questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

travel from tokyo to kyoto, osaka, back to tokyo

Travel from Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka, back to Tokyo

This is my 1st time in Japan. Staying in Tokyo for a few days when we arrive, then travel to Kyoto and staying there a couple of days, then going to Osaka for a few days, then back to Tokyo for a few days before returning home. All of my travel to/from locations away from Tokyo are within a 7-day period so I assume I could get a 7-day JR pass. My questions are:
Am I correct that a JR pass would be the best ticket for my travel plans?
If so, which JR pass (what line?) do I get? There is "east", "west", etc. Would all the locations I am going to be within one type of ticket?
I understand I pay for it before I leave home, but where do I pick up the pass? I know I can pick them up at the airport, but I won't use the pass for several days AFTER I arrive at the airport. Do I pick it up and not use it for several days? In other words, does the 7 days not start until after it's first use? Or do the 7 days start the day you pick the ticket up? If so, where would I get the ticket - at the train station when I'm going on my 1st journey to Kyoto?
And last, I see that some trains allow you to book seats or rooms so you can travel with your family on crowded trains. Given my travel itinerary, can you tell me which trains would allow me to reserve seats? In other words, train from Tokyo to Kyoto? Train from Kyoto to Osaka? Train from Osaka to Tokyo?
Thank you for your help.


Hi there,

The 7 day JR Pass would be a great choice here. The 7 day JR Pass is about the same price as a normal return ticket Tokyo - Osaka using the Shinkansen. Now you get 7 days of unlimited travel for the same price and the JR Pass can also be used for local travel in Tokyo, Osaka and a little in Kyoto as well.

The order process works as follows, you place an order outside of Japan - we ship the JR Pass voucher to your address - you turn in the voucher for the actual JR Pass once you are in Japan at any of the following stations. You can select the date that you want to start using the JR Pass at the moment of exchange.

Travel from Tokyo to Kyoto is easy. The Shinkansen basically is one long line where the bullet trains travel on. Both Tokyo and Kyoto station are on it, so travel to Tokyo station 1st and then enjoy a smooth ride to Kyoto.

All Shinkansen and limited express trains in Japan have the possibility for seat reservations. This is especially good if you travel together with other people and wish seating together. Here are all the details on seat reservations. This includes trains between Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka (if you use the Shinkansen). Osaka and Kyoto are close to each other (only 30 minutes by train) and you could also use a local train service, which do not have reserved seats.

Hope this helps,

Expert button 2

Technically, just going Tokyo-Kyoto/Osaka-Tokyo would not make a 7 day pass pay off. But if you were to take the Narita Express from/to Tokyo, or do some very worthwhile day trips as well, then it is easy to make it worth it.

In addition to seeing Kyoto, be sure to take at least half a day and see Nara - it is one of the cultural jewels of the country. Also Himeji (Japan's finest castle) is also well worth going to see. In Kyoto, some of the must see places are the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), Kiyomizudera, and the walk though the Fushimi Inari Shrine - it is something you'll never forget:

In the Tokyo area another great use of your pass would be to take a day trip and see Nikko. Also nearby Kamakura/Enoshima are excellent places to enjoy as well.

If you can and are interested, in Tokyo try to see Harajuku and Meiji Shrine on a Sunday to see the wild youth fashions and popular shrine.

Another popular tourist place in Tokyo is the Sensoji Temple and Nakamise shopping street:

If you are spending a lot of time in Tokyo, then you can largely skip Osaka. But it is easy to zip over to Osaka from Kyoto after 5PM when most of the temples and shrines close, and enjoy the wonderful Osaka nightlife. One of the must see places is Dotonbori, which comes alive with great food and Osaka atmosphere:

And also the night views from the Umeda Sky Bldg and Abeno Harukas Bldg are spectacular:

For more info, you might look at:

For Kyoto:


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