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Tokyo, Matsumoto, Takayama, Kyoto and Hakone - Which pass to get?

over 5 years ago
1 response


My husband and I are going to be in Japan from October 28 – November 8, 2012.

We are hoping that you would be able to suggest what JR rail pass that we should get. We are also not sure what parts of our trip should be covered by the JR pass and where we need to use other non-JR transportation.

Our itinerary is as follows:

October 28 – Arrive at Narita Airport and stay in Tokyo
October 29 – Tokyo
October 30 – Tokyo
October 31 – Matsumoto
November 1 – Takayama
November 2 – Kyoto
November 3 – Kyoto
November 4 – Kyoto
November 5 – Kyoto
November 6 – Hakone
November 7 – Tokyo
November 8 – Leave Tokyo and depart at Narita Airport

Things to consider:
-We are interested in having passes that allow us to travel around Tokyo and Kyoto -While in Matsumoto, we are hoping to do a trip to see the Snow Monkey park -While In Takayama, we are hoping to visit Shirakawa-go -While in Kyoto, we are interested in doing day trips (to Nara and Osaka)

Thank you for your help! We are very excited about our trip!

1951 posts
over 5 years ago
Expert button 2

Hi there!

As your trip spans multiple JR zones, I think your choice is between a nationwide 14 day JR Pass, or individual tickets and smaller city/metro level passes. Firstly, lets get a handle on your base JR ticket costs for your trip:

  1. Narita airport terminal 1 > Tokyo: ¥3140, (62mins, 79km)
  2. Tokyo > Matsumoto: ¥10150, (168mins, 285km)
  3. Matsumoto > Takayama: ¥11710, (304mins, 354km)
  4. Takayama > Kyoto: ¥9980, (190mins, 314km)
  5. Kyoto > Odawara: ¥11950, (177mins, 429km)
  6. Odawara > Tokyo: ¥1450, (36mins, 83km)
  7. Tokyo > Narita airport terminal 1: ¥3140, (58mins, 79km)

JR ticket cost: ¥51520 for 7 legs

  • 14 day rail pass (¥45,100) saving: ¥6420

Based on this costing if you use a 14 day nationwide pass (which will cover all your areas of travel) you will make a basic saving of ¥6420, with any further JR travel being free, for example, trips to Nara/Osaka/Hiroshima from Kyoto, or use of the extensive JR network around Tokyo (JR Tokyo map) will all be free. Because of this I recommend using a 14 day JR pass for your travel.

A 14 day rail pass will not provide 100% coverage as you will need to use non-JR transport to access some of your destinations:


The JR Pass will get you as far as Odawara for Hakone. From here you should use the non-JR Odakyu operated rail and tram system to get up into the Hakone area. I recommend purchasing the Hakone Free Pass on arrival into Odawara.

Snow monkey onsen at Yudanaka/Jikokudani

For this you'll need to use the JR Pass to get up to Nagano (1hr from Matsumoto) and then use non-JR Nagano electric rail to Yudanaka (sample itinerary from Matsumoto). The total trip will be around 2 hours. How about staying overnight in Yudanaka onsen rather than Matsumoto?

Matsumoto to Takayama

While you can get the JR train (via Nagoya) that connects these 2 locations, you could also consider using the non-JR Nohi bus to do the trip in 1/2 the time and travel through the alps. Here's the relevant timetable.


Shirakawago is only accessible by non-JR buses and cars. Nohi bus operates a good service from Takayama for this. You can find more information on the Nohi bus schedule and prices to Shirakawago here.

Metro systems and travel within cities

While the JR Pass will cover all the main travel between cities, and is very useful within Tokyo, it is not accepted on non-JR metro and bus systems in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. For these cities you will need to look into citywide passes, or at purchasing single tickets as you go:

You can purchase these tickets/passes at the relevant station before travel, or by visiting the tourist counter at the JR station you arrive into.

Hope this helps!

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