Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?
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Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?

One of the questions we get most on the JR Pass forum: Is the JR Pass worth it? The answer is: it depends on where you are planning to go and how many days you want to travel. Today we look into 5 different usage scenarios for the JR Pass, so you can find out when the JR Pass makes sense.

What is the JR Pass?

Before we start, let’s have a look at what the JR Pass is. The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is a highly cost efficient option to travel around Japan, including the high speed Shinkansen, intercity trains and extensive local networks. In addition the JR Pass also covers local JR buses and the JR Ferry. The pass is available for a period of 7, 14 and 21 consecutive days. In short, the Japan Rail Pass is your one rail ticket to all of Japan.

5 Scenarios for using the JR Pass:

To better get an idea of when the JR Pass makes sense, we’ve written out 5 scenarios, including exact numbers. For simplicity, these are all with the 7-day JR Pass in mind.

Narita Airport, Tokyo and Kyoto

This is perhaps the most common trip first time visitors to Japan make and a classic to get a feel of Japan. Where Tokyo embraces the hyper modern, Kyoto is true to its cultural and historical routes.

The ticket cost for this route is:
Narita Airport – Tokyo ¥ 3,070 by Narita Express.
Tokyo – Kyoto ¥ 13,850 by Hikari Shinkansen.
Kyoto – Tokyo ¥ 13,850 by Hikari Shinkansen.
Tokyo – Narita Airport ¥ 3,070 by Narita Express.

For a total of ¥ 33,840 or ¥ 4,190 in savings as the 7-day JR Pass is ¥ 29,650. Keep in mind that this does not include any local trains or side trips and savings will likely be higher.

Tokyo – Kyoto and Hiroshima

For those that want to see multiple cities in Japan, this is where the JR Pass truly shows its value.

The ticket cost for this route is:
Tokyo – Kyoto ¥ 13,850 by Hikari Shinkansen.
Kyoto – Hiroshima ¥ 11,300 by Sakura Shinkansen
Hiroshima – Tokyo ¥ 18,910 by Hikari/Sakura Shinkansen

For a total of ¥ 44,060 or ¥ 14,410 in savings as the 7-day JR Pass is ¥ 29,650. Again, keep in mind that this is excluding any local travel covered by the JR Pass. For instance add a return Tokyo – Narita airport and that’s another ¥ 6,140 in savings, as seen in the first example.

Tokyo – Hokkaido

A visit to Hokkaido is fast and cost efficient with the Japan Rail Pass. Take for example a return between Tokyo and Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido. The JR Pass covers the Hayabusa Shinkansen, the fastest train on this route.

The ticket cost for this route is:
Tokyo – Sapporo ¥ 27,760
Sapporo – Tokyo ¥ 27,760

For a total of ¥ 55,520 or ¥ 25,870 in savings, as the 7-day JR Pass is ¥ 29,650. Again, any additional travel would just add more savings.

Travel in and around Tokyo

Say you come to Japan and stay in Tokyo for a week, would the JR Pass then be worth it? Generally speaking not, as local travel within the greater Tokyo area is relatively low-cost. On average one ride on a local train will set you back ¥ 200, while a trip between Tokyo and nearby a city, like Yokohama can be as cheap as ¥ 480 one way. To get around conveniently, we recommend using a travel card like Suica instead.

Kansai – Hiroshima

What if you arrive at Kansai airport and stay in the Kansai Area (like Kyoto, Osaka or Kobe) and want to make a return trip to Hiroshima.

The ticket cost for this route is:
Osaka – Hiroshima ¥ 10,420
Hiroshima – Osaka ¥ 10,420

For a total of ¥ 20,840, that’s below the cost of a 7-day Japan Rail Pass. However for this route is it worth it to look at a Regional Rail Pass instead. For example, the Kansai – Hiroshima area pass is only ¥ 13,700, resulting in ¥ 7,140 savings. For more details, read our expert guide to regional JR Passes.

Note: All prices are based on ordinary (2nd class) fares, fares may differ a little depending on high/low season, type of train traveled on, seat reservation and other conditions.

Perks of the Japan Rail Pass

The JR Pass is not only your budget friendly train ticket around Japan but comes with a bunch of convenient perks like:

-Free seat reservations, seat reservations can be made for free on any longer distance trains, including the Shinkansen. This means you are secure of seating and don’t have to come early to the platform to queue up.
-Hop-on Hop-off any JR train. The JR Pass literally is your train ticket, you only have to show it when entering or exiting the station and you can get on and off any train you’d like.
-Discounts around Japan, by showing your JR Pass you can get different discounts around Japan. Like 10% discount of JR Hotels nationwide by just showing your pass!
-Luggage is included, you may bring up to 2 suitcases per person.

Tools to find the best JR Pass

We provide travellers to Japan with different tools to help you find the best Japan Rail Pass.

-JR Fare Calculator
We’ve built the JR Fare calculator to give you an approximate cost of how much your trip would cost without a JR Pass and to help you find out how much you can save using a Japan Rail Pass.

-JRPass travelers forum
Ask one of our in-house Japan experts, we can help you find the best pass for your trip. Or answer any other questions related to travel in Japan.

-Blog by JRPass.com
Be sure to have a look through our blog, we have many different guides, itinerary tips and travel hacks to help you get the best out of your Japan trip. Specifically for finding the right pass, we recommend reading: Regional Japan Passes Guide and Expert guide to JR-West Passes.

Find out where to buy the japan rail pass online.

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