Is Japan Rail Pass Worth?

Should You Buy Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)?

Japan Rail Pass FAQ

Are you looking for some train passes which allow you to move around Japan in a budget way? There are many passes for transportation including train, Shinkansen (bullet trains), and bus sold in Japan, and Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is one of the most popular and famous pass. For travelers who plan to travel some cities in Japan such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, it is worth debating whether you should buy Japan Rail Pass or not. It depends on which route you choose to travel in Japan and how many days you stay. Here, let’s learn about what Japan Rail Pass is like and find out if it is worth purchasing Japan Rail Pass. This Japan Rail Pass guide helps you to know which type of traveler should buy it.

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

What is Japan Rail Pass?

Japan Rail Pass, which is also known as JR Pass, is a pass offered by Japan Railways Group. Foreign tourists can use it for unlimited rides of train, Shinkansen, bus and ferry served by the JR group with Japan Rail Pass. You need to buy an exchange order for Japan Rail Pass in your country and submit it at ticket counters in Japan. You can buy Japan Rail Pass in Japan, however, it costs a little more expensive in that case. For more details about Japan Rail Pass, check out this article below!

How much is Japan Rail Pass?

It is not too easy to figure out if Japan Rail Pass is totally worth for every traveler in Japan from overseas since it is not like the pass is extremely cheap. There are 6 types of the pass for adults (age 12 and older) and children (age 6–11), divided by duration and seat class. Check out the pass rate table below. These are the prices when you buy it outside Japan.

Price of Ordinary Pass (Couch Class)

Adult Child (Age6-11)
7 Days 29,650 yen 14,820 yen
14 Days 47,250 yen 23,620 yen
21 Days 60,450 yen 30,220 yen

Price of Green Pass (Upgraded Class)

Adult Child (Age6-11)
7 Days 39,600 yen 19,800 yen
14 Days 64,120 yen 32,060 yen
21 Days 83,390 yen  41,690 yen

How long is Japan Rail Pass valid?

There are 3 types of date: 7, 14, 21 days, which are consecutive days from the first day you used it.

Which Japan Rail Pass is better, Ordinary or Green Car?

In addition to ordinary seats, some trains and Shinkansen have upgraded seats in Green Cars. You can have the luxurious seats with a Green Car ticket. With a Green-type Japan Rail Pass, the superior seats are available without an extra fee. The Green-type pass is recommended to family with kids and travelers who want to sit back and relax. On the other hand, budget travelers should definitely buy an Ordinary-type pass.

Pros

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of Japan Rail Pass. That will help you decide whether you should get it or not.

Save your money if you travel a long distance.

Unlimited rides of JR trains, Shinkansen, bus and ferry.

The JR trains and Shinkansen run throughout Japan from Hokkaido to the south of Kyushu Region.

Save steps for buying tickets every time (All you need is showing your Japan Rail Pass to staff).

Cons

It may not pay if you don’t move a lot in Japan

The fastest trains such as NOZOMI and MIZUHO are unavailable

You need to arrange a reserved seat of Shinkansen and rapid trains at ticket counters

It counts the duration consecutively from the first day, so it may not be reasonable for travelers who stay at the same city for some days.

Range of Application

Train Seat Class Green Pass Ordinary Pass
NOZOMI (Tokaido/Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen) Green × ×
Ordinary × ×
MIZUHO (Tokaido/Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen) Green × ×
Ordinary × ×
HIKARI (Tokaido/Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen) GranClass Additional charges Additional charges
Green Additional charges
Ordinary
Ordinary Private Compartment Additional charges Additional charges
SAKURA (Tokaido/Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen) GranClass Additional charges Additional charges
Green Additional charges
Ordinary
Ordinary Private Compartment Additional charges Additional charges
KODAMA (Tokaido/Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen) GranClass Additional charges Additional charges
Green Additional charges
Ordinary
Ordinary Private Compartment Additional charges Additional charges
TSUBAME (Tokaido/Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen) GranClass Additional charges Additional charges
Green Additional charges
Ordinary
Ordinary Private Compartment Additional charges Additional charges
 Tohoku/Yamagata/Akita/Hokkaido/Joetsu/Hokuriku Shinkansen GranClass Additional charges Additional charges
Green Additional charges
Ordinary
Ordinary Private Compartment Additional charges Additional charges
 Limited Express/Ordinary Express  Green  ○ Additional charges
 Ordinary  ○  ○
Green Private Compartment Additional charges Additional charges
 Ordinary Private Compartment Additional charges Additional charges
 Sleeping Car Additional charges Additional charges
  Local Train/Rapid Train  Green  ○ Additional charges
 Ordinary  ○  ○

Who should buy Japan Rail Pass?

Whether you should purchase Japan Rail Pass or not depends on your itinerary. Let’s compare two popular classic itineraries in Japan especially for first-time visitors. One is the route that you can travel cheaper without Japan Rail Pass and the other is the route you can get more benefits with it. Fares between major destinations are listed with the itineraries below.

Destinations Fare
Tokyo-Narita Airport 3,070 yen
Tokyo-Kyoto 14,170 yen
Tokyo-Osaka 14,720 yen
Tokyo-Hiroshima 19,440 yen
Kyoto-Hiroshima 11,620 yen
Osaka-Hiroshima 10,630 yen

Itinerary 1: Tokyo-Kyoto-Nara-Osaka

-Arrive at Narita Airport

-Narita Airport-Tokyo Station: 3,070 yen

-Tokyo-Kyoto: 14,170 yen

-Kyoto-Nara: 720 yen

-Nara-Osaka: 940 yen

-Osaka-Kansai International Airport: 2,910 yen

Total: 21,810 yen

The price of the cheapest pass (Ordinary-type Japan Rail Pass for 7 days) is 29,650 yen while it costs around 20,000 yen to travel from Narita Airport, Tokyo to Kansai International Airport, Osaka without. It may be the better choice not to get the pass if you follow the itinerary like above. The estimated total cost doesn’t include fares to move between tourist towns within a city. However, for example, it costs around 200 yen to move to each popular spot in Central Tokyo.

Conclusion: You should buy a regular ticket of trains and Shinkansen every time if you use different airports for arrival and departure. In fact, it is easier to get a Shinkansen ticket than you expected. You can book a Shinkansen ticket online and receive it at your hotel and other places. Click the links below for more details!

Itinerary 2 Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka-Hiroshima-Tokyo

-Arrive at Narita Airport

-Narita Airport-Tokyo Station: 3,070 yen

-Tokyo-Kyoto: 14,170

-Kyoto-Osaka: 570 Thunderbird Tokaido-Sanyo Line

-Osaka-Hiroshima: 10,630 yen

-Hiroshima-Tokyo: 19,440 yen

-Tokyo-Narita Airport: 3,070 yen

Total: 50,950

The estimated total cost for the round trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima via Kyoto and Osaka without Japan Rail Pass is around 50,000 yen. Let’s compare that with the price of Ordinary-type Japan Rail Pass for 14 day (47,250 yen). It is recommended to stay in Japan for about 2 weeks for traveling Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and even Hiroshima.

Conclusion: Travelers who travel a long distance including a round-trip from/to the same airport should buy Japan Rail Pass. You can also book your Japan Rail Pass online in this link below!

▶︎Buy your Japan Rail Pass now!!

Is Japan Rail Pass worth?

Now, you found out if Japan Rail Pass is worth for you or not, didn’t you? The pass gives benefits to many people who have a plan to travel a long distance like from Tokyo to Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Kyushu and other attractive areas and back to the Tokyo’s airport. On the other hand, travelers who plan to take a one-way trip from an arriving airport to a different departing airport should buy a normal Shinkansen ticket instead of Japan Rail Pass.

For more info about travel tips in Japan, check out these articles below, too!

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