questions & answers: itinerary check

itinerary check and japan rail pass advice

Itinerary check and Japan Rail Pass advice

We are arriving to Tokyo on 20th August.
We will be staying for 21 days and want to move around, we have some questions regarding the J Rail Pass, please.
- does it apply for transfer Narita - Asakusa ? - does it apply for Tokyo subway ? - after spending 5 nights in Tokyo, on 25 August we want to go to Kanazawa - then Kanazawa to Shirakawago - Shirakawago - Takayama - Takayama - Matsumoto - Matsumoto - Tsumago - Tsumago - Kioto - Kioto - Osaka - Osaka - Nara - Nara -Tokio

  • Can one do all this using the JRail Pass?
  • How can I find out the distance in time between places, and also train departure/arrival times?
  • Also, i read that during end of August and beginning of September there are holidays in Japan and it is more difficult to find availability in transport, do you recommend we buy first class tickets so we have more chance of finding places in the trains?
  • Do we have to book our places in the trains? How many days before travelling should one do this? And how/where?

  • Finally, is it possible to go from Hakone to Osaka in JP Pass?

Thank you very much for your help and advice!


It is possible to do nearly all your destinations by JR rail, although for a couple, not the most efficiently. But first, more importantly, your itinerary is too short to make a 21 day pass pay off - you'd need to add a little more to make it cost effective, such as a day trip to Nikko north of Tokyo, or one to Himeji near Osaka, which has Japan's finest castle. You could also go to see Hiroshima/Miyajima for a day trip or overnight, and rack up some huge savings.

It is not possible however to go see Shirakawago by train. Most people take a bus from Takayama or Kanazawa - these are not covered by the JR Pass. Also, while you can go from Takayama to Matsumoto by rail, it is an enormous time wasting ride taking almost 4½ hours - most people pay for a 2½ bus ride (costing ¥3190) - but it is up to you.

You can see regular fares, routes and schedules by going to Hyperdia and just plug in your starting point and end point, plus date/time that you like. But be sure under "More Options" to deselect "Nozomi..." since you can't ride that on the Pass.
The Obon holidays can make some trains crowded, but you can reserve seats at any JR office in Japan as early as you like, and it a free perk of the rail pass. Plus there are enough trains leaving every hour that you would rarely be prevented from traveling. With those too factors, and if you reserve enough ahead of time, you really don't need to buy the green passes unless you want to splurge for the extra comfort.

For Hakone, the JR Pass can get you part of the way there. Getting a Hakone Free Pass can also save you a lot of money. To get to Osaka, you just go to one of the main stations like Mishima or Odawara, get the next bullet train, and be on your way.

Best of luck.


Thank you for your quick reply.
We are thinking of getting a 14 day pass, do you think that is better?
Please, can you tell me if Tokio subway is included in the JRPass and how about the transfers to and from airports into Tokio?
Thank you very much!!


Yes, a 14 day pass makes more economic sense. You cannot use it on city subways or buses though. But you can use it for the Narita Express going to/from Tokyo. However, if a 14 day pass, you can't use it both ways, and if you are going to Asakusa, then taking the Keisei to Ueno might be a better choice. Look into a Keisei/Metro package, and if you are in Tokyo for 3 straight days, a 3 day subway pass is cheap and economical.

You can see regular fares, routes and schedules on Hyperdia. But be sure under "More Options" to deselect "Nozomi..." since you can't ride that on the Pass.
In Tokyo a few of the best places to see are the Tsukiji Fish Market, plus the site that every last tourist goes to see, the Sensoji Temple. If you are in Tokyo on a Sunday afternoon, be sure to go visit Harajuku to see the youth with their wild fashions. Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park are next to it and well worth seeing also. And be sure not to miss the Shibuya Hachiko intersection especially on a weekend when it looks like half the city is crossing the street all at once.
Nara is often neglected by some tourists, which is a shame. Missing the Todaiji Great Buddha in Nara is like going to India and skipping the Taj Mahal. Nara Park has a lot of great places, such as Kasuga Shrine, Kofukuji Temple, and feeding the many deer in the area.
A few other great places missed out even by those who go to Nara though are the Isuien and Yoshikien Gardens. They are gorgeous and not crowded at all.
In Kyoto you could spend weeks there and not see everything. The three best sights though are the Kinkakuji Temple, Kiyomizudera Temple, and Fushimi Inari Shrine. Fushimi is the most time consuming; you could spend a couple of hours to over half a day if you want to romp over all the trails.
And the Otagi Nenbutsuji is one of the most humorous and whimsical places you could visit in Japan - well worth visiting, even for kids.

In addition, there are other numerous great places you can visit in the area. Okayama is not far and it is famous for its castle, plus Korakuen, one of Japan's Top 3, and also the Handayama Garden. If you'd like to get off the beaten trail for a while, the half day hike up to Konpirasan in Kotohira is stunning. Going to Takamatsu is also nice - it has one of Japan's finest gardens also, called Ritsurin.
Hiroshima also has a number of good places. Miyajima is the most famous, and aside from Hiroshima itself, Onomichi with its temple tour and Kosanji Temple is spectacular. Just beyond Miyajima also lies Iwakuni with its historical bridge and castle on top of the mountain. Taikodani is also a beautiful shrine in Tsuwano, Shimane. Hagi Castle was actually delightful, and the preserved samurai district and Mori related temples a rarity. One of the very best is the Akiyoshi Limestone Cave, a 300 million year old wonder with huge caverns and underground river running through it.

If you can, try to find a little time to see the Japanese themselves. Go visit a Japanese supermarket and see what people typically eat. Look through a park and watch the Japanese kids play. Learn about the history of some of the places you visit before your departure - it will give your trip so much more meaning.

All in all, a lot more to explore and enjoy.


Thank you!
One more question: is there a way of going from Takayama to Narai on a local bus instead of taking the train?
I see the trains really take up a long time, and was wondering if there where buses available between these two.


Yes, there are. It still is rather time consuming though. First you need to take a train (limited express if possible, saving you 35 minutes) to Gero, then catch a 35 minute bus to Kashimo Sogojimusho-mae (fare ¥1060, departing every hour or two) and then get another bus taking an hour to get to Nakatsugawa Station (fare ¥1340, departing every 1-3 hours). You can check rail times on Hyperdia but not buses. Sorry but I don't have any info on the exact bus schedules.


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