questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

ideas of places to visit?

Ideas of places to visit?

Hello there,

I'm flying into Haneda from New York on 7/16 returning on 8/1. I spent a week in Tokyo 3 years ago with a few daytrips and overnights to Kamakura and Hakone. I have two days in Kyoto from 7/20-22 booked (though no transportation yet). I want to wander on foot around Tokyo a bit but beyond that I'd love to hear your suggestions as to where I should travel (daytrip or overnight) the week of 7/22? Is it worth getting a 7-day rail pass? If so, does one have to make seat reservations in advance? I'd really appreciate any budget minded tips you have. Thanks so much!

ElectricB
ElectricB

Rail Pass considerations

A round trip to Kyoto on the Bullet Train will cost just over ¥26,000. As a 7 day pass comes in at ¥28,300, so I think as long as you do more travel, either on the JR around Tokyo, or to places further afield, the Rail Pass could be a good choice and would certainly give you more flexibility. All JR bullet trains have a mixture of reserved and non-reserved seating. With the Japan Rail Pass you are free to use both types of seating. Making a reservation normally costs money, but with a rail pass you get them for free and can make reservations easily and on the day at the normal ticket counter.

Itinerary suggestions

It seems like you have 2 main bases in mind, Tokyo and Kyoto.

Tokyo You can easily get out to Yokohama, which is a lovely city and Nikko with its lovely temples. Having said that, I think you'll have your hands more than full just taking in the city!

Kyoto I think there's much more scope to explore Japan around Kyoto with a Rail Pass.

In day trip territory, there is wonderful Nara, an hour away from Kyoto on the train, and Arashiyama which sits next to Kyoto with its lovely bamboo groves. You can also get down to Hiroshima and back easily in a day from Kyoto. If you're on a tight budget, the hotels Vista and Sunroute are budget friendly, modern and convenient and there is a good YHA youth hostel in the Higashiyama area of Kyoto.

For overnight stays away from Kyoto, I have 3 great trips:

  1. I strongly recommend a trip to the Art Island of Naoshima. You can stay on the beach inside the gallery area in very reasonable heated mongolian tents. It's an amazing experience. You can also check my guide of how to get to Naoshima with a Japan Rail Pass.

  2. Takayama. Personally I prefer it to Hakone etc as it's a little off the beaten track (and therefore not tourist prices), and you get a wonderful taste of Japan up in the mountains. You can get to Takayama in 3 hours by train from Kyoto(http://goo.gl/mi1oW).

  3. Kaga onsen kyo. A great little onsen (hot spring) area that is 2 hours away form Kyoto on the train. Wonderful hotspring baths that are, again, a little off the beaten track and therefore a little cheaper than most mainstream Onsen areas.

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

Thanks so much Mari! This is very helpful. Do most trains operate at least once daily?

ElectricB
ElectricB

Hi there,

Yes - most trains operate at least once per day. You can check on train times online at the Hyperdia website.

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mari
Expert_button_2

Hello again, I've purchased my 7-day rail pass. yay! I'm traveling with a Japanese friend part of the way and we're taking the train from Tokyo - Kyoto on 7/19, staying there for 2 nights then on to HIROSHIMA and MIYAJIMA on 7/21 to end up staying in Osaka that evening. We separate the next day. Now I wonder what's the best, easiest, yet cheapest route for me to explore the area before my pass expires on the 25th and I have to be back in Tokyo? I would love to see the places you recommend above. Is it possible on this itinerary? Where should I base out of? Osaka? Or should I try to stay in a different place each night? I realize 2 full days and 3 nights is not a lot of time considering but I'd like to make the most of it on a budget and would love to hear your suggestions. Thanks so much!

ElectricB
ElectricB

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