questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

month in japan

Month in Japan

Hey there Daniel-san (and other forum regulars); I've been reading other posts here, and I'm highly impressed by the breadth of knowledge regarding Japan travel. It's made me want to check my own itinerary to make sure that it made sense. I also had a question regarding activating a JR Pass some time after arriving in Japan.

I'll be in Japan from June 15th through July 12th, and have already planned out a fairly extensive itinerary (visiting friends, castles, parks, museums, plus downtime throughout)

In brief, however:
June 15 - 22: Tokyo, Kamakura
June 23 - 26: Kyoto
June 27 - 28: Osaka
June 29 - 30: Hiroshima
July 1 - 2: Kumamoto, Kagoshima
July 3: Return to Tokyo (It looks to be around an 8 hour trip back to Tokyo, so I've set aside an entire day for this)
July 4 - 5: Sendai
July 6 - 7: Aomori
July 8 - 9: Sapporo
July 10: Return to Tokyo again (another 6-8 hour trip)
July 11 - 12: Tokyo/Depart

The 3-week JRpass sounds exactly like what I'd want, and I'd want to activate it around June 22nd-23rd, just before departing for Kyoto. Does that sound appropriate?

Would it be possible to exchange the exchange order for the pass at Narita with it set to begin usage on 6/23? Or would I need to visit a station office on the 23rd to activate it? How long does the activation/exchange process take, anyway?

Thank you for any information that you can provide.


Hi there!

Its a very nice plan and very similar to one I made this April. You will be a lot on the train though :)
A 21-day JR Pass would certainly make sense for this, a return to Sapporo alone will pay for the greater part of the pass, so you will make some impressive savings with the rest of your itinerary.

Activating it at Narita is totally fine. You can exchange the pass, once you are in Japan and select the first day of use up to 30 days in the future and selecting the date that you travel to Kyoto would indeed make the most sense. You can also activate it at one of the exchange stations in Tokyo, Narita can be someone busy and an other station may be faster if you have the luxury of time. The process itself in done within 5 minutes given that there is no waiting queue before you.

I really like the idea of going all the way down to Kyushu (Kumamoto, Kagoshima), it has always been my favorite region in Japan. On your way back to Tokyo, you could cut out some time and costs by taking a night train from Okayama. A basic seat on the Sunrize Express is covered by the JR Pass and it makes for a great experience. You can also exchange Yokoyama on the 3rd of July from Tokyo, in case you already have seen enough of Tokyo.
I saw that you plan days in Aomori, it makes for a good stop over if you travel on the Hokkaido the next day but there is little of interest in the city itself. Instead I would recommend staying the time in [Hachinohe] and/or in Hirosaki. Alternatively you can just get the travel out of the way by going straight to Sapporo (just 2 days in Sapporo is rather short).
On the way back to Tokyo you also have the option of taking a night train (at least partially). The Hamanasu express rides between Sapporo and Aomori and the Akebono train rides between Aomori and Tokyo. Both are covered by the JR Pass. I would also recommend a stop at Hakodate if you have time.

A word about night train, they are very popular and it will be impossible to book them on the day of departure. You can however book them the moment that you exchange your JR Pass (even if the first day of use is in the future). So i would recommend going so at that moment.

Lastly, when you arrive at Narita Airport and travel to Tokyo, consider buying a Suica + N'EX package, that gives you a discounted ticket on the Narita Express to Tokyo and a Suica card that really comes in handy when you travel around the city of Tokyo, you can for instance use it to pay the fare to Kamakura.

For the rest: You are good to go!

Make the most of your great trip!

Expert button 2


I hadn't considered night trains before, but it sounds exactly like what I'd want to use. Thanks for bringing that to my attention! I recognize Aomori isn't a tourist hot-spot; it's to visit friends, but I'll see about nearby locations to see about making a side trip as well.

Thank you for all the insight regarding everything else, too!


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