Going Japan? | Advice on The Japan Rail Pass

I love going Japan and in the recent years, the airfares to Japan has been made even more affordable compared to say 10-15 years back when an air ticket to Japan easily cost at least 800 – 1k. Thanks to the competition from the budget airlines and a growing low-cost airline competition in the Far East, one could find airfares going as low as 300 during insane promotions by airlines such as Scoot but often, it averages out to the 600-900 range by full-fledged carriers like Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines (if you still give them a chance? I flew with them on my last trip btw.)

While Japan might not be the cheapest of destinations compared to Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia, it is not as scary as one would foresee unless you are planning to do a lot of shopping in Japan. The most important thing about planning a trip to Japan is having a focus region. What will send your budget in the red in Japan is the transportation where a single trip between Kanazawa and Kyoto could easily set you back at 6380 yen if you are planning to travel on a budget.

The Budget Concerns
Then you might hear, why not get a rail pass? It covers everything right? Yes, but only for JR lines etc and not for certain Shinkansen trains or private railway lines like the trains to Kurama in Kyoto or the buses to Shirakawa-go in Takayama but what is a pity from the purchase of the powerful Japan Rail Pass is the misuse of it that could have saved you quite a bit of money.

More often than not, I have seen friends getting the railpass which cost about 360-570 SGD and expend 4 out of 7 days of the Rail Pass for intra-city travel within Kyoto, Osaka or Tokyo which is not maximizing the value of the rail pass and you could have gone for a regional Kansai West Pass or Kanto Pass and supplement with a Willer Express Bus in between Tokyo and Kyoto yet spending less than a railpass.

Japan Rail Pass | Japan-Wide Travel not City-Wide Travel
The Japan Rail Pass limits you to a 7 to 14 consecutive days of travel which mean that once you use it in say Tokyo, it starts counting. Unless you are using Tokyo as a base to go as far as Sendai, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nagano almost everyday from Tokyo, it is a waste of the railpass and your own time, taking into account the 2-4 hours spent travelling to and fro. The rail pass is essentially meant for Japan-wide travel on their Shinkansen and Limited Express Lines that goes all the way from Kyushu to Hokkaido.

Consecutive Days | The Big Squeeze
That becomes another problem. It meant that within 7 – 14 days, you must cover these cities along say from Tokyo – Hakata on Kyushu, if you break it down. It is about 2 or 1 night in these cities which would mean you have barely seen most of these cities which have sights beyond the city center such as hot springs, nature reserves and mountains all of which takes about 1-2 days if you plan to stay there, like Kinosaki Onsen, Shin-Hotaka or Shirakawa-go.

 Japan Rail Pass 101 | Focus!
Focus on what you will really like to see and explore in Japan first before going straight for the Rail Pass, if you are planning to just visit Kansai region which comprises of Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe and the charming towns in between like Arashiyama, Uji, Ibaraki (for Tadao Ando’sChurch of Light!) then a Japan Rail Pass is an overkill.

However if you plan to visit Kyoto for 4-5 days (which I think it’s the minimum number of days for this city) or just the region around Kyoto/ Osaka, followed by a visit to Tokyo, then a Japan Rail Pass will be of value….ONLY IF you are going to do a couple of stops before expending the rail pass upon reaching Tokyo. While the travel guides would tell you that you have saved a bit of money from doing a to-and-fro trip between Kyoto and Tokyo, which however, is my opinion, the least wise way along with intra-city travel with the Japan Rail Pass as the it is meant to encourage travellers to explore Japan rather than commute.

Hence you should stay using your railpass only after leaving your focus region say Kyoto and surrounding then stopping by cities like Nagoya, Matsumoto, Shizuoka, Karuizawa or Nagano along the way to maximize the value of your rail pass, and perhaps keeping a couple of days for the train to Narita or a day trip to Sendai.

Japan Rail Pass 101 | Find Alternatives
Once you decide where is your focus region, check out the alternatives and decide if you are going to explore other parts of Japan after visiting the focus region. If your aim is to just cover Tokyo, Nikko, Yokohama in Kanto or Kyoto, Nara, Osaka in Kansai, then a railpass is unnecessary.

Check out the JR West Kansai Rail Pass (2170 – 6170 JPY) instead which covers the Haruka Limited Express ride from Osaka Kansai International Airport (KIX) to Kyoto and parts of Osaka’s downtown. While it does not cover the Shinkansen lines, (they don’t serve the lines to Nara or Wakayama anyway), they cover the JR lines to Nara, Uji, Wakayama etc.

For a broader coverage if might you plan to visit and stay in Okayama and Kinosaki Onsen, you can consider the JR West Kansai WIDE Pass (7200 JPY) instead, both passes cost less than 10000 Yen with 1-4 days of consecutive travel compared to the whopping 29110 Yen for a 7 Day Japan Rail Pass.
You can find an overview of the railpasses offered around Japan via Japan-guide.com here.

Japan Rail Pass 101 | Know Its Power
There is a reason why I said Japan Rail Pass is very powerful. Firstly, it’s exclusive to foreign travellers (subjected to certain conditions) and unlike the European counterpart, seat reservations are free and this is the best part of the rail pass. You can make seat reservations on the Limited Express and Shinkansen trains, and this will save you the need to compete for seats at the Non-Reserved Section.  Trust me, it can get rather competitive, people actually queue for trains 30-40 minutes beforehand to grab a seat.

During the peak of seasons, this is a godsend but try to make the reservation in advance and grab a train timetable to find your preferred trains and book your reservation with the station staff where you can indicate whether you want a window or aisle seat. You could also do it on the day itself but during peak seasons, certain trains are easily fully booked, one such train is the Limited Express (Wide View) Shinano connecting Matsumoto and Nagoya.

Japan Rail Pass 101 | Not every Shinkansen.
While the railpass is valid on most JR Railway lines, take note that it is not valid on the Nozomi (のぞみ) and Mizuho (みずほ) Shinkansen which tends to be more frequent. Take note of the hiragana characters.
Instead, the JR Rail Pass is valid on these Shinkansen lines (as of June 2014):
-          Hikari (ひかり), Tokkaido (or Hakata-Tokyo)
-          Kodama (こだま), Tokkaido
-          Toki (とき), Joetsu
-          Tanigawa (たにがわ), Joetsu
-          Tsubame (つばめ) , Kyushu
-          Sakura (さくら), Kyushu
-          Asama (あさま), Nagano
-          Komachi (こまち), Akita
-          Hayabusa (はやぶさ), Akita
-          Hayate (はやて), Tohoku
-          Nasuno (なすの), Tohoku
-          Yamabiko (やまびこ ), Yamagata
-          Tsubasa (つばさ), Yamagata

This list of train services will change as time goes.

Japan Rail Pass 101 | Is Train the Best Option?
Deciding to travel via rail has its set-backs, you have to make do with its time-table and that adds rigidity to itinerary. Furthermore, while train has been one of the best ways to get around Japan, it might not be the best of option for certain places like Hida Takayama where some of the villages can only be reached by car or bus.

Another popular destination is Hokkaido where driving rather than rail is the preferred option if you are travelling as a group with at least 2 licensed drivers. Once again, this boils down to where you want to go.

Japan Rail Pass 101 | It Starts with the Point of Entry.
Go even further back, when using the railpass, I do not recommend doing a U-turn in your itinerary. This meant that you have to consider your point of entry into Japan. If your aim is to explore Central Japan, you could consider entering via Osaka Kansai International Airport (KIX) then exiting via Nagoya’s Chubu International Airport (NGO).

While the cheapest airfares might be return-tickets to the same point, consider the time spent to do a U turn back to Narita if you  are visiting Osaka from Tokyo, you could have saved not only time but cover more ground if you exit via Osaka Kansai International Airport.

Therefore, when booking your air tickets don’t jump on to the Singapore – Tokyo Narita Airfares straight away, do factor in the time and cost. Narita International Airport is about an hour away from Tokyo city unlike Haneda International Airport. The budget airline Scoot operates in and out via Narita International Airport and Japanese carriers tend to transit at Tokyo Narita or Haneda before heading to Hokkaido or Osaka for the cheaper fares.

Key Points
  • If exploring within a region or city. Look for alternatives. The railpass is a pricey overkill.
  • If just travelling between Osaka – Tokyo, consider overnight bus like Willer Express or discount rail tickets. Japanese buses such as Willer Express can be very comfortable, it even have seats that resembles a business class seat on a longhaul aircraft.
  • Use the Japan Rail Pass for exploring Japan not commuting.
  • Supplement your Japan Rail Pass with regional passes to efficiently travel around Japan.
  • Use your railpass to book free seat reservations to escape the crowd.
  • Grab a train timetable or use Hyperdia to plan your rail journeys which gives you not only the timings but the also pricing for each segments to do the math on whether a railpass is a good investment.
  • Consider your point of entry and exit, minimize on U-turns
  • Japan Rail Pass cannot be purchased in Japan!

You can also refer to TheRoadForks’ post who did the mats in the savings for a Japan Railpass, do take note that the itineraries in TheRoadForks covers  a north to south route for Japan, which is how a railpass is supposed to be used in order to use it efficiently! Their ending statement sums it up very nicely “a great deal for those traveling in a limited time frame in Japan if you move at a moderate pace and/or visit destinations in different parts of the country

Last but not least, take note that Japan is a huge country and rather diverse between the regions, keep an open mind while you explore Japan and you will find many rewarding surprises. The rail pass offers great flexibility but be aware of its constraints on the itinerary and which affects pace and the depth of travel. If not used wisely, it could be a waste of money better spent on sampling new food or making a fruitful day trip to a village out of town.

Many times, one is eager to hop around the whole of Japan with the rail pass, going through cities within flash, and barely seeing Japan. In my personal opinion to really enjoy Japan, focus on a certain region and explore it on a leisurely pace. Not only it would save you money but also allow you to better appreciate the country itself.

For more information, refer to:
Japan Rail Pass for official information and prices for the rail pass.
JR West Railway Company for the rail passes covering Kansai region or Sanyo Shinkansen up to Hiroshima.
JR East Railway Company for the rail passes covering Kanto (around Tokyo) to the entire Tohoku region comprising of Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures where Sendai is located in.
JR Central Railway Company for discounted tickets or pacakges to Hida Takayama region as well as the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route.
Japan-guide.com for a good overview of travelling around Japan and how to get to the various places.


  1. Your blog is excellent! Thanks for this post! I was originally thinking of heading from Kyoto to Tokyo via a midnight bus, but Takayama seems lovely and I'd like to make a stop there in between. Seems like the most time-saving way would be to take trains. In that case would that make a JR pass worth it?

  2. Hi Zi Ning,

    Glad that you find it useful ;)

    If you are coming from Kyoto and flying in via Osaka, a JR Pass would be worth it if you travel from Kyoto - Kanazawa - Takayama - Nagoya - Matsumoto/Yokohama/Shizuoka - Tokyo and cover the Kanazawa - Tokyo segment within 7 days. Takayama would take about 3-4 days if you plan to make day trips to the villages and hot springs around it but the JR Pass does not cover the buses between Takayama and Shin-Hotaka, Kamikochi or Shirakawa-go which you had to consider as additional costs.

    You can find out more about the buses to and from Takayama here : http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/

    Alternatively, there is also a bus connection between Takayama and Kyoto and bus from Takayama to Tokyo. Some people will take a bus to Nagano/Matsumoto and purchase the JR East Pass but it will still be slightly costly as the JR East pass is 22000 Yen (but allows 5 days worth of non-consecutive unlimited travel around their network which include Tokyo, Sendai, Yokohama, Shizuoka, Nagano up to Morioka. JR East Passholders gets a discount for the bus connection between Takayama and Matsumoto : http://www.hida.jp/english/practical-guide/accesstransportation/discount-ticket

    Hope this helps ;)

    1. Dear Xin Lee, what transportation pass do you recommend for the following itinerary? Do you recommend JR? or Kansai Pass or neither?

      Day 1, Arrival at NRT at 2:30 pm. NEX or airport limo to Hyatt Regency Tokyo
      Day 2, Tokyo
      Day 3, Day trip to Nikko from Tokyo
      Day 4, Day trip to Hakone or stay in Tokyo
      Day 5, Tokyo
      Day 6, Check out Hyatt Regency Tokyo, Tokyo to Osaka, Check in Hyatt Regency Osaka
      Day 7, Osaka
      Day 8, Day trip to Kyoto from Osaka
      Day 9, Day trip to Nara from Osaka
      Day 10, Day trip to Kobe from Osaka
      Day 11, Osaka (or one more day trip to Kyoto)
      Day 12, Osaka
      Day 13, Check out HR Osaka to KIX for 9:30 am flight to ICN

      Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


  3. Very informative!
    I'm looking at a central regional pass which serve kyoto to takayama, nagoya.
    May i know can I get the regional pass?
    I'm in Singapore and seems most agency is not selling regional pass.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Jass,

      Thank you! It happens that I am looking for such a pass as well, You should check out this : https://www.jtb.com.sg/takayama-hokuriku-area-tourist-pass/

      The Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass covers the train journey from Osaka and Kyoto to Kanazawa, the buses connecting Takayama via Shirakawa-go and the trains all the way down to Nagoya. The disadvantage is that it is valid only for 5 days but I think it is the pass you would be looking for.

      JTB Singapore located at ION Orchard might sell them, it is not available in Japan itself.

  4. Yes this is the one!!!
    Thanks XinLi

    1. You are welcome ;)

      JTB should have them, and the Central region is a really beautiful place to visit!

      Xin Li

    2. I was at JTB in ION Orchard today, they sell the pass for $121.

  5. Hi my name is Cris, loved your posts on kyoto. thank you for the tips. but just checking…
    I arrive tokyo and am planning to head for Kyoto to stay 5 day. In this 5 day i plan to visit Nara. Then I will return for tokyo to stay 7 day. I was planning on getting a 7-day JR PASS to go to kyoto, use to Nara, and return to tokyo. Do you think I will spend more money buying the JR or not?
    What would be better for me?

    Thank you for you tips and posts! I love it.

    1. Hi Cris, you are welcome (:,

      Theoretically, your Japan Rail Pass will pay off after the return trip to Kyoto from Tokyo as it will be cheaper than the Shinkansen and I think you should use the Japan Rail Pass for this case also because you might not have the luxury of time to take the cheaper Willer Express bus which operates overnight between Tokyo and Kyoto where you can later use a regional Kansai Pass in Kyoto that will cover Nara as well.

      To summarize, according to your itinerary it is about maximizing the value of it, which means you will use it on the day you take the Shinkansen down to Kyoto from Tokyo and also use it to cover the return trip to Nara from Kyoto and then back to Tokyo again which should use up 5-6 days of the rail pass.

      Here, instead of spending that last day of the rail pass in Tokyo, you might want to use it for a day trip out of Tokyo to maximize its value, some places where you can use it include Karuizawa, Nagano, Shizuoka and Sendai which are connected to Tokyo by the Shinkansen.

      If you have not making the booking for lodging yet, you could arrange a stopover with the railpass between Tokyo and Kyoto such as Kanazawa, Nagoya or Matsumoto.

      Hence, I recommend getting the rail pass for this trip to maximize the time to do sightseeing in Kyoto and Nara especially if you are travelling during the winter period.

      Hopefully these help (:

  6. Hi, I am planning to spend 4 days in Osaka and Kyoto and another 11 days in Tokyo and Yokohama. The base will be Osaka and Tokyo respectively. I don't know if it is better to fly direct to Osaka via HND or take the shinkansen from Tokyo instead?

    For a round trip between SIN and HND, the air fare is ~$950 via JAL or ANA. If I add in round trip for the domestic flights, it is ~$1075 that covers SIN-HND-ITM and ITM-HND-SIN. The difference is $125... Considering other costs like land transfers from ITM airport to my hostel and vice versa, and rapid trains between Osaka and Kyoto etc..

    Will this method be cheaper than getting 7-days JR pass (~$340)? Any recommendation?


    1. Hi, personally I will find 4 days in Osaka and Kyoto to be too short for the two cities (Kyoto itself easily takes up 3-4 days) which makes getting an air ticket to fly to Osaka from Tokyo both inconvenient and not of good value due to the time taken to travel to and fro the airport, security checks, costs etc.

      However, if time is of constraint and you will need to cover Osaka and Kyoto from Tokyo, then I would suggest getting the rail pass instead of a domestic airfare just for convenience alone but to maximize the value of the rail pass, do use it for day trips out of Tokyo and only use the rail pass on the day you are travelling to Osaka and Kyoto, for the airport transfer from HND or NRT to the Tokyo, you could use a one off fare and later a regional rail pas such as the Kanto Pass if you are intending to use Tokyo as a base to explore the region rather than the city alone (but I think Tokyo will have lots of see too ;) )

      In summary, fly in Tokyo/Osaka, use the 7-Day Rail Pass on the day you are travelling to Osaka/Kyoto then fly out from Tokyo.

      If you want to max the value of the rail pass, consider using a Kansai Pass when in Osaka and Kyoto, then spend the 7 days to explore the places in between Kyoto and and Tokyo such as Kanazawa, Shizuoka, Matsumoto, Takayama, Nagoya within the 7 days before heading to Tokyo.

      If you don't mind bus travel, you could fly in Osaka, and use a regional pass like the Kansai West Pass then take the Willer Express from Kyoto to Tokyo, an overnight bus which will be cheaper than the rail pass. In Tokyo, you should be able to find several city or regional passes like the Kanto Pass.

      As for flights, the problem with JAL and ANA is that if you fly to Osaka, they will transit in Tokyo and land in Itami which I am not very familiar with but there should be a monorail link that requires a transfer to Kyoto or Osaka if I am not wrong (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2433.html).

      For airlines, you can also consider Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways or Singapore Airlines which also allows you to book open jaw (i.e in Osaka Kansai out Tokyo HND/NRT). At promo fares, they can be cheaper than ANA and JAL.

      The gist is to reduce travelling time and cost spend on transport which is takes up the most budget. Japan Rail Pass pays off for a single trip between Tokyo and Kyoto but I will highly recommend using it for exploring a few cities between Tokyo and Kyoto if you plan to purchase it.

      Hopefully these info helps,

      Xin Li

  7. Hi Xin Li,

    I'm planning a trip to Japan and will be spending 12 days in Honshu, then flying to Hokkaido. I'm weighing up whether to get the Japan Rail Pass when in Honshu. At this stage, I might look at renting a car in Hokkaido. My draft itinerary is below:

    May-10 Arrive Osaka
    May-11 Osaka - Hiroshima - Miyajima
    May-12 Miyajima - Kyoto
    May-13 Kyoto
    May-14 Kyoto - Nara (day trip)
    May-15 Kyoto
    May-16 Kyoto - Takayama (Shirakawa-go)
    May-17 Takayama (Kamikochi)
    May-18 Takayama - Hakone
    May-19 Hakone - Nikko
    May-20 Nikko
    May-21 Nikko - Tokyo

    May-22 Tokyo - Sapporo (Flight to Hokkaido)
    May-23 Biei/Furano
    May-24 Sounkyo
    May-25 Akan
    May-26 Shiretoko
    May-27 Shiretoko
    May-28 Utoro
    May-29 Utoro - Memanbetsu
    May-30 Memanbetsu - Tokyo Haneda (Flight)
    May-31 Depart Tokyo

    Would appreciate your thoughts on this.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi my first thoughts looking through this itinerary is that a Japan Rail Pass would be a waste for 13th of 16th of May, because you are spending time in Kyoto and one-off fares or a local rail pass to Nara would provide better value.

      However, your Rail Pass would provide better value if you are using it after Kyoto instead beginning hence, you might want to consider shifting Miyajima, Hiroshima after the Kyoto and then proceed to Takayama via Nagoya (with the Shinkansen followed by a Limited Express Hida Wide train to Takayama).

      The main problem I see for the itinerary from 10th to 21st is the pace, you would spend a lot of time commuting and spending a lot more on it as well. Takayama segment is the most problematic because the trips to Kamikochi and Shirakawa-go are limited by the number of buses to and fro and you might need at least 4-5 days to Takayama. Coming from Kyoto, you would still take several hours to reach Takayama.

      Takayama to Hakone, the JR Pass covers up to Odawara and perhaps Hakone Yumoto station for connections to Lake Ashi. One of the recommended passes for Hakone is the Hakone Free Pass. More details can be found here: http://www.hakonenavi.jp/english/freepass/index.html

      For Nikko, the rail pass covers the journey from Odawara to Utsunomiya by Shinkansen (via Tokyo) where you transfer to Nikko via the JR Nikko Line. This would take about 3-4 hours.

      In short, the 10th May to 21st May itinerary seemed too packed and stretched out with consideration for the travelling time and while a 7 day rail pass or 14 day rail pass a number of the transportation between cities (14 is an overkill although you could do a Nikko - Sendai/Aomori - Sapporo instead of flying) , it is limited in terms of coverage for places like Takayama -Shirakawa-go/Kamikochi, Hakone as well as internal transportation in Kyoto. Furthermore, the itinerary looks pretty rush. My suggestion if the dates can't be changed and getting a rail pass is your preference is :

      May-10 : Arrive Osaka - Head to Kyoto (Haruka Icoca, One Way)
      May-11 : Kyoto
      May-12 : Kyoto
      May-13 : Kyoto - Nara (1420 JPY - Round Trip to Nara)
      May-14 : Kyoto - Hiroshima - Miyajima (Start Using 7-Day Japan Rail Pass)
      May-15 : Miyajima - Osaka
      May-16 : Osaka - Takayama
      May-17 : Takayama
      May-18 : Takayama - Hakone (via Odawara)
      May-19 : Hakone - Nikko (via Utsunomiya)
      May-20 : Nikko - Tokyo (Japan Rail Pass Ends) / Get 2-Day Nikko Pass (about 2760 JPY)
      May 21 : Tokyo / Nikko

      Hokkaido wise, I am not very familiar but the rail network there is limited, covering only mostly major cities and onward connections would restrict your itinerary greatly. Driving would be a better option.

  8. Hi Xin Li,

    Thank you for your advice. Doing Kyoto first does make sense. I might travel from Miyajima straight to Takayama, not having to overnight in Osaka.

    Is there anywhere on the itinerary in Honshu that you would recommend cutting out?

    Thank you very much.


    1. Hi Cindy,

      Going straight to Takayama from Osaka would be good, that means you have an additional day to enjoy Shirakawa-go and Kamikochi.

      Personally, I would replace Hiroshima and Miyajima with a place that is on the way from Kyoto - Tokyo direction to reduce travel timing and spend more time exploring Kansai - Chubu - Kanto in-depth. Looking at the current itinerary, The most feasible alternative would Kanazawa which you could reach via Limited Express train in 2-3 hours from Kyoto before heading to Takayama, furthermore, if you are planning to stay overnight in Shirakawa-go, you could take a bus from Kanazawa and then forward to Takayama. These buses which is your only way to Shirakawa-go (unless driving or tour group) is the only way to get there and it is not covered by the rail pass.

      Nonetheless, this is my personal opinion, I could see that the itinerary is a broad varied sample of what Japan has to offer and it works fine as well but do take note that the rail pass doesn't cover most of the transportation around Takayama.

      Xin Li

  9. Hi Xin Li,

    Thank you once again for your advice. You have been really helpful. Will look at it again.


  10. Hi Xin Li,

    I am travelling to Tokyo from Australia in July.
    I am trying to figure out if the Rain Pass is going to be worth it for me.
    I want to go from Tokyo airport to Kyoto, as that is where I will be staying for 6 nights.
    While I'm there on the first day I would like to just explore Kyoto. Will the JR pass cover buses to get me to temples, Kyoto tower, popular tourist spots etc ? if not what is the most economical or simple way to travel?
    On the second day I want to go to Osaka to visit universal studios and return back to Kyoto at night.
    On the Third day I want to go back to Osaka to see a fireworks display and sumo match and again return back to my Kyoto hotel at night.
    on the fourth day I would like to go to visit Mt Fuji and return to my Kyoto hotel
    on my 5th day I would like to visit Hiroshima and return to my Kyoto hotel
    On The 6th day I want to continue exploring some of the destinations I missed on my first day.

    On the 7th day I would like to return to Tokyo where I will be staying an additional 3 nights.
    On my first day in Tokyo I would like to go see some of the shops, Tokyo tower and the Skytree.
    On my second I would like to go to Disney Sea and visit the Rainbow Bridge.
    On my Third I’d like to check out the Ueno zoo and Kabukicho.
    On the fourth day I will be going straight to Tokyo Airport to return home.
    For these days I was planning on just buying tickets for each service, is this economical and will this be simple enough to use for someone who knows very little Japanese or should I get an extended JR pass?

    Also if you have any suggestions on places to visit or any other advice please share I will be highly greatful.

    1. Good Morning,

      The Japan Rail Pass will not cover the buses, subways etc in Kyoto to get to the temples and other popular spots except for Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari (the red torii gates) and Uji (where Byodo-in) is.

      Furthermore, the rail pass will be a waste if you are coming from Tokyo and staying in just Kansai region for 5-6 days because the Rail Pass is an overkill even though it covers the cost for to and fro journey between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka.

      Instead, I would suggest taking a Willer Bus Express to Kyoto and perhaps begin using the Japan Rail Pass after the Kyoto segment to cover Osaka and Hiroshima (and perhaps Mount Fuji on the way back to Tokyo)

      If time is not an issue and budget is priority you could consider using the Willer Express buses under the Willer Express bus pass to travel between Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima) between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka

      Assessing your itinerary, Mount Fuji is best explored from Tokyo rather than Kyoto as Mount Fuji has better connections with Tokyo and it is nearer to Tokyo.

      For the tickets in Tokyo, you could purchase them on the day itself, and it is rather straightforward, if unsure, you could get a guidebook or read on the information available on http://www.japan-guide.com/

      There would be many information brochures available at these attractions and a tourist information centre to assist you as well. The station staff are rather friendly and will try to help you even if they don't know English.

      I am not very familiar with Tokyo's attractions but looking at the itinerary and if you are planning to use the Rail Pass from Kyoto onwards, you might want to include Kanazawa, Kiso Valley or Takayama in your itinerary (depending on season) while on the way back to Tokyo. For Hiroshima and Osaka, you might want to cover them after Kyoto instead or use your rail pass on the last few days in Kyoto when you begin your trips out of Kyoto.

      Kyoto itself will have pretty much to see if you prefer a more leisurely pace this trip, just cover Kyoto and Osaka alone for the 6 days with some day trips out of Kyoto itself to Nara, Uji, Kurama, Ohara etc before heading back to Tokyo with a railpass or on an overnight Willer Express bus.

  11. Xin Li :) Can you please advise on how do I make my trip as amazing (and affordable at the same time) as possible? Ill be arriving on 26 March in Nagoya and is hoping to explore Nagoya Kyoto Osaka and Tokyo, no definitely plans yet. Ill be holding a working visa when I enter Japan and have to be in Fukushima on 4 April. Thank you in advance ��

    1. Good Afternoon Vimlah,

      First of all you need to have a vague idea of what you wish to see or want to see for your trip before I could provide any advice on how to save $ etc.

      If I am not wrong, you might not be able to purchase the Japan Rail Pass and several other rail passes if you are a long term resident and this will be of great disadvantage to you in your Japan travels. Hence, you might need to check with the travel agency.

      With that taken into consideration, you might want to enter Nagoya, then follow by Kyoto and lastly Osaka before taking a domestic flight or bus down to Tokyo before heading to Fukushima. Because you are entering from Nagoya, you would have to perform a u-turn if you want to explore Kyoto and Osaka and head to Tokyo which would incur higher costs from the transportation.

      Xin Li

  12. Can you suggest the places I shouldnt miss instead? :)

    1. hmmmm....
      Just these two :

      Everything in Kyoto.
      and the Japanese Alps.

  13. Thank you! :) I'll probably skip Osaka then. More travels to us!

  14. hi Xin Li,
    We will be exploring tokyo and one day trip to fuji mountain.
    It is advisable to buy JR pass? Thanks.

    1. If it is just to Mount Fuji, get a regional pass or a dedicated Mt. Fuji pass would be better, JR Rail Pass is good for travelling all over Japan especially from region to region and to cover as many regions as possible in a short period.

      For just Mt. Fuji you might want to check out these two rail passes by JR East and Odakyu Railways instead or consider a short tour package.


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  16. Hi Lee
    Need your advise on the JR Pass. Do I need them (assuming 7-days) and when should I use them. Should I buy other type of passes instead?

    Day 1: Singapore to Tokyo (Flight), Tokyo to Sapporo, Hokkaido (Flight)
    Day 2 and 3: Sapporo, Otaru, Noboribetsu
    Day 4: Sapporo to Osaka (Flight)
    Day 5: Osaka
    Day 6 and 7: Kyoto (base in Osaka)
    Day 8: Osaka to Tokyo (Train)
    Day 9: Mount Fuji (base in Tokyo)
    Day 10 to 12: Tokyo
    Day 13: Flight back to Singapore

    Thanks and appreciate your assistance


  17. Hi, hmmmm JR Pass is the most convenient but you could use bus to get to Tokyo from Osaka for a cheaper alternative.

    If you do get the JR Pass, I suggest you use it from Day 7 onwards for your travel to Kyoto then to Tokyo. While it is a convenient pass to get around, I thought it would be underutilized in this particular itinerary.

    Another way to do it is to use and maximize the value the rail pass to travel from Sapporo - Tokyo and onward Osaka by the shinkansen with stops at Sendai, Tokyo, Mount Fuji area (Odawara), Kyoto and lastly Osaka on the 7th Day of the pass.

  18. Hi Xin Li!!

    I will be in Japan for 7 days.

    I will be going to Tokyo, move on to Matsumoto, then Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, then Takayama then to Osaka. I calculated and think that a JR pass would be quite worth it but just wondering whether this arrangement will be very rushed. Since there will be quite a lot of moving around to do! appreciate your advice!

    1. Hi,

      this would be tricky because JR Pass would not cover the Tateyama Kurobe route and yes this will be very rush and I foresee the bottle neck to be around Takayama- Tateyama Kurobe where you would have to pay additional for the route as well as be limited by the timings of the cable car etc. It is not impossible but it would be quite rush at the expense of getting to explore Tokyo and Osaka areas.

      Day 1 - Tokyo
      Day 2 - Tokyo
      Day 3 - Tokyo -> Matsumoto
      Day 4 - Matsumoto - Tateyama Kurobe Route -> Toyama/ Tateyama / Matsumoto
      Day 5 - Matsumoto / Toyama / Tateyama Kurobe -> Takayama
      Day 6 - Takayama - Osaka
      Day 7 - Osaka - KIX

      As you can see above, you would have very little time for each destination and while the JR Pass covers most of the expensive inter-city journeys except the Tateyama Kurobe route which cost around 9000 plus yen one-way without the luggage forwarding service.

      My suggestion is plan for a really nice and memorable 7 day trip with less moving around and inspire yourself to come back for a second one ;)

    2. Day 1 - Tokyo
      Day 2 - Tokyo
      Day 3 - Tokyo -> Matsumoto
      Day 4 - Matsumoto - Tateyama Kurobe Route -> Toyama/ Tateyama / Matsumoto
      Day 5 - Matsumoto / Toyama / Tateyama Kurobe -> Takayama
      Day 6 - Takayama - Osaka
      Day 7 - Osaka - KIX

      This is exactly how I plan my trip to be! I want it this way because I would very much want to go back during Sakura season or winter season for my next Japan trip. So I was thinking if I want to do Tateyama Kurobe Route I should probably do it this time since the route only open from April to November.

      I am still asking around for opinions & suggestions to make the trip a worthwhile one and memorable one, so thanks for the advice!!

    3. ah I see... haha yeap Tateyama Kurobe Route is very scenic, you should see it if you can. One way, if you really want to squeeze this in at all costs is what I call the suffer first then enjoy later, means you skip Tokyo :

      Day 1 - Tokyo
      Day 2 - Tokyo - Matsumoto
      Day 3 - Matsumoto - Tateyama-Kurobe/ Toyama
      Day 4 - Tateyama Kurobe/ Toyama - Takayama
      Day 5 - Takayama
      Day 6 - Takayama - Osaka / Kyoto
      Day 7 - Osaka / Kyoto -> KIX

      alternatively if you doing the Tateyama Kurobe as a day trip, you could head south to Nagoya after Matsumoto then proceed to Osaka/Kyoto via Nagoya by Shinkansen and spend more time at these places.

    4. Oh, if you managed to get the Kanazawa Shinkansen which opens this March, you could explore Tateyama Kurobe from Toyama side as well then proceed down to Takayama then Kyoto/Osaka.

      The Hokuriku Shinkansen which opens this March connects Tokyo to Toyama and Kanazawa within 3 hours.

    5. Hi Xin Li,

      I am back hahahahaha. I explored the option that you mentioned - go to Tateyama Kurobe from Toyama then head down to Takayama. If i start Tateyama Kurobe from Toyama, that means that i will end at Shinano-omachi and the journey from there to Takayama seems to be very long (6.5 hours) - did i misunderstand your suggestion?

      I am thinking of skipping matsumoto as well, go straight to Toyama from Tokyo!

      Still searching and arranging for the best travel plan :)

  19. Hi Xin Li,

    I will be travelling to Japan on May for 12 days, entry and exit point is in Osaka. I will be exploring areas around Osaka (Naram Kyoto, Wakayama) and travelling to Tokyo and surrounding areas(Nikko, Ashikaga, Hitachinaka, Hakone, Kanagawa). Is it advisable for me to purchase a 14-day pass?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Noooo.....! =p
      Don't short-change yourself!

      My suggestion is that you get the 7-Day Japan Pass because 12 Days is very short for a trip covering the places you had mentioned.

      A possible itinerary is as follows:
      D1 : KIX (Osaka) to Wakayama
      D2 : Wakayama
      D3 : Wakayama - Nara
      D4 : Nara - Tokyo (via Kyoto, transfer to a shinkansen, could stop by Uji)
      D5 : Tokyo - Nikko
      D6 : Tokyo - Ashikaga
      D7 : Tokyo - Hakone
      D8 : Tokyo - Kanagawa (You can stay in some of the places above instead of Tokyo)
      D9 : Tokyo - Kyoto - Nara
      D10 : Nara - Wakayama
      D11 : Wakayama
      D12 : Wakayama - KIX (Osaka)

      Use the 7-Day rail pass from Day 4 onwards and it should end on Day 10 which you could still use to get to Wakayama. Instead of paying the 20000 JPY difference for a 14 Day pass, you could get a 4-D Kansai Area Pass (that covers Nara and Wakayama and Kyoto - 6300 JPY online) Then get a one-way ticket from Kyoto to Kansai Airport for 2850 JPY.

      Alternatively you can also travel to Kyoto first with a Haruka Icoca (one-way) then visit Nara and Wakayama on the way back from Tokyo beginning on Day 10. You would not need to get a rail pass if you are not planning to travel out of the city because the Rail Pass will cover your trip from Tokyo to Nara and Nara to Wakayama if it is within the 7-Day period, just pay for a single trip ticket back to Kansai Airport from Wakayama will do (about 900 JPY).

    2. correction: the itineraries I and II:

      D1 : KIX (Osaka) to Wakayama
      D2 : Wakayama
      D3 : Wakayama - Nara
      D4 : Nara - Tokyo (Use Railpass, via Kyoto, transfer to a shinkansen, could stop by Uji)
      D5 : Tokyo - Nikko
      D6 : Tokyo - Ashikaga
      D7 : Tokyo - Hakone
      D8 : Tokyo - Kanagawa (You can stay in some of the places above instead of Tokyo)
      D9 : Tokyo - Kyoto (Railpass ends)
      D10 : Kyoto
      D11 : Kyoto
      D12 : Kyoto - KIX (Osaka)

      D1 : KIX (Osaka) to Kyoto
      D2 : Kyoto
      D3 : Kyoto
      D4 : Kyoto - Tokyo (Use 7-Day railpass)
      D5 : Tokyo - Nikko
      D6 : Tokyo - Ashikaga
      D7 : Tokyo - Hakone
      D8 : Tokyo - Kanagawa (You can stay in some of the places above instead of Tokyo)
      D9 : Tokyo - Nara via Kyoto
      D10 : Nara - Wakayama (JR Railpass ends)
      D11 : Wakayama
      D12 : Wakayama - KIX (Osaka)

    3. Hahaha! Love your initial expression =)

      Thank you for the advice. I will also be doing my homework checking scheds on Hyperdia, but thank you for your proposed itinerary. I'm thinking about the overnight outside of Tokyo, it's a good option to have the experience outside of tokyo but I'm weighing it against the convenience of staying in tokyo as trips elsewhere originate in tokyo..

      If I instead stay overnight in Hakone and plan on getting back to Wakayama or Nara from there(instead of Tokyo) around Day 9, will it work?

      You have a very informative site, keep it up!

    4. Haha,

      With the JR Rail Pass, as long as it is a JR line, staying outside of Tokyo or getting from Hakone to Nara shouldn't be a problem. From Hakone to Nara, you can take the train from Odawara to Nara via Kyoto.

      However, do take note that Hakone, if I am not the wrong, the JR Rail Pass only covers up to Odawara, and you might have to top up a bit to get to Hakone which is operated by Odakyu Railways, they might have a 2-Day Pass that covers everything though which would allow you to stay overnight at Hakone with most of the transport covered. This part you might have to do some homework =p, I am not very familiar with the Kanto region.

  20. HI Xin Li,

    I have chanced upon your blog when i was doing research for my Japan Trip, which provides me with a lot of insights! Thanks!

    However, i would like to seek your advice if i should buy JR rail pass?

    I am planning to stay in Tokyo and Osaka for a total of 9 days and my travel itinerary should be only to around Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and perhaps to nearby places like Nara and Nagoya.

    I am not sure if i should buy the JR rail pass or just buy regional pass? Please advise =)

    Further, my friends and i are also planning to stay at a ryokan hotel that provide private hot spring bath, do you have any recommendations?

    Lastly, based on mine (very) general itinerary, do you have any recommendations for any nearby places that i shouldn't miss?

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi! =D glad that you found them useful!

      For a short trip like 9 days, it looks like you are planning to cover a lot and you might only get a glimpse of each place. However if that is the plan to cover more rather than going in depth then getting the rail pass is advisable because it covers all the intercity journeys between, Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Nara and Nagoya and also because of the short time frame, the rail pass is advisable to save time and allows flexibility in your itinerary.

      Had it been up to me however, I would recommend just covering a particular region like Tokyo and surrounding such as Yokohama, Kamakura, Karuizawa, Nikko and Hakone for 9 days instead or the Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe) and do a really good one to promise yourself another return trip to cover another part of Japan because it is a really huge country and the current itinerary means a lot of commuting on just the inter-city travel part alone.

      For a hot spring ryokan, both Osaka and Kyoto are not the best places to go and instead you should head for a hot spring town for get a better deal and atmosphere. Near Tokyo, there is Hakone, Nikko areas and near Kyoto and Osaka, there is Kinosaki Onsen and Arima Onsen. And these are just some of the onsens available. You can find more onsens along with the guesthouses available here : http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/hot-springs/.

      Personally, I loved Kyoto a lot and I have visited the place at least 6 times. It takes quite some time to get to know the city though. But if you want the both sides of Japan, then Tokyo/Osaka and Kyoto are a must visit for an overview of what Japan has to offer.

      Then again, this also goes back to your priorities, what do you want to get out of this trip, is it food, covering as many cities as possible etc then it would be easier for me to give you more relevant advice?

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Hello, good stuff you got here! I added more places on my itinerary after reading some of your posts. I used to be set on getting a 21-day JR pass but after reading your post, I am not sure if I would be able to maximize it or it would give me the best value. Hoping to go to Japan next spring with this plan, might look weird to you as I will backtrack a couple of times but I want to catch the cherry blossoms blooming at Kyoto, Takayama Spring festival by mid Apr and wisteria bloom by the first week of May in Fukouka.

      Arrival: Osaka Airport
      Apr7-10: Kyoto
      Apr11-12: Kanazawa
      Apr13-17: Takayama
      Takayama will be my base for day trips to Shirakawago, Tateyama/Kurobe, Shin-Hotaka
      Apr18: Matsumoto/Inuyama
      Apr19-28: Tokyo
      Tokyo will be my base for day trips to Kamakura, Nikko, Yokohama, Mt. Fuji - 5 Lakes, Chiba, and Tsumago/Magome (-is this a good idea?)
      Apr29-2: Osaka
      Day trips to Nara, still thinking if it's worth going to Koya san and Yoshino
      May3: Himeji/Kobe
      May4-5: Fukuoka
      Hakata Festival
      May 6: Hiroshima
      Depature: Osaka Airport

      My biggest concern is the budget and which pass(es) I should purchase to really maximize my money given this itinerary. I am now thinking JR Kansai Area Pass and JR Kansai Hokuriku to supplement a 7 or 14 day JR Rail Pass, any thoughts or better options? btw, I am ok to spend time with the slower trains than in the Shinkansen as long as it saves me money (LOL) And do you I am spending too much time with some of the places I mentioned? I want to squeeze this but afraid I might miss out on something. I might only be allowed to stay 30 days in JP.

      Thank you very much!

    2. Hi Mariane,

      Seems like you are covering a lot of places in Japan, the Japan Rail Pass is a good choice for inter-city travel but do take note that there are a lot of places mentioned where the Rail Pass has limited or no coverage at all : Shin-Hotaka, Tateyama-Kurobe, Shirakawa-go, Tsumago-Magome, Koyasan.

      Maybe you might want to consider getting a combination of a 7/14 Day Japan Rail Pass and a Takayama-Hokuriku Pass as I noticed you spending a lot time in Takayama area. Tsumago-Magome is a little far from Tokyo, Nagoya or Matsumoto is a better base.

      At the moment, looking at the itinerary briefly, you might need to better strategize your travels because you have several focus regions and which undervalue a Japan Rail Pass, therefore you need to group your travelling to a certain region : Himeji-Kobe-Hiroshima-Kyoto-Nara-Osaka should be explored as a group. If you have to fly in by Osaka, I might even suggest you consider taking a domestic budget flight to Tokyo then proceed with a Japan Rail Pass journey from Tokyo through Matsumoto - Takayama - Kanazawa to Kyoto and get a regional rail pass in the Kansai region to finish?

  22. Hi Xin Li,

    First of all thank you for drafting up this blog post. It is super helpful for people like us who wants to travel around Japan but is not familiar with how it works or how to go about it. May I ask you for your advice in terms of itinerary? I plan to go to Japan for 2 weeks (14 days) starting from Tokyo. Can I get your opinion on what my itinerary should be like? It's quite hard for me to plan on my own as I am not very familiar with the places and I'd rather go free and easy rather than on tour because of cost efficiency and convenience. Also, I feel that travelling free and easy will allow me to explore Japan more authentically. Plus, which pass should I get?

    Here's a few places I have in mind,
    - Studio Ghibli Museum
    - Nara Island
    - Zao Fox Village
    - Mother Bokujo Farm
    - Onsen
    - Shrines/Temples

    Also, I'm very open to any places you have to recommend!

    Thank you very much for your time, hope to hear from you!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Hmmm, it depends on what you really want to see and what are your priorities in Japan. Looking at the places you have in mind, you seem to want to have a taste of the cultural and quaint aspect of Japan and the places are clustered around the Eastern and Northeastern part of Japan which means it is best to focus your 14 days around Kanto-Tohoku regions where passes like the Kanto and JR East pass would come in handy.

      Unfortunately, I am not very familiar with this area of Japan but I believe just this region alone will be more than adequate to fulfil your expectations where you could plan your route along the major railway lines along the Northeast region with its many choices of historical sites and onsens like Nyuto and Ginzan.

      However, if you want a safe route to a brief overview of Japan you could consider getting a 7-Day Japan Rail Pass and spend 7 days around Kanto region and cover the places you mention above and another 7 days for a brief visit to Kansai like 3 days in Osaka and 4 days in Kyoto with a day trip to Nara? The classic route would be easier to plan because it is tried and tested (and also expect more crowds).

      The northeast region will offer more hidden finds and more research on your part but some places that could consider include the Nagano and the Yamagata regions, Hirazumi, Matsushima and several onsens in the northeast. Some classics around Kanto include Nikko and Hakone.

      Hopefully these helps =p

      Xin Li

  23. Hi Xin Li,

    Thank you for the great information! It will be my first time visiting Japan and I am SUPER EXCITED for it. However, I am unsure how to plan my itinerary! I would like to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara within 12 days! How would you advice me to plan? I am open to exploring small towns in between my trips. How do I maximize if I were to buy a JR Pass? And I'm curious about avoiding the U-turn! I have yet to book my air tickets! Could you give suggestion on how my flight should enter and exit to maximize my JR Pass(7 Days)?

    Thank you so much btw! :)

    1. Hi!

      ^.^ You should!

      12 days is very short but to cover the places you going I suggest getting an open-jaw ticket : Flying in via Tokyo or Osaka and flying out from Osaka or Tokyo respectively looking at the places you want to visit to maximize your time spent there.

      After getting the open-jaw ticket, get a 7-day rail pass is more than sufficient. An overnight bus is cheaper and could save a day of lodging but it is up to you to weigh your priorities ;)

      Using the 7-day rail pass, I suggest use it only when you want to make a day trip out of Kyoto or Tokyo and more importantly to use it when you are travelling from Kyoto to Tokyo and vice versa.

      Your itinerary could be like this (flying in via Tokyo):
      Day 1 : Singapore - Tokyo (Rail Pass D1)
      Day 2 : Tokyo
      Day 3 : Tokyo (Day Trip or next destination, explore between Kyoto & Tokyo)
      Day 4 : between Kyoto & Tokyo
      Day 5 : between Kyoto & Tokyo
      Day 6 : between Kyoto & Tokyo
      Day 7 : Kyoto (Rail Pass D7)
      Day 8 : Kyoto
      Day 9 : Kyoto - Nara
      Day 10 : Nara - Osaka
      Day 11 : Osaka
      Day 12 : Osaka - Singapore

      This scenario above is if you using the 7-Day Railpass. If starting from Osaka, then use it after Kyoto. For places you can consider visiting in between Kyoto and Tokyo are (closest to Tokyo) : Karuizawa, Nagano, Kanzawa (the Hokuriku route), Nagoya - Takayama - Kanazawa (Central Alps route) or Matsumoto - Nagoya (Kiso Valley route). Visiting some of these places will give you more value for your railpass. However the downside of using a railpass early and wanting to push the value of the railpass also means spending less days in Tokyo because the railpass is best used for intercity travel. From Kyoto onwards the rail pass is not very good for value if you are planning to explore Kansai region alone where a rail pass like JR West Kansai will be more useful.

      That said, if you only want Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Tokyo then bus or even a budget flight might be a better choice to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto. after exploring one of the regions then supplement that with a regional pass like a JR Kansai West Pass for Osaka, Kyoto and Nara area.

      Hopefully this helps (:

      Xin Li

    2. Thanks for the prompt reply! Greatly appreciate it! With the information you shared, I think I'm clearer and informed regarding how to use the JR Pass and planning within my budget! :) I might add one or two days to Tokyo or Osaka if possible! Thanks so much! Have a great day!

  24. Hi Xin Li,

    What a great blog you have! It is very resourceful.
    I'm still trying to figure out my itinerary. It is my first trip to japan and there are so many cities i would love to cover in 7 days. I intend to visit Tokyo, kyoto & Osaka and initial thought is to use JR rail pass and after reading your blog and seem like not the best option.
    Do you find it too much to visit 3 cities in 7 days?

    1. Hi, sorry for the late reply and thank you for the compliments, I am overseas at the moment =p

      For 7 Days, I would not encourage using the rail pass because you would be spending more time exploring these cities that Japan Rail Pass is an overkill as it is more suited for inter-city travel.

      Furthermore I suggest making a memorable 7-day trip to a particular region ie : Kyoto + Osaka + Nara or Tokyo + Yokohama + Nikko + Hakone to save on transport and give yourself more time to explore these cities and spend less time on commuting. 7 Days is just adequate for 2-3 cities that are preferably not to far from each other. Kyoto and Osaka are in Kansai while Tokyo is in Kanto and the rail pass is not very worth it for just the trip between Tokyo and Osaka.

      Xin Li

  25. Hi Xin Li

    Great to find your blog! Its helpful :)
    I will go to Japan from 8 to 18 august. Start point from Osaka and end in Tokyo. And planning to go Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Tokyo.
    Need your advise what transportation should I take? And is my itinerary below ok enough?

    8 aug - sin osaka
    9 aug - osaka, arrive morning 7am
    10 aug - osaka, universal studio
    11 aug - osaka, nara
    12 aug - osaka kyoto or nara kyoto?
    13 aug - kyoto
    14 aug - kyoto - tokyo
    15 aug - tokyo, disneyland, disneysea
    16 aug - tokyo
    17 aug - tokyo
    18 aug - tokyo sin

    Thanks before :))

    1. Hi, thank you, hope it helps.

      Hmm, I would suggest getting an overnight bus from Kyoto to Tokyo where you could save cost on both transportation and accommodation.Similar to the above situation, the railpass is an overkill but you will still get back some value from the Kyoto - Tokyo shinkansen alone. If you do get the 7-day rail pass, consider using it from 9th August onwards which will cover your journeys to Nara, Kyoto and Tokyo. If not getting the 7-Day railpass, A one-way Haruka Icoca or regional railpass in Kansai like the JR West Kansai Pass might come in handy in addition to the overnight bus from Kyoto to Tokyo.

      Xin Li

  26. I'm glad to have found your blog. I read several articles on your blog and I think it is useful for the tourists :)

    Let me introduce myself, My name is Sam Wong, a HongKonger who love travel. Two months ago, I had created a travel site which aims to connect the bloggers and the tourists. Bloggers can share the link of their articles and let tourists find the useful travel articles more easily. I know you love travel and you write a lots of articles about travel, so I would like to invite you to share your articles, let more tourists can know more about your travel story. Look for your reply, hope you all the best!


    1. Hi Sam Wong! =D

      Sounds great, although I don't post that regularly =p
      How do I share them?

      Xin Li

  27. Thank you for your reply. Just register an account then you can start share the link of your article, it will be much more easily then create a blog :) Enjoy your journey!

  28. Hello xin li,

    I will be flying in to Tokyo and out as well next year.

    Would love to cover both Tokyo and Kyoto. It will be a 10days trip. Perhaps you can advise me on the best itinenary to cover the both places? And Should I purchase the jr pass since my last stop is Tokyo?

    What are the places that one have to go when they are in Tokyo and Kyoto. All my colleagues prefer Kyoto like urself, but as this is my first trip there, I think I should go to both places to discover myself.

    My preference is to see their culture, shopping and sight seeing.

    Many thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Joanne,

      Apologies for the late reply, had been overseas and busy. 10 days is quite short, if budget is a big factory, you can consider a overnight bus between Tokyo and Kyoto by Willer Express, otherwise a 7-Day Japan Rail Pass should suffice (even though it is an overkill).

      My honest opinion is that if you have only 10 days, just focus on the region around Tokyo if you are flying in and out of there, covering places like Kamakura, Nikko or Yokohama also offers a different side of Japan. Alternatively, you could do an intensive Golden Route by visiting more places within the 7 Days of your JR Pass to use it more efficiently like using it to visit Takayama, Kanazawa and Kyoto before going back to Tokyo.

      Xin Li

  29. Hey Xin Li!

    Your blog has been so helpful in the planning of my trip to Japan! And your help and advice in your comments section has proved to be valuable and incredibly helpful.

    I will be travelling to Japan with my boyfriend for about 16 days in September. We arrive at around 8pm on the 2nd of September in Tokyo and will be departing on the 17th September Tokyo 8pm and I originally thought that we should purchase the 14 day JR pass but after reading your comments, I'm starting to have second thoughts.

    Can you kindly please have a look at our proposed itinerary and give us any tips/pointers on how we can efficiently get around and make use of the JR pass?

    02/09 Tokyo
    03/09 Tokyo (Tsukiji Fish Market, Sensoji Temple, Imperial Palace, Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble)
    04/09 Tokyo (Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building)
    05/09 Tokyo (shopping, eating, exploring, soccer/baseball game)
    06/09 Mount Fuji from Tokyo
    07/09 Travel to Kyoto (Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
    08/09 Kyoto (Nijo castle, Ryōan-ji rock garden, Kinkaku-ji Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
    09/09 Kyoto (Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu-dera temple)
    10/09 Kyoto (shopping, eating, exploring)
    11/09 Kyoto to Osaka (shopping, eating, exploring)
    12/09 Day trip to Kobe from Osaka
    13/09 Day trip to Himeji from Osaka
    14/09 Day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka
    15/09 Osaka back to Tokyo (shopping, eating, exploring)
    16/09 Tokyo (shopping, eating, exploring)
    17/09 Tokyo

    Any help would be immensely helpful! Our itinerary is flexible.

    Thank you so much.

    1. Hi,

      Apologies for the late reply,
      hmmmm... a cheaper alternative to the 14Day JR Pass might be an overnight bus from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka to Tokyo while at the same time investing in a regional Kansai region pass that covers Kobe, Himeji and Hiroshima starting from around the 11/09 - 15/09. However if time and comfort is your top priority rather than budget, a 14-Day JR Pass is recommended. I see a lot of day trips from Osaka and looks like a base to maximize the JR Pass. However, you could consider staying at Kobe, Himeji or Hiroshima as well to reduce commuting time, or consider lesser known but nice places covered by JR pass like Kinosaki Onsen and spend a night there, at the same time, it different experience from dominantly city environment destinations in the itinerary.

      Xin Li

  30. Hello Xin Li,

    I am planning to travel this New year. I wonder if the bullet trains from will be fully booked? I've read blogs that say the bullet trains will be crowded from Tokyo to provinces before new year since they will be going to their provinces and trains will be crowded on their way back to Tokyo after new year. Is this true? Have you experienced it already?

    I plan to travel on these dates:
    1. Tokyo to Nagano --> Dec 30 (Day trip)
    2. Tokyo to Osaka --> Jan 2

    Can you give some advice on this? I plan on getting the JR Rail Pass since it will save me more already when computing the transportation cost in hyperdia.


    1. Hi,

      As I haven't travelled during the New Year period, I can't provide much advice and I could only use the summer travel season as a reference. Buses and trains were busy if not fully booked in that period, I would expect something similar for the New Year season.If you are concerned about the crowd, consider getting a seat reservation as early as you can for your trains as this will guarantee your seat. Tokyo - Nagano could be covered in a JR East Pass. There are non-reserved seating, and you might want to wait for your train earlier (at least 30-45 minutes beforehand) to get a seat.

      Tokyo - Osaka could be done as an overnight bus that you can book way in advance if you are concerned about the peak season. The train seat reservations can only be done with a friend in Japan but with a JR Pass, you can only do that when you are in Japan.

      Hopefully these would help, I have travelled on a packed Limited Express train from Nakatsugawa - Nagoya before, even without seat, it meant standing for the entire duration of the journey....but you get to your destination =p

      Xin Li

  31. Hi! Can you pls comment on this? We'll be going to Japan on Oct24-Nov 3. Our accomodation in Tokyo is near Aoto while in Kansai is near Higashi-sano JR station (Osaka)

    Oct 24 - arrive at NRT, Asakusa, Ueno, Ameyoko
    Oct 25 - Tsukiji, Akihabara, Shinjuku
    Oct 26 - FUJI Q (use Qpack)
    Oct 27 - Disneysea
    Oct 28 - Hakone (use hakone freepass)
    Oct 29 - travel to osaka via shinkansen (my friends want to ride the bullet train), Namba, Himeji
    Oct 30 - USJ
    Oct 31 - Kyoto
    Nov 1 - Kyoto
    Nov 2 - Osaka, Koya-san
    Nov 3 - Osaka, flight back home from KIX

    From oct 24-26, we will use the Tokyo subway 3day ticket... My plan is to buy the shinkansen ticket separately then buy the 4day Kansai area pass.. I will not avail the 7 day JR pass.. What do you think? :)

    1. Hi,

      Wow, it looks pretty packed for Kansai area and be prepared to pay a lot for the Shinkansen. It is cool but the budget guy in me thinks if you could offer some time, the cheaper alternative is an overnight bus from Tokyo to Osaka and get a Kansai region pass there that covers up to Himeji. Otherwise, considering that the time is quite short and if you willing to pay a premium, you could consider the 7-Day Pass but it does not cover the Koya-san section. However with some adjustments you could still get a better value out of the 7-Day Pass such as finding a destination in between Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto and going to Himeji via Shinkansen.

      Tokyo wise, I am not very familiar but it is good you have set aside a lot of time for the place, it is huge. Kansai will be very packed, Kyoto should take about 4 days but the good thing is that you are flying out from KIX instead of making a U-turn back to Tokyo.

  32. Hi there,

    Thanks for such a informative post.

    I am planning a trip 9 day 8 night trip to Japan in Nov, would like to seek your advice in transporting cost/pass to get.

    I will be touching down in Osaka and stay a day or 2 there then move on to Kyoto and Nara for another 2 day. Then move on to Tokyo for 3 day and then last night in Chiba and finally depart from Tokyo narita.

    1. Hi,

      I am assuming you are doing the classic Golden Route, if you are not planning to cover anywhere in between Osaka/Kyoto/Nara and Tokyo, then an overnight bus to Tokyo is the cheapest or best value option. For Kyoto/ Osaka/ Nara, there are a number of regional passes which you could use that will cover these places such as JR Kansai West Pass.

      While a rail pass might save you time considering it is a short 9 day trip, as it is short in relative to the number places you plan to cover, it might be an overkill for just getting it for the sake of getting to Tokyo from Kyoto/Osaka.

      Itinerary wise, you plan to cover Kyoto and Nara within just two days, might as well as just settle for one of them because Kyoto would take at least 4 days to cover the main sights at a leisurely pace while Nara at least a day for the main sights, squeezing the two in would not do justice to these destinations.

  33. Hi Xin Li,

    Really enjoy reading the blog entry and the comments.

    I am planning to go Tokyo for about 2 weeks and i am not sure if i should get a 7 day pass or 14 day pass.

    First leg with friends
    23 Jan - Arrive at Tokyo
    24 Jan - Tokyo
    25 Jan - Osaka
    26 Jan - Kyoto
    27 Jan - Kyoto
    28 Jan - Kanazawa/ Tokyo
    29 Jan - Tokyo

    2nd leg solo but i have free accomodation at Tokyo (staying with a jap friend) and i would like to maximize the 14 days pass, if i am buying it...
    30 Jan - Tokyo
    31 Jan - Tokyo
    1 Feb - Tokyo to Mt Fuji (Day trip)
    2 Feb - Tokyo to Nikko (Day trip)
    3 Feb - Tokyo to Ashikaga (Day trip)
    4 Feb - Tokyo to ??? (Day trip)
    5 Feb - Tokyo
    6 Feb - Tokyo to Singapore

    How can you advise me on this? Thank you so much... I am not sure if i should cut short my trip also.. Is it gonna be very gloomy in winter in Japan?

    With Love,

    1. Hi Ava,

      Looking at the itinerary. I think the 7-day pass should suffice for the first half of the trip and complement it with some regional or local passes for the Tokyo day trips or Tokyo travel instead.

      I am not sure about Tokyo. Winter can be very nice especially places like Takayama. Kanazawa can be nice but do take note winter is the wettest season for Kanazawa and it might be gloomy there. Weather is quite unpredictable. Also, buses maybe cheap for some places but trains or the train pass will grant you some flexibility should certain routes be down due to heavy snow.

      To maximize your 7 day pass, consider going further or stopping by more places in between Kyoto and Tokyo? For example, Matsumoto, Nagano or Takayama?

      Xin Li

  34. Hi Xin Li,

    Thank you so much for your reply. :)

    What about this? Maximising my 7 days pass?

    First leg with friends
    23 Jan (Sat) - Arrive at Tokyo
    24 Jan (Sun) - Tokyo
    25 Jan (Mon) - Osaka
    26 Jan (Tue) - Kyoto
    27 Jan (Wed) - Kyoto
    28 Jan (Thur) - Kanazawa

    2nd Leg (Solo)
    29 Jan (Fri) - Takayama
    30 Jan (sat) - Matsumoto / Nagano/ Shirakawa-go (which is better?) - should i stay one night or return to Tokyo at night?

    3rd leg solo but i have free accomodation at Tokyo (staying with a jap friend) - ill buy the local and regional pass here...

    31 Jan (Sun) - Tokyo (Fuji)
    1 Feb (Mon) - Tokyo
    2 Feb (Tue) - Tokyo
    3 Feb (Wed)- Tokyo

  35. I just realised that Takayama can be done in half a day and Shirakawa can do it with Kanazawa... what do you think.. sorry ah.. asked too many questions.. trying to make full use of my pass.. :)

    1. Haha, I could only give advice, you have to decide what you want to make out of this trip? =p

  36. Hi,

    My itinerary is as follows:

    Land in Tokyo (Narita)
    Tokyo > Osaka
    Osaka > Kyoto Day Trip
    Osaka > Nara Day Trip
    Osaka > Tokyo

    Would you recommend getting a 7 Day JR Pass for this?

    1. Hi,

      If you want budget, then no because you could do it with an overnight bus between Tokyo and Osaka.

      If time is really tight and you want to have more flexibility, then yes.

      Decide on what is important : time or budget? If time is important, then use the 7-Day rail pass because it will grant you flexibility in transportation and it is the most convenient and also more pricey and also at the cost of limitations of itinerary as you have to squeeze Kyoto and Nara within the 7 days. After that, the next step is to maximize its value, use more on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo, try to use the Narita Express, try to use it to get to Arashiyama from Kyoto station etc on top of the Kyoto-Tokyo route.

      Xin Li

    2. Dear Xin Lee, what transportation pass do you recommend for the following itinerary? Do you recommend JR? or Kansai Pass or neither?

      Day 1, Arrival at NRT at 2:30 pm. NEX or airport limo to Hyatt Regency Tokyo
      Day 2, Tokyo
      Day 3, Day trip to Nikko from Tokyo
      Day 4, Day trip to Hakone or stay in Tokyo
      Day 5, Tokyo
      Day 6, Check out Hyatt Regency Tokyo, Tokyo to Osaka, Check in Hyatt Regency Osaka
      Day 7, Osaka
      Day 8, Day trip to Kyoto from Osaka
      Day 9, Day trip to Nara from Osaka
      Day 10, Day trip to Kobe from Osaka
      Day 11, Osaka (or one more day trip to Kyoto)
      Day 12, Osaka
      Day 13, Check out HR Osaka to KIX for 9:30 am flight to ICN

      Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


    3. Sorry for mis-spell your name, it was very early that I posted the above in NY, Xin Li. Additional information to get better advice from you. 1) We don't mind spending a little more for the time and convenience. 2) For day trips, we want to come back to our hotel not too late. Hopefully before 7 pm.


    4. Hi Jane, this is one of many classic Tokyo-Osaka routes that have been covered several times beforehand and the service you are about to ask is as good as engaging a person to plan for the entire travel down to the timing of your itinerary. While I try my best out of my own time to help fellow travellers, there are things that it should be done as homework, such as planning for your own timetable?

      As mentioned before in similar itineraries for this Tokyo - Osaka route, JR Japan Rail Pass yes if you are rush for time and you should use it from Nikko onwards (don't use it for NEX, if you have time, consider taking at train down to Oshiage and get a metro pass from there, you might be using the subway frequently in Tokyo) and further supplement it with a regional Kansai Pass such as the Kansai West Pass. Furthermore if you are making multiple day trips to Kyoto, why don't consider staying in Kyoto before moving onto Osaka? A railpass might not be necessary depending on which part of Osaka you would be staying in, if you are in the Namba area, the regular train journey to the airport is not too expensive.

      In short, use Japan Rail Pass to cover Nikko, Hakone, Tokyo-Kyoto and maximize the remaining days to go to Kobe and Nara. Pay for a standard fare to KIX and consider basing yourself in Kyoto for 2 nights instead of making multiple day trips. The best route is Kyoto - Nara - Osaka then day trip to Kobe.

  37. Hi Xin Li,

    Your post and reply to comments really helped a lot in my planning. I've come up with a 14 day itinerary but im still not sure if im maximising the 7 day JR pass that i will get.

    Day 1 to 4 - Tokyo
    Day 5 - Tokyo + Overnight Willer Express to Kyoto
    Day 6 - Kyoto as base for next few days.
    Day 7 - Kyoto
    Day 8 - Kyoto
    Day 9 - Day trip to Nara (Activate 7 day JR pass)
    Day 10 - Travel to Osaka and spend the night there
    Day 11 - Travel to Hiroshima, spend the night at Miyajima
    Day 12- Travel to Himeji, then Nagoya and spend the night there
    Day 13 - Travel to Hakone and spend the night there
    Day 14 - Back to Tokyo
    Day 15 - Depart from Tokyo

    Could you kindly advise if any improvements on travelling could be made and is it worth getting the 7 day JR pass in this case?

    1. Hey, sounds fine to me, nice combination of both overnight bus and the rail pass. By taking the Willer Express you are able to have a more leisurely pace before seeing more places while on the rail pass, this itinerary is okay (:. Take note the JR pass might be limited in Hakone though, you might have to pay for a supplement.

      I feel JR Pass to visit Nara and Osaka which are very close to each other and covered under the JR Kansai West Pass might not be very worth it, if you have more time, you might want to use the days from the JR 7 Day Pass to cover more far-flung places like Matsumoto, Takayama and Kanazawa on the way back to Tokyo? But if you do not have the time to cover these places and not very keen, the current arrangement is fine too (:

      Xin Li

  38. Hi Xin Li,

    Your knowledge and advice on the rail transport options in Japan is incredible. I am planning a 14 day trip to Tokyo and surrounds in Dec and would most appreciate your advise on my itinerary.

    Day 1 : Arrive Tokyo Haneda

    Day 2-4 : 3D2N tour to Hakone
    Bought a land package from JTB which includes the Hakone 3 day pass and return train ride from Shinjuku to Hakone Yumoto.

    Day 4 : Hakone to Nagano
    Here I would like to seek your advise as to whether I should take a train from Hakone to Nagano or should I use the return train ticket to Shinjuku and then take the train from Shinjuku to Nagano? Which is a easier and more time saving and cost effective option?

    Day 4 to Day 8 : Nagano and Shiga Kogen Ski resort
    Will visit some of the attractions in Nagano eg snow monkeys, castles etc

    Day 8 : depart Nagano for Tokyo

    Day 8 to 15 : visit Tokyo and surrounds eg Nikko and Mt Tako

    Based on the above itinerary, would you recommend us to get the JR East pass? If so for how many days and at which point of our trip should we start using it?

    Thanks in advance for your help and advice.


    1. Hi Winston,

      I am not very familiar with this part of Japan. However, if I am not wrong, no matter what option you pick for Day 4, the train would need to pass by Tokyo region to get to Nagano, to get a better idea of the train journey timing you could key in the stations at hypedia. However, this part getting a rail pass might be a valuable option, the JR East Pass should be able to cover that and the good thing it is a flexible 5 day pass, hence you can use it when you need it on 5 days of your choice which means it can cover your Hakone - Nagano, Nagano - Tokyo, Tokyo - Nikko and partially Tokyo - Haneda by travelling down to Shinagawa Station with the pass or just use it for a day trip to Shizuoka, Karuizawa, Yokohama, Sendai etc maximize its value.

  39. Hi Xin Li,

    Planning to come to Japan on December 31st. Stay in Tokyo for 4 days. Go to Osaka (actually to visit Universal) and stay for 2 days. Leave back to Tokyo and fly out the day after.. we'll be in Japan for 7 days.

    We have been reading but for someone with 0 Japan knowledge it is all a bit hard to grasp. Can you shed your light on this? What would be best?


    1. Hi Friso,

      Japan has plenty to fascinate but it depends what are your interests, I am unable to assist much on that one but I could point out some really good guides such as the JNTO and Japanguide.com to help you plan your itinerary. This is a classic Tokyo - Osaka route. Looking at the time constraints, you might consider getting a 7 Day Japan Rail Pass to get the most out of this short 7 days. This also depends on your travel style, if you prefer something leisurely, then take it easy and visit some key attractions that you fancy if you a traveller with a very hectic pace, then plan your journey wisely, visit the attractions in clusters to reduce commuting time.

  40. Hi Xin Li,
    I planning the below itinerary for my coming November trip to Japan. I already booked return flight via Kansai Airport and booked 3 nights in Kyoto. I'm thinking to get JR 7 Days Pass , probably the route from Osaka - Kyoto - Tokyo. But, at the same time i want to visit Takayama. So, may i know whether is possible to use my JR pass to Takayama? Or i have to pay additional fare.
    Day1 - from Kansai Airport to Kyoto
    Day2 - Kyoto
    Day3 - Tokyo Day Trip. Just a few places will do, since i not planning to do shopping. Back to Kyoto
    Day4 - Kyoto to Takayama. Stay 1 night
    Day5 - Takayama to Osaka
    Day6 - Osaka
    Day 7- Flight out from Osaka

    1. Yes the JR Pass is valid for Takayama, the train would have to stop at Nagoya and takes about 2-3 hours to get to Takayama. The attractions around Takayama like Shin-Hotaka are not covered by the pass, it would cost anything from 2000-4000 yen, you could check it up at Nohi-Bus website (http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/)

      The challenge is where to proceed after Takayama, it would take quite a long time to get to Osaka, otherwise you could consider doing a loop : Kyoto - Kanazawa - Osaka (Osaka is ideal as the end point because its affordable proximity to Kansai Airport). Other passes that you can consider for this include the Hokuriku - Takayama Pass which covers all the places you intending to go. For the Tokyo part, it is not advisable because you would be paying a lot for that one day trip, the whole Japan Rail Pass could be just attributed to that one day trip, consider concentrating your attention around Kyoto-Osaka and Takayama for a more leisurely pace, they offer a lot to see as well. Make it a good one and you would be keen to go visit Tokyo another day.

  41. Hello Xin Li,

    I am planning a trip to Japan during sakura season and already have booked my flight and hotels. I want your advice on traveling based on this itinerary.

    March 24th- arrive in Tokyo
    March 25th- Tokyo
    March 26th- Tokyo
    March 27th- day in Tokyo, leave for Matsumoto that night
    March 28th- day in Matsumoto, leave for Kyoto that night
    March 29th- Kyoto
    March 30th- day in Nara/ Kyoto
    March 31st- day in Kyoto, leave for Himeji that night
    April 1st- day in Himeji, leave for Osaka that night
    April 2nd- Osaka
    April 3rd- day in Osaka, leave for Tokyo
    April 4th- Tokyo
    April 5th- day in Tokyo, back to U.S. that afternoon

    I know I'm traveling around a lot, but I live in Southeast U.S. so I'm treating it like a once in a lifetime trip to Japan. Pretty sure I should get the rail pass, and had planned to activate it on the Tokyo to Matsumoto trip but would be interested in any tips you may have.

    1. Hi,

      Yeap a Japan Rail Pass is a good option and good to use it from Matsumoto onwards. My advice is to get the seat reservations for the the trains of your choice early while you can. Check out hyperdia and note down the trains to book seat reservations for. I foresee a peak season around this timing. The JR Rail Pass allows free seat reservations and would spare you from rushing to the station to get a seat. The Matsumoto - Kyoto route is a very popular route because the trains stop over Nagoya a major transport hub, the limited express trains on this line could get very pack.
      A 7-Day Rail Pass might not be enough and I am hesitant to recommend getting the 14 Day to cover the trip back to Tokyo from Osaka. Might want to consider a overnight highway bus with Willer Express if you are looking for a cheaper alternative.

      Xin Li

  42. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  43. Awesome blog!

    I'm heading to japan for 14 days

    would you suggest a JR 7 day pass for something like the following

    Nov 25th - Arrive Tokyo
    Nov 26th - Depart to Kyoto
    Nov 27th - Kyoto
    Nov 28th - Kyoto
    Nov 29th - Depart Kyoto to Nagano
    Nov 30th - Nagano
    Dec 1st - Depart Nagano for Fuji Five Lakes
    Dec 2nd - Depart Fuji Five lakes for Tokyo
    Dec 2nd - Dec 9th Tokyo

    Whats your thoughts ? there are so many options! it's getting confusing

    1. Yes and No, the trip is very short : time is precious hence a 7-Day Rail Pass might seem like a good option. However the itinerary is a little weird because it is bouncing here and there partly because Kyoto is not along the way. If this has been taken into consideration it is okay.

      My person advice is to stick to Kanto - Tohoku regions, concentrate your travels around here and get a JR East Pass.If you wish to visit Kyoto, consider a overnight bus to Kyoto followed by a 7-day rail pass to cover your trips to Nagano, Fuji Five Lakes (might need a supplement), and other areas like Matsumoto, Shizuoka, Sendai, Nikko which you could fit into your itinerary if they are along the way.

  44. Hi Xin Li,
    Hope you could help me with my itinerary. I will be going Japan on the 25/03/2016 and back Melbourne on 18/04/2016. We really wanted to explore the whole Japan in 25 days but
    my biggest concern is my 2 years old daughter will be traveling with us. Therefore im not sure if I should cut short my trip by not going further to Kanto
    Below are my proposed itinerary not including Kanto area. Can you please have a look and give me any tips or advice on how we can efficiently get around if we need to buy Japan rail pass.

    Day 1-5 : Kansai Airport - Osaka
    Tenoji park
    namba Park
    Osaka aquarium
    Osaka castle
    Osaka castle park
    Sumiyoshi Taisha
    Shitennoji Temple
    Universal studio
    Kid plaza osaka
    If you have Anymore suggestion?

    Day 6- 8 Hiroshima/Himeji/Kanazawa

    Day 8 -13 Kyoto
    Higashiyama and Gion
    Kyoto`s Pontocho Alley
    Ryoan ji temple
    Daitoky temple
    Nishiki Fdod market
    Himeji castle
    Kokoen garden
    If you have any more suggestion?

    Day 14 - 18 Tokyo
    Meji Shrine
    Senso ji
    Tsukiji fish market
    Shinjuku gyoen
    Tokyo emperial palace
    Tokyo disneyland
    Yoyoji park
    Kameido Tenjin Shrine
    Ashikaga Flower Park

    Day 19 - 20

    Day 20 – 25 Tokyo - Narita

    Sorry if my itinerary have confused you. Based on the above itinerary, would you recommend us to get the JR rail pass? If so for how many days and at which point of our trip should we start using it?

    Thanks in advance for your help and advice

    1. Hmmm

      Japan is easy to get around, if you are travelling with a child, comfort is key. Should definitely get the rail pass (might even consider getting a 14 day) if you plan to visit Kanto from Kansai and the aim is to explore more of Japan. I see you are flying in via Osaka and then out from Narita which is a favourable route for Kansai - Kanto ititnerary.

      You could go to Osaka first (opt not to use the JR Rail Pass first if the first few days are for exploring Osaka and Universal Studios). Towards the last few days in Osaka, you could do a day trip to Himeji.

      After Osaka, you can make your way to Kyoto, with a day trip to Nara to see the deers (can also be done from Osaka). From Kyoto you have the option of doing:
      Kyoto - Kanazawa - Takayama - Nagoya - Tokyo (This one is takes longer but more varied with a mix of cultural and scenery)
      Kyoto - Kanazawa - Matsumoto - Tokyo

      I am not very family with Tokyo though but I reckon there is a lot to explore in Tokyo and you could do a night's stay at Hakone with a package.

      As for the rail pass, from the looks of it you could use a mix of a 7-Day or 14-Day Rail Pass plus regional passes. 7-Day Rail Pass to be used between travelling regions and city like Kyoto-Kanazawa or Takayama-Tokyo. I think from the airport to Osaka or Tokyo to the airport, a railpass is not necessary but it depends which part of Osaka or Tokyo you are staying in as well. From Tokyo to Narita takes about an hour and same for Kansai Airport to Osaka as well. The good thing is that you have a luxury of time to spend in Japan and just ensure you have at least 4-5 days for the key stops and 3-4 days for the minor stops. In your case, if you intend to get the JR Rail Pass you could do a number of minor stops on a leisurely pace which should be good for travelling with a kid.

      For attractions, I could go on and on but I think you should check out http://www.japan-guide.com/ because they have everything you need to know like how to get there, admission fees and what kind of attraction. There are some lesser known attractions that they don't cover which you could get information via JNTO or the respective cities' tourism pages.

  45. Wow! Your blog is very detailed!! Thank youu!
    And sooo many comments on this topic :)

    Not sure if you're still replying to the comments but in case you do, would really appreciate if you could look at my very rough itinerary.

    I'd be flying in and out of Tokyo from 13-28 December next month, and would love to spend Chrismas and last few days at Tokyo hence exploring of Tokyo will be towards the end of trip.

    I can see that it's going to be super jampacked and honestly, I'm kinda worried. Coz this is going to be my FIRST trip to Japan... And my first attempt at solo travel. So im feeling very nervous, and sorta greedy too coz there're sooo many wonderful things in Japan that i want to have a taste of immediately!


    13 Dec - Arrive late at airport. Will try capsule hotel at airport :p

    14 Dec - Tokyo. Tsuikiji Market at wee hours, Hakone -> Mount Fuji

    (Maybe will be taking night bus to Kyoto, or start using JR pass)

    15 Dec - Kyoto

    16 Dec - Kyoto (rent Kimono and temple tour...)

    17 Dec - Kinosaki Onsen (havent decide if can afford to stay at ryokan or base at kyoto)

    18 Dec - Nara

    19 Dec - Kamazawa/ Takayama (?? Not sure if doable?)

    20 Dec - Hiroshima/ Miyajima/ Okushima (Possible to fit in 1 day?)

    21 Dec - Kyushu

    22 Dec - Huis Ten Bosch (Coz One Piece!!)

    23 Dec - Himeiji

    24 Dec - Osaka

    25 Dec - Tokyo One Piece Tower

    26 Dec - Gala Yuzawa

    27 Dec - Studio Ghibli

    (early flight, capsule hotel at airport again.)

    28 Dec - Back to reality :(


    Im on tight budget, so i'm intending to only spend good money on transport (train tickets?!), virgin ski/snow experience... and anything anime related, especially One Piece. And food of course.

    OT: I wish i can squeeze in more time to see the monkeys at onsen!

    But based on my itinerary, do you think the 14 days pass is an overkill? If you have a better suggestion, i would love to take a look at it coz i really think you're the guru!!

    Thanks in advance!

    1. A lot of places and looks hectic. But if this is your itinerary, it is a 14-Day Rail Pass kind of itinerary. The rail pass encourages travelling between cities and also meant you have to squeeze your itinerary. It will pay off in money value but not so sure in holiday satisfaction.

      Some of the places mentioned like Kinosaki Onsen, Kanazawa, Takayama etc have too little time allocated to them and when you factor in train timings etc, you might just be at the station and surroundings for 3-4 hours.

      Basically in this itinerary you are trying to cover a very large area in Japan in a short period of time with no. of places listed. The fact that you are flying in via Tokyo makes it even more problematic because this itinerary would have been better if you are coming in via Fukuoka and travelling northwards to Tokyo.

      If you haven't book your air tickets, I suggest you looking into flying into Fukuoka. Have a good bowl of Hakata style ramen there then use your 14-Day rail pass and follow this route:

      Fukuoka - Nagasaki (Huis Ten Bosch) - Hiroshima (Miyajima) - Himeji (Day Trip) - Osaka - Kyoto - Kanazawa - Gala Yuzawa (Nagano) - Tokyo?

      If in the event your tickets are booked already. You could do a figure of 8 loop meaning Tokyo - Kyoto (Nara as Day Trip) - Himeji (stopover) - Hiroshima (Miyajima) - Hakata - Nagasaki - Osaka - Kanazawa - Echigo-Yuzawa - Tokyo?

      Suggest dropping Takayama because it is not exactly along the way and you don't have enough time if Nagasaki's Huis Ten Bosch is a must-cover. It is basically at the other end of Japan and it is the Achilles heel of your itinerary. However not that it cannot be done.

      Then there is also more streamlined version where you could just travel along lines served by the shinkansen meaning you go:
      Tokyo - Kyoto/Osaka (Day Trips to Himeji and Nara) - Hiroshima - Hakata - Nagasaki - Tokyo - Echigo-Yuzawa - Tokyo.

      Based on my interpretations of your intentions and your itinerary, I think 14-Day rail pass is a okay investment because you are going to a lot of places and doing inter-city travelling. Just need to streamline your itinerary so that you don't spend too much time on the train. Places like Kinosaki Onsen, Kanazawa, Takayama requires at least a 3-hour journey time in certain legs and their train schedules will restrict your itinerary. Along the main shinkansen lines, at least there are plenty of train timings to give you flexibility.

    2. Hi Xin Li!
      Thank you for your reply! I appreciate seeing your effort in answering everyone's questions!! Great job and thank you!

      Think i was very greedy and ambitious when planning this route.

      I had wanted to do go Nagasaki coz of One Piece at Huis Ten Bosch, and wanted to visit Hashima Island and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum...
      But i had also found out that the main One Piece attractions has been shifted to Laguna Ten Bosch at Nagoya... I decided to drop Nagasaki totally, but will definitely include it in my next trip.

      Like you've suggested, I decided to drop Takayama as well. Coz really not on the way :(

      My itinerary is now something like this:

      Tokyo (airtickets already booked so no choice T_T)
      Kyoto (day trip: Nara)
      Kinosaki Onsen
      Hiroshima/ Miyajima
      Hiroshima/ Okunishima
      Osaka (day trip: Himeji, Nagoya-Laguna Ten Bosch)

      I'm still trying to fine-tune it so that i'd be able to explore as much as i could, while keeping my schedule flexible in case i fall sick or inclement weather (i hope not!).

      And being a typical singaporean, i'm also trying to make full use of the jr pass... Though i understand that travelling time is sometimes much longer if i were to fully rely on jr pass. hehee~

      Thanks again for your feedback and suggestions :)

    3. Hi,

      Hmmm, If you not going Nagasaki, Nagoya would be easier to plan for.
      You can use the rail pass for the section when you plan to go to other cities while use a city pass or something while in Tokyo.

      Can consider exploring Tokyo in-depth, at the start or end of the trip. Either way, you can head down to Kyoto - Hiroshima - Osaka - Nagoya - Nagano (Echigo Yuzawa) then back to Tokyo? The gist is that you use the rail pass for city to city travel. If you are not planning to explore Tokyo in-depth but rather cover more places then a 14 Day rail pass would make sense. Yeap Takayama and Kanazawa are a bit hard to fit in due to the pacing of the itinerary.

      D1 - Tokyo
      D2 - Tokyo to Kyoto (Rail Pass Starts here.)
      D3 - Kyoto
      D4 - Kyoto <-> Nara
      D5 - Kyoto -> Hiroshima
      D6 - Hiroshima
      D7 - Hiroshima -> Himeji -> Osaka
      D8 - Osaka
      D9 - Osaka -> Kobe?
      D10 - Osaka - Nagoya
      D11 - Nagoya
      D12 - Nagoya - Echigo Yuzawa
      D13 - Echigo Yuzawa
      D14 - Echigo Yuzawa - Tokyo
      D15 - Tokyo
      D16 - Tokyo

      The last few days from Hiroshima onwards is up to you, you could spend more in these cities or consider making stopovers in Shizuoka, Nagano on the way to Tokyo or consider stopping over somewhere between Echigo-Yuzawa and Tokyo (Gunma Prefecture) or just use the remaining 2 days on the 14-Day Rail Pass to go Nikko etc. 14-Day Rail Pass should give you plenty of flexibility in your itinerary if you are into a packed itinerary. Won't suggest a day trip for Nagoya for the Laguna Ten Bosch, consider staying a night or two there for that trip instead.

  46. Hi Lee Xin Li,

    my plan :

    15 Dec : arrive KIX to Osaka
    16 Dec : Osaka
    17 - 19 Dec : Kyoto
    20 Dec : Nara
    21 Dec : Kyoto to Yokohama, continue to Tokyo
    22 Dec : FujiQ
    23 - 24 Dec : Tokyo
    25 - 27 Dec : not decide yet, but one day for disney sea
    28 Dec : Fly out from Narita

    I plan to use Amazing Osaka Pass in Osaka
    Bus pass in Kyoto
    Then JR pass to travel from Kyoto to Yokohama - Tokyo

    Is it worth it to use JR pass?
    Any suggestion for blank date, to maximize JR Pass?


    1. Hi Sisca, sounds fine, Good to use the rail pass from 19th Dec onwards to cover Nara, Yokohama, FujiQ. Hmmm use the 7 days to explore other parts of Japan along the way to Tokyo too. From the looks of it, you might still have 3 days of the rail pass left if you use on the 19th Dec onwards. You can consider taking a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo or stopping by places Nagoya, Shizuoka, Matsumoto, Kanazawa for a night or two on the way to Tokyo? :)

      Kyoto can be covered mainly by bus. Which is about 500 Yen each day.

      Hopefully, these would be useful.

      Xin Li

    2. Hi Lee Xin Li,

      Thanks a lot for your help, appreciate it!

    3. And yes, will consider to stopping by places you mention above

  47. Hi there,

    Do you think it'll be worth it to get a Japan Rail Pass for me?

    My itinerary look something like this as of now.

    17 Jan - Arriving late at Haneda Airport
    18 Jan - Tokyo
    19 Jan - Tokyo
    20 Jan - Tokyo
    21 Jan - Tokyo transit to Kyoto
    22 Jan to 25 Jan - spending it in Kyoto with a Nara Day trip
    25 Jan - Transit from Kyoto to Osaka
    25 Jan to 27 Jan - Osaka (With a USS day trip)
    27 Jan - Transit from Osaka back to Tokyo
    27 Jan to 29 Jan - Tokyo all the way

    I was planning to buy the 7 day pass starting 21 onwards form Tokyo to Kyoto/Nara and Osaka.
    Will it be worth it?

    1. Hi, sounds okay because you are flying out of Tokyo, and you do not have exactly have the luxury of time, it is an investment that would pay off with the trip down to Kyoto and back as well as use for the journeys, it may be a waste because you are doing in-depth exploration of Kyoto because the railpass is really for inter-city travel but Kyoto is totally worth that amount of days spent and from the looks of it, you can maximize the value of the rail pass by using the free seat reservations on your train rides and using it to go Nara, Osaka as well as Arashiyama and Uji within Kyoto on top of the train rides to and fro Kyoto/Osaka - Tokyo.

      If you wish to go for something cheaper, can consider an overnight bus then use a Kansai West Pass for Kyoto- Osaka - Nara. Otherwise, this itinerary seems fine.

  48. Thanks for this, very informative! I was thinking of just buying the rail pass and then working out routes when I get there. But after reading this I might work out a rough plan then maybe use regional passes instead of buying the full Pass. I want to visit kanami in Hirosaki, obviously Tokyo, then Osaka and Hiroshima. So I think its worth the full pass. But I will look into it! :)

    1. thanks!

      Hey, that works too the rail pass is great for doing such trips because it gives you flexibility and convenience. You could go straight to Hakata in Kyushu or Aomori in Tohoku in a whim with the rail pass. I will leave that up to you and remember to use hyperdia for planning, it is a very useful tool for train no. and timings. Furthermore, do take in consideration of the routes, try to plan in a successive manner for your trip and minimize loops or u-turns because of the consecutive-day nature of the pass, quite a waste to use if for a turn-around trip. If you go to a place you wish sought of know that you want to explore more in-depth, typically Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka because of their proximity to the main airports, try not to put that under the rail pass time limit but rather do the in-depth exploration before or after the country-wide exploration.

  49. Hi Xin Li,
    I like to seek your advice for my plan:
    14-17mar16: Tokyo
    18-20mar: Osaka
    21-23mar: Kyoto
    23-24mar: Tokyo
    25mar: flight back to Singapore

    Is it worth to get 7 days pass from 17mar onwards?

    1. Hi,

      You have a short itinerary, a 7 Day Rail Pass pass is a safe investment.

      Personally, I would skip Osaka and Kyoto and focus on the Kanto region, visiting Nikko, Kamakura, Yokohama, Shizuoka etc, make it a memorable and leisurely one and save Kyoto - Osaka region for another trip. Partly because, you would be just getting this rail pass just for Tokyo <-> Osaka/Kyoto. Don't recommend night bus too because of the short itinerary.

      Xin Li

  50. Hi Xin Li!

    Should I get a 21 day Jr pass or a combination of passes?

    This is my itinerary

    Day 1 Kansai Airport to Kyoto by bus
    Day 2 Kyoto to Miyajimaguchi station to island
    Day 3 Miyajimaguchi station to Himeiji Castle to Kobe
    Day 4 Kobe to Nara
    Day 5 Nara to Osaka
    Day 6 Osaka
    Day 7 Osaka to Kyoto
    Day 8 Kyoto
    Day 9 Kyoto
    Day 10 Kyoto to Kanazawa
    Day 11 Kanazawa to Shirakawa go to Kanazawa
    Day 12 Kanazawa to Nozawa Onsen
    Day 13 Nozawa Onsen
    Day 14 Nozawa Onsen to Nagano
    Day 15 Nagano to Yamanouchi
    Day 16 Yamanouchi to Tokyo
    Day 17 Tokyo to Kawaguchiko
    Day 18 Kawaguchiko to Tokyo
    Day 19 Tokyo to Hakone to Tokyo
    Day 20 Tokyo to Nikko to Tokyo
    Day 21 Tokyo

    1. Many Thanks!! I will be travelling next week. Hope to hear from you soon.

    2. Hmmmm, a 21 Day JR Pass is an overkill but the itinerary is clearly planned for using the rail pass which is good as you are maximising the value of it but it also meant that at some places the pace is pretty hectic especially the first few days.

      I am thinking of a 7 -Day Rail Pass plus a Kansai regional + Hokuriku pass but you will have an issue because of Miyajimaguchi is in a different area. If you can tweak your itinerary by leaving out Miyajimaguchi, you could have consider getting a 7-Day Rail Pass + a Kansai-Hokuriku package.

      However, looking at what you have now, 21-Day JR Rail Pass might be the best and safest option. There might be cheaper combinations if you do some micro-planning but because of the tight itinerary I am observing and the winter conditions which might have train cancellations in bad weather, a JR Rail Pass's flexibility and coverage would be a safe investment. You might still have to top up for Hakone and Kawaguchiko though. Some places like Nozawa Onsen,I also foresee additional charges to get to and from the onsen from the station.

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  52. Hi there,

    I'm hoping you can advise me on whether we should get any sort of rail pass for the following itinerary, or whether we should just book individual shinkansen/train trips as required:

    Arrive Narita international Jan 7th

    4 nights accom in Tokyo ( Hotel Lungwood near Nippori Station)

    general sightseeing in Tokyo, so will we will require transport around the city

    7 nights accom booked in Nozawa Onsen

    3 nights accom booked in Kanazawa (Motoyu Ishiya)

    (possible trip to Shirakawago

    4 nights accom booked in Kyoto (Hotel Ms Kyoto)

    depart from Kansai international Airport

    I'm a little confused about the many options/passes that are out there! If we don't buy a pass, how far in advance would we need to book tickets and seats - as soon as we arrive in Tokyo?


    1. Hi Penny,
      I am guessing you are heading to Nozawa Onsen for skiing?
      I won't recommend a rail pass for the first 11 nights as you will barely use the rail pass for what it is worth. Instead consider getting a bus to Nozawa Onsen from Tokyo and if then invest in a rail pass thereafter that would cover your trip to Kyoto? A 7 Day rail pass is a safe choice. Shirakawa-go - Kanazawa is by bus, take note of the snow conditions when you plan for it. In bad weather, the buses can be cancelled and you will be stuck in Shirakawago if you can't get a bus out of there.

      From Nozawa Onsen (Iiyama Station) to Osaka, you can consider both the 7-Day Japan Rail Pass or the Tokyo-Hokuriku Pass (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361_arch.html)

      From Kyoto to KIX , you can purchase a 1 Day JR West Pass as a discounted ticket on the Haruka to KIX.

    2. You have to buy the Japan Rail Pass in advance, you can't purchase it in Japan and certain passes, you can purchase with discount outside Japan then collect them in Tokyo. You just have to go to a certified vendor like JTB and they will process on the spot for you.

      For a summary of the passes you can check out this website:

  53. Hello Xin Li,

    Need help with my itinerary, i'm a first timer and will be travelling with my mom.

    I will be in Tokyo around 6 days and want to cover:

    Day 1 Tokyo Nikko
    Day 2 Tokyo Fuji & Hakone
    Day 3 Tokyo Disney Sea
    Day 4 Tokyo Japan Alps
    Day 5 Tokyo Aizuwakamatsu
    Day 6 Tokyo City & Kamakura
    or Takayama & Shiragawa
    Via shinkansen/ night bus
    Day 7 Kyoto
    Day 8 Kyoto
    Day 9 Kyoto
    Day 10 Nara
    Day 11 Nara
    Day 12 Osaka
    Day 13 Osaka

    Is it possible to go to those places by public transport (JR) and back to hotel (city area) within a day? or should i choose a day tour instead?



    1. Good Morning Nana,

      Takayama and Japan Alps is in another region entirely, looking at your itinerary, I think a overnight bus between Tokyo and Kyoto should suffice. Places like Hakone might not covered totally by JR.
      If you are focusing around Tokyo region alone, you might want to look at the Tokyo Wide Pass or the Tokyo Metro Pass. (http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/tokyowidepass/index.html) you can also get more information here : http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2017.html

      Once you reach Kyoto you could consider getting a JR Kansai West Pass if you are planning to visit the region a bit. Otherwise a pass might not be necessary, single tickets from Kyoto - Nara - Osaka and to the airport should be okay. These cities can be explored using their one day bus or subway passes. Nara you should walk.

      Takayama is in the Japan Alps and it is in another region entirely, between Tokyo and Kyoto in Central Japan but slightly out of the way. You can use a Japan rail pass but it does not cover many places beyond Takayama hence I suggest planning for Takayama in a separate trip and make the best out of Tokyo and Kyoto, they and their surroundings have a lot to offer.

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  55. Hi Xin Li!

    Your blog post is so informative, thank you for sharing this. I was hoping to have your thoughts on whether we should buy the 21 day JR pass for our itinerary below. I've done some proposed calculations using the hyperdia website and it seems the JR pass costs more vs going single train passes but hoping to hear your thoughts on this..

    This is my itinerary so far with day trips not confirmed as yet

    Day 1 Osaka
    Day 2 Osaka to Himeji
    Day 3 Osaka
    Day 4 Osaka to Mount Koya
    Day 5 Mount Koya
    Day 6 Mount Koya to Kyoto
    Day 7 Kyoto to Nara
    Day 8 Kyoto
    Day 9 Kyoto
    Day 10 Kyoto
    Day 11 Kyoto to Takayama
    Day 12 Takayama
    Day 13 Takayama to Hakone
    Day 14 Hakone
    Day 15 Hakone to Tokyo
    Day 16 Tokyo
    Day 17 Tokyo
    Day 18 Tokyo
    Day 19 Tokyo
    Day 20 Tokyo to Haneda airport

    Thank you!

    1. Good Morning Tracy,

      A glance through the itinerary, you don't need a 21 Day Rail Pass, it is an over kill, a 7 Day should suffice, but you need to plan it wisely such that it covers the main inter-city journeys. You should start using it from Kyoto to Tokyo through Hakone and Takayama. However, do take note that many places are you are going have limited JR coverage such as Takayama, Hakone and Mount Koya.

      At other places like Osaka - Kyoto, you could consider using a Surotto Kansai Pass which should cover Mount Koya.

      Single journeys may save more if you have very specific places in mind, JR Pass would grant you some flexibility. If your itinerary is not fixed yet, consider getting a 7 Day rail pass and plan accordingly to maximize its use. Suggestions include visiting more cities within the duration of pass. From the looks of the itinerary you have two focus regions : Kansai and Kanto and Takayama is like your stopover where the rail pass is pays off better, you could try to fit in places like Kanazawa before Takayama and Nagoya after bewteen Kyoto and Hakone within 7 days?

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  57. This comment has been removed by the author.

  58. You have got some great posts in your blog. Keep up with the good work.
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  59. Hi!
    I'm going to Japan for 22 days in april and I have no idea if I should get the JR pass or not. Going solo on this trip so will be happy for all the help I can get! :)
    This is my itinerary:

    30/3: Arrive in Tokyo in the evening.
    31/3: Tokyo
    1/4: Tokyo
    2/4: Tokyo
    3/4: Tokyo
    4/4: Tokyo
    8/4: Kyoto, might make a trip to Nara or Osaka during these days.
    10/4:Nagasaki (or is it more worth going to Hiroshima?)
    11/4:Kumamoto- Aso-San
    16/4:Niigata -visiting a friend
    18/4:Miyagi (fox village, or is it just a horrible touristy place?)
    20/4: Departing Tokyo mid day.

    Just unsure if I should get a JR pass or not, since I wanna go to places far away from each other the train tickets will probably be quite expensive...
    If you have other tips, bring it on!

    1. Hi Emma,

      You are going to quite a lot of places around Japan, a Japan Rail Pass might be worth it as it is also an insurance should there be any hiccup like missed a train etc. However, consider using it after Kyoto? You can pick an airline that stops over Tokyo and fly back to Tokyo from Niigata even. Your itinerary is problematic as the places are scattered in three corners of Japan, you might even want to consider an airpass such as the one by Japan Airlines, a strategic use of stopovers could make things easier, like spending 4 nights as stopover in Tokyo enroute to Osaka where you could explore Kyoto then use a rail pass to get to Beppu then a domestic flight to Niigata and use a JR East Pass to cover Miigata and Tokyo?

      Xin Li

  60. Hi,
    I am travelling to and fro osaka kansai airport, kyoto and universal studios. Please advise me which pass to buy?

  61. Hihi, i need help i am flying to tokyo via SQ on April 17 night
    April 18 to 19 Tokyo
    April 20 to 21 Hakone
    April 22 to 25 Kyoto
    April 26 to 30 Tokyo (with 1 day in disneyland)

    does it make sense to buy a JR pass?

    1. Hmmm nope, an overnight bus plus Hakone - Shinjuku pass might be better.? But cant go wrong with Japan rail pass, just underutilized.

  62. Hi Xin Li!

    Your blog post is so informative, thank you for sharing this. I was hoping to have your thoughts on whether we should buy the 18 day JR pass for our itinerary below. I've done some proposed calculations using the hyperdia website and it seems the JR pass costs more vs going single train passes but hoping to hear your thoughts on this..

    Thanks a lot

  63. Hi Xin Li

    Your post is very informative to us. Can I seek your advice?

    I'm going to Japan this April. I planned to visit fuji five lakes, skiing at gala yuzawa n karuizawa. Do you think it's advisable yo get the JR wide pass?


    1. They have the Tokyo Wide Pass, think that would suffice but you would have to squeeze everything within the pass validity, there is also tickets specialized in Fuji area that you could look into

  64. Hi Xin Li,
    Is it worth to buy national JR pass for my itinerary such as this:-
    Day 1 Yokohama to takayama
    Day 2 takayama to Osaka
    Day 3 Osaka
    Day 4 Osaka
    Day 5 Osaka
    Day 6 Hiroshima (tentative)
    Day 7 Hiroshima to Yokohama
    Your recommendation appreciated.

    1. Can, sounds alright for the itinerary. Would have recommended focusing on a region though

  65. Hi Xin Li,
    Does it worth to by a jr pass or a regional jr pass for the below:
    2/4/16 arrival early morning from Haneda airport to Tokyo
    2/4 until 5/4 Tokyo
    5/4 Hakone
    6/4 Nara
    7/4 until 9/4 Kyoto
    9/4 Osaka - Himeji (most probably a night out in Himeji or a short stay and continue to Hiroshima.
    10/4 if I stay over in Himeji, then on 10th Hiroshima - Miyajima
    11/4 Fukuoka
    12/4 departure in the morning to Seoul.
    I was thinking a 7 day jr or perhaps regional jr pass. What do you suggest? Do you think I should replace any of the places with Kinosaki? Or can I combine it as well? As I am fond of history I want to go to Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima, but I am it sure if I have to spend too long time in Hiroshima.
    I am looking forward to hearing from you.


    1. You could get the Japan Rail Pass after Tokyo, the journey down to Fukuoka would pay off the cost of it, strange to place Nara before Kyoto because you would need to transfer in Kyoto, would have place Kyoto first then Nara even though I understand history wise Nara shud come first (but if that is the logic, shud have started with Kyushu first) and used a JR Sanyo Pass to cover the remaining journey to Hakata / Fukuoka. The journey between Tokyo and Kyoto could be covered with an overnight bus.

  66. Hi Xin Li,

    I am heading to Japan on the 30 Mar.
    Please advise me on the following trip if it isn't too much trouble.
    Day1 - Narita to Hakone
    Day2 - Hakone to Osaka
    Day4 - Osaka to Kyoto
    Day8 - Kyoto to Nara
    Day9 - Nara to Tokyo

    Problem is I think it will be good if i can get 2 x 4 days kansai JR pass.
    But I can't figure out how to travel from Narita to Yumotohakone
    From Yumotohakone to Osaka
    From Nara back to Tokyo.

    Hope you can help me.

    Have a good day.

  67. Hi Xin Li :) Your post is really informative! :) However, similar to other readers who left a comment, I was hoping that you could kindly help out by providing some advice on whether getting a JR pass is worth it.

    I will be flying from Singapore to Tokyo, and from Osaka back to Singapore.

    Day 1-6: Tokyo
    Day 7-8: Hakone
    Day 9-10: Kyoto
    Day 11-14: Osaka (visiting Nara on one of the days)

    Thank you so much for your help!

    Wen Lin

    1. Just get an overnight bus, the JR Pass is way underutilized in this itinerary but there is no harm getting as it can cover part of the journey to Hakone and all the JR lines between Kyoto, Osaka and Kansai Airport, plus a Hakone pass as well from Shinjuku maybe, Kyoto +.Osaka , a pass is unnecessary

  68. Hi dear,

    Will be going to Japan on 2nd week of April for 7days. I need to polish our itinerary as this will be our first time. Our trip goal is to get the tokyo wide pass just to cover the narita-tokyo-echigo yuzawa and tokyo-gala yuzawa for the first 3 days. What else do you think we can cover using the tokyo wide pass? We also want to go around shinjuku shibuya ueno odaiba disneyland mt. Fuji imperial palace fuji-q. We want to maximize the tokyo wide rail pass sir, how do we go about it with the places i mentioned sir ?

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  70. Hi dear,

    Will be going to Japan on 2nd week of April for 7days. I need to polish our itinerary as this will be our first time. Our trip goal is to get the tokyo wide pass just to cover the narita-tokyo-echigo yuzawa and tokyo-gala yuzawa for the first 3 days. What else do you think we can cover using the tokyo wide pass? We also want to go around shinjuku shibuya ueno odaiba disneyland mt. Fuji imperial palace fuji-q. We want to maximize the tokyo wide rail pass sir, how do we go about it with the places i mentioned sir ?

    1. The Tokyo Wide Pass is good for precise destinations because of coverage but limited by its short length, you can use it to cover Echigo Yuzawa and maybe Minakami Onsen on the way back. I believe there are special tickets for Fuji destinations, you might want to look into that rather than using the pass for it. to get back to Tokyo Narita and also explore, consider getting a metro pass for flexibility plus single fare from Oshiage to the airport.

  71. Hello, thank you for sharing about JR Pass!! Glad to found your article in the midst of my stucked brain! It's the first Japan trip that I need to move quite a lot among the cities.
    I looked through Hyperdia, for those trips which require transfer, for example board a subway at a station, then from there transfer to JR train. In this case, will the entire journey cost be covered by JR Pass? Or it won't since it's continued from non-JR train?

    I plan to go from:
    1. KIX - Namba
    2. Namba - Nara - Namba
    3. Namba- Kyoto
    4. Kyoto
    5. Kyoto - KIX (then fly to Hokkaido-Chitose airport) - Hakadote
    6. Hakodate
    7. Hakodate - Toya - Noboribetsu
    8. Noboribetsu - Sapporo
    9. Sapporo
    11.Sapporo - Chitose Airport -KIX

    I plan to use 7days pass, thus there are 3 days I should pay the fares individually.
    I tried to manually count and estimate (based on Hyperdia, haven't include any JR buses), it looks like the amount is about equal to the cost of 7days JR pass (unless I counted wrongly), however I also feel that I move from 1 city to another quite a lot.

    Could you please advise based on your experience? :)))
    Thank you, look forward to your reply!

    Best regards,

    1. If you to cover a lot of cities, a JR Pass is a good investment, to maximize it , settle on two focus regions before using the pass and after using the pass, from your itinerary, it looks like you are only focus on Hokkaido and Kansai, (Osaka and Kyoto to be specific) thus consider getting just the Hokkaido Pass while for Kansai, you might want a Haruka Icoca Package to get to and fro Kansai Airport, the JR Pass seems unnecessary, single tickets looks like a better choice.

    2. Hello,

      Thank you so much for the reply! Much Appreciated :):)

  72. Hi!! Really glad to have chanced upon your blog! I am bringing 2 kids (2 yo and 8 month old) to the Kansai region next week.

    Day 1- Osaka
    Day 2- Osaka
    Day 3- Kyoto
    Day 4- Kyoto, Nara
    Day 5- Osaka

    Would like to seek your advise on the railpass to get?

  73. Hi there! Wow! U r incredible. Thank you for taking time in giving advise about your knowldge abt Japan, esp on the JR Pass. Its so nice of you to guide us- first time travellers to Japan. .I am planning a 16 days trip to Japan in Nov with 3 kids. Have planned out these places to visit and would appreciate your advise if i shd take the JR Pass. As u correctly mentioned in your post..its a shame to rush through one place to another just to comply with the 7 day or 14days JR pass. Here what i have roughly planned out
    Arrive Tokyo (6 nites)
    Kanazawa (3 nites) - Day Trip to Shirakawago
    Takayama ( 2 nites)- Day trip to Matsumoto
    Kyoto (5 nites)
    Tokyo (1 nite)
    My flights are not booked so am flexi to make changes. Look forward to your advise if my travel plan sounds ok and shd i take the Japan Rail Pass.

    Thanks so much

    1. Hi Anita :)

      Hmmm you could use the JR Pass from the 7th day onwards to go to Kanazawa and Takayama then fly back to Tokyo via Osaka Itami with JAL or ANA, thus means a 7 day rail pass should suffice


      You could use a multicity airfare with JAL or ANA, arrange a long stopover in Tokyo, then continue on yr flight to Nagoya, get a Takayama Hokuriku pass to cover Takayama and Kanazawa, end at Kyoto then fly back to Tokyo via Osaka Itami.

      For Matsumoto from Takayama, rail is not a good option. If using railpass, consider Tokyo - Matsumoto - Nagoya - Takayama - Kanazawa - Kyoto instead.

      Xin Li

  74. Hi Xin Li!
    It's very nice to chance upon your blog. I would like to seek your advice for my upcoming Japan trip in June

    My initerary would be as follows:
    7D6N in Tokyo, then we will be travelling to Osaka where we will be staying for the next 6 nights. We intend to make day trips to Nagoya, Nara and maybe Hiroshima. Would you recommend the Hokuriku Arch Pass or the Nationwide pass?

    1. Hey, tese are popular destinations, if time is not an issue , sounds like the Willer Express pass would do too. Otherwise, if you are flying back via Osaka, consider taking a bus or flight to Osaka and use a regional pass? You can arrange for a transit in Tokyo tor 7 days then continue to Osaka via domestic flight. JAL and ANA does this at no additional or for a small charge of 50-100 sgd.

      If tickets have been booked consider a Willer Express Bus for the cheapest option then a regional passfor Osaka area and explore within the area instead. Felt that the JR Pass or Arch Pass would pay off but wasted if you spending 6 nights in Osaka while using the pass.

      Xin Li

  75. Hi , your blog is so informative.
    Are you able to offer some advise on my below itinerary? Any passes worth getting?

    I will be flying in Narita.. Flying out Kansai .

    Day 1- Narita – Tokyo
    Day 2-Tokyo
    Day 3- Tokyo-Hakone
    Day 4 – Tokyo-Kyoto
    Day 5-Kyoto
    Day 6-Kyoto
    Day 7 – Kyoto-Osaka
    Day 8 – Osaka-Kobe-Himeji
    Day 9 – Osaka -Kansai Airport (or should I add another day for Osaka)

    Thanks in advance

    1. Fly ANA or JAL, transit in Tokyo for about 4-5 days, continue via domestic flight from Tokyo Haneda to Osaka Itami, stay in Kyoto for 3 days, get a Kansai Area Wide Pass to explore Uji, Okayama, Osaka, Himeji, Kobe and Nara even for 4-5 days then head back to Tokyo via Osaka Itami for yr flight back to Singapore?

      Or if JAL and ANA is not an option. Consider getting a Hakone Package by Odakyu for Hakone, then use a JR Pass to cover Kyoto, Osaka, Himeji, Kobe but consider making use of the oass to visit Kanazawa, Nagoya, Nagano, Shizuoka along the way as well?

      Or get a overnight bus from Tokyo to Kyoto then get a regional pass.
      Hmmm I believe I wrote this somewhere before

      Xin Li

    2. Hi Xin Li,
      I wont be flying back to Tokyo for my flight back.
      I have booked my ticket arriving in Narita in the morning and flying out from Osaka at night.

      I will be taking bullet train from Tokyo/Hakone to Kyoto/Osaka.
      Just not sure if I should get the JR pass since is just for one way?

      For Hakone, I will be buying the Hakone Free Pass.
      As for Osaka-Kobe-Himeji, I am thinking to get the 1day JR West Pass.

      Just contemplating if I should get a 7day JR pass and explore more places or it will be too rush?

  76. Hi Mei Ying,

    I believe I have answered to those questions earlier on,
    If not getting JR Pass it would be bus plus a JR West Wide Pass or JR West Pass which is the cheaper option.

    The most convenient and comfortable option :
    Tokyo - Nagano (2N) - Kanazawa (1N) - Kyoto/Osaka region (daytrips to Uji & Arashiyama + 3N), if you can spend more time in Japan, you can make the last part longer and spend the last night in Osaka where you get to the airport without a pass.

    The best value for money option :
    An overnight bus, Tokyo - Kyoto+Osaka (5N) with day trips to Kobe, Himeji with 2-3 day JR West Pass. Reserve the last day of the pass for the Haruka Express to KIX.

    Xin Li

  77. Thank you for your advices! And nice pictures you have ;)

  78. Dear Xin Li, thank you so much for your blog!! Phew, do you speak japanese??

    I would like to see your advice: I am flying in to Nagoya, and my plan is as follows:

    Day 1: Nagoya => Takayama
    Day 2: Takayama + explore
    Day 3: Takayama to Shirakawago
    Day 4: Shirawakago + explore
    Day 5: Takayama => Nagoya
    Day 6~10: Nagoya + explore

    I could stay at Takayama for Day 1-4. then Nagoya for day 5-10.

    Would the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass be worth for travelling in this case?

    How would you advice getting a room/ hostel for a family of 3 at takayama or shiragawago?

    Thanks for much!!

    1. Hi nope I do not speak Japanese.

      Sounds like the Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass would be a good a choice especially travelling with a family. There is also a Nagoya Airport - Takayama bus and use a bus pass to Shirakawa-go. However, with a family, a Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass is more advisable.

      As for lodging, Shirakawa-go shouldn't be a problem as rooms in a minshuku accommodates about 2-5 people. Takayama have hostels such as J-Hoppers as well as hotels that offer rooms for family.

      Xin Li

  79. Hi
    I am Travelling to Osaka and Kyushu . Which airport should I go first and should I buy the railway pass?
    Thank you.


    1. Hi Emily,

      I am not sure how to advise. Please furnish details.
      Otherwise, you can go either, and it is a yes and no for the rail pass and you highway buses also connect cities in Kyushu and Osaka.

      Xin Li

  80. Very good article, I create this article for the french people

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  81. Hi Xin Li, i have a short trip to japan, planning 4 or 5 day in osaka/kyoto and 3 or 4 day in tokyo. Can u advise me about the transportation during my stay there? I was recommended by a friend to have only a day trip to kyoto and stay and spend more time at osaka. After that will go to tokyo from osaka. Thanks


  82. Hi there! Thank you so much for writing this article! And to all the replies to the queries submitted.

    I'm planning a trip to tokyo/osaka/kyoto. Flying in to Tokyo and would also be flying out from Tokyo. Original plan was:
    Day 1 - tokyo
    Day 2 - osaka
    Day 3 4 5 - kyoto
    Day 6 7 8 - tokyo

    I'll be staying in osaka from day 2 to day 5. So will be making trips to and fro kyoto. Also originally planned on getting the JR pass. But after reading your articles, it feels like it might be an overkill. What do you advise?

    Looking forward to your reply.


  83. This comment has been removed by the author.

  84. Wow! Thanks for all the detailed info you provide here. I keep coming back to this post to answer some questions while I'm planning.
    I'm traveling to Japan for 18 days. I arrive in 1 week and don't have anything yet! No hotels, no rail pass....I need help please! I only have my plane tickets arriving in Tokyo and leaving through Osaka.

    So far my itinerary:

    Day 1: flight to Tokyo arriving 7pm
    Day 2: Tokyo (do side trips to Nikko and mt Fuji 5 lakes or Hakone when weather is nice).
    Day 3: Tokyo
    Day 4: Tokyo
    Day 5: Tokyo
    Day 6: Tokyo
    Day 7: Tokyo to Takayama (START JR PASS)
    Day 8: Takayama
    Day 9: Takayama morning markets; ½ day Shirakawa-go
    Day 10: Train Takayama to Hiroshima, ½ day Hiroshima
    Day 11: Day trip to Miyajima island
    Day 12: ½ day Hiroshima, train to Kyoto
    Day 13: Day trip to Nara (END JR PASS)
    Day 14: Kyoto
    Day 15: Kyoto
    Day 16: Kyoto ½ day, train to Osaka
    Day 17: Osaka
    Day 18: Leave Osaka
    I was thinking buying a 7 day JR pass to travel from Tokyo to Takayama. Use the pass for Hiroshima and for Nara on the last day of the pass (Day 13 of the trip)

    I would need to figure out other passes for my days in Tokyo with sidetrips and Kyoto, and for transport from Kyoto to Osaka.

    How does this looks? Is there any other order/ configuration that is escaping me? Feel like I'm wasting some pass days in Takayama, but can't figure any other way. Please help?

    1. Oh no, my apologies! I have been away
      However, a 7 Day JR Pass seems to be a safe bet. Takayama is a base to a number of places in the Hida region, shouldnt be a waste, but you have to purchase the regional bus passes to go around like Shirakawa-go Gokayama, Kamikochi etc. There is also Gero Onsen south of Takayama.

      The rest are pretty straight forward, Tokyo, a Tokyo Wide Pass should fulfill the transport to Nikko etc. Not sure about Fuji though, sometimes we get the Shinjuku-Hakone package or do an add-on after arriving at Odawara. For intra-Tokyo travel, there is the metro pass

      Overall, it looks aright, not too rush, the flow is there. It would be a long trip from Takayama to Hiroshima though, you should have arranged a stopover in Kanazawa and Kyoto before Hiroshima then going back to Kyoto, then Nara followed by Osaka

  85. really like your blog and images are also beautiful. Keep sharing more post like this. Big thanks from: Magic Lamp Tours

  86. Hi!

    I'm going to Japan 1st wk of October, here's my itinerary:
    Day1-3 Tokyo
    Day4-5 Osaka
    Day6-7 Kyoto
    Day8 - Tokyo

    Is it necessary for me to buy JR Pass?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi,

      Yes and No

      You could get overnight bus to and fro Tokyo - Kyoto/Osaka or get a JR Rail Pass if you favour comfort, ease of mind (in case miss bus or train) and convenience over budget

      Considering that you are spending less than a week in Osaka and Kyoto, I would have advised against travellig down to Kyoto and Osaka instead because :
      1. Spending more just to get down to Kyoto Osaka unless flying ANA or JAL with stopover in Tokyo or flying out of Osaka
      2. Too short to fully appreciate Kyoto and Osaka
      3. Kamakura, Karuizawa, Nagano, Nikko, Hakone all around Tokyo might have been a better option

      Xin Li

  87. Hi, I plan to combine JR-East Pass (Nagano & Niigata) and Willer Bus Pass for my 15-day trip in Japan. I think those two passes are good because it doesn't need to be used consecutively (am I right?).

    By the way, I want to ask something. Is it possible to use Willer Bus for short ride? For example, if I take Osaka-Tokyo morning bus just to get off in Kyoto and then take the night bus to somewhere else (let say Fukuoka) later. That way I can enjoy Kyoto for almost a full day and no need to pay the fare between Osaka-Kyoto. The bus pass regulation says that it can be used two times a day for day buses plus one night bus. Thanks.


  88. Hi Xin Li,

    I just happen to read your blog and I hope to get some advise for my 8D 7N Japan trip in December.
    1.KIX- Kyoto 1night
    2.Takayama- 1 night
    3.Kyoto - 2 night
    4.Kyoto - Nara(daytrip)-1 night
    5.Osaka - 2 nights
    Fly back

    Should I purchase the JR Pass? Should I include Nagoya when staying in Osaka?
    How to travel from Kyoto to Takayama if not buying the JR pass.

    Would appreciate yr advice. Thanks

  89. Wow that's an awesome useful article!!!
    We made one ourselves, have a look :) www.backyardtravel.com/japan-rail-pass/
    JR Pass is always a complex subject to explain but in fact it is not so difficult to get one and use it :)

  90. https://www.backyardtravel.com/japan-rail-pass/

  91. Hi Xin Lin,

    Need your help, should I purchase a Japan Rail Pass or just buy the JR West Kansai Pass + Suica card based on the itinerary below:

    Nov 25- Arrive at Kansai International Airport
    - from Osaka travel to Kyoto (arashima only) then to Kobe then back to
    Nov 26- Universal Studios Japan and Tempozan Ferris Wheel

    Nov 27- explore Namba area before taking the shinkansen to Tokyo

    Nov 28- Disneyland/ Disneysea Tokyo

    Nov 29- Mt Fuji, Hakone, Lake Kawaguchi

    Nov 30- Ginza, Asakusa, Roponggi

    Dec 1- flyout via Narita Airport

    Hope to hear back from you soon and thanks in advance.

    1. Hi,

      Your itinerary is too tight on some areas, November 25th, I suggest you just stick to Kyoto or Kobe.

      As for passes. Just get the Yokoso! Osaka Pass. Not worth getting any passes for the first three days.

      For Tokyo, take an overnight bus from Osaka to Tokyo
      (Depart 27th, Arrive on the 28th Morning)

      For Tokyo, you can use a metro pass + Hakone Package.....it also depends where you stay in Tokyo. Hakone and Lake Kawaguchi are in separate areas, same problem with the first day itinerary. Lake Kawaguchi-ko is in the north, Hakone in the south.

      Basically, JR Rail Pass as of now, not worth it, if you do get, you should tweak your itinerary as he itinerary now is just Osaka and Tokyo focused rather than Japan-wide travel.

      Your itinerary got some issues that you should look into or you would be spending more time on the train instead of sightseeing.

      Xin Li

  92. Hi Xin Li,
    I am travelling to Japan for 2 weeks in September. Would like your advice .
    We will arrive in Osaka and exit via Haneda Tokyo.
    We plan to do osaka ,nara ,kobe ,kyoto, matsumoto, mount fuji and tokyo. Is it more economical to get Jr pass to travel to these few cities? Thanks.

    1. hi Janet (:
      If you are planning to visit several cities, a Japan Rail Pass is good deal
      From the looks of it, the pass should cover the entire the journey (might top up for Mt Fuji depending on which part). If itinerary allows, you could even do a day-trip stop on the way to the next destination like Nagano after Matsumoto and Karuizawa before Tokyo. The pass also gives you flexibility in terms of train timings.

      if you plan to cover more ground with the pass, you could consider investing in a JR Kansai West Pass for Osaka - Nara - Kobe - Kyoto then use your Japan Rail Pass for the journey from Kyoto (or Kyoto + Nara) to Tokyo covering Matsumoto and Mount Fuji. This might give you some savings compared to buying a 14-Day Japan Rail Pass plus the rail pass is not useful for exploring Kyoto, Osaka where buses and the subway provides better coverage not covered within the pass.

      In short,
      for the Kansai part : Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Osaka, consider single tickets and a regional pass, it could be cheaper than getting a 14 day rail pass.

      for the onward journey from Kansai to Tokyo, visiting Matsumoto and Mount Fuji or any cities in between like Karuizawa and Nagano, use your 7-Day railpass.

      Xin Li


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