūshū Shinkansen) — aka the fastest ones. The slightly slower 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.

How much does a JR Pass cost?

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. Choose carefully, because you won’t be able to change the the pass — either the duration or the class — after you arrive.

Validity period Standard Green (First Class) Booking link
7 days ¥29,650 ¥39,600 Reserve online
14 days ¥47,250 ¥64,120 Reserve online
21 days ¥60,450 ¥83,390 Reserve online

*Prices were accurate as of June 1, 2022.

Is there a JR Pass for children?

Yes, children aged 6–11 are eligible for a half-priced rail pass. Children must be no older than 11 on the day the pass is purchased. This is true not only for the countrywide pass but for all of the regional passes described below.

JR Pass prices for children 6–11:

Validity period Standard Green (First Class) Booking link
7 days ¥14,820 ¥19,800 Reserve online
14 days ¥23,620 ¥32,060 Reserve online
21 days ¥30,220 ¥41,690 Reserve online

*Prices were accurate as of June 1, 2022.

Children 5 and under ride for free on Japanese trains; however, they are not guaranteed a seat. Only pass holders can reserve seats, so if you want to guarantee a seat for your child/children under six, they will need their own (children’s) pass. Otherwise, they can sit in any unclaimed seats. Should there be none, the child must ride on your lap. For this reason, only one child under six per adult is allowed to ride for free on the Shinkansen. To ride for free, children should be under six on the day of travel (in case passports are checked).

Is a Green pass worth it?

Even on the oldest Shinkansen trains, standard class cars are plenty nice. So a true Cheapo would probably say there is no need to pay for an upgrade. On the other hand, that’s less than ¥1,500 per day to ride around the country in first class — maybe not a bad deal?

An upgrade gives you more space: ordinary Shinkansen cars seat three on one side of the aisle and two on the other, whereas Green cars seat two and two across the aisle. The seats and armrests are a little bigger, and each seat has its own power point for charging. There’s also more legroom, more space for reclining, and a foot rest.

For reasons not related to actual JR policy, the Green Car is usually quieter than the regular cars.

The big downside is that there are no unreserved seat Green cars, which means you must have a reserved seat for every leg of you journey. This does not cost extra, but means what you can’t just show up at the station and jump on whatever train pulls into the platform next (without first locking in a seat reservation).

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, at select locations, until the end of March 2023. (This deadline has been extended several times already and may be extended again but don’t count on it).

So there are currently three ways to buy a pass: from an authorized overseas travel agency before you depart (this can be done online); online through the dedicated JR Pass website; or from a limited number of train stations in Japan.

The first option is the cheapest — by about ¥4,000 for the 7-day all-country pass. So naturally we recommend buying your pass from an overseas agent before coming to Japan.

Pro tip: Many of the bullet trains have power outlets 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, though connection can by spotty (see note above about frequent tunnels). Read more about getting wifi in Japan.

Two different shinkansen at a train station
There are several different trains in the Shinkansen fleet | Photo by iStock.com/ColobusYeti

Do I need a JR Pass?

If you are planning two or more inter-city return trips from Tokyo to somewhere like Kyoto or Sendai, or one really long trip to Kyūshū, then the main JR Pass is worth getting.

The regular price (reserved seat during non-peak travel) for a return ticket between Tokyo and Kyoto is ¥28,340, which is almost as much as a 7-day pass. Meanwhile, the regular round-trip price on the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Hiroshima alone is ¥38,880, which is almost 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).

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. Also this Northern Explorer option that sees you going deep into the heart of Tōhoku and Hokkaidō.


JR East passes

JR Tadami Line Train run on the Bridge across Tadami River, Mishima, Fukushima in Autumn
The JR Tadami line runs through parts of Fukushima Prefecture in Tōhoku | Photo by iStock.com/DoctorEgg

If your travels are going to be concentrated in the central, eastern, and northeastern parts of Japan — i.e. Tokyo, Nagano, Niigata, Tōhoku, and Hokkaidō — 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 Tōhoku Pass; the JR East Nagano & Niigata Pass; the JR Tōhoku–South Hokkaidō Pass; and the JR East–South Hokkaidō Pass.

JR East passes at a glance:

Pass Regions covered Key destinations Eligibility Validity period Price Booking link
Tōhoku Area Pass Kantō & Tōhoku Tokyo, Karuizawa, Gala Yuzawa, Sendai, Yamagata, Akita & Aomori Foreign passport holders 5 consecutive days ¥20,000 Reserve online
Nagano & Niigata Area Pass Kantō, Nagano & Niigata Tokyo, Karuizawa, Nagano, Gala Yuzawa & Niigata Foreign passport holders 5 consecutive days ¥18,000 Reserve online
East–South Hokkaidō Pass Kantō, Tōhoku & Hokkaidō Tokyo, Karuizawa, Gala Yuzawa, Sendai, Yamagata, Akita, Aomori, Hakodate & Sappro Foreign passport holders with a temporary (tourist) visa 6 consecutive days ¥27,000 Reserve online
Tōhoku–South Hokkaidō Pass Tōhoku & Hokkaidō Sendai, Yamagata, Akita, Aomori, Hakodate & Sapporo Foreign passport holders with a temporary (tourist) visa 6 consecutive days ¥24,000 Reserve online

*Passes for children 6–11 are half-price

All JR East passes that cover travel within the Kantō region include airport transfer to/from Tokyo on the Narita Express (Narita Airport) and the Tokyo Monorail (Haneda Airport). These passes can also be used for travel to Izu and Nikkō on certain non-JR trains as well (if travel starts from a JR station). Note that trains only stop at Gala Yuzawa when the ski resort is open.

Note that only the Tōhoku Area Pass and Nagano & Niigata Area Pass include travel on local JR buses.

Where can I buy these regional Japan Rail passes?

You don’t have to buy JR East passes before arriving in Japan, but you can if you want to. 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, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Ueno, or Ikebukuro stations. You can also purchase a JR East pass through authorized travel agents in the same way as the country-wide JR Pass, or online.

Unlike the country-wide pass, the price is the same no matter where you purchase the pass.

Note:  From April 2021, you can scan your passport at certain Reserved Seat Ticket vending machines at major JR East stations to buy your pass directly. Stations include Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Ueno, Ikebukuro, Hamamatsuchō, Yokohama, and Narita Airport, among others. You will also be able to make seat reservations on these machines, saving you the extra step of going into the ticket office. As an added bonus, you can also go straight through the automatic ticket gates, instead of being restricted to the manned gate. These changes also apply to the JR Tokyo Wide Pass and the Hokuriku Arch Pass.

Do I need a JR East Pass?

JR train in spring
Cherry trees line the tracks in Miyagi Prefecture, Tōhoku | Photo by iStock.com/ntrirata

Like the country-wide JR Pass, JR East passes generally pay off if you make one round-trip from Tokyo to one of the more far-flung destinations covered by the pass. For example: the round-trip fare between Tokyo and Sendai is ¥22,820, which is more than the cost of the Tōhoku Area Pass (¥20,000). And round-trip to Aomori (Shin-Aomori Station) is ¥35,340!

Thinking of going all the way to Hokkaidō? Even just a one-way train ticket from Tokyo to Sapporo is ¥27,500, which already covers the cost of the JR East–South Hokkaidō Pass. Of course you can usually fly for less, and it’s good to keep in mind that — even on the Shinkansen — the journey from Tokyo to Hokkaidō by train takes a good half-day. There’s also a Hokkaidō-only rail pass to consider (see below). So the JR East–South Hokkaidō Pass really works best if you plan to stop off at destinations in Tōhoku along the way.

Meanwhile, the round trip fare between Tokyo and Nagano is ¥15,620, still shy of the price of the Nagano & Niigata Area Pass. So to make this one worth it you’d want to work in an additional excursion (or time it right to use the pass to get either to or from Narita Airport on the Narita Express).

Pro tip: If you have a lot of luggage, or even one huge bag, consider sending it on ahead with a luggage delivery service. New Shinkansen luggage rules from May 2020 dictate that luggage with dimensions of over 160cm but under 250cm will require special reservations (at no extra cost), and bags over 250cm won’t be allowed onboard the bullet train at all.


JR Tokyo Wide Pass (formerly the Kantō Area Pass)

train running by seaside of Izu, Shizuoka, Japan (Odoriko, E257 series)
A limited express Odoriko train running down the coast of the Izu Peninsula | Photo by iStock.com/ziggy_mars

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

JR Tokyo Wide Pass at a glance:

Pass Regions covered Key destinations Validity period Eligibility Price Booking link
Tokyo Wide Pass Kantō Nikkō, Izu, Kawaguchiko (for Mt Fuji), Karuizawa & Gala Yuzawa 3 consecutive days Foreign passport holders ¥10,180 Reserve online

*Passes for children 6–11 are half-price

The JR Tokyo Wide Pass lets you ride the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo as far as Sakudaira, via the resort town of Karuizawa (in Nagano prefecture); the Jōetsu Shinkansen as far as Gala Yuzawa, via the hot spring town of Echigo Yuzawa (in Niigata prefecture); and the Tōhoku Shinkansen as far as Nasu Shiobara (in Tochigi prefecture). Basically it’s like a mini version of the JR East Nagano & Niigata Area Pass, with a slightly smaller scope and less days to work with.

Like the other JR East Passes, the JR Tokyo Wide Pass includes travel to Nikkō and Izu as well as travel to both airports. You can also use it to travel to Kawaguchiko, in Fuji Five Lakes and the jumping off point for visits to Mt Fuji, but you have to pay a small surcharge to ride the section of track operated by Fujikyū Railways.

Note: The Tokyo Wide Pass cannot be used on JR buses or on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen (the bullet train running between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka). You also can’t ride the fastest of the Tōhoku Shinkansen trains, Hayabusa and Komachi.

Where can I buy a JR Tokyo Wide Pass?

The easiest way to get a JR Tokyo Wide Pass is by ordering it online. You can also buy it at major JR stations, including hubs on the Yamanote line (Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Ueno, and Ikebukuro), as well as Yokohama and both Narita and Haneda airports.

Note: Unlike most 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 Kantō region. For example, a regular round-trip Shinkansen ticket between Tokyo and Karuizawa costs ¥10,980.

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.


JR Central Passes

Snow at Takayama Railway Station
Takayama Station in winter | Photo by iStock.com/Jiradelta

JR Central has some interesting passes covering the central part of Honshū, between Tokyo and Kansai (but not connecting the two). These passes don’t cover much ground but do hit some major destinations and sights, including: Mt Fuji, the Kiso Valley, Matsumoto, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Kanazawa, Takayama, Shirakawago, Ise, and the Kii Peninsula.

Pass Key destinations Shinkansen Eligibility Validity period Price (purchased in Japan) Price (purchased outside of Japan) Booking link (overseas price)
Mt Fuji–Shizuoka Area Pass Atami, Numazu, Gotemba Premium Outlets & Fuji Five Lakes Foreign passport holders 3 consecutive days ¥5,080 ¥4,570 Reserve online
Alpine–Takayama–Matsumoto Area Pass Nagoya, Kiso Valley, Matsumoto, Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Takayama & Gero Onsen Foreign passport holders 5 consecutive days ¥19,600 ¥18,600 Reserve online
Ise–Kumano–Wakayama Area Nagoya, Ise, Kii Peninsula, Nara & Osaka Foreign passport holders 5 consecutive days ¥12,220 ¥11,210 Reserve online
Takayama–Hokuriku Area Nagoya, Gero Onsen, Takayama, Shirakawago, Kanazawa, Kyoto & Osaka Hokuriku Shinkansen between Toyama & Kanazawa Foreign passport holders 5 consecutive days ¥15,280 ¥14,260 Reserve online

Unlike most other regional rail passes, the JR Central Passes cover some useful local bus routes as well.

Even better: through September 4, 2022 these passes can all be used by foreign passport holders on any visa type. Passes can be purchased in Tokyo at the JR Central ticket office or branches of Tokai Tours at Tokyo and Shinagawa stations. They can also be purchased at major stations covered by the passes including Nagoya, Kyoto, and Shin-Osaka.


JR Hokkaidō passes

A JR Hokkaido train stopped at Shikaribetsu Station
A local train pulls into Shikaribetsu Station, near Otaru in Hokkaidō | Photo by iStock.com/Takashi-Nakano

The JR Hokkaidō Pass covers rail travel on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaidō. It does not cover the Hokkaidō Shinkansen, which connects Hokkaidō with Honshū. Instead, it covers travel on the network of rail lines that connect Hokkaidō’s major cities and tourist destinations, and also New Chitose Airport.

All Hokkaidō Pass at a glance:

Pass Key destinations Eligibility Validity period Price Booking link
All Hokkaidō Pass Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Sapporo, Niseko, Otaru, Ashikawa & Furano Foreign passport holders on a temporary visa 5 or 7 days ¥19,000/¥25,000 Reserve online

*Passes for children 6–11 are half-price

The cost of riding limited express trains between Hokkaidō’s cities adds up: for example, the one-way fare between Hakodate and Sapporo (a 4-hour journey) costs ¥9,440. So it is easy to see how this pass makes economic sense, even if it doesn’t include any Shinkansen lines. Note that limited express trains with reserved seating require seat reservations the same way the Shinkansen does.

Unlike the country-wide Japan Rail Pass, the All Hokkaidō Pass does not cover JR Hokkaidō buses (except for those running to sights around Sapporo). This is annoying because a number of Hokkaidō attractions do require taking a bus from the nearest train station to reach.

The All Hokkaidō Pass can be purchased in Japan as well, at the same stations where JR East Passes can be purchased. Purchased in Japan, the pass costs ¥20,000 for five days and ¥26,000 for seven days.

Regional Hokkaidō rail passes

JR Hokkaidō has two new regional rail passes: the Sapporo–Noboribetsu Area Pass and the Sapporo–Furano Area Pass. The Sapporo–Noboribetsu Area Pass covers rail travel between Sapporo, Otaru, New Chitose Airport, and Noboribetsu. The Sapporo–Furano Area Pass covers rail travel between Sapporo, Otaru, New Chitose Airport, Ashikawa, and Furano.

Both passes are good for four consecutive days and cost ¥9,000 when purchased outside Japan or ¥9,500 in Japan. Through September 2022 both passes can be purchased by foreign passport holders on any visa. Purchase at New Chitose Airport or Sapporo Station.

Note that, unlike the All Hokkaidō Pass, these regional passes are only good for unreserved seats on limited express trains.


JR West passes

The pink Hello Kitty Shinkansen
JR West passes that include travel on the Sanyō Shinnkansen are good for rides on the pink Hello Kitty train | Photo by iStock.com/CHENG FENG CHIANG

JR West covers the western half of Honshū: from Kansai to Shimonoseki (at the tip of Yamaguchi prefecture and right across the strait from Kyūshū). This includes popular destintions like Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Himeji, and Hiroshima. A few of the passes also include Shinkansen travel as far as Hakata (Fukuoka) in Kyūshū. So if you’re thinking to focus on this part of the country, JR West has A LOT of options for you. Like, ±10 options.

Unlike the country-wide JR Pass, JR West passes can be used on the fastest Nozomi and Mizuho trains on the Sanyō Shinkansen. They can also be used on JR West and JR Chugoku buses. Passes that include Miyajima cover the ride on the JR Miyajima ferry to Miyajima.

tl;dr 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).

Important! Only foreign passport holders entering on a temporary visitor visa are eligible for JR West Passes. The only exception is a limited-time only 3-day Kansai WIDE Area Excursion Pass.

Kansai Area Pass

The Kansai Area Pass covers travel on regular JR lines between the major cities of the Kansai region, which are also major tourist destinations: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Kobe. It also covers travel to/from Kansai International Airport (on the limited express Haruka train), castle town Himeji, and points around Lake Biwa; travel on the Osaka Loop line and JR West buses in Kyoto (which travel from Kyoto Station to Takao). It does not cover any Shinkansen travel.

The Kansai Area Pass — the most popular of the JR West passes — 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 the greater Tokyo area, the pass actually makes more sense for daily travel than major inter-city travel.

Included with the pass is an additional 1-day pass that is good for unlimited rides on the Kyoto subway and Kyoto area Hankyū and Keihin line trains. It must be used within the validity period of the Kansai Area Pass.

Kansai Area Pass at a glance:

Validity period Price Booking link
1 day ¥2,400 Reserve online
2 days ¥4,600 Reserve online
3 days ¥5,600 Reserve online
4 days ¥6,800 Reserve online

*Passes for children 6–11 are half-price

The pass can be bought online in advance or from the ticket office at major JR stations in the Kansai area, including Kansai Airport Station. The price is the same.

The Kansai Area Pass is an excellent deal if you game it right. The cost of a one-way reserved seat ride on the Haruka limited express train from Kansai International Airport to Osaka costs ¥2,400 — the same as the one-day Kansai Area Pass. A one-way trip from Osaka to Himeji is ¥1,520, and the pass makes you eligible for a 20% admission discount at Himeji Castle. So if you plan on doing one or both of these trips, the pass will definitely save you money.

Otherwise you might want to punch in your planned trips into a fare calculator like Jorudan or Hyperdia. For example, the one-way fare between Osaka and Kyoto is only ¥570 on JR lines (and only ¥400 on the Hankyū line). There are also other Kansai area trasport passes that aren’t JR, like the Kansai Thru Pass, to consider.

JR West passes that include Kansai

Limited Express train Kuroshio going around the bend surrounded by branches of  cherry blossom trees in bloom. Train is a 283 series Super Arrow in Wakayama, Japan
The limited express train Kuroshio connects Kansai with the Kii Peninsula | Photo by iStock.com/jean-francois

The following passes cover the same destinations/regions as the Kansai Area Pass (including travel to/from Kansai Airport) — and then some. Unlike the Kansai Area Pass though, these passes are all cheaper if bought from an overseas agent (which you can do online).

Pass Regions covered Key destinations Shinkansen Validity period Price (purchased within Japan) Price (purchased outside Japan) Booking link (overseas price)
JR West All Area Pass Hokuriku, Kansai & the rest of Honshū to the west + Fukuoka Kanazawa, Noto Peninsula, Kinosaki Onsen, Kii Peninsula, Okayama, Kurashiki, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Matsue, Izumo, Hagi & Fukuoka Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Hakata (Fukuoka); Hokuriku Shinkansen between Kanazawa & Jōetsu Myōkō 7 consecutive days ¥25,000 ¥23,000 Reserve online
Kansai WIDE Area Pass Kansai west to Okayama + Takamatsu Kinosaki Onsen, Kii Peninsula, Okayama, Kurashiki & Takamatsu Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Okayama 5 consecutive days ¥11,000 ¥10,000 Reserve Online
Kansai–Hiroshima Area Pass Kansai west to Hiroshima + Takamatsu Kinosaki Onsen, Kii Peninsula, Okayama, Kurashiki, Takamatsu, Hiroshima & Miyajima Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima 5 consecutive days ¥16,000 ¥15,000 Reserve Online
Kansai–Hokuriku Area Pass Hokuriku & Kansai west to Okayama Kanazawa, Noto Peninsula, Kinosaki Onsen, Kii Peninsula, Okayama & Kurashiki Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Okayama; Hokuriku Shinkansen between Kanazawa & Jōetsu Myōkō 7 consecutive days ¥19,000 ¥17,000 Reserve Online
Sanyō–San’in Area Pass Kansai & the rest of Honshū to the west + Fukuoka Kinosaki Onsen, Okayama, Kurashiki, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Matsue, Izumo, Hagi & Fukuoka Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Hakata (Fukuoka) 7 consecutive days ¥22,000 ¥20,000 Reserve Online
Sanyō–San’in Northern Kyūshū Pass Kansai & the rest of Honshū to the west + Fukuoka to Kumamoto in Kyūshū Kinosaki Onsen, Kii Peninsula, Okayama, Kurashiki, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Matsue, Izumo, Hagi, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Yufuin, Beppu & Kumamoto Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Hakata (Fukuoka); Kyūshū Shinkasen between Hakata and Kumamoto 7 consecutive days ¥25,000 ¥23,000 Reserve Online

*Passes for children 6–11 are half-price

Note that for whatever reason the Sanyō–San’in Area Pass does not cover JR trains on the Kii Peninsula.

**New Kansai WIDE Area Excursion Pass: This is a three-day version of the Kansai WIDE Area Pass, available to foreign residents of Japan. The regular Kansai WIDE Area Pass is not available to residents; only short-term visitors to Japan can buy it. However, JR West have made a shorter version of the pass available to residents for a limited time (end date not confirmed). It costs ¥10,000. Find out more.

JR West passes that DO NOT include Kansai

A train runs along the sea in Shimane Prefecture
Train running along the coast in Shimane Prefecture | Photo by iStock.com/MASAHIKO NARAGAKI

JR West also offers several passes that do not include transit around the Kansai area. These do cover some major destinations (like Hiroshima and Miyajima) but are mostly intended for travelers who want to do a deep dive of one or more of the less traveled areas of the country (like Shimane and Yamaguchi prefectures).

These passes don’t cover the cost of getting to these regions from major Kansai-area hubs. So bear in mind you’ll still be on the hook for a flight to a regional airport or train or bus fare. You can also consider stacking one of the passes below that includes Okayama with the Kansai Wide Area Pass (which covers travel as far west as Okayama).

Pass Regions covered Key destinations Shinkansen Validity period Price (purchased within Japan) Price (purchased outside Japan) Booking link (overseas price)
Hokuriku Area Pass Hokuriku Kanazawa, Noto Peninsula Hokuriku Shinkansen between Kanazawa & Kurobe Unazaki Onsen 4 consecutive days ¥5,600 ¥5,090 Reserve online
Okayama–Hiroshima–Yamaguchi Area Pass Okayama, Hiroshima & Yamaguchi + Takamatsu & Fukuoka Okayama, Kurashiki, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Hagi & Fukuoka Sanyō Shinkansen between Okayama & Hakata (Fukuoka) 5 consecutive days ¥16,000 ¥15,000 Reserve online
San'in–Okayama Area Pass Okayama, Tottori & Shimane Okayama, Kurashiki, Matsue, Izumo & Hagi 4 consecutive days ¥5,600 ¥4,580 Reserve online
Hiroshima–Yamaguchi Area Pass Hiroshima & Yamaguchi + Hakata (Fukuoka) Hiroshima, Miyajima, Hagi & Fukuoka Sanyō Shinkansen between Hiroshima Airport Station and Hakata (Fukuoka) 5 consecutive days ¥14,000 ¥13,000 Reserve online

*Passes for children 6–11 are half-price

Where can I buy the JR West passes?

The JR West All Area Pass can only be purchased from an overseas travel agency (this can be done online) or from the JR West Online Train Reservation portal. It cannot be purchased within Japan. The rest of the JR West Passes can be purchased from JR West ticket counters at major stations in the region (including the Shinkansen stations), as well as from an overseas agency or from the JR West portal. In all cases, purchasing the pass through an overseas agency gets you the best price.

Do I need a JR West Pass?

If you plan to travel a fair amount around western Japan — but are skipping eastern Japan — then these passes are a good deal. The price for a one-way Shinkansen journey between Shin-Osaka and Hakata (Fukuoka), for example, is ¥15,280, so a round-trip journey more than covers the cost of the Sanyō–San’in Area Pass.

JR West passes work best if you are flying into Kansai International Airport (KIX). Unfortunatly, there are often fewer flight options to Kansai compared to Narita — though it depends on your departure point. So if you can find a significantly cheaper flight to Narita, then a country-wide rail pass might work out to be a better deal.


Hokuriku Arch Pass

The Shinkansen bullet train network of high-speed railway
The Hokuriku Shinkansen travels through the countryside outside of Kanazawa | Photo by iStock.com/MasaoTaira

The JR East-West Hokuriku Arch Pass is the only JR Pass — beside the country-wide pass — that covers travel between Tokyo and Kansai. The catch? It doesn’t cover the fastest, most convenient way to get between the two: the Tokaido Shinkansen.

Instead, it covers travel on the Hokuriku Shinkansen between Tokyo and Kanazawa, via Karuizawa and Nagano; and then the limited express Thunderbird train that connects Kanazawa and Osaka, via Kyoto. It also covers travel to/from Narita Airport and Kansai International Airport; JR trains within Tokyo (within the 23 wards); JR trains in Kansai between the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe; and JR trains on the Noto Peninsula.

The pass is good for 7 consecutive days and can only be used by travelers with a foreign passport entering on a temporary visa. It costs ¥24,500 when purchased outside Japan or ¥25,500 when purchased in Japan.

Read more about the Hokuriku Arch Pass.


Setouchi Area Pass

A bright orange tram in Matsuyama, Shikoku
Matsuyama, Shikoku is one of several cities in Japan serviced by trams | Photo by iStock.com/HIROSHI_H

The JR West-Shikoku Setouchi Area Pass covers travel between the major cities of Kansai and the parts of western Honshū and Shikoku along the Seto Inland Sea coast, including Shinkansen travel between Shin-Osaka and Hakata (Fukuoka), via Himeji and Hiroshima. While other JR West Passes allow you to dip down to Takamatsu, this one covers travel to Takamatsu and Matsuyama — both in Shikoku.

It is an interesting pass as it also covers travel on select ferries in the Inland Sea — the only pass to do so. You can travel by ferry from Okayama to Takamatsu, via the island of Shodōshima, and from Matsuyama to Hiroshima. The pass also covers travel on the JR Miyajima Ferry to Miyajima and select local buses in Okayama and Hiroshima (including travel to the ferry ports).

Setouchi Area Pass at a glance:

Pass Key destinations Shinkansen Ferries Eligibility Validity period Price Booking link
Setouchi Area Pass Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara & Kobe), Himeji, Okayama, Kurashiki, Shodōshima, Takamatsu, Matsuyama, Hiroshima, Miyajima & Fukuoka Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Hakata (Fukuoka) Okayama–Shodōshima; Shodōshima–Takamatsu; Hiroshima–Matsuyama Foreign passport holders on a temporary visa 7 consecutive days ¥19,000 Reserve online

*Passes for children 6–11 are half-price

Note that the pass does not cover all ferries to islands in the Seto Inland Sea; for example, you cannot use this pass to visit Naoshima.

The pass can also be purchased at major JR West and JR Shikoku train stations that fall within the scope of the pass. Purchased in Japan, the pass costs ¥21,000.


JR Shikoku Pass

A train crosses an iron bridge over yellow flowers in Shikoku
A train crosses a bridge in rural Tokushima prefecture, Shikoku | Photo by iStock.com/SAND555

The All Shikoku Pass covers unlimited travel on all JR Shikoku trains and several private lines (including tram service in Kochi and Matsuyama) on the island of Shikoku; the ferry between Takamatsu and Shodõshima; and buses on Shodõshima (but not other buses on Shikoku). The pass also offers some discounts on other ferries and bus routes.

All Shikoku Pass at a glance:

Validity period Price (purchased within Japan) Price (purchased outside Japan) Booking link (overseas price)
3 consecutive days ¥9,500 ¥9,000 Reserve online
4 consecutive days ¥10,500 ¥10,000 Reserve online
5 consecutive days ¥11,500 ¥11,000 Reserve online
7 consecutive days ¥13,500 ¥13,000 Reserve online

Passes for children aged 6–11 are half the price of adult passes; children 5 and under can ride for free.

There are no Shinkansen on Shikoku, so the fastest trains you can access are limited express trains. Note that this pass is only good for unreserved seats on limited express trains — but Shikoku’s limited express trains tend to have more unreserved seat cars than reserved seat cars.

The All Shikoku Pass includes rail travel across the strait to Honshū, but only to Kojima (right on the coast). So if you want to stack this pass with, say, the JR West Kansai WIDE Area Pass, you will need to pay the fare for the 20-minute journey between Okayama and Kojima.

Passes can be purchased in Japan only at JR Takamatsu, Matsuyama, Tokushima, or Kōchi stations. And only at these stations can you claim your pass with an exchange order. You cannot get it at KIX!

JR Shikoku also offers one regional pass: the Kagawa Mini Rail and Ferry Pass. It covers rail travel in Kagawa Prefecture (which includes Takamatsu), ferry travel between Takamatsu and Shodoshima, and buses on Shodoshima for two consecutive days. Purchase it online overseas or at Takamatsu Station for ¥4,000.

Note: Only foreign passport holders on a temporary visitor visa are eligible for the All Shikoku Pass and the Kagawa Mini Rail and Ferry Pass.


JR Kyūshū passes

'Seaside Liner' waiting at Nagasaki station
A Seaside Liner train waiting at Nagasaki Station in Kyūshū | Photo by iStock.com/ColobusYeti

JR Kyūshū Passes cover rail travel in — you guessed it — Kyūshū. This means travel on the Kyūshū Shinkansen (which runs between Hakata/Fukuoka in the north and Kagoshima in the south); JR limited express trains (connecting, say, Hakata/Fukuoka with Nagasaki, Miyazaki, and the onsen resorts of Beppu and Yufuin); and all the regular JR trains.

Good news! While the JR Kyūshū passes are normally only available for foreign travelers on a tourist visa, for a limited time — until September 30, 2022 — foreign passport holders on any visa can purchase and use them.

JR Kyūshū passes at a glance:

Pass Regions covered Key destinations Eligibility Validity period Price Booking link
All Kyūshū Pass All of Kyūshū Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Yufuin, Beppu, Kumamoto, Miyazaki & Kagoshima Foreign passport holders with a temporary (tourist) visa 3, 5, or 7 consecutive days ¥17,000/¥18,500/¥20,000 Reserve online
Northern Kyūshū Pass Hakata/Fukuoka to Kumamoto Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Yufuin, Beppu & Kumamoto, Foreign passport holders with a temporary (tourist) visa 3 or 5 consecutive days ¥10,000/¥14,000 Reserve online
Southern Kyūshū Pass Kumamoto to Kagoshima Kumamoto, Miyazaki & Kagoshima Foreign passport holders with a temporary (tourist) visa 3 consecutive days ¥8,000 Reserve online

*Passes for children 6–11 are half-price

Where can I buy a JR Kyūshū Pass?

Online or in Japan — the price is the same. If you purchase online directly from JR Kyūshū you unlock the ability to reserve Shinkansen seats online as well. However, there is a very un-Cheapo-friendly ¥1,000 (half-price for children) charge per seat reservation! It is free to make Shinkansen seat reservations in person at any JR Kyūshū ticket counter.

Do I need a JR Kyūshū Pass?

If you’re only doing Kyūshū, the answer is maybe. The round-trip fare between Hakata/Fukuoka and Kagoshima is ¥21,280, which covers the cost of even the longest (7-day) All Kyūshū Pass.

But it’s a good idea to factor in the cost of getting to Kyūshū. A flight from either Narita or Kansai airports to Fukuoka on a low cost carrier starts at around ¥5,000 each way. If you also consider the costs of getting to the airport from Tokyo or Osaka/Kyoto, then the nationwide Japan Rail Pass might be a better deal. Though on the other hand, it’s a good six hours by Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hakata/Fukuoka (three hours from Shin-Osaka).

If you are planning to see Kyūshū by rail, it does make sense to have either a Kyūshū-specific pass or the all-country pass. While many major destinations are not on the Shinkansen, they are best reached by limited express trains, which can be almost as expensive as the Shinkansen. For example, the limited express train from Fukuoka to Nagasaki costs ¥5,590 one-way — more than half the cost of the 3-day Northern Kyūshū 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.
  • 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 run by private non-JR operators, etc.).

Video guide to choosing a JR Pass


How to activate your JR Pass

Whichever Japanese rail 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. This can be the same day, so you can start your travels immediately, or a later date.

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.

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


Japan Rail Pass FAQs

JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area)
Most rail passes look like this, though a few regional rail passes look more like train tickets and can be used in the automatic ticket gates | Photo by iStock.com/CHENG FENG CHIANG

Do I need to buy a Japan Rail Pass before arriving in Japan?

No, not anymore. It is possible this might change in the future, though. Still, considering most passes are cheaper when bought outside Japan, it makes sense to purchase one before arriving in Japan.

Can you stack passes?

There is no policy that says you can’t! By stacking regional rail passes, you can possibly spend less than you would on a 14- or 21-day national JR rail pass. On the other hand, you’ll have less flexibility than you would with a countrywide pass.

What happens if my pass gets lost or stolen?

Don’t let this happen! It will not be replaced! If this does happen, head to the nearest JR station lost and found. Since passes can only be used by the person whose name is on the pass, someone might find it and turn it in.

Does the Japan Rail Pass cover all the trains in Japan?

No, the Japan Rail Pass only covers travel on Japan Rail (JR) train lines and select private lines. Fortunately, the JR network is the most comprehensive in the country, covering all of Japan save for Okinawa.

There are very few places other lines travel that JR doesn’t. One big exception is municipal transit: city-operated subway, tram, and bus networks won’t be covered by the pass. The pass is intended for travel between cities not within them.

Does the Japan Rail Pass cover buses?

The national JR Pass covers travel on local and regional JR buses. It does not cover intercity JR buses or private bus operators.

Regional JR passes may or may not cover travel on those same JR buses. Some even cover non-JR municipal bus networks. It is confusing, I know! Before committing to a bus, check the scope of coverage carefully.

Does the Japan Rail Pass cover ferries?

Sadly, the only ferry covered by the Japan Rail Pass is the ferry to Miyajima. A couple of regional rail passes — notably the Setouchi Area Pass — cover a handful of additional ferries.

Does the Japan Rail Pass cover the subway?

No. There are no JR subway lines and the pass does not cover any private or municipal subway lines.

Can I use the Japan Rail Pass to get from Narita Airport?

You can use the Japan Rail Pass (or any JR East pass) to ride JR’s fancy limited express airport shuttle, the Narita Express (N’EX). You will need to secure a seat reservation, which you can do when you activate your pass. However, once you start using your pass the clock starts. So, don’t activate your pass just for the ride from the airport if you are going to be spending the next couple of days in Tokyo.

Can I use the Japan Rail Pass to get from Haneda Airport?

The Japan Rail Pass covers travel on the Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to Hammamatsuchō, where you can pick the JR network. But again, only use your pass to get from the airport if you are heading right to the nearest Shinkansen station; otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

Can I use the Japan Rail Pass to get from Kansai Airport?

The Japan Rail Pass covers travel on the JR limited express Haruka train from Kansai International Airport (KIX) to either Osaka or Kyoto. This is the fastest, most convenient, and (without the pass) most expensive public transport option from KIX. You will need to secure a seat reservation, which you can do when you activate your pass.

JR West passes that include Kansai region travel also cover travel on Haruka. But again, only use your pass for airport travel if you plan to start traveling right away.

Can I use the Japan Rail Pass to get around Tokyo?

You can use the Japan Rail Pass to ride JR trains in Tokyo, including the JR Yamanote and Chūō-Sōbu lines. You cannot use the pass to ride any subway, bus, or private operator lines, with the exception of the Tokyo Monorail. But more importantly, you won’t get your money’s worth using the pass to get around Tokyo; save it for inter-city travel.

Can I use the Japan Rail Pass to get around Kyoto?

There is only one JR bus line in Kyoto. Kyoto municipal subway and bus lines — the main way to get around the city — are not covered by the pass.


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 road travel, we recommend reading about the awesome Japan Bus 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, including pricing, is subject to change. This guide was last updated in April, 2021.
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