questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

what rail passes to get

What rail passes to get

Hi,
We will be travelling to Japan in April, our general itinery is as follows:

  1. Arrive late on the 9th at Tokyo Narita Airport and procede to our hotel in Shinjuku (was going to take the limobus service)
  2. We will then be based in tokyo until the 16th - during this time we plan to make a day trip to both Nikko and kamakura, spend a day at both disneyland and disney sea and explore tokyo - we are not sure of what actual dates we will do each particular outing.
  3. On the 16th we will travel to kyoto and stay there till the 19th.
  4. On the 19th we will travel to hakone, spend the night there and then back to tokyo on the 20th and fly out on the 21st.

We would very much appreciate any advice you can give us as to what would be the best rail pass to purchase.
Would a 7 or 14 day pass be best, and would all our trips be serviced by Japan rail?
Also, is there a separate pass we need for travel within tokyo?

Thank you very much in advance for any help you can provide!

Molly
Molly

Hi there!

From your itinerary it looks like you'll be in Japan for 13 days. Before looking at which rail pass makes sense for you, lets take at the costs for the travel you list:

  1. Narita airport terminal 1 > Shinjuku(jr): ¥3110, (88mins, 89km)
  2. Shinjuku(jr) > Nikko: ¥4820, (113mins, 147km)
  3. Nikko > Shinjuku(jr): ¥4820, (137mins, 147km)
  4. Shinjuku(jr) > Kamakura: ¥890, (61mins, 57km)
  5. Kamakura > Shinjuku(jr): ¥890, (69mins, 57km)
  6. Shinjuku(jr) > Maihama: ¥380, (47mins, 23km)
  7. Maihama > Shinjuku(jr): ¥380, (48mins, 23km)
  8. Shinjuku(jr) > Kyoto: ¥13220, (185mins, 517km)
  9. Kyoto > Odawara: ¥11750, (181mins, 429km)
  10. Odawara > Tokyo: ¥1450, (36mins, 83km)
  11. Tokyo > Narita airport terminal 1: ¥2940, (58mins, 79km)

TOTAL: ¥44650 for 11 legs

I have excluded other exploration around Tokyo - while you can use the Japan Rail Pass to use the JR system in Tokyo (maps) you may also choose to use the Metro system which is not JR.

For Hakone, from Odawara you will need to use the Odakyu Hakone Railway system to get up to Hakone as it is not a JR operated line. You can find out more on the Hakone free pass online.

As the 14 day rail pass is ¥45,100 there is not much difference in purchasing this over separate tickets aside from convenience and the freedom to perhaps expand on what you have listed with some other trips.

If you are pretty decided on your itinerary, how about the following itinerary that uses a 7 day rail pass:

  1. Purchase a combined return Narita Express (N'EX) + Suica card deal on arrival at Narita going to Shinjuku. This will cost ¥5500 and include both return ticket on the Narita express, and ¥2000 value pre-paid 'suica' travel card making a saving of ¥2720 over buying these separately. You will then be able to use the Suica card to travel around Tokyo on either the JR or Metro services.

  2. Purchase a separate return to Kamakura/Disney or use the Suica card.

  3. Activate a 7 day japan rail pass on the 14th, aiming to use it until the 20th to travel to Nikko, Kyoto, Odawara (for Hakone) and back to Tokyo on the 20th

  4. At Odawara purchase the Hakone free pass to travel up to Hakone.

This will bring your total spend to:

  • ¥5500: N'EX + Suica
  • ¥1000: Extra travel in Tokyo
  • ¥28300: 7 day Japan Rail Pass
  • ¥3900: Hakone free pass

TOTAL: 38,700 (including all travel inside Tokyo and up to Hakone)

With this option you will make a saving of ¥10,300 over a 14 day pass + Hakone free pass, or a saving of ¥9850 over separate tickets.

Aside from price, the main difference between these options is in terms of flexibility. As the 7 day option I outline above will still leave you with some flexibility (during the rail pass period) along with offering the most saving, I recommend this approach.

Hope this helps!

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mari
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Thank you so very much for your detailed response. It's very helpful and much appreciated.

With the seond option you recommened, do we only have to purchase the JR pass before we leave for Japan and then purchase the rest whilst there?

Molly
Molly

Hi Molly,

Yes - with the 7 day rail pass itinerary, you should purchase the 7 day japan rail pass outside Japan, and then make the other purchases once you arrive. You can buy the N'EX+Suica combined ticket at Narita Airport, and can purchase the Odakyu Hakone Freepass on arrival at Odawara. Finally. you may need to top-up your prepaid suica travel card inside Tokyo if you do a lot of travel, but you can do this as needed at JR or Metro stations.

Hope this helps!

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mari
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Thankyou again for all your help :)

Molly
Molly

Hello,

Not sure if i can ride on this to pose this question! mari's reply is a life saver and I THINK based on the above that I have understood it correctly... But because every place seems to have so much alternatives, I need some reassurance whether i'm getting it right...

My friend and I are going to Japan from 28th..this is my plan based on your above recommendation from Molly:
28Mar: Narita and staying in Tokyo for a night,
29Mar: Tokyo > Kyoto 2d2n
30Mar: Kyoto > Osaka (with overnight stay either in Kyoto or Osaka)
1 Apr: Kyoto/Osaka > Hakone
2 Apr: Hakone > Tokyo
3 -8Apr: Tokyo (we are planning a trip to Disneysea somewhere during this time)

My plan:
Nex+Suica concession return ticket round trip for 28Mar & 8Apr
JR pass should be from 29 - 4th Apr so we have option to go to DisneySea on either 3rd or 4th Apr which will be covered under the JR pass right??

Any help will be much appreciated!!

pigami
pigami

Hi Pigami,

Yes - that sounds great. The trip to Disney will be covered up to Maihama. From Maihama you will have to use the non-JR Disney Resort train up to the main gates. Here's a sample itinerary for you from Tokyo.

Hope this helps!

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mari
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thank you SO much!

pigami
pigami

Apologies for riding on this trail, my itinerary is pretty similar to the first one, with a slight extension, please may I request help to assess if I need the 14 day pass or some other alternative. Thank you very much.

Day 1 arrive at Narita
Day 2 tokyo city
Day 3 Tokyo- Nikko Day trip
Day 4 Tokyo- Disney Day trip
Day 5 Tokyo - Kamakura Day trip
Day 6 Tokyo-Hakone Day trip
Day 7 Kyoto
Day 8 Kyoto
Day 9 Kyoto Takayama Day trip
Day 10 Kyoto Nara Day trip
Day 11 osaka ??
Day 12 Himeji hiroshima
Day 13 Hiroshima Tokyo
Day 14 Tokyo to Haneda

JB
JB

Hi JB,

The price of a 14 day is ¥45,100, so lets take a look at the ticket prices to see where you come:

  1. Narita airport terminal 1 > Tokyo: ¥2940, (62mins, 79km)
  2. Tokyo > Nikko: ¥5430, (121mins, 150km)
  3. Nikko > Tokyo: ¥5430, (117mins, 150km)
  4. Tokyo > Maihama: ¥210, (15mins, 12km)
  5. Maihama > Tokyo: ¥210, (16mins, 12km)
  6. Tokyo > Kamakura: ¥1900, (48mins, 51km)
  7. Kamakura > Tokyo: ¥890, (58mins, 53km)
  8. Tokyo > Odawara: ¥3640, (35mins, 83km)
  9. Odawara > Tokyo: ¥1450, (36mins, 83km)
  10. Tokyo > Kyoto: ¥13220, (164mins, 513km)
  11. Kyoto > Takayama: ¥9680, (193mins, 314km)
  12. Takayama > Kyoto: ¥9680, (190mins, 314km)
  13. Kyoto > Nara: ¥690, (45mins, 41km)
  14. Nara > Kyoto: ¥690, (44mins, 41km)
  15. Kyoto > Osaka: ¥540, (28mins, 42km)
  16. Osaka > Himeji: ¥3640, (43mins, 95km)
  17. Himeji > Hiroshima: ¥8070, (60mins, 249km)
  18. Hiroshima > Tokyo: ¥18050, (292mins, 894km)

TOTAL: ¥86360 for 18 legs

As you can see, a 14 day rail pass will be well worth if for this trip. The difference between a 14 and 7 day is ¥16,800, and I think you will more than cover that in the first 7 days of your trip to make a 14 day worthwhile.

A small change you may want to consider is making an overnight stay in Takayama as it is a fairly long way to travel and a great town to wander around.

Hope this helps!

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mari
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