questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

please review my jr pass analysis + are there non-financial benefits?

Please review my JR Pass analysis + Are there non-financial benefits?

Hi everyone,

I am planning a 22 day trip to Japan from Oct. 25 to Nov. 15, 2015 for me and my fiance. I have looked up the prices for all the trains that we will be using and it appears to me that neither the 7, 14 or 21 day national JR passes will save us money. The only two passes that I see saving us money are the JR Hiroshima Yamaguchi pass or the JR Sanyo Sanin Area Pass.

Since it seems so widely accepted that JR passes save money, I was wondering if some of you could look at my analysis and let me know if you think it makes sense. It seems a bit weird to me that the JR Pass does not seem advantageous.

Furthermore, for the 14 day pass, the difference between the total price for individual tickets and the price for the pass is around ¥3,730 yen. I was wondering what the non-financial benefits of the JR pass are and whether they might be worth the extra ¥3,730 per person. For example, is there more flexibility or less of an administrative hassle?

The overall itinerary is Tokyo -> Nikko -> Kamimochi -> Takayama -> Shirakawago -> Kanazawa -> Kyoto -> Nara -> Koyasan -> Himeji -> Miyajima -> Hiroshima -> Kurokawa Onsen -> Fukuoka -> Yakushima (flying) -> Tokyo (flying)

Expected trains:
Day 1 - Narita to Tokyo - ¥1,320 (not for JR option, but I need to be looking at the cheapest option available when comparing. JR option is about ¥3,000)
Day 3 - Tokyo to Nikko - ¥1,360
Day 4 - Nikko to Matsumoto - ¥10,690
Day 9 - Kanazawa to Kyoto - ¥6,380
Day 12 - Kyoto to Nara and back - ¥1,460
Day 13 - Kyoto to Osaka - ¥2,010
Day 14 - Osaka to Himeji to Hiroshima to Miyajima - ¥11,750
Day 15 - Miyajima to Hiroshima - ¥590
Day 16 - Hiroshima to Fukuoka - ¥8,420
Day 21 - Haneda to Tokyo - ¥490
Day 22 - Tokyo to Narita - ¥1,320

Based on the above, my cost for 21 days is ¥46,150, which is less than the cost of ¥59,350 for a 21 day pass. My cost for the most expensive 14 days (days 3 to 16) is ¥42,660, which is less than the cost of ¥46,390 for a 14 day pass. My cost for the most expensive 7 days (days 12 to 16, just 5 days actually) is ¥24,230, which is less than the cost of ¥29,110 for a 7 day pass.

I do think that the JR Hiroshima Yamaguchi pass could save me about ¥6,370 when used for Himeji -> Hiroshima -> Miyaima -> Hiroshima -> Fukuoka. It costs ¥11,000 and my cost for that route is ¥17,370.

Thanks so much for your help!


The JR Pass can save you money, but it is all up to your itinerary, of course. Where you go and how long you travel. Plus you have to balance saving time vs. saving money in some cases.
Without knowing your full itinerary, it is not possible to say which pass is the best, if any. You need to please give your plans. For instance, what do you plan to do between Days 16-21? Are you going by rail back to Tokyo, or plan to fly? You easily have the time to see many places such as going from Fukuoka to Kagoshima for example, and add value that might make a pass worthwhile.
At any rate, it is possible to give a few observations. First, as for getting into Tokyo cheaply, you could do better by using a 1000 yen bus. Or, if you want to do a lot of sightseeing in Tokyo for Days 1 & 2, perhaps a Keisei/Metro package works better.
For Day 3 I don't know how you are computing going to Nikko as just ¥1360. If you use Hyperdia, the fastest and cheapest way by bullet train is ¥5060 one way. If you want cheaper, then there is the Tobu Nikko Free Pass, but it is also up to where in NIkko you plan to go. Going from Nikko to Matsumoto on Hyperdia costs ¥11280 as the fastest and cheap way - and that would take almost 4 hours. If you really want cheaper, then it is possible at ¥8320 without the bullet trains, but that would take an agonizing 5½ hours.

On the flip side, going from Kyoto to Osaka one way is as low as ¥560 yen. There are limited express trains that cost more but not with any significant time savings.
If the question is finding value out of a pass, then your time in Kyushu seems to offer you the best chance. Fukuoka has many good place to see, in fact the Nanzoin Temple and Yusentei Garden are spectacular. But with about 5 days you can explore a lot more. Nagasaki is really the most interesting city on the island, and worth a couple days. Kagoshima is just 90 minutes away by bullet train, which might make a Pass worthwhile, and the sights are amazing.

In any event, there must be some kind of pass that can save you some money - buying regular tickets all the way through would be a big waste. Please give more info on your plans, and then figure out what to do.

Best of luck.


Thank you for your reply!

Here is my entire itinerary:
Day 1: Arriving in Narita, Tokyo
Day 2: Tokyo
Day 3: Nikko
Day 4: Nikko, Matsumoto
Day 5: Kamimochi
Day 6: Takayama
Day 7: Shirakawago, Kanazawa
Day 8: Kanazawa
Day 9: Kyoto
Day 10: Kyoto
Day 11: Kyoto, evening in Osaka (could be on one of the other Kyoto days too)
Day 12: Day trip to Nara (could be on another Kyoto day)
Day 13: Koyasan
Day 14: Himeji, Miyajima
Day 15: Miyajima, Hiroshima
Day 16: Kurokawa Onsen
Day 17: Fukuoka
Day 18: Flying to Yakushima
Day 19: Yakushima
Day 20: Yakushima
Day 21: Yakushima, flying to Tokyo
Day 22: Tokyo - leaving from Narita

For an even more detailed version of the itinerary, you can see my post on the Japan-Guide forums at

With respect to Nikko, I got the price of ¥1,360 from the Nikko Access Japan-Guide page, which says the following:
"The Tobu terminal station in Tokyo for trains to Nikko is Tobu Asakusa Station, which can be accessed by subway (Ginza and Asakusa Subway Lines). There are hourly rapid trains between Asakusa and Nikko, which take about two hours and cost 1360 yen one way." Is this accurate?

Regarding Nikko to Matsumoto, thank you for the correction. I think that due to the times I put in, I didn't see the fastest option which is indeed ¥11,280. This is what we would take since it is already a long journey. Also, thank you for the correction about Kyoto to Osaka. I think we will also go to Osaka from Kyoto for one evening so that will add that fare again, times two.

As you can see above, my time in Kyushu is all accounted for. We will be spending time in Fukuoka, Kurokawa Onsen and Yakushima. There is no train to Kurokawa Onsen and we have found that flying to Yakushima from Fukuoka is actually cheaper than the train and hydrofoil (this seems to hold true even if we had a JR pass). Of course, it also saves time. The other chunks of the trip that don't really use the pass are the time in Chubu (where it seems we have to use buses) and the days in Kyoto.

I have adjusted my calculations based on your corrections and also the addition of an evening in Osaka. The regular ticket prices are still cheaper than the pass prices for the 7, 14, and 21 day options. Does anything else seem off about my calculations, or do you have any suggestions on how to restructure the itinerary in a way that will save money?

Also, with the changes, the regular ticket prices for the heaviest 14 days is only ¥3,470 less than the 14 day pass. Are there non-financial benefits that would justify paying this additional amount?


There are 2 benefits that come to mind - one is simply the convenience of not having to constantly buy tickets, and the other is that with the Pass doing seat reservations is a free perk thrown in. But reserving seats is not required to get to your destination (with the possible exception of traveling during a peak season) so it would not be appropriate to include that charge. From what I can see, your itinerary order looks very good and well structured. To save time, getting to Takayama from Kamikochi by bus is the way to go, plus you must get to Shirakawago and Kamikochi by a bus or non-JR train anyway.

So in your case, some regional passes are the better way to go. For Nikko, the info you gave is correct. But that is taking a train that is not a limited express and will take longer (though not too much). Since you are going to want to get around Nikko as well, a Tobu Nikko Free Pass will likely save you some money. For Koyasan, a Koyasan World Heritage Ticket can save you a lot. For Takayama, a pass by Nohi Bus might help, and you can also see the timetable from Kamikochi. A Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass might help, especially if you want to expand to Ainokura and Suganuma (Shirakawago only take a few hours to get through). A Hankyu tourist pass is almost certain to pay off for you in Kansai.
Or, a JR Kansai Wide Pass you could maybe save some money over a 5 day period in Kansai, plus going to Himeji (aside from the castle, don't miss the Kokoen Garden next to it) and up to Okayama, or even Kurashiki if you want to see it, on your way to Miyajima. Kurokawa also has a multi-onsen pass, so look into that also.

Good luck!


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