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Is the Japan Rail pass worth it? Everything you need to know about the Japan Rail Pass

Japan Rail Pass

Are you wondering if the Japan Rail Pass is worth it? Not surprised, I was wondering the same before taking my first trip to Japan. I had no idea what the Japan Rail Pass is, how to use it, and if it's worth the price tag. Is there really a point buying one?

A Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is a very cost-effective rail pass that allows you to enjoy unlimited train travel around Japan. This is incredibly convenient for tourists who want a longer Japan itinerary and wish to travel to multi destinations outside of Tokyo. But the question still remains: Does a JR Pass save you money, or is it better to buy individual tickets?

Only overseas tourists can benefit from a JR Pass, an initiative to make travelling around Japan cheaper and more accessible. You can use a JR Pass on the Shinkansen and take unlimited trips on your stay. A JR Pass comes in 7,14 or 21 days allowing you more flexibility to pick the right time frame to explore the country.

I ordered a Japan Rail Pass on my first 2 weeks in Japan itinerary, and I can now explain how it works and if it's actually worth buying one. Here is everything you need to know about the JR Pass.

Table of ContentsOpen

Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?

In other words, will the JR Pass save you money. Yes, the JR Pass will save you money if you plan to travel extensively around Japan for 7, 14 or 21 days. The JR Pass must be used on consecutive days only from the moment it gets activated. To put prices into perspective, a 7 day Japan Rail Pass costs $214 (31,850 yen) whereas a return trip from Tokyo to Kyoto is $190 (28000 yen). Add just a couple of day trips, and you can see how the JR Pass is already worth it

My travels in Japan have been fun and made easy by the Japanese trains as they were incredibly clean, fast and always on time. The bullet train (the Shinkansen) is by far the best way to travel around Japan, although I must admit, the Japanese local trains won't disappoint either.

Shinkansen Japan

What is the Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail Pass is a brilliant Japanese travel pass which allows any foreigner to use almost all Japanese trains for 7, 14 or 21 days for a fraction of the normal price. You just need to show your JR pass before going through the gates to the platforms and someone will let you through.

You can travel anywhere you wish, and journeys include Tokyo to Kyoto or even Tokyo to Kagoshima or Hokkaidō. If you want to travel around Japan, this is probably the best investment you can make, as otherwise, JR train tickets are very expensive.

Japan Rail Pass Prices 2022

Duration USD GBP EUR Buy Now
7 days $214 £188 €216 Click to buy
14 days $330 £291 €333 Click to buy
21 days $422 £372 €420 Click to buy

(updated: 2022, Per person prices)

Japan Shinkansen Map JR Pass

How does the Japan Rail Pass work?

First, you need to decide for how long you want to travel for. You can do 7, 14 or 21 days with your Japan Rail Pass. Second, you need to remember that you must order the JR Pass online as the Japan Rail Voucher will arrive at your doorstep, in your home country.

Take the voucher with you and once you arrive in Japan, you can swap it for the real thing at any JR offices in all major train stations.

Once you have your epic Japan Rail Pass, your options are limitless. Travel around as much as you want. The only thing you must bear in mind is that if you wish to have a seat reserved, you must go to the JR counters and ask them to reserve a seat for your upcoming journey.

This is entirely free of charge, included in your Japan Rail Pass cost. It is also hassle-free, as all you have to do is show your Japan Rail Pass and tell them where and when you wish to leave.

Important: the Japan Rail Pass cannot be used for travel on Nozomi and Mizuho trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines.

Tip: For train journeys towards the Kansai region, make sure you reserve your seat in advance, to ensure you can see Mount Fuji. Nothing better than eating some sushi from a bento box whilst gazing at the beautiful mountain from a Shinkansen.

Should you buy a JR Pass?

If you intend to travel just for short-distance routes, then no, you should probably not buy a JR Pass. However, if you want to do long-distance travel around Japan, then Japan Rail Pass is great value for money. For example, the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto is currently $190 (28000 yen) for a return trip. If you also wish to take a day trip to Nara, Yoshino, Osaka and Hiroshima then your JR Pass will end up saving you hundreds of dollars.

I purchased a JR Pass for my first trip and it gave me so much peace of mind that I can do a lot of day trips and see more places. I took great day trips on the Shinkansen to Kobe, Himeji Castle, Nagoya and Nagano. I reckon I would have ended up spending at least twice as much on train tickets were it not for the JR Pass.

When should you buy the Japan Rail Pass?

Once you confirmed your dates in Japan, it's time to look for the right JR Pass. Calculate how many days you will travel and when you actually need it. Think about how much time you will want to spend in Tokyo and how much will you travel outside of Tokyo via Shinkansen.

It is a good idea to purchase your JR Pass as early as possible, but you don't have to rush. There are 24/48-hour delivery options available, so you will receive your tickets anywhere in the world superfast.

The tickets can be delivered to your home address or your hotel in Japan.

JR Pass can be purchased in Japan until March 31, 2023 from selected sales offices, but please note that is more expensive to buy a JR Pass in Japan than to purchase the pass online.

Shinkansen Mount Fuji

How much does it cost to buy a Japan Rail Pass?

The JR Pass might seem pricey at first, but if you end up using the Shinkansen a lot, then it's well worth it.

Japan Rail Pass Prices 2022

Duration USD GBP EUR Buy Now
7 days $214 £188 €216 Click to buy
14 days $330 £291 €333 Click to buy
21 days $422 £372 €420 Click to buy

(updated: 2022, Per person prices)

Tip: The pass comes with free seat reservation option on most trains. Just make sure to reserve your seat in advance at the train station.

Japan Rail Pass Station

Where can you buy a Japan Rail Pass?

I bought my Japan Rail Pass from this company. My JR voucher arrived in less than 2 weeks, alongside further info about how to use it, a JR line map and a Japanese train timetable.

Make sure you allow plenty of time for your voucher to arrive, but don't order it earlier than 3 months prior to your departure to Japan.

Can you buy a Japan Rail Pass in Japan?

You can purchase the Japan Rail Pass in Japan but at an increased cost, which is why we recommend pre-ordering yours online. You can order it to your home address or to your hotel in Japan if that's more convenient to you.

Once you receive the voucher, simply exchange it at major JR stations around Japan.

Please remember that right now, JR Pass can be purchased in Japan until March 31, 2023.

What if you didn't buy a Japan Rail Pass?

You can buy your train tickets right at the train station whilst in Japan. Just know that if you want to travel a lot, the costs might add up, and you will end up paying more. The best thing is to plan ahead.

I recommend getting your Japan Rail Pass with worldwide delivery, for unlimited, hassle-free train travel across Japan. Buy the Japan Rail Pass here!

Japan Rail Pass conductor

Is the JR Pass worth the cost?

Yes, the JR Pass is worth it, especially if:

  • you are on a short trip but want to use the Shinkansen to save lots of time
  • you are staying for longer periods and want a more complete itinerary with long distances and several destinations
  • you plan long distance travel to places like Hokkaido
  • you want comfort during your trip
  • you don't wish to rely on local trains or buses

Takes all these into account, it's clear that the JR Pass will be worth it.

IS the JR Pass worth it?

Prepare for your trip to Japan

Tokyo

Kyoto

Osaka

What do you think?

Did you like this article? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment below.

Your Comment

B
Bharat
31 Jul 2019

Very nicely written blog with beautiful pictures. very interesting information and its quite helpful for other.

C
Christina Morrison
27 May 2019

Hi Cory,
We are trying to work out how to get from Narita Airport to Kobe . We are in Japan for 16 days. Should we buy a 14 day train pass and just buy train tickets back to the airport. Or take a 21 day pass, we will be 45 minutes from Tokyo on our last 4 days

C
Cory
28 May 2019

Hi Christina,
I would just buy a train ticket on the last day and use the 14 day JR Pass for all other travel :)
I'm sure you will love Japan. Have lots of fun and safe travels.
Cory x

M
Marie
07 Mar 2019

Hello I noticed in your article (thank you for it) that you mention that you cannot use the rail pass for certain trains however I intend to travel to Hiroshima from Tokyo. Can you tell me if the rail pass would permit me to use it from Tokyo to Hiroshima and or to Miyajima ? If not what do you suggest.
Best

C
Cory
09 Mar 2019

You can use the JR Pass from Tokyo to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen. The JR Pass will come with a handy guide which will tell you exactly which lines you and can not use.

M
Marianne
13 Oct 2018

It realy works great. We had a pass and we haf a great time. You should also order the box for internet. Them you have always acses to internet during yout trip. You can order it in combination with your trainpass

I
India
10 Nov 2017

Thanks! I found the useful information from the blog. All the tips are very informative.

C
Cory
12 Nov 2017

Glad to hear :) Cory

S
Steph
08 Nov 2017

Hi There,

Thanks for your article. I have been also confused with the lines included in the JR pass so it's great to read simple and straightforward articles like this one.

I thought I calculated right that I will pay if I buy a JR pass but with your suggestion to take the JR pass for Tokyo-Nagano to the snow and back to Fuji and then Tokyo (in the comment section), I'm now not sure about my calcul.

As I'm staying 10 days in Japan, my plan was to travel from Narita airport-Tokyo; (after two days in Tokyo) Tokyo-Hakuba; Hakuba-Takayama; Takayama-Tokyo; 'after two days in Tokyo) Tokyo-Narita airport without the JR pass....

Would it be worthy to buy a JR pass? (knowing that it wont cover all my trip anyway?)

Thanks a lot :).

Steph

C
Cory
10 Nov 2017

Hi Steph,

Thank you very much for your message. It will 100% worth it!!! You will end up saving SO much by having the JR Pass for 7 days. You can also use it in Tokyo for the JR Yamanote line. I think you should absolutely go for it!

Any questions, please let me know.
P.S. Takayama is so beautiful <3

Kind Regards,

Cory

P
Pench National Park
26 Sep 2017

Amazing Blog. Very Informative. Keep it up

J
Jasmine
29 Aug 2017

Hi Cory,
Great article and glad that I came across it before my trip in Nov'17. I came across the JR East Pass (Nagano) which I am considering to buy as it can be used for my returned trip to Nagano as well as on the monorial to Haneada for my return flight.
However, I am still understanding the extensive network of Tokyo train system currently.

C
Cory
29 Aug 2017

Hi Jasmine, I'm glad you found it useful. Please remember that you can only use the JR Pass on trains and not on subways. In Tokyo, you can use the Yamanote line which is a green circle around the centre :)

Any questions, let me know. Cory xoxo

J
Jasmine
30 Aug 2017

Hi Cory, thanks for the heads up. Lucky my friend whom is a local from Nagano will join me from day 2 of my trip. So i just have to navigate the first day and half on my own. I am slowly going through your posts to better equip myself

F
Frank Hall
07 Aug 2017

Thank you for sharing such useful information with us! For those who are planning to have a trip in Japan, they really need to know the railway of Japan beforehand.

A
Abhishek Mathur
14 Jun 2017

Thanks for sharing a good post about the Japan rail pass, keep writing and sharing.

v
vishal
06 Apr 2017

thanks for sharing nice information blog about japan rail pass

K
Kristen Kellogg
04 Feb 2017

It seems pretty affordable for a week pass and a great way to get around! I'll certainly bookmark this for when I get to Japan this year.

F
Flo @ Yoga, Win...
04 Feb 2017

Thanks for the boatload of info, Cory! I had dismissed the JR Pass because I wasn't sure if it could be used within certain cities, but after reading this it feels like we should do the math properly. We are going to Tokyo, Hakuba, Kyoto and then Osaka so perhaps a 2 week pass would be worth it!

A
Ashlyn | From H...
04 Feb 2017

So helpful! Bookmarking this as we head back to Tokyo and Osaka next month! The rail pass can seem a bit overwhelming so this is great!

G
Gabby
04 Feb 2017

Ooh, sounds very useful. When I travel Japan I usually island hop, though I've heard the pass is so great for quick easy travel in one place. May have to plan for it next time I go! :)

K
Katie Ackerley
04 Feb 2017

This post is so useful! Thanks so much. I've heard some talk about the JR Pass but never actually received any legitimate, useful info. I'll definitely be getting a pass when I finally get to visit Japan!

J
Jollies and Jaunts
04 Feb 2017

Great article - I've never heard of this before but I'm planning a trip to Japan next year so I'll definitely be investing in one. I wish more countries offered passes like this.

S
Susan Galvin
25 Nov 2016

Sounds like great trip! Thank you. Hope you will remember it for many years.

s
sanji
18 Nov 2016

hi cory
thank you for the all the guidance given in your blog posts, it is really helpful, though i m still confused with the train pass, planning to visit japan in end of march and would like to see the snow monkeys and put up a day in the snow mountain as my two young kids seeing snow for first time(aged 8 and 5) and would like to see mount Fiji too. Pleases tell me should i buy the rail pass for 7 days or wide pass? can i use this pass in to subway in tokyo.
thank you in advance

sanji

C
Cory
18 Nov 2016

Hi Sanji,

I'm very glad to hear you found this article useful. It is entirely up to you if you wish to purchase the JR Pass for the duration of your stay. Here is the information I can provide:
Children age 5 and under don't have to pay for the JR Pass.
Adult price for JR Pass (at the date of writing this) is £206 for 7 days.
Child price for JR Pass (at the date of writing this) is £103 for 7 days.
If you want to purchase tickets separately it will cost you:
A return trip with the shinkansen Tokyo to Nagano (roughly £100 per adult and half for your eldest child) + the cost of using the local trains from Nagano to Yudanaka (I don't actually know the price for this I'm afraid)
A return trip with the shinkansen Tokyo to Fuji (roughly £50 per adult and half for your eldest child)
As you can see, you break even with either buying the JR Pass or buying tickets on the shinkansen.

Add a trip to Nikko from Tokyo for one day and you would already save A LOT with the JR Pass.
You can't use the JR Pass for the Tokyo subways but you can use for all JR trains in Tokyo. So for example, if you want to go from central Tokyo to Shinjuku by train, you can easily do this with your JR Pass.

You can also use your JR Pass on the monorail from the Haneda airport.

For the subway, you will need to get a Pasmo card. This enables you to pay as you go for your subway travels. It's very easy to use and it allows you to save money and hassle on a long run, especially when travelling with children.

A few more words of friendly advice:
Please familiarise with some basic customs and manners before going to Japan. Japanese people are super friendly and very willing to help, but please help them by respecting their culture.
If you want to know more about Japan, I'm happy to direct you to more articles or help you with your itinerary.

Do let me know if you have more questions, and do not hesitate to contact me.

Enjoy Japan!

Links to more articles:
Manners and customs: https://www.youcouldtravel.com/2016/05/how-to-behave-in-japan-manners-an...
My journey to the Snow Monkey Pass: https://www.youcouldtravel.com/2016/04/a-rewarding-journey-to-the-snow-m...

C
Cory
18 Jul 2016

Hi Alina, I recommend buying your JR Pass at least one month before travelling to Japan. I really loved the Shinkansen and I am sure you will have a great experience too. I've heard of the Maharajas' Express. It looks absolutely amazing! I bet it's such fun adventure to travel by luxury train, right?

A
Alina Jack
18 Jul 2016

How many day before I will have to book the tickets? It seems you love the train travel. I don't like much but yes, sometimes. Have you ever heard about Maharajas' Express - The Luxury Train?