siangwei
siangwei
about 1 year ago
10 responses

Hi I will be travelling to japan from 8-22 Deecmber. I will be landing in Osaka and staying there for 6 nights. I will then be travelling to Kyoto for approximately 2 days(flexible), and Kobe for a meal within these 6 nights. After that, I will be going to Tokyo for 3 nights before going to Sapporo till the end of my trip. I am currently considering between purchasing the 7 day JR Pass or taking a flight from osaka-tokyo and then from tokyo-sapporo, these 2 flights total cost is almost 10 000 yen less than a 7 day JRPASS. The flights will be direct flights from ITM-HND and HND-CTS and from All Nippon Airways so I dont see why JRPass would be a better option considering the vast amount of time saved from Tokyo-Sapporo through a flight instead of the bullet train. Can anyone convince me otherwise?

avatar
Daniel-san
15889 posts
about 1 year ago
Expert

Hi there,

Overall it is hard to make a direct comparison between train travel and air travel. Train tickets or the Japan Rail Pass have the same price all year round, while airfares have an incredible long range.

If you take price out of the equation than it would mostly come down to personal choice. Here are some advantages for rail travel.

*You get on the train in the centre of the city and again when you arrive elsewhere you will be in the centre. With flying you need to get to and from the airport, usually a good ride away from any city centre.

*Flying means you need to travel first to the airport, wait on check-in, passport control, customs and boarding, then wait again for passport control, luggage and wait more to get on transport into the city. Trains don't have any of these issues, you get on and that's it.

*More comfort and convenience, especially the Shinkansen in Japan are build with comfort in mind. Tuning trains that they just take the right speed when making a corner that the passengers don't notice anything. There's also more space compared to economy seats on air planes.

*No extra fees, going to fly? That will cost you extra for each bag checked, want to select a seat? That will cost more? Oversized luggage? Priority? All possible extra costs depending on the airline. You don't have any of these on the train. The ticket or pass is all you pay.

*Travel time is relatively a small difference. Going from Tokyo Station - Sapporo takes about 7 hours. Going from Tokyo to Haneda takes about 40-60 minutes. Then you need time at the airport, even for a Domestic flight you should arrive 90 minutes early. Then about 60 minutes in the air. At least 30 minutes to get trough control and collect luggage. Then buy your tickets to travel from CTS to Sapporo 15 minutes, then wait on the train or bus to get into Sapporo, also about 60 minutes. You'll spend a minimum of 5 hours travelling this way but potentially more. This is not what I'd call a vast amount of time saved. Shinkansen have a punctuality record of over 99%, airlines around more around 90%. In general, trains are less likely to be effected by bad weather conditions.

*Missed your train? No problem, just get on the next. Missed your flight? Well that's a problem! Either buy a new ticket or a big fee, that's if you're lucky enough that there's a later plane on the same day.

*As for price, the JR Pass is also valid for local travel on the JR Network in Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Sapporo and many other cities. Add to that travel to/from the airport and the price difference will be much closer, if not more to fly.

*The experience, you can fly in nearly every country but how many countries operate the best Shinkansen Network in the world? There are people coming to Japan just for this experience.

*Internet, you can stay connected over 4G or via Mobile WiFi in the Shinkansen. Most airplanes don't offer WiFi or at very high prices.

*Want a break? Make a stopover! It's easy to get of the Shinkansen explore any city for a couple of hours and get back on the train.

Coming from the city, the Shinkansen would definitely be my choice. I'd consider a domestic flight if: 1.) I'd arrive from an international flight and are on the airport already. 2.) For longer distances. Say Hiroshima - Sapporo or Kobe - Sapporo is a completely different story time wise than Tokyo - Sapporo or Tokyo - Osaka.

Let me know if I did, or did not convince you. Curious to hear your thoughts after reading the above.

siangwei
siangwei
10 posts
about 1 year ago

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for replying me and giving me such a detailed explanation.

Firstly, I understand that the JRPass has a set price all year round and airfares do tend to vary depending on demand/supply. However, I will be/ am able to purchase them immediately thus securing my prices and ensuring that my ticket prices wont rise tremendously out of the blue.

Secondly, I also understand that travelling to and from the airport will be a hassle compared to simply taking a bullet train. However, I have checked on google maps the relevant times and costs required to travel through trains/buses vs flights. All inclusive, the train rides would take 12hours and 45 minutes as compared to a total time of 9hours and 50 minutes if I should choose to take the aeroplane. This is inclusive of a 90minute wait time at the airport, travelling to and from the airport and 30minutes for immigration and collecting my baggage. Thus, taking the aeroplane saves me almost 3 hours, assuming no delays of course.

Moving on to costs, as I mentioned before, flight tickets can be assumed to be the same and adding in costs to and from the airport by train, 1 round trip to kobe and 2 round trips to kyoto (which I currently have planned for my itinerary) this saves me a measly 2000 yen should I choose to take the aeroplane. Thus the JRPass is the better choice if we are talking in terms of costs as it can be used to cover almost all rides by trains and buses for the duration of the pass. There should also not be any extra costs for checking in baggage as if i'm not mistaken, ANA allows passengers to check in 20kg for free and is included in the cost of the ticket, other benefits like seat selection or priority is insignificant to me and can be excluded from the calculation of costs.

So after all this talk about costs and time spent, we are left with a conclusion that the difference is rather insignificant if we are looking at things purely from a numbers perspective.

Let us now look into the intangible benefits for both. Taking the train would definitely be more straight-forward in terms of travelling. Just get on the train and wait till you reach your station. It would also be more reliable as everybody knows trains in Japan are known for their punctuality. The unqiue experience is also another benefit unattainable by flight.

On the other hand, taking a plane would give one the impression of a shorter waiting time and perhaps a "faster" ride as one is more pre-occupied with things to do such as clearing immigration etc. I would also be able to explore and enjoy the itami and chitose airports which I have yet to have the opportunity of doing so. This also provides me with more shopping opportunities and I would appreciate the tax free shopping, especially since there's a high chance I will propose to my girlfriend sometime during our 2 week trip in Japan. The biggest boon I would see taking a flight instead of a train would simply be the fact that I wouldn't have to endure a 9 hour train ride from tokyo-sapporo and instead have it broken up into small waits here and there totaling around 5 hours. Although it is possible to get off the train and explore for a while before continuing my journey, I would prefer to reach my destination as soon as possible as that is just the type of person I am.

Ultimately, I think after looking at costs and time saved, it would probably boil down to personal preference. Would you prefer a more straight forward procedure and flexibility regarding reporting times for trains? Or would you prefer a slightly faster and flexibility in terms of activities/things to be done during the entire time spent travelling. Would like to hear your thoughts on my "analysis" and if I missed out on or misjudged anything. Thanks for the help!

P.S. Please forgive me for my extremely long post. I am bored at work and have nothing to do but look forward/plan my japan trip.

avatar
Daniel-san
15889 posts
about 1 year ago
Expert

Hi again,

That's the long and interesting reply. I'd be interested in seeing the travel times you found on Google maps if you still have them somewhere. Especially the 12hours and 45 minutes figure sounds way to high. Taking the train from Tokyo station to Sapporo takes about 7 hours, including transfer time.

I agree it would come down to personal preference and how much value you'd attach to each point. Personally I prefer to take a more relaxed approach, for me the journey is as important as being somewhere. Just the feeling of going somewhere will make me feel better, granted this can be both on the train or air plane. I enjoy sitting down in the train, looking out of the window to see the landscape roll by. If the route is longer, I may read a book, listen to a podcast or study a subject I'm personally interested in. In general, I do enjoy flying a lot too (esp. if you have airline benefits) but for me the unique experience of train travel in Japan would simply be way more valuable. Distance and time do play a role here too, as I mentioned in my earlier post. I'd do Sapporo - Tokyo by train, seeing the mountain ranges of Tohoku and coast line in Hokkaido are both rather scenic but I'd fly if it was further, for instance from Kansai.

Side note, if you care about the shopping at airports. There are way more stores in Tokyo / Sapporo station and for much better pricing.

Good luck and all the best with proposing! Have you thought yet about what kind of setting you're going for?

siangwei
siangwei
10 posts
about 1 year ago

Hi there,

Thanks for getting back to me again. 12 hours and 45 minutes would be the total travel time from osaka-tokyo and tokyo-sapporo in case you were mistaken. Nevertheless, here's the locations we will be travelling from in Osaka,Tokyo and Sapporo should you be curious and choose to figure out travel times yourself. From Osaka, we will be staying near Kitahama Station, in Tokyo, we will be staying near Kinshicho Station and in Sapporo, we will be staying near Nakajima Koen Station. Hopefully you will be able to double check the timings I got off google and give me a more accurate estimate of what to expect in terms of travel times using the train should there be another quicker route available.

I completely understand your point of view about the journey being as important as the destination. Perhaps it would be beneficial for me to take a more scenic and slightly relaxed journey as this is a holiday after all and rushing from Point A to Point B every step of the way might be against the whole point of taking a holiday. My major issue with taking the train would primarily be the long travel time from tokyo-sapporo and if it is indeed 7 hours from my location in tokyo to my location in sapporo, I would definitely prefer taking the train as it is indeed a unique experience. Enjoying the beautiful scenery would be a huge plus as well and my decision would be much easier if the travel time wasn't so long.

I wouldn't say I particularly care about the shopping at airports but rather the opportunity to walk around and explore the different airports in Japan as I'm sure every airport is different. I was more interested in jewellery stores as it would allow me to buy a ring in Japan instead of carrying one with me along the whole journey. A hefty 8% tax reduction when buying said ring would also be greatly appreciated haha.

On a separate note, would you suggest buying a ring in Japan or at my local airport(Changi airport)? I am unsure if jewellery stores in Japan will allow the tax rebate as I have yet to purchase any there. I also understand that prices should generally be the same but the craftsmanship in Japan might be slightly better as Japan is well known for their high quality goods. I know this may not be the correct place or person to ask help from but since we're at it, why not?

I am currently thinking of doing it at Disneyland as it is one of if not her most favorite place in the world. I would probably pop the question after the fireworks show at night and hopefully everyone else will be preoccupied with leaving Disneyland and pay no attention to us haha. Any ideas of other good places to pop the question? I've heard Mt Moiwa is beautiful at night and might also consider it although I think she would prefer Disneyland as having been there, it is indeed a truly magical place.

Lastly, I really appreciate all the help and time you've given me answering my questions. The Japanese are indeed one of the nicest people in the world. Thank you!

avatar
Daniel-san
15889 posts
about 1 year ago
Expert

Hi again!

I see, the travel time I had in mind was Tokyo - Sapporo. So yea, if you look at Osaka - Sapporo is would be more like that. If you want to check exact time tables, hyperdia.com is also a good option but a bit complicated to get started with.

I'd like to think that I know my way around train travel in Japan but must say buying a ring or any jewellery for that part, would be entering new grounds for me. That said Okachimachi in Tokyo (on the JR Yamanote line) is famous for the vast amount of jewellery stores and generally the tax free is offered to foreign visitors. You just need to show your passport.

Disneyland is a place I had not though about but now that you mention it, I think it may be the best. Here are some other suggestions. If you are in Osaka, go up the Umeda Sky Building, the best time is just when the sun sets and you see all the lights of Osaka turn on. It is magical and there's a small balcony only allowed for couples.

A while back, we had a forum visitor who planned to propose at the Nachi Falls while hiking the Kamono Kodo. Mt Moiwa is indeed very beautiful but can be rather cold due to the high altitude. Similar, going up Mt. Rokka in Kobe is as beautiful with a full view over Kansai bay. Or you could hike up to Fuji and propose during the sunrise but that would mean a full days climb. Wherever it may be, wish you all the best luck with proposing!

siangwei
siangwei
10 posts
about 1 year ago

Yeah I meant from Osaka-Sapporo so I was a bit confused when you said it was only 7 hours. Oh okay Ill check out that place if I have the time although i doubt so since I'll only be in Tokyo for around 3 days and 2 of them will be spent at Disneyland/sea.

Thanks for the suggestions I will keep them in mind when I decide where/how to pop the question. They all seem like nice places to do so although there's a high chance I might stick to Disneyland due to it's simplicity haha.

On a separate note, what are your thoughts on taking overnight trains? Do they cover my route and are they covered by JRPass? I watched some videos on youtube and the free seats available for JRPass seems rather uncomfortable

avatar
Daniel-san
15889 posts
about 1 year ago
Expert

On overnight trains, there is only one regular night train left in Japan. The Sunrise Express and can be hard to book. Unless you can book it in advance, I'd use the Shinkansen instead.

I was thinking when you visit Japan in Dec, there will be many "iluminary" event. Where they light up a park, attraction or whole city block. Could be a romantic stop to plan in: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2304.html

siangwei
siangwei
10 posts
about 1 year ago

Ah okay I'll just use the Shinkansen then. I'm currently leaning towards taking the train instead now haha so I have some queries regarding the JRPass if you don't mind.

May I know when the pass expires? Is it based on the time of activation or does it expire once 7 days are up e.g. say you activate it on the 11th at 12pm, will it expire on the 18th at 12am? or will it expire on the 18th at 12pm. Also, does the JRPass cover all train lines in Japan? Particularly those I will use on a daily basis when travelling around Osaka/Kyoto/Tokyo or Sapporo.

Wow, thanks for suggesting those events as they look really interesting and I have yet to see them being suggested anywhere else. I'll definitely check them out when I'm there. If it's not too much to ask, can you suggest some lesser known places of interest to check out in Osaka/Kyoto or Sapporo/Hokkaido? Thank you!

avatar
Daniel-san
15889 posts
about 1 year ago
Expert

The main purpose of the forum is to help with the JR Pass and rail travel in Japan, so ask away :)

The pass is counted in full days and the first day is counted as a full day. For example, activating a 7 day JR Pass on a Monday means that the last day of use is the following Sunday (until midnight).

The JR Pass covers all JR lines nation wide, including all Shinkansen lines, local JR lines, local JR buses and the ferry to Miyajima. Transport that is run by other companies is not included, think of the metro/subway, buses operated by other companies etc. Tokyo and Osaka have a very extensive JR Network that covers most of both, Kyoto ans Sapporo also have JR lines but only with limited coverage, there are many JR Buses in Sapporo though.

What kind of area's would you be interested in? Modern, culture, food etc? This will help me find better recommendations. A couple of places that just pop into mind now are [Kurama and Kibine] in Kyoto. I love this area as it is passed over by most tourists and can be really Zen. In Tokyo I'd drop by Shimokitazawa the new hipster district for fashion in Tokyo, sort of like Harajuku but sans the many tourists. I loved hiking around Mt. Moiwa instead of taking the cable car but it may be too cold in Dec. From Sapporo, I'd also go for a side visit to Otaru, the local fisher harbour. You can get the best Sashimi there!

Hope this helps,
Daniel

Hope this helps,
Daniel

siangwei
siangwei
10 posts
about 1 year ago

Thank you again for answering my queries. I see, so to maximize the JRPass I should activate it as early as possible on the day itself and I will have to make sure my route is under the JR Network to ensure it is free? Would you say it is a bit of a hassle to do so? Or would it only have a minimal effect on my travel time as compared to taking a mix of different train lines.

Hmm i wouldn't say there are particular areas we would be more interested in compared to the others but I can definitely say food is one of our top priorities. My gf and I enjoy almost any place of interest although we tend to avoid activities such as hiking as we are lazy haha. Izakayas and those type of places don't interest us too. We don't mind walking though so that won't be an issue for us.

Some activities I have thought of in Osaka are USJ, exploring dotonburi, yamazaki distillery, osaka castle and some of the parks there. We aren't really sure of what to do in Kyoto but we're probably renting a kimono/yukata and going to all the different shrines and temples. I'll look more into Kurama and Kibine when I have the time but we won't be spending much time in Kyoto. We can spend more time if there are many things to do there but tentatively, the itinerary is 8-14 in Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe and maybe Nara if we can squeeze it in or something catches our attention there. The main reason for going Kobe is to eat Kobe beef but if there are interesting places to go we might consider spending a day there as well. Tokyo would consist mostly of Disneyland/sea and we would only have about half a day left to explore Tokyo which is fine since we have been there before.

For Sapporo, we would be going to shiroi koibito park and asahi or sapporo brewery. We might have day trips to Otaru and Asahikawa as well since they are near but aren't really sure what to do there. Generally, we are getting our itinerary off tripadvisor and I'm sure we can figure out enough things to do during our trip but we are hoping for you to give us some unique suggestions that tourists do not know of or suggestions for places one must visit while there. I would say the 6 days we are spending in Sapporo is the most in need of help as we are quite unsure of what to do there. Also, are there any places you recommend to go for sledding or skiing if we are up for the task? I say so as I'm not sure if my gf would want to ski as she has never skied before and might be more comfortable just sledding so we would appreciate if the place offers both for us to decide. Thank you for your help!

avatar
Daniel-san
15889 posts
about 1 year ago
Expert

Yes, if you would want to maximise the JR Pass on the first day than you would want to activate the pass as early as possible. That said, for many it is just a matter of going from A->B so the exact time does not matter. I.e. it only matters if you want to ride as many trains as you can in a single day.

Thank you for sharing your itinerary, gives me a better idea of what to work with. In Kyoto I'd head to Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama (and surrounding area). Think these are the best in terms of general tourism. If you're looking for a bit of a hidden gem, head to Hikone from either Kyoto or Osaka. The castle is very beautiful and you won't see many tourists around compared to Osaka. The town itself is also traditional and nice to walk around in. Are you into Japanese Ramen? In Osaka, I'd add a visit to Shinsekai. Build in the 60's, it was made with how they thought the future would look like but it was never updated since. Now it is great place for trying local food and going up the tower.

In Sapporo, it is a town a like a lot but you will be able to see all tourism sites in 1-2 days. Otaru is a great side trip and you can also visit the Nikka Wiskey distillery there. You can also head to Niseko, as day trip and easy to access with the Rail Pass. It is possible the best winter sport resort in Japan and you'll enjoy it, even if you are not the biggest ski fan. Also something you need to eat is Sapporo is called: "Genghis Khan".

Kind regards,
Daniel

siangwei
siangwei
10 posts
about 1 year ago

Thanks for getting back to me again. The timing matters to me as I’m thinking of buying the 7 day pass so i would have to plan accordingly to maximise it. Would you recommend the 14 day jrpass instead? My itinerary is relatively flexible for day trips but i have already booked hotels in osaka from 8-14 and 14-17 in tokyo and 17-22 in sapporo thus i’m limited and can’t travel further than nearby cities and doubt i’ll really make use of the 14 day pass hence the 7 day pass.

Okay great! Thanks for the suggestions i’ll definitely check these places out while im there. Yes i do like ramen, a lot in fact. I have yet to forget the taste of ichiran since last year and would definitely be interested in trying recommended ramen stores.

Hmm may I know what one can do at Niseko? Other than skiing of course I’m not sure what’s available there and I only know it’s a hugely popular ski resort especially for australians. Are there perhaps any other places to sled that would be less crowded?

avatar
Daniel-san
15889 posts
about 1 year ago
Expert

Sorry for bit of a delay in reply but let's get right back in!

In terms of a 7 day or 14 day JR Pass, a 7 day pass would be fine if you could do Osaka - Tokyo - Hokkaido with it.

It's probably too far but if you could fit it in, then I would definitely suggest a visit to Onomichi. The view is beautiful with the Shikoku islands in the distance and the local ramen style is my personal favourite. Sapporo also has it's own Ramen style, so be sure to check that one out, so does Hakodate if you make a stop there.

I've not been on wintersport in Hokkaido and reply on friends mostly for recommendations here. As such I know Niseko is great but you can find a list of others here: http://snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resorts/prefecture/hokkaido (map at the bottom is very useful).

Hope this helps!
Daniel

siangwei
siangwei
10 posts
about 1 year ago

Hello again Daniel, no worries as my trip is still pretty far away haha. Actually, I’m currently leaning towards taking the plane now as I read that the 2nd half of Tokyo-Sapporo is rather uncomfortable as the train is stuffy, hot and has no ventilation. Any thoughts on this? I forgot what the train line was but it would be the one after the shinkansen ride and for about 4 hours?

Alright thanks i’ll see if any resorts fit my itinerary better if not i’ll just go to niseko!

avatar
Daniel-san
15889 posts
about 1 year ago
Expert

Hi :)

Where did you read that? Did you also ready about the first (longer) part?
The Hokkaido Shinkansen between Tokyo - Hokkaido is the newest and most modern Shinkansen in Japan. The train is build with every comfort in mind and have takes the optimal speed going into a corner so passengers have the smoothest ride, with many amenities to take care of your comfort. Just have a look for yourself and Google H5 Shinkansen series and yes, the JR Pass will allow you to ride this train.

Then the 2nd part is on the Super Hokuto ltd. express train. It's not the Shinkansen but good and comfortable. The ride is also rather scenic, especially if you sit on the right side going to up to Sapporo. I would rate it above economy on most airlines in terms of space and comfort. As you're travelling in Winter, it would sooner be cold on board than hot and yes, there's heating to keep you warm :)

siangwei
siangwei
10 posts
about 1 year ago

I got the info from here https://www.japlanning.com/blog/sapporo-to-train-or-not-to-train. It's specifically for the 2nd part of the trip on the Hokuto train which seems rather uncomfortable and that's making me second guess my decision of taking the trains now haha. Not sure if this info is accurate though so I would appreciate if you could weigh in on this. Thank you!

avatar
Daniel-san
15889 posts
about 1 year ago
Expert

Thank you, I read the blog post and can't deny the experience this person had. That said, I've made the trip about 5 times in the last couple years myself and never experienced anything that comes close to this.

If you're worried about something like this you could consider a Green Pass but it kinda would defeat the talk we had before about pricing before :)

siangwei
siangwei
10 posts
about 1 year ago

Hmm I wouldn't mind paying slightly more for the Green Pass if the benefits justify the cost. After doing a bit of reading, I found out the main benefit of the Green Pass would be the bigger and more comfortable seats of course but you have the reserve your seats for all rides. Are there any other pros and cons I missed out on? Such as more lines available etc.

Also would the Green Pass allow me to take another line/have a more comfortable journey for the 2nd half of the Tokyo-Sapporo train ride? Instead of the one mentioned in the article I linked earlier. Thanks for your help!

avatar
Daniel-san
15889 posts
about 1 year ago
Expert

Hi!

The Green Pass is short is comfort, quiet and peace. A lot less people travel Green Class and that's the main reason I'd recommend it. The trains/lines you'd travel on are the same but the train carriage is relaxed. In the train in question, the seat layout is 2x1, so there's be a lot less people (you always need a Green Seat ticket to enter the green car) so there won't be anyone standing either. A lot less people will mean that the temperature will be lower too. You'd have more comfort for sure.


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