questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

9 days sapporo,hakodate,otaru,niseko,tokyo,kyoto

9 days Sapporo,Hakodate,otaru,niseko,Tokyo,Kyoto

Hi there,

My itinerary is as follows,

29th Dec - Arrival in Haneda at 11pm
30th Dec - Train to Hakodate (using JR pass )
1st Jan - ANA flight from Hakodate to Sapporo
2nd Jan - Otaru, NoboriBetsu, Lake Toba
3rd Jan - Train to Niseko ( using JR pass)
5th Jan - Train to Haneda
6th Jan - Train to Kyoto
7th Jan - Train back to Tokyo
8th Jan - Nikko, Mt Fuji & Hakone
9th Jan - Tokyo to Haneda airport

Is it worth getting the JR pass and when should I activate it? Can I use it on the express train for Niseko? If I activate it in the morning at 6am on 30th, when would be the expiry for the pass?


Hi there!

I think you'll find the travel you have listed for the 2nd and 8th pretty hard going (or even impossible). How about considering doing one of your list rather than rushing around all of them?

Aside from that, it looks like an interesting trip!

If you keep your current plans I recommend activating the JR Pass on the 30th. Bear in mind that Tokyo station exchange office opens at 7:30am, so you'll need to adjust your plans to compensate for this I think. you can use it on the express train for Niseko, however be aware that if you activate on the 30th, the last date of use for a 7 day pass will be the 5th of Jan. As you intend to travel long distance on the 6th-8th, I recommend the following options:

  1. Rather than get a flight from Hakodate to Sapporo, get a flight from Haneda to Sapporo. This price will probably be the same. Then aim to start a 7 day JR Pass form the 2nd to the 8th. This will cover all your long distance travel as you travel down the country and back up to Tokyo/Haneda
  2. Purchase a 14 day pass. Although you won't be in Japan for 14 days, it will be more economical to purchase a 14 day pass than to pay for the JR ticket cost for the travel you detail from the 6th to 9th.

I hope this helps you make a great plan!

Expert button 2

Hi Mari,
Thanks for your prompt reply. I will be flying to Hakodate instead as I have managed to get a flight at last. Can't take the train from Hakodate to Sapporo as I have made the mistake of buying the flight ticket before I got the Haneda-Hakodate area. With this I will be able to follow your suggestion to activate the pass on 2nd. By the way, are you saying I can only activate the pass in the Tokyo Station exchange office?
I am thinking of exploring only Otaru on 2nd and exploring Lake Toba & Noboribetsu area on 5th. I will also stay a night there in Lake Toya and proceed to Tokyo the next day instead which is 6th. How much time do I need to spend to visit the places of interest in both Lake Toya & Otaru ideally? If I really stay a night at Lake Toya then I will probably go to Kyoto on 7th and back in Tokyo on 8th. Will spend a bit of time in Shinjuku/Tokyo area and then the next day visit Mt Fuji & Hakone area before catching the train to Haneda for a night flight back to KL departing 11pm.
What do you think with this change?


Hi there!

Your revised plan sounds great!

You can exchange the rail pass at lots of JR stations in Japan (including Sapporo and New Chitose Airport) so you should have no problems there I think.

The amount of time you'll need to spend for Lake Toya and Otaru is a bit of a "how long is a piece of string" question, but I think Otaru will take the least time because of it's excellent JR connections so you can be in and out relatively easily. Certainly I recommend overnighting in Noboribetsu if you can as Onsen's really are best experienced overnight.

The rest of your plan sounds good, but busy I think! The trip from Noboribetsu to Kyoto will take all day at over 11 hours, so I recommend you either break in Tokyo, or choose between Kyoto or MtFuji/Hakone area rather than do both. Personally I'd go with the Kyoto option.

Hope this helps!

Expert button 2

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