questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

may/june in japan

May/June in Japan

Hi Everyone,

I will be travelling to Japan soon with my 20 year old son. We are flying from Canada to Osaka, arriving in early afternoon. We have 35 days for this adventure. This will be the first time in Japan for both of us. Our plan is to spend about 10 days in Kansai region; five days in Osaka with side trips to Kobe, Hameji, Koya. Then we would like to move to Kyoto and explore the city for three days plus do a side trip to Nara. After that we were thinking of travelling east to Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Kanazawa, Noto Penninsula, Nagano, Kiso Valley, Narai (the morning of our departure from Kyoto we would activate our JR pass). After the Japan Alps we will be in Tokyo for a few days with some side trips to Kamakura, and Fuji. Then we will likely fly down to Kyushu for several days, and finally to Okinawa for a week and back to Osaka the end of June to catch our return flight. My questions are as follows:

  1. Does it make sense to buy a JR pass ? Since we will be in relatively contained area of Central Honshu maybe it is better to get the regional pass, it is much cheaper (Central Honshu JR pass for 5 days is 104 CAD vs 7 days JR 294 CAD). Surely, we need to get from Nagoya to Tokyo and from Tokyo to Nagano and these routes aren't covered by the Central pass.

  2. There is JR East pass which is 5 days flexible and costs 222 CAD, so combining the two gives us a better deal - surely we are trying to be as cost effective as possible !

3.I am not sure if the JR East is good to Hakone or I should rather say Odawara ???

  1. Maybe for our purpose it is less expensive to buy point to point tickets in addition to Central Honshu pass as we won't go north or east of Tokyo...

5.Any suggestions regarding Kyushu ? In my Lonely Planet Japan guidebook 95% pertains to Honshu, very little about the rest of the country.

  1. What are the best options for travelling within Tokyo and surrounding area e.g. Kamakura ?

  2. Is Kansai area pass worth our while (the cost 64 CAD for four consecutive days) or again is it better to buy individual tickets, no constraints then...

Thanks in advance for any help !



It's a bit hard to tell, if you can travel from Kyoto to Tokyo within a week among the places in between that you mention, then a 7 day pass would be worth it. From what I can see you can at least break even. But for your other stays in the Kansai area, Tokyo, and Kyushu, regional passes make more sense.

You cannot take JR all the way to Hakone though. Look for a Hakone Free Pass to save money.

It's true that LP and other books have huge gaps in them regarding some places. But Kyushu has a lot of great places to enjoy. For Fukuoka, there are many open parks, shopping, seaside historical areas, and urban neon. See this site as a good guide.

Don't miss the Nanzoin Temple which is one of Japan's finest yet almost totally unknown to the outside world and completely free.
Look into a Fukuoka Tourist City Pass also.
You can also see a lot of previews on the best there is to see here.
In terms of history and varied points of interest, Nagasaki is really the most interesting city on the island. It is worth a couple days to see the city, and another day to see areas nearby like Shimabara/Unzen or whatever interests you. Gunkanjima, while it takes 3 hours, will blow your mind.
Kagoshima could fill up a whole day nicely too - Sakurajima is wonderful, plus the Senganen Garden is superb. Yakushima takes at least 2 days but it is a wonderful primevel look at Japan. Beppu is famous for its hot springs, but its Hells Tour, plus monkey park/aquarium are all terrific. Kumamoto is famous for its castle, plus beautiful Suizenji Garden. Mount Aso is a live volcano close by but closed due to high poisonous gas emissions. Kurokawa hot springs is one of Japan's best though with outdoor baths in a woodland forested atmosphere. For Kamakura, look into a Odakyu Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass. Nikko is also well worth visiting, and you can use a Tobu Nikko Free Pass.

Good luck. I am sure your trip will go by very quickly.


Hello Toraneko,

First of all thanks a million for your response !

What is your opinion on this itinerary, maybe in such scenario a 14 day pass makes sense. If we activate the pass for our travel from Kyoto to Nagasaki, use it in Kyushu (Fukuoka, Kagoshima) for six/seven days and then back to say, Nagoya - I know a long ride - from where we do the Japan Alps on our way to Tokyo with similar itinerary as before. So once in Tokyo our pass is exhausted ie. we get there on the 14th day. Or is it more cost-effective to just buy the 7 day JR pass and when back in Nagoya switch to the Central Pass, big savings here but it is for 5 days only. We really need to decide ASAP whether to purchase the pass, as we are leaving Canada in 10 days... Needless to say, your comments will be greatly appreciated.

Warm regards,



One more thing not related to JR. What can we expect in terms of weather, I hear that June is a rainy season (?) is it the same in Kyushu and in Honshyu ? How about Okinawa ? Maybe it is a better idea to go to Hokkaido, lol.


If you plan to go down to Kyushu, then the 14 day pass makes a lot of sense. But yes, June is the rainy season and you could run into some days with pouring rain. It will also be very sticky, sweaty and muggy during that time. Bring enough deodorant and sunblock, because both are very pricey in Japan. Use the 14 day pass to do all the long distance travel. After you get back into Tokyo, there are many regional passes you can use to see Nikko, Kamakura, and Hakone. For other travel to see places like Izu, Kusatsu, and Kamikochi, a JR Kanto Area Pass can be a fantastic bargain.
Seeing Hokkaido is a great idea actually, and the island is free from the sweltering humidity. By rail is extremely time consuming and unproductive though - you can get a very inexpensive air ticket though on Jet Star or Peach. Okinawa is another possibility. A JR East Pass is another possibility to see the northern part of Japan - it quickly pays for itself and has the distinct advantage of not needing to be used on consecutive days - you pick 5 days of travel within 14 and go when and where you like. Combined with paying the regular fare for short-distance trips to various places within that time, you can cover a huge amount of territory and reap a lot of savings.

Good luck!


Thank you again, greatly appreciated indeed. Could you please advise which passes, besides the JR 7/14/21 day passes have to be purchased outside of Japan. How about some regional passes for example Central or East or Kanto etc. Also, could you provide info as to which passes don't have to be used on consecutive days. And lastly, how long does it take to receive a voucher in Canada ? Hmm, one more question: the price you charge is in Japanese Yen converted into local currency, am I right ? So, if I use my Canadian credit card to pay the conversion is YEN to CDN and not YEN to USD and then to CAD...




Virtually all the regional passes can be bought while in Japan (some in fact, have to be), but regarding the JR related passes, you actually get a small discount if you buy them before arriving in Japan. See the pages linked above regarding purchase.
Just for your future reference, there are some passes (especially by JR West) where you can buy one type of pass only once within Japan, but you are allowed to buy multiple numbers of the same pass outside of Japan (in case you wanted to use the same type of regional pass at different times). You can see a collection of various regional passes here
Off the top of my head, the JR East Pass and one type of Hokkaido Rail Pass are the only ones that are not counted on consecutive days. For delivery of the voucher for the full Pass, see here, and for your currency question, you should directly contact their sales office here, as I am not their agent.

Best of luck!


Hi again Toraneko,

We are almost ready to purchase the 14 day JR pass. However, I would like to confirm if the pass works for Fukuoka Kagoshima Shinkansen ? Somehow, I think I came across info that the pass can only be used on 'slow' trains in Kyushu. Is that really so ? Please let us know asap, we are flying to Japan very soon, next Wednesday...




That's not true at all - you can easily use the JR Pass on the bullet trains to Kagoshima. The only thing you might notice is that the Kyushu bullet trains run a bit slower than others, but the track is also newer and the ride is a bit smoother.

Kagoshima City has a number of great places to see, including Sakurajima and Senganen Garden, plus Shiroyama Park. The ferry ride going over was also particularly relaxing.

And if you have a long airplane flight ahead of you, you might bring some eye drops and aspirin on you. It can be an extremely tiring experience.

Good luck!


Hello Toraneko,

Thanks a lot for your help. We have now purchased two 14 day passes and our itinerary looks as follows:

Day 1 - Arrival at Kansai Airport, individual ticket to Osaka
Days 2 through 7 - Osaka, Himeji, Kyoto, Nara,
Day 8 - activate JR pass, Kyoto - Nagasaki
Day 9 - Nagasaki
Day 10 - Nagasaki to Fukuoka
Day 11 - Fukuoka
Day 12 - Fukuoka: Dazaifu & back to Fukuoka
Day 13 - Fukuoka - Kagoshima
Day 14 thru 15 - Kagoshima
Day 16 - Kagoshima - Takayama
Day 17 - Takayama & Shirakawa-go
Day 18 - Takayama to Kanazawa
Day 19 - Noto Penninsula
Day 20 - Kanazawa to Nagano
Day 21 - Nagano to Nagoya (last day of JR pass)
Day 22 - Nagoya to Tokyo
Days 23 thru 27 - Tokyo


  1. What is the best option for the time we are planning to spend in Kansai region?
    We would like to walk both in Osaka and Kyoto. Do you suggest buying individual tickets rather than passes ? We need to get from Kansai airport to Osaka, then after a couple of days we are moving to Kyoto from where we will go
    to Nara for a day trip, but mostly will be exploring Kyoto. Himeji sometime in between, but this could be done using our JR pass on our way back from Kyushu to Japan Alps
  2. Can we use JR pass to travel from Fukuoka to Dazaifu and back to Fukuoka ?
  3. How long does a train ride from Nagano to Nagoya take ? Would it be better to
    take a Shinkansen via Tokyo or a limited express via Matsumoto ?
  4. For several days in a Tokyo, should we buy some kind of pass ? Which one would
    be the best to be able to get to Kamakura and back ?
  5. Is there a possibility to use JR pass from Takayama to Shirakawa-go ?
  6. Can we go from Kanazawa to Nagano and back, just a day trip or is it too far ?

Hmm, now I am thinking that perhaps it was a better idea to buy a 21 day pass...
Anyway, we have what we have.

Just a comment, I realize it would make more sense to stop in Nagoya first and then proceed to Takayama, Kanazawa, Nagano and Tokyo. However, we simply have such arrangements in terms of dates that Nagoya can't be done earlier...

Thanks in advance for your help Toraneko,



I'll try to help with your questions.
1. For just going to a neighboring city for a day trip, buying individual tickets makes the most sense. But an exception is Himeji which is further away. For that, look into a JR Kansai Area Pass or a JR Kansai Wide Area Pass. The latter allows you to take the bullet train, and lasts longer. Choose which one suits you better.
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.
Since you are spending a good amount of time in the area, you could see Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Kobe, Osaka, and Koyasan.

  1. JR doesn't go to Dazaifu - you need to pay for a Nishitetsu train from Tenjin Station in downtown Fukuoka and transfer at Futsukaichi Station to go to Dazaifu. A Fukuoka Tourist City Pass might save you some money here. BTW most people just go visit the shrine, but don't miss the Komyozenji Temple either. When you get off at Daizaifu Station, just follow the crowd through the shopping street. At the end of the street, you turn left and enter the shrine. But if you turn right, you will go into the Komyozenji Temple.

  2. Nagano to Nagoya takes nearly 3 hours by limited express. Going by way of Tokyo takes an extra 30 minutes or so. You can look up rail fares/times/schedules on Hyperdia.

  3. For going all over Tokyo, look into a 3 day subway pass. For Kamakura/Enoshima look into a Kamakura free pass. Going to Nikko makes a nice day trip too. Look into a Tobu Nikko Free Pass

  4. To see Shirakawago, see here. You need to pay for a bus. You can cover it in just a couple of hours though, so you can also branch into other areas like Gokyama, Ainokura and Sugayama.

  5. Easily done by bullet train - the best connection is about 66 minutes one way. Again, check Hyperdia.

What looks concering is going from Kagoshima to Takayama in one day? That'd take 7 hours on the train. I'd say give Himeji a full day and enjoy the castle, Kokoen Garden next to it and Mt. Shosha. On the way back from Kagoshima, you could stop by Hiroshima for a couple of hours. There is the Peace Park/Museum, castle, and Shukkeien Garden.

Best of luck.


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