Maximizing your Japan Rail Pass

When I published my Japan travel expenses, most of you balked at the price of my train ticket: Php 23,000 or ¥45,100. I also had the same reaction when Ivan told me about the pass, but upon reading up on it and calculating the amount of money I’ll save vis-a-vis buying the tickets separately, I made sure to buy the pass before I left for Japan.

Rail travel in Japan is very comfortable. All the trains are in great condition, and the seats have legroom airlines can only dream of. While it’s cheaper than flying domestic, it is more expensive than taking the bus. While the bus can save you money on fares and overnight buses can save you on accommodation costs, it eats up more time to travel the same distance. Besides, this is Japan we’re talking about! I can’t pass up the chance to ride the bullet train!

The beauty of the JR Pass is that it lets you ride the trains of the Japan Railways for free, as long as you have a valid pass. It’s valid on the shinkansen (except for Nozomi and Mizuho trains), express trains, and local lines. Though it’s not valid on private railways and subways, it can be used on the Osaka Loop Line and the Yamanote Loop Line in Tokyo.

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To better illustrate how (relatively) cheap my 14-day rail pass is, here’s the list of all the trains I took in Japan and their corresponding fares, based on Hyperdia.com:

Route Train JR Rail Pass Fare
KIX to Shinimamiya Kansai Airport Rapid Service JPY 45,100.00 JPY 1,030.00
Shinimamiya to Umeda Osaka Loop Line
JPY 170.00
Umeda to Noda Osaka Loop Line
JPY 120.00
Noda to Shinimamiya Osaka Loop Line
JPY 170.00
Namba to Shinimamiya Osaka Loop Line
JPY 120.00
Shinimamiya to Osaka Osaka Loop Line
JPY 170.00
Osaka to Shin-Osaka Kyoto Line Local
JPY 160.00
Shin-Osaka to Kyoto Shin Kodama 638
JPY 2,730.00
Kyoto to Inari Nara Line Local
JPY 140.00
Inari to Kyoto Nara Line Local
JPY 140.00
Kyoto to Tokyo Shin Hikari 508
JPY 13,220.00
Tokyo to Ikebukuro Yamanote Line
JPY 190.00
Ikebukuro to Ueno Yamanote Line
JPY 160.00
Ikebukuro to Harajuku Yamanote Line
JPY 160.00
Harajuku to Ikebukuro Yamanote Line
JPY 160.00
Ikebukuro to Ueno Yamanote Line
JPY 160.00
Ueno to Akihabara Yamanote Line
JPY 130.00
Akihabara to Ikebukuro Yamanote Line
JPY 190.00
Ikebukuro to Ueno Yamanote Line
JPY 160.00
Tokyo to Shin-Aomori Shin Hayate 11
JPY 16,170.00
Shin-Aomori to Hakodate Ltd Exp Super Hakucho 11
JPY 5,340.00
Hakodate to Sapporo Ltd Exp Hokuto 11
JPY 8,390.00
Sapporo to Aomori Exp Hamanasu
JPY 9,750.00
Aomori to Shin-Aomori Ltd Exp Tsugaru 2
JPY 180.00
Shin-Aomori to Tokyo Shin Hayabusa 4
JPY 16,870.00
Tokyo to Nagoya Shin Hikari 507
JPY 10,070.00
Nagoya to Takayama Ltd Exp (Wide View) Hida 9
JPY 5,360.00
Takayama to Nagoya Ltd Exp (Wide View) Hida 14
JPY 5,870.00
Nagoya to Shin-Osaka Shin Hikari 477
JPY 6,180.00
Shin-Osaka to KIX Ltd Exp Haruka 37
JPY 2,980.00

Total JPY 45,100.00 JPY 106,640.00
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What do you think now? My Php 23,000 train ticket actually costs Php 56,304.86, which gives me a savings of Php 33,304.86!

A note about the fare as well: in long distance trains, you pay for the fare AND the seat. The seat cost depends on the class, and whether it’s a reserved seat or an unreserved seat. While most trains have cars with non-reserved seats, there are a handful of trains that only have reserved cars. Luckily, the Japan Rail Pass covers the cost of the seat and reservation fee already.

On the same vein, berths and cabins also have additional fees, so if you plan to riding sleeping trains, you’d have to research well because you might end up having to pay extra for your bunk. That’s why most of my train rides were during the day, and I was lucky to find a night train without any additional costs.

The Japan Rail Pass is available to foreigners traveling to Japan on a temporary visit visa, and Japan nationals who are residents in other countries. The pass is not available in Japan, so you’d have to buy it from an agent before you leave your home country. There are sites that offer this online, but in the Philippines, you can buy it from the Japan Airlines office (but only if you are flying with them), and travel agencies like Universal Holiday, Inc and Attic Tours. For more information about the JR Pass, visit their website at www.japanrailpass.net.

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Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 18 Comments
  1. ian says:

    ohhh so kunyare sakay ka ng train ms. nina libre na yung fare mo magbabayad ka nalang ng seat mo? ganun ba yun?

    • nina says:

      Miss Nina ka dyan, Ian! 😛

      With the pass, wala na akong binayarang extra for the JR trains that I took. Yung mga binayaran ko nalang outside the pass were the subway and private railway trains.

      • Artur says:

        Hy Nina, thanks for your post! I’m just about to go to Jap’an and waa a bit uspet after reading your post! I didn’t expect Japan to be so expensive! Any other suggestions about how to save money in Japan? Thanks

      • nina says:

        Stay in dorms (the hostels I picked were near the city center), don’t indulge much on food…

  2. Thanks for this, Nina! Very informative.

  3. Ginamit ko rin ang Hyperdia – this is a visitor’s best transport planner in Japan. How I wish every country offers this.

    Can’t agree more with using Japan Rail Pass for its value!

  4. Artur says:

    Thanks for your advice Nina

  5. Danica says:

    Japan rail pass has several benefits for the travelers out there since they can sit back and just relax as they tour the country. This is a great way to further spend quality time with your loved ones while the train is going. You had shared a very good information, keep it up!

  6. Med says:

    Hi Nina,

    Where did you buy your JR Pass?

    Thanks!

  7. hi! ask ko lng kung nakuha nyo same day ang pass? or babalikan mo pa sya? kasi 24 na flight namin thank u!

  8. […] [Day 1 of 4] Japan Rail Pass: How to get one + worth getting or not The Convenience of the JR Pass Maximizing your Japan Rail Pass How to Make the Most of Your JR Pass in […]

  9. Richard says:

    hello,would you think a 7 day jr pass is worth it for a 5 and 1/2 day visit?our flight is both to and from tokyo and we are contemplating on staying in tokyo area or go to kyoto/osaka/nagoya areas

  10. milaiski says:

    Hi Ms. Nina! My friends and I are planning to go to Japan for about 10 days. Our itinerary will beSapporo then Kansai (Osaka-Kyoto-Nara) area. We will fly via plane from Sapporo to Kansai. But in within Sapporo and Kansai travel area itself, do you suggest we get a JR pass?

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Nina says:

      Nope, it’d be better if you buy tickets separately if you’re just going to travel by train within those areas. Look into the Kansai Pass (or whatever it’s called). I know there’s a train pass for that region, which might be a better option for you.

  11. Travelling in Japan is a very nice experience. So if you want to visit and have a vacation in Japan, you can go to our website: http://his.com.ph/en/en-index.html to see our affordable package tour price, Japan Rail Pass and Japan Tourist Visa! Also, fill-up our inquiry form for us to easily assist you! Thank You!

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