Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

Confused about train passes for Japan. Which one do I need?

Notices

Confused about train passes for Japan. Which one do I need?

Old Jan 8th, 2011, 10:09 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 120
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Confused about train passes for Japan. Which one do I need?

Hi:

I have been reading about the different trains and train passes available for my Japan trip that I got thoroughly confused. Can you please help me in figuring out which passes I would need?

I am making an approx 11-day trip to Japan in the last week of March. I plan to spend 5-6 days in Tokyo and 6-7 days in Kyoto. I am also planning on making day trips to Hakone, Kamakura, and Nikko (while I'm in Tokyo) and to Nara, Mt koya, Kurashiki and Hiroshima (while I'm in Kyoto). I'll be flying in and out of Tokyo, so that means I'll be making a roundtrip by train.

Please advise on my train dilemna.

Cheers,
D
dukkar is offline  
Old Jan 9th, 2011, 06:33 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 465
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You'll certainly want to cover Tokyo-Kyoto-Hiroshima with the pass. You'll need to select the right period for the duration of the one-week pass to make it pay. Check the time you're spending respectively in Tokyo and Kyoto and see what day trips from Tokyo can fall within the week you choose for the pass and which ones are more expensive. See http://www.hyperdia.com/en/
WillJame is offline  
Old Jan 9th, 2011, 01:47 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 238
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
No real dilemna. Just get a 7 day JAPAN RAIL PASS. Specify that it is the pass for all of Japan.

This thread was covered recently if you care to check back a few days. You purchase the " exchange order" in your country, and then have the pass validated when you arrive in Japan.

You should work out to have the pass expire perhaps on your last day in the country, so that it will take you to NARITA ( presume you fly from there)
A seven day pass is YEN 28,300 for ordinary car, and Yen 37,800 for green car. ( more room, greater comfort )

http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en001.html

You save money when using the pass from Tokyo to Nikko, Tokyo to Kyoto and Hiroshima and return.
You dont save any money if you purchase a pass and travel around Tokyo. That is a waste of the pass.
So, you need to plan your trip so that you get best value out of the pass.
gearsau is offline  
Old Jan 9th, 2011, 04:30 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 120
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
gearsau and WillJame:

Thanks for your replies. Since I am planning to be in Japan for around 12 days or so (arriving in Tokyo, travelling to Kotyo, and departing from Tokyo), a 14-day Japan Rail Pass would make sense, correct? My plan is to spend the first 5 days in Tokyo, then 6 days in Kyoto and then back to Tokyo for a day before I fly out.

Since I am also planning on making day trips to Hakone, Kamakura, and Nikko (while I'm in Tokyo) and to Nara, Mt koya, Kurashiki and Hiroshima (while I'm in Kyoto), can the same 14-day Japan Rail Pass be used for these train trips?

Thanks,
D
dukkar is offline  
Old Jan 9th, 2011, 06:17 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Rail passes are tricky - a 7 day JR Pass is ¥28,3000 or about US$340 and a 14 day Pass ¥45,100 or US$523 - a pretty big difference. What I do is cost out my fares on hyperdia.com to see exactly what works the best for me. If you are going to be in Japan for 12 days, you might arrange your trip so the first few days are in Tokyo, then the middle ones in Kyoto and other distance places, so that the trip there and back falls within the seven days. Possibly you will travel enough to make the 14 day Pass worthwhile but I don't think you can assume that without doing the math.....
Mara is offline  
Old Jan 9th, 2011, 07:14 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 774
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Private (i.e., not JR) rail lines are best for some of your destinations: look for "free passes" or "free kippu" (they're not free, just all-inclusive special deals) on private lines for Hakone, Nikko, and Koyasan; some of them are listed here: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2357.html . Then, some of your other destinations are just local trips (Kamakura, Nara) so buying a regular ticket is cheap enough. I'm afraid you'll need to price out quite a few alternatives to find the best deal.
someotherguy is offline  
Old Jan 9th, 2011, 08:40 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 3
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The JR rail pass will not get you to Mt Koya (Koyasan) as that is a private railway. Nankai electric is that rail line. You have to join them at Namba Nankai Stn in Osaka.

Hakone region is also best served to by the passes offered by Odakyu. They own everything in that region for buses and cable cars, it's worth buying their ticket from Shinjuku, as the JR pass only gets you close, not in and around the Hakone area, and the pass without the rail ticket from Shinjuku is the same money. it's quicker that way too.

I agree with others, plan your trip for a seven day pass. If first few days are in Tokyo, or last few, then don't bother with the rail pass.Time it so that you can ride into Tokyo on the Narita Express, or back out as the first or last use of your pass. When in Tokyo consider staying in Asakusa for some time then say Shinjuku afterwards. You will save time crossing the worlds biggest city if you move yourself and visit whats around you for a few days.

Also, when planning remember that Nozomi trains (the fastest Shinkansen trains) you cannot get on your pass. You can do Hikari (limited express) or the slower Kodama trains only. I feel the green car price is worth it, but all seats MUST be reserved, so you go to the reservations desk to book. They all spoke good English and you ask them exactly what platform number to go to, makes it real easy To plan fastest routes and by cost use HYPERDIA. http://www.hyperdia.com/en/
It is in English, enter your date and time to leave, and where you are leaving and going to. It will show you options for trains and air to get to the destination. You can deselect Nozomi trains from the search function since the JR pass does not cover it. Great for planning.

One other thing about trains, is to try a bento box that you buy in the station or on board, lovely little picnic boxes to eat as you go to the next stop. Artistic and colorful they are an experience in themselves.

If going to Hiroshima, consider a 2 hour stop on the way at the city called Himeji. beautiful castle, you can see it from the rail station, easy walk around it then back. Also in Hiroshima, the JR pass covers the ferry price to Miyajima island, lovely place, monkeys on top of Mount Misen, deer wander, no cars, and a lovely temples and an awesome B&B I can dig out the name if you want. Famous for oysters to eat, it used to be sacred. The floating Torii gate is the main landmark and at night locals and Japanese tourist toodle about the main street in their robes and geta (wooden clogs.)

Have a great time in Japan! One of the most amazing countries out there!
sirdaav is offline  
Old Jan 10th, 2011, 12:43 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,386
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Don't bother with Himeji for the next 3 years or so. The keep (main structure) is almost wholly covered in scaffolding and sheeting, and you can't enter the keep (until next year).
http://www.city.himeji.lg.jp/s60/285...kly-photo.html for what it looks like now.
Alec is offline  
Old Jan 10th, 2011, 01:37 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 238
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A question:
1: What time does your plane leave Narita to return home?

This is what you need to do plan your itinery :

A suggestion. You may wish to travel back from Hiroshima to Tokyo to Narita in the one day. This of course, would depend on the time that your return flight leaves. It would be about 6 hours from Hiroshima to Tokyo, factoring in the train change at Shin Osaka. Then, when you get into Tokyo, transfer from the Shinkansen line, downstairs to Narita Express. Of course, if you have any early departure, this schedule is not possible .

This is just a guide, of course, but, planning the travel will enable you to get best value out of the pass.
When I first travelled to Japan on my own in 1990, I purchased a 7 days pass, and only went from Tokyo to Nagoya and return. I would have saved money just by purchasing the tickets instead.

Another question. How long do you plan for Hiroshima? Just to see the shrine, or go to Miyajima?
Kyoto to Hiroshima would be around 3 hours or more.(so long ago,that I have forgotten). You need to see the A Bomb Dome, the Peace Memorial Park, and then travel to Miyajima. You can also get to Miyajima on the JR ferry, so, another use for the pass.

1 Tokyo Sightseeing Pay JR/ Subway
2 Tokyo / Kamakura Pay JR.
3 Hakone Odakyu Company
4 TBA
5 Nikko JR PASS
6 Tokyo / Kyoto JR PASS
7 Kyoto.
8 Kyoto
9 Kyoto
10 Kyoto / Hiroshima JR PASS
11 Hiroshima / Tokyo / Narita JR PASS

I hope this helps you.
gearsau is offline  
Old Jan 10th, 2011, 03:09 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 120
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You all are just wonderful! I think I am getting the hang of what you all are saying. Basically, activate the JR pass ONLY on the day I leave from Tokyo to Kyoto. Since I am planning 5-6 days in Kyoto, are you suggesting that I go with a 7-day JR pass during which I travel from Tokyo to Kyoto and back (with a day trip to Hiroshima in between)? And then for the day trips, use free passes or buy tickets as appropriate?

If yes, then I shall work out my itinerary and report back.

Thanks,
D
dukkar is offline  
Old Jan 10th, 2011, 04:40 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 238
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Dukkar,

If you look at my proposed schedule, you could activate the pass and go to NIKKO by Japan Rail. That will save you some money, rather than purchasing a ticket.
Then, the next day, head off to KYOTO.
As I mentioned previously, HIROSHIMA in a day is a bit much.

You should try to take in Miyajima as well. However,a very early start in Kyoto would enable you to get to Hiroshima , Miyajima and back to Kyoto late at night.
gearsau is offline  
Old Jan 10th, 2011, 06:25 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_002.html#nex
Assuming you are not activating a JR Pass upon arrival, if you are at NRT you can purchase the N'ex Suica package which gives you one way on the Narita Express and ¥1500 for the Tokyo transportation system.
Personally I would not want to come back from Hiroshima directly to Narita unless you are just flying a short distance...
Mara is offline  
Old Jan 10th, 2011, 06:49 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 500
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
sirdaav- I am interested in the name of the B & B you stayed at in Miyajima. I am trying to decide where to stay there in June. Thank you!
kkukura is offline  
Old Jan 10th, 2011, 07:28 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
kkukura - this is where I stayed in Miyajima - more of a budget place but it was great for me and within walking distance of the beach and Torii gate.
http://www.morinoyado.jp/english/index.html
Also on your thread you mentioned the Annex Katsutaro in Tokyo - I stayed there a few years ago and just made a reservation for my trip in April - highly recommend that as well.
Sorry for hijacking dukkar's thread....
Mara is offline  
Old Jan 11th, 2011, 01:42 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,561
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I like Gearsau's plan -- it makes the most sense. You don't need a 14-day JR pass if half the time you'll be in and around Tokyo.

Note a couple of other things.

First, the Suica N'ex card Mara mentions is quite good. It gives you a 50% off on the N'ex into Tokyo and is usable on BOTH Tokyo Metro subway and the Tokyo area commuter JR lines. There is a difference and a one-day Tokyo metro card does not include the local JR lines, the Suica card does.

Second, the Spacia train by Tobu railways is another option to and from Nikko. Price the round trip fare (which includes entry to five of the main attractions in Nikko) against the JR line, which does not include Nikko admission and the schedule (Tobu lines have a LOT more trains going to and from Nikko).

Third, consider something other than returning from Hiroshima to Tokyo, if you can. That's 4:52 on the train minimum before you get to the N'Ex, which takes another hour (see http://www.tabi-o-ji.com/shinkansen/...le/results.php) and you'll have two changes too -- you need two shinkansen trains, then the N'Ex. We changed from the shinkansen to the N'Ex at Shinagawa -- much less crowded than Tokyo station and the trains are not on different levels.
BigRuss is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2011, 05:26 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 238
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
BigRuss,

Thank you.. I used to work all around Asia, and had to plan my trips,so, had to make the most effective use of my time. Lived for 5 years in Japan, and covered just about everywhere that the Shinkansens ran. But, mainly in the area from Tokyo to Hakata. Went to Niigata a few times, and up as far as Akita , Yamagata and Morioka as well by bullet train.

I was aware of Shinagawa and Nex, but, had never used it, so, just put in my experience of Tokyo station..

Its funny, but, when I worked there, I had to go to Hiroshima for business on many occasions. I would take the 7:50 AM Nozomi, and be in Hiroshima 4 hours later.

My Japanese counterpart, would get a train to Tokyo station, Yamanote line to Hamamatsucho Station, then mono rail to Haneda, check in, security check, then fly to Hiroshima, then bus to Hiroshima station. I think he would get there 15 minutes ahead of me.

Finally , he tried it my way..Much less stressful.
I did about 2,000 kilometers by train one day.
Ogikubo--Tokyo Station--Hiroshima -- Kure -- Hiroshima -- Tokyo Station -- Ogikubo.
gearsau is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2011, 09:29 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,113
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
dukkar, in regard to your most recent post: yes
mrwunrfl is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2011, 09:37 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,113
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I like the plan that gearsau suggested. I have a variation on that: buy a ticket from Tokyo to Nikko and then use the pass from Nikko to Tokyo. I think you can save a pass-day on that plan by having the pass activated (in Tokyo or at NRT) for the day that you leave Nikko. Then spend some more time in Kyoto or Nara or overnight in Hiroshima/Miyajima.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2011, 01:54 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 238
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
mrwunrfl

I dont understand your thinking on going to Nikko and buying a ticket.
If the OP was doing a day trip to Nikko, they should choose to start the pass from that day.
So,day trip to Nikko counts as day #1 of the pass, Day #2, travel to Kyoto and so on.
This way, the OP gets the most travel for the least amount of $$$ spent.
Of course, if it were to be an overnight stay in that area, different rules would apply.
gearsau is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2011, 04:06 PM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 120
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks everyone for your replies. Here's the itinerary I came up with for us (me, my wife and our 5-yr old son).

Day 1 (Sat): Arrive in Tokyo (Narita Int'l Airport)
Day 2 (Sun): See Tokyo
Day 3 (Mon): Day trip to Kamakura
Day 4 (Tue): See Tokyo
Day 5 (Wed): Day trip to Nikko [Activate and use JR 7-day Pass]
Day 6 (Thu): See Tokyo AND Leave for Kyoto in the evening [Use JR 7-day Pass]
Day 7 (Fri): See Kyoto
Day 8 (Sat): Day trip to Nara [Use JR 7-day Pass]
Day 9 (Sun): See Kyoto
Day 10 (Mon): Day trip to Hiroshima [Use JR 7-day Pass]
Day 11 (Tue): See Kyoto and Leave for Tokyo in the evening [Use JR 7-day Pass]
Day 12 (Wed): Day trip to Hakone [Use Hakone Weekday Pass]
Day 13 (Thu): See Tokyo OR make a day trip somwehere [TBD]
Day 14 (Fri): Depart from Tokyo (Narita Int'l Airport)

Here are my questions:
1. Can you tell me if I am using the correct passes?
2. Can I use my JR 7-day Pass for Kamakura? If yes, then it might make sense to swap Day 3 and Day 4, correct? That way, I can use the pass for 7 whole days until I return from Kyoto.
3. What do I use for travelling in Tokyo and Kyoto?

Thanks,
D
dukkar is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO