questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

can someone please help me with my itinerary?

Can someone PLEASE help me with my itinerary?

I have not had any luck finding someone to help me with my RailPass questions. I will be in Japan from April 23 to May 1, 2012 and have a lot scheduled however am trying to now line up all the transporation to and from everywhere. In France or London you can buy a Pass that can be used on some trains, all subways(metro) and all buses but their fast train that travels from London to Paris under the English channel must have a separate purchased ticket. I am assuming or guess thats what it is like with this Japan RailPass? I guess the Japan RailPass can only be used for the fast bullet trains. If that is so then is there another type of pass that allows you to ride all the subways(metro) or buses and some regular trains.

I am first traveling from Tokyo to Kamakura on a bullet train: April 24 Tuesday

Take time: 55 Minutes Transfer: 0 Times Distance: 53.9 km
Total:¥ 890(Fare:¥ 890 Seat Fee:¥ 0) Commuting ticket(1mon:¥ 22,360 3mon:¥ 63,710 6mon:¥ 120,720)
14:08TOKYO [ Departure track No.1 ]
JR Yokosuka Line
15:03JR Yokosuka Line

Next I will be traveling from Kamakura to Kyoto on a bullet train: April 25 Wednesday

Take time: 191 Minutes Transfer: 1 Times Distance: 553.9 km
Total:¥ 14,260(Fare:¥ 8,720 Seat Fee:¥ 5,540) Commuting ticket(1mon:¥ --- 3mon:¥ --- 6mon:¥ --- )
JR Yokosuka Line
22:11KYOTO [ Arrival track No.14 ]

Next I will be traveling from Kyoto to Hiroshima on a bullet train: April 27 Friday

Take time: 96 Minutes Transfer: 0 Times Distance: 380.6 km
Total:¥ 11,090(Fare:¥ 6,300 Seat Fee:¥ 4,790) Commuting ticket(1mon:¥ --- 3mon:¥ --- 6mon:¥ --- )
20:29KYOTO [ Departure track No.13 ]
22:05HIROSHIMA [ Arrival track No.12 ]

Next I will traveling from Hiroshima to Tokyo on a bullet train: April 28 Saturday

Take time: 247 Minutes Transfer: 0 Times Distance: 894.2 km
Total:¥ 18,750(Fare:¥ 11,340 Seat Fee:¥ 7,410) Commuting ticket(1mon:¥ --- 3mon:¥ --- 6mon:¥ --- )
18:06HIROSHIMA [ Departure track No.14 ]
22:13TOKYO [ Arrival track No.14 ]

That is the extent of all my bullet train travel, however while within Tokyo, Hamakura, Kyota, and Hirsohima cities I will somehow need to get from the hotels to the train stations, train stations to hotels, and hotels to excursion or booked tour meeting places, etc... So if the RailPass is only good for bullet trains then is there another Pass which can be used for getting around each of these cities?

The bullet train RailPass cost $367 and I just do not know based on the bullet train travel listed above whether or not it would be worth it or if it would just be best to pay for each bullet train. Maybe it would be best to pay for each bullet train and just buy some kind of Pass which will let me get around the cities for a week (subways, metro, buses...)????

Just pretty confused right now so if someone can help me with my "getting around Japan issue", I sure would appreciate it to include any little tips such as anything that would be good to know about riding the bullet trains (is it easy to take suitcases on them - in London to Paris they had a place for luggage at front of each rail car) or getting around the train stations.

Thanks for any assistance and I am awaiting any replies.

Oh yeah, also if there is a Pass just for the buses, subways, metro etc,, to get around each individual city - would it be good for all cities or would I need to buy a different one each time a go to a new city. Some cities I will only be there a day and some cities a couple days. So it would probably be best to by a daily pass if possible. If possible then is t rather easy to buy these passes each day or are there large lines to purchase them. Boy this all sure gets confusing when you have to rely on public transportion. I am so used to just having my car and going everywhere. Just a typical American I guess, but it is intersting riding all the trains, subways, etc... and it will be even more interesting when I ahve it halfways figured out when it isn't so confusing like it is right now.

Again extreme thanks for any help with the best ways to get around Japan during my upcoming sightseeing trip.

Jeff A.
Birmingham, Alabama USA


Hi Jeff,

You certainly know how to write a comprehensive question! :). The good news is that I think I've got most of the answers for you.

The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) allows unlimited travel on all JR bullet trains, express and local trains and bus services nationwide except for certain commuter class bullet trains: the Nozomi and Mizuho services. In practice, these commuter services stop at slightly fewer stations that the bullet trains you can use with the JR Pass and so are around 10-15mins faster. You'll not notice much difference unless you are travelling on a very tight schedule.

Japan Rail does have very good coverage across Japan, and so the JR Pass does make most travel free. However there are some circumstances where you'll have to buy other fares. These are:

  1. Metro services in cities
  2. Buses to some sightseeing spots that don't have JR service
  3. Train tickets on lines that are not run by JR.

In general Metro's in Japan are run by municipal organisations and so do not fall under the JR umbrella. To use these you'll need to buy a ticket at around ¥180-200 per trip. You can buy pre-paid electronic cards similar to those available in London or Paris to make travel on the metro, buses and local trains more convenient, but there is no actual price saving over buying individual tickets "on demand". Most prepaid cards are not transferable between cities I'm afraid. For Kyoto I recommend purchasing a 2 day Kyoto Sightseeing Pass Card which will give you access to all bus and subway services for a flat rate. You can purchase this at Kyoto station on arrival. In Hiroshima and Kamakura I recommend purchasing tickets as needed as you will not be at these locations for a long time.

In your case I think you'll be looking at whether a 7 day rail pass (cost ¥28,300) is economical or not. Lets take a look at the costs for the major travel you list:

  1. Tokyo > Kamakura: ¥1700, (47mins, 51km)
  2. Kamakura > Kyoto: ¥12070, (187mins, 471km)
  3. Kyoto > Hiroshima: ¥10590, (109mins, 380km)
  4. Hiroshima > Tokyo: ¥17850, (292mins, 894km)

TOTAL: ¥42210 for 4 legs

As you can see, a 7 day rail pass will be cheaper than the cost of individual tickest for your major travel (saving ¥13,910). You'll also have an extra 3 days of free JR travel once you are back in Tokyo until midnight on the 30th. Here's a map of JR services around Tokyo for reference that are all valid for use with a JR Pass.

The schedule you list makes use of Nozomi services, which are not eligible for use with a Japan Rail Pass. If you do choose to use a JR Pass you'll need to plan equivalent non-Nozomi services. It's pretty easy to use Hyperdia to do this and you can learn how to use Hyperdia for Japan Rail Pass holders through our video blog.

For more tips on travelling by rail and bus in Japan, including tips on stowing luggage on the bullet trains and at stations in left luggage lockers, please check our travel tips section where we go have lots of articles to help make your trip with a JR Pass a smooth one.

If you have any more questions, please let me know and I'll be happy to help.

I hope all this has been of help and whichever way you choose to travel in Japan you have a great trip!

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