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Rail passes for Nara-Kyoto-Koya-Karuizawa-Hakone-Kamakura

Rail passes for Nara-Kyoto-Koya-Karuizawa-Hakone-Kamakura

Feb 26th, 2015, 07:16 PM
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Rail passes for Nara-Kyoto-Koya-Karuizawa-Hakone-Kamakura

I can see why there are so many questions about rail passes on the Forum...so confusing and so many choices! Rather than struggle through this on my own, hope some of the transportation experts can help me out. We leave in about a month.

Our trip is as follows:

April 4 Kansai Airport
April 5 Nara
April 6 Nara
April 7 Koyasan
April 8 Kyoto
April 9 Kyoto
April 10 Kyoto
April 11 Kyoto
April 12 Kyoto
April 13 Tsumago
April 14 Karuizawa
April 15 Karuizawa
April 16 Hakone
April 17 Hakone
April 18 Hakone
April 19 Kamakura
April 20 Haneda Airport (midnight flight)

On another forum I got advice just to get the Hakone and Koya passes. Does this make sense, or is there more to it?

Give that we're going in peak cherry blossom time (looks like I hit the jackpot on that one!), can I or do I need to make reservations in advance?

Thanks so much!
leslieq is offline  
Feb 27th, 2015, 10:27 AM
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Have you considered visiting Yoshino? http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4150.html

You got good advice. The cost of your JR travel Kyoto-Nakatsugawa (for Magome)- Karuizawa - Odawara (for Hakone) comes out to be practically the same as the cost of a 7-day JR Pass. Check it here: http://www.hyperdia.com

With the pass you would just show your pass to get reserved seat tickets and to get on the train. No need to buy tickets. You would not be able to use Nozomi shinkansen. You would also have a lot of flexibility should you change plans. With the pass, you could wake up in Kyoto one day and decide to take a day trip Hiroshima or Himeji or whatever.

Without the pass you would buy tickets but it is only three legs. And you would be able to use any shinkansen, of course. With the added frequency of Nozomi trains you would more likely have better connections at Tokyo and 2x Nagoya.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Feb 27th, 2015, 11:25 AM
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You wouldn't be able to use the nozomi anyways because only the Hikari and Kodama shinkansen stops at Odawara (shinkansen stop for Hakone).

You needed to make reservations 6 months ago so make them now if you can find someplace open. Have a nice trip cherry blossom season is my favorite time to be in Japan.

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Feb 27th, 2015, 12:11 PM
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I think leslieq is talking about train reservations, ht....she has had her hotels all booked, I believe....

ht, my timing this year looks pretty good according to the most recent sakura forecasts.
Mara is online now  
Feb 27th, 2015, 07:49 PM
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mrwunrful, Yoshino...wow!! Somehow not sure how I missed that. Looks just like something we would love, as we're looking for natural areas and historical sites rather than modern Japan.

How far is Yoshino from Nara? We're staying two nights in Nara, so could Mt Yoshino be a day trip?

As far as the pass - if the cost is the same, wouldn't we want to buy the pass just to avoid having to buy tickets and get more flexibility? If so, we buy the pass in the US first, don't we? We leave in a month and don't want to blow it!

HT, yes am only talking train reservations. Inns were booked months and months ago. Even with getting an early start of about 9 months, STILL didn't get our first or second choice temple at Koyasan!
leslieq is offline  
Feb 27th, 2015, 07:50 PM
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ht, the OP is going to Karuizawa before Hakone. So would be able to use Nozomi for Kyoto-Nagoya and Nagoya-Tokyo.

That was the routing that I saw this morning. But, of course you can go via Nagano.

Nakatsugawa- Nagano- Karuizawa is a lot cheaper ¥8,130 versus Nakatsugawa- Nagoya- Tokyo- Karuizawa which is over ¥17,000. It is also faster.

¥ 8,060 Kyoto- Nakatsugawa (shinkansen + limited express)
¥ 8,130 Nakatsugawa- Karuizawa (L'ex to Nagano then shinkansen)
¥ 9,570 Karuizawa- Odawara
¥ 25,760
mrwunrfl is offline  
Feb 27th, 2015, 07:58 PM
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>>practically the same as the cost of a 7-day JR Pass.

The error I made when I wrote that was due to my being lazy and just doing a search for Tokyo- Odawara via Karuizawa which comes out closer to ¥29,000.

So it would be about ¥3300 per person cheaper to pay as you go.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Feb 27th, 2015, 08:18 PM
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>>Tokyo- Odawara via Karuizawa
I meant Kyoto- Odawara via Karuizawa

If you decide on a JR Pass then you buy a voucher in the USA. Take that and exchange it for the pass in Japan. At Kyoto station for you.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Feb 28th, 2015, 08:32 PM
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I replicated your search above, and the current cost in US dollars is $215.33 (the 25,760 yen listed above) vs $279 for the 7 day JR pass.

So I could use the pass for all of the travel you list above? For the Kyoto-Nakatsugawa trip it lists Nozomi shinkansen. Somewhere I read that you can't take the Nozomi using a JR pass. Is this right? If so, then the JR pass would be even more expensive as I would have to pay for the Nozomi..?

Is the main advantage of getting the JR pass the ability to bypass waiting for tickets and just get on the trains?

Thanks, still a little confused.
leslieq is offline  
Feb 28th, 2015, 08:38 PM
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There was another option of leaving about the same time but taking about an hour longer to get from Kyoto to Nakatsugawa using the LTD. EXP (WIDE VIEW) SHINANO 9 with no transfers required. It cost 6,900 yen instead of 8,060.

Would this be the option we would use with the JR pass if we got one?
leslieq is offline  
Mar 1st, 2015, 06:22 AM
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When you plan your route using hyperdia.com you need to uncheck the box that says Nozomi....you can still use other shinkansen.
You can't use the Nozomi at all- you would have to pay for that ticket separately - no upgrade possible.

So you can go from Kyoto to Nakatsugawa using the Shinkansen Hikari to Nagoya and then changing there for the LE.

I am a budget traveler so wouldn't get a pass if it cost more than individual tickets just to bypass a line to buy them - it's rare that there are really long lines....and even with a pass you would still need to stand on line to get your free seat reservation ticket if you want one, rather than going for an unreserved car....
Mara is online now  
Mar 1st, 2015, 09:59 AM
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Yes, uncheck the Nozomi box for your search to find JR Pass routing.

You found the one-a-day Shinano l'ex that departs Kyoto. Your other options with the pass would be a Hikari or Kodama shinkansen to Nagoya connecting to a Shinano l'ex or a JR Chuo Line local train. What you want is the Hikari-Shinano combination if using a JR Pass.

Are you going to walk the Nakasendo? If you do that on the 13th then you would travel Kyoto- Nakatsugawa and next day Nagiso- Karuizawa. If you do the walk on the 14th then you would go Kyoto- Nagiso and then Nakatsugawa- Karuizawa. I used Nakatsugawa for pricing the two legs of the trip but you will be using Nagiso station at some point.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 1st, 2015, 10:37 AM
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>>Is the main advantage of getting the JR pass the ability to bypass waiting for tickets and just get on the trains?

No, that is no big deal at all, really. The main reason to get a JR Pass is to save money. It also provides flexibility if your plans are not firm - adding or changing destinations would not increase your travel cost.

With a pass you can just show it at the gate and then board an unreserved car on any train (except Nozomi). Or you stop at the JR ticket office and go to the reserved seat counter, bypassing the fare ticket line. This is just a convenience for a traveler like me who doesn't plan out the specific trains that I want to take.

Some people do plan out the trains they want and take their detailed itinerary and get their tickets all at once. When they go to the station to pick up their pass, they get reserved seats at the same time for all of their travel.

Without the pass you can still buy all your tickets, including reserved seats, at the same time.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 1st, 2015, 12:02 PM
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Yoshino would be 1.5 to 2.5 hours each way. The low end of that range is via Kintetsu Railways from Kyoto or Nara. The high end would be using JR from Kyoto. Yoshino is popular so it will be busy and, at least for the ropeway, crowded. It was when I visited there in mid-April when the blossoms were faded and falling (still pretty).
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 1st, 2015, 07:12 PM
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Sounds like your advice is probably to skip the JR pass, as the individual tickets save us about $120. We're also pretty firm in our plans, as we've made reservations everywhere.

mrwunrfl, yes we are walking the Nakasendo. We are staying in Tsumago at a ryokan. We're not sure what day we'll walk. On the first day we need to get back to the ryokan in time for dinner, and on the second we need to get on a train for Karuizawa. I hate having that pressure on a wonderful hike, but either day will be time pressure. If we get in early on the first day I hope to walk then.

Given that information, does it change the advice about the rail stations?

Thanks for the information about Yoshino. Since it's such a long trip, think we'll stick to Nara. Yoshino looks gorgeous, though.
leslieq is offline  
Mar 1st, 2015, 08:10 PM
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This web page has links to good travel info:
Click on the guide for Kiso Valley. JNTO hasn't updated those guides for years, so don't count on the times, but they give you some options and info. Maybe you have a better source of info for that part of your trip. That guide mentions that the luggage forwarding drop of times are between 8:30 and 11:30 AM, that there is a bus between Magome and Tsumago, the walk is about 3 hours and Magome is worth some time.

Not all of the Shinano Limted Express trains stop at Nagiso. If you depart to Karuizawa from Nagiso and don't get one of those then you would probably have to take a train (local or L'ex) back to Nakatsugawa to get the Shinano L'ex. Not a big deal, but would cost about 35 min to make that connection.

You can see the train frequency on this timetable:
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2015, 07:39 PM
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Those are fantastic guides, mrwunrful! I should have checked them first. Need to plan this leg of the trip better transportation-wise. Had hoped to hand off to hubby as I've planned all the rest of the trip, but the hand-off wasn't very successful, sigh...

Thanks again.
leslieq is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2015, 09:40 PM
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>>plan this leg of the trip better transportation-wise
So you got my point, good. Plan well enough and know your options.

You have a couple of very interesting options on your route to Karuizawa that I must mention. These can be hit-and-run sites to consider, not far from JR stations served by the Shinano L'Ex.

Matsumoto-jo is on the way to Nagano:

Zenkoji is in Nagano where you would tranferring from the Shinano L'ex to the shinkansen:
Awesome is the right word for this place.
mrwunrfl is offline  
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