Should I get a Rail Pass?

Old Sep 6th, 2014, 08:08 AM
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Should I get a Rail Pass?

I am going to Japan in a couple of weeks. I will be spending a week in Kyoto (including a night in Osaka), intending to do day trips to Hiroshima and Himeji (one day), and Nara. Then I will go to Tokyo for six nights via Shinkansen (I plan on using the Green Car, and reserving a seat). In Tokyo, I plan on going to Kamakura, and possibly Nikko as well.

Given my itinerary, should I purchase a Rail Pass? I understand the pass limits your ability to take certain Shinkansen trains, but I really do not understand the details of this limitation; If this is true, and the total price is approximately the same for the Pass vs. a la carte, buying individual tickets would be better, yes?

Thank you.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 09:49 AM
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Yes to the second question. Main reason is because of the day trip to Hiroshima. With a regular JR Pass you would almost certainly have to make a connection somewhere between Kyoto and Hiroshima.

There are a few JR Pass eligible Hikari trains that go from Kyoto through to Hiroshima, but I think there are just 2 or 3 of them and are early morning. There are also Kyoto to Himeji trains, so you could take one of those and make your stop to see the castle then go on to Hiroshima. On the way back to Kyoto you would make a connection/transfer unless you were fortunate enough to find a Hikari that meets your schedule.

Here is what I am talking about, if you were to go Kyoto to Hiroshima before Himeji.

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/inter...chday=20140906

There are three Hikari trains in the morning. All the rest are Nozomi trains and can't be used with a regular JR Pass.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 10:25 AM
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From hyperdia.com, these are the prices for green seats on Hikari trains.

¥7,500 Kyoto to Himeji
¥11,880 Himeji to Hiroshima
¥14,680 Hiroshima to Kyoto
¥18,380 Kyoto to Tokyo
=======
¥52440 for Hikari green car

Taking Nozomi trains would cost ¥200 to ¥300 more per leg.

7-day green car pass: ¥38,880

I got the Hikari green car prices and then remembered this qualification about using a green car pass on Hikari on the Sanyo Shinkansen (which is what you would use for Himeji and Hiroshima):

There are no Green Cars on most HIKARI and KODAMA trains on the Sanyo Shinkansen line (Shin-Osaka ·Hakata), or on TSUBAME trains on the Kyushu Shinkansen line(Shin-Yatsushiro – Kagoshima- chūō )
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 10:46 AM
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Prices in regular cars (not green) for the same trip, Nozomi trains:
¥ 5,590
¥ 8,500
¥ 11,410
¥ 13,910

Reserved seats included.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 04:03 PM
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Thank you. Very helpful. So it clearly makes sense. Apparently I can still take a Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo, but it is just not the fastest Shinkansen?
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 05:52 PM
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fishskis - you are aware that you have to buy the exchange voucher for the rail pass before you go to Japan, right?

mrwunrfl - your posts really confused me...lol....I don't get a pass often and never a green pass - are you saying there are no green cars between Osaka and Hakata....on the trains that you can use your JR Pass? So fishskis would be paying almost $100 US extra for the one trip from Kyoto to Tokyo in a green car?
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 10:14 AM
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No, Mara, that is not what I meant. I realized this morning that my posts might be confusing, sorry.

The Sakura trains on the Sanyo line can be used with a JR Pass. They have Green seats in about half of one car.

So, fishkris will be able to use green cars when traveling between Kyoto and Hiroshima, but it will require a change of trains at some point between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima.

Yesterday I was considering the JR Pass vs pay-as-you-go. The JR Pass, as we all know, limits the trains that can be used. That is not a big deal at all for Tokyo-Kyoto where Hikari trains that make that trip are frequent enough. But with a JR Pass and going to/from Kyoto to a station on the Sanyo line pretty much guarantees a change of trains will be required. Not so with pay as you go where you can hop on a Nozomi at Kyoto and take it all the way Hiroshima.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 10:29 AM
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>>Thank you. Very helpful. So it clearly makes sense. Apparently I can still take a Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo, but it is just not the fastest Shinkansen?Tokyo. With the pass you would take the HIKARI trains.

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/inter...chday=20141007

There are many more options for making that trip but would require a change of trains, probably at Nagoya.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 11:22 AM
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fishskis, Mara had a good question for you. This site explains: http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en001.html

If you get your pass validated to start on Oct 1 then the last day that you can use it would be Oct 7.

Kyoto to Nara is only ¥710 each way on a JR local (45 min on a Rapid Service train). If your Nara trip doesn't fit into the JR Pass validity period, no big deal.

Tokyo to Nikko on JR could cost up to ¥7,120 each way (with a green car on a Yamabiko shinkansen for part of the trip).

But fares on Tobu Railways to Nikko are cheaper. But, maybe depending on where you stay in Tokyo, I would prefer using JR. Fitting Nikko into your 7-day pass would be worthwhile.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 01:16 PM
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Anyone know at the moment here in the US what TA has the best prices on the railpasses? I will be in Japan mid November and need to buy 2 railpasses soon.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 01:47 PM
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I live in NYC and can go in person to a couple of different places - IACE is where I usually go....then there is no shipping fee.....where do you live? I don't know how often they revise the US$ amount of the pass for fluctuations in the yen....that would be one consideration....if you go in person there is no hurry....

Thanks, mrwunrfl for clarifying the green car issue. What I read on japan-guide makes it sound like the new Sakura train even in regular reserved seat cars is very comfy.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018_kyushu.html
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 04:24 PM
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mrwunrfl, Thank you so much for all of the detailed information. It never ceases to amaze me how much knowledge some people here have, and how helpful they are when they share it. And while I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, I am completely lost when it comes to trains and subways and metros and buses.

It will not be problem to do Hiroshima, Hijemi, Nara, and Tokyo within the seven days. It is possible that a day trip from Tokyo may be within this timeframe, but I do not know, nor do I want to plan my specific days; I want to be flexible with my plans, and I am not certain about a Nikko trip. I definitely plan on going to Kamakura, which if I can fit into my JR Pass, fine; if not, that is fine as well.

With regards to the Green Car and Kyoto-Hiroshima, I assume I can "downgrade" if I prefer to take a non-Green-Car Shinkansen with no changes(?). As I mentioned, My ineptitude when it comes to train travel is impressive; and whatever I can do to avoid transfers and changes, I am likely to do.
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Old Sep 8th, 2014, 09:23 AM
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Yes, but changing trains is not a big deal. It only takes a few minutes to go from one shinkansen platform to another. Just make sure to get your reserved seat tickets printed in English.

I think that Himeji castle is still closed. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3501.html

Here is the timetable for Hiroshima to Himeji and you would take the SAKURA trains with a JR Pass:
http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/inter...chday=20141008

Okayama has a nice castle. You can use the same timetable.
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Old Sep 8th, 2014, 09:57 AM
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Most of the larger stations have maps/track layouts that you can print out or save on your mobile device.
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Old Sep 9th, 2014, 09:57 AM
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Changing from one shinkansen to another is pretty easy because they all use the same part of the station. The platforms are parallel to each other and there is a tunnel connecting them. Your arriving and departing trains may use the same track. Or you might simply have to go to the other side of the platform. Or use escalators and the tunnel to get between platforms. This will be especially easy as you won't have any luggage. I think that the green car position in the train is such that it is the car closest to the escalators.
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Old Sep 10th, 2014, 08:13 PM
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That's great additional information. Thank you. I bought my Green Car Pass yesterday.
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