questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

8 days in japan

8 days in Japan

My family (2 parents/2 18-year old girls) are flying into Osaka, arriving June 8 at 6:20pm and depart out of Narita on June 16 at 10pm. We'd like to buy 7-day rail pass for our travels to cities and places including: Osaka (1 day); Kyoto (2-3 days including Bamboo Grove, Nara, Kyoto Castle, Monkey Park, Todaiji; Hakone (1-2 days for Mt. Fuji, Lake Ashi & Ropeway) and Tokyo (3-4 days). Questions below:
1) This will be my daughters' first int'l flight and they may be tired after the long flight. Is it good idea to overnight upon arrival in Osaka on June 8 or to travel onto Kyoto and make that our base for side trips?
2) If traveling onto Kyoto, will we need to activate rail pass on 8th?
3) As rail pass is only good for 7-days, what's best way to use this pass for our itinerary and when should we activate it?
4) For travel to Hakone from Kyoto, what is travel time via Shinkansen?
5) What is your recommendation for itinerary given the above cities & sites we want to visit? Do we have time to see Hiroshima too? I want this to be a relaxing trip also so don't want to have to check in and out of too many hotels.

Thank you thank you for all your suggestions/tips!


For such a one-way itinerary a 7 day JR Pass would not pay off. You'd need to take a side trip to Hiroshima and back if you wanted to get your money's worth. But Hiroshima/Miyajima are both well worth seeing.
For your first evening you most likely will arrive as red-eyed zombies and going to your hotel and to bed straight away would be a smart choice. Going to Nara is easier than from Kyoto, and much more worth seeing than Osaka anyways, so for a hotel, Kyoto makes more sense.
If you get the pass and activate it on the 8th, it will expire at midnight on the 14th. As long as you are in Tokyo by the time it expires, you are OK. But you can't use the pass to both get from KIX and to NRT. But getting around Tokyo is cheaper than getting around Kansai - in fact there are 3 day subway passes and cheap 1000 yen buses in Tokyo:

So activating the pass from KIX makes sense.

The pass is of limited use for Hakone though. But there are other passes you can use. See:

Since you are already seeing Tokyo, you can largely skip Osaka during the day. After the temples of Kyoto close down around 5PM, you can zip over to Osaka for the evening. At night the city comes alive and has some great places to see, such as Dotonbori, plus the night views from the Umeda Sky Bldg, and Abeno Harukas Bldg are wonderful.

Good luck!


Thank you very much for prompt response.
To clarify, are you saying:
1) Better to overnight in Kyoto after plane arrives at Osaka Int'l or in Osaka because we will be so tired?
2) Do you have a suggestion for itinerary that would better use rail pass? OR are you saying, based on what we want to visit, it's cheaper to do individual travel on subways and trains?
3) What is KIX?
4) Are you saying, Osaka is better for night - dotonburi, etc.? In that case, we may still overnight when we arrive, check out next day, head to Kyoto and then if we have a pass or use subway, we can travel back to Osaka night life.
Please advise and Thank you again


For your first question, it is up to you and your budget. You previously wrote that you don't want to change hotels much, which is naturally understandable. So since you will be exhausted after your flight, the easiest for your body would be to overnight in Osaka. But for sightseeing convenience and your budget, it may be better to go from Kansai Int'l Airport (KIX) to a hotel in Kyoto. It is your choice.
For your second question, your original itinerary would not make a 7 day JR Pass pay off. If you want to add Hiroshima/Miyajima, then it would. If you don't, then buying normal tickets would be better. Or you could fly cheaply with a low cost carrier like Jet Star or perhaps ANA's Experience Japan Fare.
Also please note that the JR Pass cannot be used on non-JR trains or city subways. There are also various regional passes that might help you - see:

Regarding Osaka, it is mainly a clone of Tokyo, so your afternoons are better spent in other places like Nara or seeing Himeji Castle (Japan's finest). But Osaka at night is quite a treat, as the links in the above reply show. After seeing Kyoto, where most temples/shrines close about 5 PM, it is easy to visit Osaka for the evening.

Bon voyage!


Thank you thank you for all your help and quick responses. I will do more research to figure this out. Can't wait to visit Japan.


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