questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

8 days in japan: osaka, universal studios, kobe, nara, kyoto, kawaguchiko & tokyo

8 days in Japan: Osaka, Universal Studios, Kobe, Nara, Kyoto, Kawaguchiko & Tokyo

Hi!

I am currently planning a budget trip for my family and friends of 6 adults and 1 child for our Japan trip in mid-October and I have some questions below:

  • What is the weather like in mid-October? Will we see red leaves by the time?
  • We fly into Kansai on Sat 20/10/12 early morning and fly out from Narita on Sat 27/10/12 so basically we have 8 days 7 nights...should we do 2 nights in Osaka, 2 nights in Kyoto, 1 night in Kawaguchiko and 2 nights in Tokyo?
  • We are planning to get a 7-day JR Pass but it seems like we will also need some other passes as we go from KIX-Osaka / Osaka-Universal Studio-Osaka / Osaka-Kobe-Osaka / Osaka-Kyoto / Kyoto-Nara-Kyoto / Kyoto-Kawaguchiko / Kawaguchiko-Tokyo / Tokyo-NRT...which will be the most suitable way of travelling?
  • Would you suggest us skip Kawaguchiko and spend the whole 8 days in Kansai area instead?

Thank you in advance!
xx

misskyo
misskyo

Hi there!

Here are some thoughts on your trip:

  1. These statistics give you a good idea of what sort of temperatures and rainfall to expect in Japan in October (15-20C/60-70F with the possibility of light precipitation). Here's a great guide as to where you can best experience autumn colors, or 'Koyo". As you can see the front moves down from north to the south, starting at the end of September. As you're in Japan towards the end of October, it looks like the best places for you to see Koyo will be around Nikko or Fuji.

  2. I think as you are on a tight schedule, 1 night in Kawaguchiko will be good (of course, it's very possible to stay longer!) as you should spend at least 2 nights in Tokyo.

  3. Doing a quick value check, your plain JR ticket costs up to Tokyo would be ¥21,540. As the 7 day rail pass is ¥28,300, unless you do more long distance trips on JR (for example, a day return to Hiroshima from Osaka), I recommend you to purchase individual rail tickets as you go rather than JR Pass.

  4. If you do choose a JR Pass, the rail pass will cover the majority of the legs you list, however you will need to pay for a transfer on non-JR lines from Otsuki to Kawaguchi-ko. This will be around ¥1500 each way per person. Apart from this the JR Pass will cover all your legs. Please note that you will need to do some travel within major cities on the metro and buses. As the JR Pass is not valid for these municipal services you should plan on either purchasing individual tickets as you need them (¥100-200 per trip), or look into 1 day metro/bus travel cards (Kyoto, Osaka & Tokyo which you will be able to purchase from the tourist information counters in Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo JR stations.

  5. Tough question about Kawaguchiko! I'd personally rather spend a night in a slightly smaller onsen hotspring town such as Kinosaki Onsen, however there is a lot to be liked about Kawaguchiko, especially if you're interested in great views of Mt Fuji. Certainly your itinerary is quite busy, so you may want to simply consider spending an extra day just in Kyoto or Tokyo rather than the round trip up to Kawaguchiko.

Hope this helps!

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mari
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Thank you, Mari. This is absolutely helpful! I will surely need your help again when I plan the trip into details. It will be our first time in Japan so we would be grateful for all kinds of help given :)

misskyo
misskyo

No problem, ask anytime :)

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mari
Expert_button_2

Okay, we have decided to skip Kawaguchiko (sadly but we will keep this for our next trip) which means we will have a spare night to spend in either Osaka, Kyoto or Tokyo...which of these would you recommend? Also, would you kindly please give us the transportation cost breakdown to compare if it will be worth getting a 7-day JR pass to avoid the messy process of getting separate tickets as we will do quite a number of day trips whilst in Kansai or are there other options of taking cheaper non-JR trains between those cities?
Thank you soooo much!

misskyo
misskyo

Hi there,

I think if you prefer more traditional elements, go for an extra night in Kyoto (or even a night on Miyajima island off Hiroshima). If you prefer more modern Japan, then the extra night in Tokyo will be well spent!

Here's the breakdown of costs I made for your previous price comparison:

  1. Kansai airport > Osaka: ¥2400, (53mins, 57km)
  2. Osaka > Universalcity: ¥170, (15mins, 6km)
  3. Universalcity > Osaka: ¥170, (11mins, 6km)
  4. Osaka > Kobe(hyogo): ¥390, (24mins, 33km)
  5. Kobe(hyogo) > Osaka: ¥390, (25mins, 33km)
  6. Osaka > Kyoto: ¥540, (29mins, 42km)
  7. Kyoto > Nara: ¥690, (45mins, 41km)
  8. Nara > Kyoto: ¥690, (44mins, 41km)
  9. Kyoto > Otsuki: ¥14650, (243mins, 561km)
  10. Otsuki > Tokyo: ¥1450, (100mins, 87km)

TOTAL: ¥21540 for 10 legs

Without the Otsuki legs this will be a little less, so as you can see simple tickets will offer the best value based on your present itinerary. Including a return to Hiroshima you could expect this to be around ¥41,540, depending on your exact departure station, and so a 7 day rail pass would start to be cost effective. As you say, a 7 day pass also makes things easier with buying tickets for the group whenever you travel, so that should also be factored into your plans.

If you don't mind taking non-JR trains, then I highly recommend you take a look at the Kansai Thru Pass. This will let you travel between all of the Kansai area cities you mention, and also allow travel on metro and bus services within each city. The only catch? You are unable to use JR services, which are often the most well signposted and so on. Here's a good map of the Kansai Thru Pass coverage for reference.

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

Once again, many thanks to you :)

misskyo
misskyo

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