questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

planning with pass

Planning with pass

I intend to buy two two week JR passes. One for Tokyo and north and north west ending in Osaka. I do not need to explore Hokkaido as i think it will be to cold. Maybe go up to Hakodate only .Spend a week approx in the Osaka Kyoto Nara area then activate my other 2 week pass for the southern part ending in Tokyo to fly home . I will spend 3 days in Tokyo before i activate my first pass. I have no itinerary for either 2 week period. Would you like to give me an itinerary for the 2 passes. Can i go into a JR pass office in Tokyo and plan it there ? This is my first trip to Japan. I will stay in hostels and see japan on a budget. I do not need to see everything. I am more interested in out of the way places where not to many tourist go . As long as my pass gets me there . I do not need to move every day . The passes i think will get me to some trains that tourist do not travel on hopefully . I really am open to an itinerary and any suggestions you have . I intend to go next month for about 40 days. I am active and energetic and in my 60s.
Thanks in advance for your help.


Hi there,

Well I have to say that I love your plans, sometimes you will see the best things without having planned for them and you will feel much more free during your travels as you ''don't have to be in the next place'' at a certain time.

Still it is hard to make up a complete itinerary out of blue air without any general interest, you if you could tell me what kinds of things you would like/see I get give you more specific recommendations.

Here are some recommendations I can give you already:
The first 2 weeks (upper Japan).

Setting out from Tokyo your first stop could be Nikko to spend a day here or two and visit the Tokugawa mausoleum, visit a temple or two and see some of Japans beautiful nature there. You wrote that you did not need to go to Hokkaido but if you do go to Hakodate, make your way to Sapporo too! In my opinion this is the best city to visit in Hokkaido and is very lovely during the winter. You could plan stops on the way at Aomori and Hakodate. On the way back you could make a stop at Yamagata and visit Yama Dera. After this maybe a visit to Yokahama and on to Osaka/Kyoto.

Something else you could do instead of going to the North is visit the the Chubu area (between Tokyo and Osaka). Set out from Tokyo and visit the Izu Pensila from there go to Nagano, Takayama, Matsumoto and Kanazawa. They all very nice places, ranging from nature, to great mountain views, history and culture. Each place has its own famous regional foods and drinks you can try. You could stay a couple of days at each destination, in case you still want to see more a stop at Shizuoka could be nice before you head to Osaka/Kyoto.

For the 2nd 14 day Rail Pass you could visit a combination of Shikoku and Kyushu, both islands are very beautiful and visited a lot less frequently by tourists from abroad than Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. You could go first to Shikoku by visiting Matsuyama and Kochi then move to Kyushu with a pit-stop at Hiroshima to see the peace museum and park. After this you could go on to Beppu to enjoy some of the famous onsen and maybe a visit to Mount Aso then travel to the south and visit Kagoshima, from here you can enjoy the stunning view of Sakura-jima in the Kagoshima bay, this is a volcano that always puffs up smoke, you can climb it too if you are up for it. By this time you will be nearing the end of your 2nd pass but should still have time to make a stop or two before returning to Osaka. For this I would recommend, Kumamoto, Nagasaki and/or Fukuoka, all are some of the bigger cities in Kyushu (but small compared to Tokyo). In Nagasaki you can see some of Japans trading history, in Kumamoto I would visit the Casle and park. Fukuoka is knows as the little capital of Kyushu and offers many great things to do and see, too much to list here but the Wiki Travel page gives a good oversight.

Again, it is a lot of information and hard to make an itinerary so see this as an example of options you have.
The beauty of the JR-Pass is that you don't have to make a schedule in advance and live and plan by the day if that is what you prefer. Feel free to change your itinerary on the go or stay somewhere longer if you prefer.

I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of what you can do with the JR-Pass, let me know what you think and if you have any more questions!


Thank you very much for the suggestions and your prompt reply . I will print your email out and most likely follow it. I will just make a list of the places you suggested and try and make them work but not until i get to Japan. I may get that book called Japan by rail a new volume has just come out. Yes i know the value of flexibility . When you have it you do not have to stress to get somewhere you have a reservations. Take each day as it comes and being alone i can change on a dime. What i am most interested in is how it all works. Meaning Japan . I spent a lot of time in 3rd world countries and i am always fascinated how they work . Now i want to see how ,maybe the most organized , efficient country in the world works. Yes i like history but the culture the people and how do 123 million people in a small land mass live together with very little crime and on time trains etc . Thats what i wish to see. Also to eat your food at dept store and 100 yen stores . You see i have been reading.
If i do about that amount of train travel you suggest the rail passes seem like they will be worth the investment. What do you think? Will the staff in the JR rail offices at the train stations be helpful or are they robotic.? Ok i will go we will talk again Daniel and thanks again .


Hi Russel,

I indeed see that you have been reading, I myself have never been to any 3rd world country but having traveled extensively in Europe I was still very much amazed by many aspects of Japan and Japanese society.
Be it the marvels of engineering or how people live together in a society where old and new sometimes seem to clash.
For us western people sometimes things in Japan appear differently for us than for a native, for instance a store clerk may look like a robot to you but someone else might find that they were very helpful. It all depends on the situation and person. You may know the movie the Matrix, there is this line there that says something like ''You have to experience it to understand it'' I think it very much applies to Japan too!

If you do any of the itineraries I suggested above with a JR Pass then you will be sure to make some great savings. I think it could save you 50% or more on normal ticket prices. For what I have found, is that the station staff is always very helpful and will help you in a personal way, sometimes they perform general duties that need to be done in a strict way and this may look robotic to some people.

Let me know if you would like anymore advice.


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