questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

should i buy jr pass

Should I buy JR Pass

Hi,

I am going to Japan in September and October. I plan to stay in Hokkaido for 5 weeks and then travel down to south. My questions are:

  1. Does Shinkansen go to Hokkaido, if yes, which city?
  2. Should I buy JR pass? I plan to visit Kyoto and stay there for a week.
  3. After the JR pass being activated, do I only have 7 days? or can I stop it and resume it, which allow me to use 7-day ticket for more days.
  4. If Shinkansen is not available, what is the best way to travel from Hokkaido to Kyoto?

Thank you very much for your help!

Sophia

Sophiaindy
Sophiaindy

Hello Sophia,

1.) The Shinkansen to Hokkaido are still being build. For now you can take the Shinkansen from Aomori (the top of Honshu) to Tokyo. From Sapporo/Hakodate, limited express trains run to Aomori.

2.) It depends on your final itinerary, but a JR Pass could be very useful. Especially if you could travel Hakodate - Kyoto in a week. Or even a 14 day JR Pass if you travel from Kyoto back to Tokyo.

3.) The JR Pass is valid in consecutive days, meaning it's valid for a period of 7, 14 or 21 days in a row. It's not possible to pause the counting.

4.) See question one. From Aomori, shinkansen run all the way to Kyoto and further down to Kyushu.

Hope this helps,
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Excellent. Thank you so much Daniel, this helps a lot!!

Further questions:

  1. I will stay in Akan area mainly as my base, I will visit a few places including Sapporo and Hakodate. You mean JR Pass will get me to most of the towns in Hokkaido by Japan Rail, right?

  2. What is the best way to get out of Akan to any of those places?

  3. I will be staying in Hokkaido for 5 weeks, what is your recommendation as for where to visit?

Thanks a lot!

Sophia

Sophiaindy
Sophiaindy

I am working on my final itinerary. My last day in Japan is 10/30, I need to map out a good route.
Any recommendation to which cities to visit except Kyoto which I definitely will stay for a week and take some day trips to nearby towns.

Sophiaindy
Sophiaindy

Hi Again!

1 and 2 .) Akan is a pretty remote area. This page has a good overview of access options. The JR Pass does cover all JR lines in Hokkaido, which will get you to most places in Hokkaido. Here is a full rail map op Hokkaido, I think that you may find it useful.

3.) 5 days in Hokkaido is quite some time. With that you could consider making a full circle. Visiting something like Sapporo - Asahikawa - Kamikawa - Abashiri - Shiretoko Shari and surrounding national parks - Kushiro and back to Sapporo. This route can be fully made by rail. Then you could visit Nobiribetsu, Lake Toya and Onuma Koen on your way down to Hakodate.

Also worth a visit are the Rebun and Reshirin islands, close to Wakkanai. These however take quite a bit to travel to and may be hard to plan in.

For other stops going down to Kyoto, the first that comes to mind are Tokyo and Yokohama. Also below Kyoto, I would recommend visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima.

Hope this helps,
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Daniel you are awesome!!!

I really like your suggestions. I will take all your recommendation to consideration in mapping out my itinerary. I'd like to show you my complete plan once I get it done.

Good day!

Sophia

Sophiaindy
Sophiaindy

If you want a non-consecutive rail pass, then the JR East Pass might suit you better. You can use it from Aomori down to the Tokyo area, 5 days of travel during a 14 day period - it can be good to see various sites as well as spend more time at each.
But if you want to go directly from Hokkaido down to Kyoto, why would you waste over 9 hours of a day on a train? You can fly down in about 90 minutes or so from Sapporo or Hakodate, and there are some cheap air fares. Have a look at:

http://www.jetstar.com/jp/en/home

http://www.ana.co.jp/wws/us/e/wws_common/promotion/experience_jp/

One some days, you can fly Sapporo to Osaka for less than 5,000 yen ($41).

From Osaka you can still use a JR Pass to many nice places, and get your money's worth. Aside from Kyoto, Nara and Himeji are also very worthwhile to visit. Other nice places to see in the area are Iwakuni, Onomichi, Kurashiki, and Okayama. Since you have time, a side trip to Shikoku is also quite possible. Kotohira makes a wonderful day hike:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ley9rVIewoQ

In the Tokyo area, NIkko, Hakone, and Kamakura/Enoshima make excellent day trips.

Toraneko
Toraneko

Hi Toraneko San,

This is a great, great idea. This is exact what I am looking for.
Fly from Sapporo to Osaka (no flight to Kyoto?), then use JR East Pass for the rest of the trip. I do like to stay a few days in one city, really get to know the culture and people. So 5 days pass for 14 day period is perfect.

Thank you very much for the recommendation of other cities in the central and southern part, I will try to cover as many as I can and also stay at least 4 days in Kyoto.

I have another question. 1) What kind of pass I should get when I travel within Hokkaido if I visit the places Daniel San recommended? Can I use JR East Pass or it's only available in the east part of Japan? 2) Can I get JR East Pass in the same website?

Thank you! You and Daniel are life savers :)

Sophia

Sophiaindy
Sophiaindy

Hi,
A few important things. First, there is no airport in Kyoto. The airports for the Kansai region are Itami and Kansai Int'l. Secondly though, if you are in Kansai, that is too far south for the JR East Pass. Valid routes are on:

http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/eastpass/#category04

For Hokkaido, there is a Hokkaido Rail Pass also:

http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/railpass/rail.html

However, I don't know the rest of your itinerary. Using a full JR Pass might pay off if you are going all over, such as seeing Hiroshima, but also going to Tokyo and leaving Japan from Narita. You'd have to give more info.

Toraneko
Toraneko

Here is what I am thinking:

9/2: arrive in Haneda, stay overnight
9/3: fly from Haneda to Kushiro, get on bus to Akan to visit friends
9/5-9/17: travel in Hokkaido - maybe like this: Sapporo - Asahikawa - Kamikawa - Abashiri - Shiretoko Shari and surrounding national parks - Kushiro and back to Sapporo. This route can be fully made by rail. Then visit Nobiribetsu, Lake Toya and Onuma Koen on the way down to Hakodate.
10/14: fly from Sapporo to Osaka, then train to Kyoto-Nara-Himeji-Onomichi-Kurashiki-Shikoku- Kotohira (not sure how many days in each place yet, 4 days in Kyoto for sure)
10/27: take train to Tokyo
10/30: fly out of Haneda

It looks like I can't use JR East at all, right? I am pretty much stay in the south. Is there a similar pass for this part of the country? I am open to changes if you have any recommendation. Also I noticed some days the airfare are cheaper than other times, so I may alter my schedule based on that. But it's pretty much like this one.

How does JR East Pass works? I can use it for 5 days during 14 days regardless how many times I use it in one day, right?

The websites you sent to me are super helpful! Thank you!

Sophiaindy
Sophiaindy

Hi,
Well, given this info a JR East Pass won't help you. A 7 day JR Pass would be worth it if within 7 days you visit several places south of Kansai and then make it up to Tokyo for your flight home.
There are numerous regional passes for the area though - look through these:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2357.html

You are hitting on some good areas in the Chugoku region. Hiroshima City and Miyajima are of course excellent. For Onomichi there is a temple tour, but the real gem is on one of the nearby islands - the Kosanji Temple:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97Q5EjEOXI8

Kotohira is also excellent and makes a wonderful half day hike:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ley9rVIewoQ

Iwakuni also is famous for its iconic bridge and mountaintop castle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0COOZXi66mM

And the Akiyoshido cave in Yamaguchi is simply stunning:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6130.html

The JR East pass works as I explained it - within 2 weeks you can travel on 5 separate non-consecutive days to your heart's content. To cover the most ground, it's better to use the 5 days for the longest and most expensive travel. So for some days of not going far, you could just buy regular tickets.

I hope that helps you out.

Toraneko
Toraneko

Very nice videos, I like them!

At the moment, I think one JR Pass and one JR Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass would work. Five days to cover some of the places, and JR Pass cover the rest plus back to Tokyo.

So all together would cost about $410, it's still cheaper than buy each train individually, correct?

Sophiaindy
Sophiaindy

I don't know your finalized itinerary. You can compute regular rail fares on:

http://www.hyperdia.com

But it sounds reasonable. Good luck.

Toraneko
Toraneko

Another question, can all the passes be used on Shinkansen?

Sophiaindy
Sophiaindy

No. You need to check the rules for each pass.

Toraneko
Toraneko

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