7 or 14 day JR Pass?
My husband, myself and our 22month old daughter are travelling to Japan in late Sept/early Oct 2012. I am trying to work out the best (quickest/cheapest) travel options for us. We are arriving in Osaka on 24th Sept and plan to spend one night there before heading to Kyoto for a few days. We would like to go to Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, and Takayama then finally to Tokyo for 5-6 days until we fly out on 12 Oct. Our flight dates are set, but we are flexible on everything in between at this stage.
I am trying to decide if it is better for us financially to get a 14 day JR Pass or to pay as you go for a couple of legs of the trip and just get a 7 day pass instead.
I am under the understanding that you cannot use JR passes to travel around the cities, only between them? Is this correct?
I have also read that you can't access Shirakawa-go using JR. If so, what would be the best way?
Also, to minimise travel time with a toddler, what would be the best itinerary to see the cities listed?
Firstly, lets get a handle on your JR ticket costs for your trip with as direct a route as possible:
TOTAL: ¥29030 for 5 legs
I have only calculated up until Tokyo as from Tokyo you have 5-6 days within the city where I don't think you'll get great value with a rail pass.
As you can see with a 7 JR Pass you will make a small savings on travel over purchasing standard tickets based on your itinerary. As the rail pass means you don't have to bother with ticketmachines/offices and you are ultra flexible with your travel times and plans while you are in the validity period I can recommend the 7 day pass, especially with a young daughter. In addition to the small savings and other benefits, all other JR travel will be free should you decide to do more (eg. day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka). Once you are in Tokyo the 7 day validity period will end, but from here you will be able to purchase short distance travel as needed either on via the metro or JR lines.
You can actually make good use of the JR Pass within Tokyo and Osaka (map of JR lines in Tokyo for reference, but will need to also use non-JR municipal metro services in most cities. The degree to which you use the rail pass in Osaka and Tokyo very much depends on your destinations as some are better suited to JR stations and others the Metro stations.
You are correct that there is no JR service to Shirakawago. To access this destination I recommend using the Nohi bus services from Takayama or Kanazawa.
Hope this helps!
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