Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?

  • Published on : 25/05/2023
  • by : Joshua
  • Rating :

Many visitors enjoy traveling by rail in Japan: The network is broad, the trains are roomy and comfortable, and they are always on time! 

Traveling by train for your trip to Japan generally can get expensive, but a Japan Rail Pass can save you a lot of money. A regular Japan Rail Pass, however,  has much more worth  than merely help with savings; it also makes travel much easier. How? With this special ticket, you can access to almost the entirety of the Japan Railway Network of Shinkansen bullet trains, local trains, buses, and even some ferries, with a one-price single ticket and without the need for any seat reservations. (Though seat reservations can be easily done at no extra cost with the pass if necessary.)




Read more about the JR Pass Price Increase //

The list of these cities provides exposure to a diverse spectrum of Japanese culture and history, as well as their placement across several regions of the country.  As a result, these are perfect places for combining with the Japan Rail Pass in a single itinerary.

With the price update, optimizing the pass's cost effectiveness requires more destinations than before. 

Take a look at the sample itineraries below for ideas on how to get the most out of the 7-Day, 14-Day, and 21-Day Japan Rail Passes:

... Or many other trains and buses all over Japan!

... Or many other trains and buses all over Japan!

©Prasit Rodphan / 123RF

Tips for First-Time JR Pass Users // Top 9 Tips for First-Time JR Pass Users

Choose the right activation date

For the initial destinations in the sample itineraries provided above, individual day passes for the train are available to buy for affordable prices that can also be used in conjunction with IC Cards like the PASMO or Suica

It’s suggested to forego activating the pass immediately after the voucher exchange and prior to the first Shinkansen train ride in order to optimize the time traveling longer distances during the duration of the trip and Japan Rail Pass’s usage. To exchange for the pass with a voucher doesn't constitute having to activate it immediately at the beginning of the trip.

Also keep in mind, for travelers who will be riding Shinkansen trains a fair amount from the get-go, making an exchange for the pass and activating it immediately may be good to consider as it can be used on a variety of different trains and other means of transportation from the airport, allowing travelers to start saving money immediately. 

Take trains by touching your Pasmo!

Take trains by touching your Pasmo!

@Yuichiro Yokono

Miyajima Ferry

Ferry to Miyajima Island, rideable with the JR Pass


Research all the JR Pass covered local transit options to travel around smoothly and affordably.

Take day-trips

Also, there are many attractions that are accessible from major stations or city centers without being in immediate proximity. Use the JR Pass to visit these unique locations and optimize the value of the pass. 

Examples of such day-trips include Nara from Kyoto, Beppu from Fukuoa, and Shirakawago from Kanazawa.

Let's feed natural deers in Nara Park!
Popular destination for the Japanese, Beppu, the resort with thousands of thermal springs welcomes visitors who come to bask in volcanic waters all year round.

Popular destination for the Japanese, Beppu, the resort with thousands of thermal springs welcomes visitors who come to bask in volcanic waters all year round.

©Sean Pavone/123RF

Shirakawago Unesco world heritage village in Japanese Alps

Shirakawago Unesco world heritage village in Japanese Alps


Keep in mind all the benefits

In regards to the pass’s benefits aside from cost-effectiveness, the convenience and flexibility offered are a major draw.

Reservations aren’t required for a majority of Shinkansen trains, allowing travelers to board whichever departures are convenient to them. However, reservations can be made at no extra cost, so to assure further accessibility, pass holders can take the time to reserve a seat on all the trains they plan to ride at one time.

Additionally, Japan Rail Group has also announced that with the price update, they will begin including discount vouchers for certain attractions, extending the pass past a simple transit option. Centering an itinerary around these destinations will provide further value to the Japan Rail Pass. 

Midori no Madoguchi

Midori no Madoguchi where travelers can reserve seats for Shinkansen and other trains


Consider a regional pass

For those whose intended trip itineraries are more focued on specific regions of Japan, rather than following the golden route or traversing the entire country, it's strongly suggested to look into the various regional passes offered by Japan Rail Group

Examples of such passes cover regions such as Kansai, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Tohoku along with many more. Each of these passes list at a more affordable price than the National Japan Rail Passes as their scope of coverage is more specific, but many of these options include Shinkansen access, making them an especially good deal. 

While first-time travelers may be better off springing for the National Japan Rail Pass, seasoned travelers may see it more fit to buy a regional pass to indulge in the deeper cuts Japan has to offer. 

    JR Regions

    Regions divided by JR Group with different regional rail passes available


    • Included : Economic and simple, Unlimited travel
    • Included : Economic and simple, Unlimited travel
    • Included : Economic and simple, Unlimited travel

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