Category Archives: Tips for Japan Rail Pass

This is a tips for using Japan Rail Pass.

Perfect size case for Japan Rail Pass at only 100 yen!

Tak found it at 100 yen shop, Daiso. (C)  {Amy_Jane}
Tak found it at 100 yen shop, Daiso. (C) {Amy_Jane}

If you are a first time visitor, you don’t know how big is Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass). Actually it’s not handy size. I had an experience that I almost lost it! One of my reader, Tak gave me a very useful information. He found the perfect size case at 100 yen in Japan. I would like to share this information with you.

Thank you very much for your work, Tak! Continue reading

Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Dotonbori is "Must-See" place in Osaka.  	©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Dotonbori is “Must-See” place in Osaka. ©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

I wrote about train system in Kyoto before. But I have received many inquiries about Osaka too. I think it is very complicated for travellers from overseas. There are three types of railway, JR, Osaka Municipal Subway and Private company’s railways. Once you understand train system, you can find the best location to stay, the best deal for trains ride and the fastest way to visit that you want to see. Continue reading

Guide to take trains in Kyoto. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Click to enlarge. (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge. (C) JP Rail
Toji temple is just 10 minutes away from Kyoto station. © Q.Sawami/© JNTO
Toji temple is just 10 minutes away from Kyoto station. © Q.Sawami/© JNTO

Train system in Kyoto may be complicated for you. There are three types of railway, JR, Kyoto City Subway and Private company’s railways. Actually it’s a key to travel in Kyoto smoothly and avoid wasting your valuable time. Of course city of Kyoto has city wide bus service. But during peak season, bus service runs behind the schedule sometimes due to traffic congestion.

And also, there are many types of deals, such as ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kyoto city pass. Each pass has different conditions. You have to understand which train system is covered by your pass.

In this post, I tell you about using these deals and explain all train systems in Kyoto. Continue reading

Guide for train access to Nagano, Matsumoto and other places in Shinshu and surrounding area.

Hokuriku Shinkansen was opened in mid March 2015. It connects Tokyo, Nagano, Toyama and Kanazawa without changing trains.
Hokuriku Shinkansen was opened in mid March 2015. It connects Tokyo, Nagano, Toyama and Kanazawa without changing trains.

Shinshu region is located in the heart of Japan. You might have heard Nagano where held winter Olympic games in 1998. There are lost of popular cities in this region, such as Nagano, Karuizawa and Matsumoto. And also Shinano-Omachi is well known as the gate way station to Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine route. Hakuba is very popular ski resort in winter season.

In this post, I summarize train access information to Shinshu and surrounding areas. You can find the information about access to Shinshu region from Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kanazawa and Toyama. Continue reading

How to access to Takayama by trains and buses.

Preserved path in Takayama. It is very popular tourist district in Takayama.
Preserved path in Takayama. It is very popular tourist district in Takayama.

Takayama is one of the most popular destinations for overseas travelers. Especially spring and fall seasons are very popular since the festivals are held. This city is also known as the gateway to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawago.
I would like to tell you about the access to Takayama in this post. Continue reading

How to access to Atami, Ito, Shimoda and other places in Izu peninsula by railways.

Atami hot springs resort night view. It is one of major spor in Izu peninsula hot springs resort. (C) JNTO

Izu is one of the most popular hot springs resort in Kanto area. It is very accessible from Tokyo. You can enjoy even day trip if you like. There are several popular spots in Izu peninsula. I would like to share the information about access to Izu with you in this post. Continue reading

Sanin area train access guide. How to access to Kinosaki, Izumo, Matsue, Tottori and other major cities in Sanin area.

Limited Express Hamakaze crossing one of famous bridge, Amarube Bridge. (C) RSA - JR West KiHa 189 series DMU on a Hamakaze limited express service crossing the Amarube Viaduct on the Sanin Main Line
Limited Express Hamakaze crossing one of famous bridge, Amarube Bridge. (C) RSA – JR West KiHa 189 series DMU on a Hamakaze limited express service crossing the Amarube Viaduct on the Sanin Main Line

I published several post about the limited express trains to Sanin area, such as Super Oki, Super Matsukaze, Super Inaba, Super Hakuto and Hamakaze. But there are some more trains from Osaka and Kyoto to Kinosaki-Onsen area. And there are several gateway stations. You might be confused.

This post shows you all trains to Sanin area, such as northern part to Hyogo and Kyoto, Tottori, Shimane and northern part to Yamaguchi. I hope you will find the right way to the place where you want to go. Continue reading

My trip from Aomori to Sapporo on March 19, 2012 by Hamanasu Carpet car.

Hamanasu just arrived at Aomori station (C) JP Rail.com
Hamanasu just arrived at Aomori station (C) JP Rail.com

In my site, JPRail.com, the post that is written about Overnight Express Hamanasu is very popular. I got on Carpet car of Hamanasu on March 19, 2012 from Aomori to Sapporo. I would like to share this experience with you. And I tell you what I did before I got on the train. Continue reading

How to choose Rail Pass to travel Japan. Summary of most of rail passes in Japan

jrpass1

When I started this website, most of you use Japan Rail Pass to travel in Japan. But I have received so many comments. Many travellers do not travel throughout Japan. And some readers could not find which pass they should purchase. Now I understand there are too many deals to pick up. You are overwhelmed.

In this post, I would like to show you major rail passes in Japan. Continue reading

How much can we use Japan Rail Pass in downtown Tokyo?

Yamanote line is the busiest train service in Japan.
Yamanote line is the busiest train service in Japan.

I wrote the post about Tokyo subway long time ago. I mentioned that Subway is the best for sightseeing in Tokyo. But some of you travel in Japan for 7 days that include Tokyo. You still can use Japan Rail Pass 7 days pass to explore in Tokyo. So I would like to explain more about Japan Railways local trains in Tokyo. And also I will tell you which popular spot you cannot access by Japan Railway. Continue reading

Another idea of overnight transfer to Hokkaido, using ferry service between Aomori and Hakodate

Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry
Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry

In this website, the pages of overnight trains, such as Twilight Express, Cassiopeia, Hokutosei and Hamansu, are very popular. You can save time and money to take an overnight train. I understand why it is so popular. However as I explained you about reservation in the post “How to reserve seat”, we do not have any online reservation to get a seat or berth before departure. I already explained about the alternatives of several overnight trains in the following links:

Alternatives of Overnight train Twilight Express
Alternatives of Overnight train Cassiopeia and Hokutosei

But these alternatives on the above links are not enough. I think most of travellers are very stressful because they cannot reserve a seat before departure. Now I would like to share the information about another option to get Hokkaido by overnight transfer. It is the ferry services between Aomori and Hakodate. It is not covered by Japan Rail Pass. But the fare starts from 1710 yen and they have a midnight ferry service too. It may be considerable for some of the travellers. Let’s see the details. Continue reading

How to access Hakone from Tokyo. Compare Japan Railway and Odakyu lines

Odakyu Railway's limited express train by 50000 series, Vault Super Express.
Odakyu Railway’s limited express train by 50000 series, Vault Super Express.

Most of travellers who stay in Tokyo think about visiting Hakone (箱根). It is only a few hours away from Tokyo. It is well known as one of the most popular hot springs resort in Japan. And also it is very close to the highest mountain in Japan, Mt. Fuji. But Hakone is not connected with Tokyo by Japan Railway. That means Japan Rail Pass cover limited part of your trip to Hakone. Odakyu Electric Railway (小田急電鉄) that is one of the major private railway companies in Tokyo and Highway bus are more convenient way to get there. Though Japan Rail Pass cover limited part of travel, some of you still think about using Japan Rail Pass as much as you can and try to minimize the extra cost.

In this post, I show you the regular fare to Hakone by Odakyu Electric Railways and the extra cost in case of using Japan Rail Pass. And also I would like to share the information about the discounted pass to Hakone. Continue reading

How to transfer among Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Wakayama. Compare Japan Railway and private railways.

Kobe Harborland © Kobe Convention & Visitors Association/© JNTO
Kobe Harborland © Kobe Convention & Visitors Association/© JNTO

As you probably have already known, train system in Japan is very complicated. Especially in urban area, there are lots of railways. You might not understand the difference between Japan Railways (JR), subways and private railways.

Especially in Kansai area, such as Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji and Wakayama, many trains runs among these cities. You may be overwhelmed. But it is very important to understand the train system. You will make a trip much smoothly and save your trip time.

I would like to explain about JR lines and private railway companies in Kansai area in this post. You may find which train line is the best for your trip. Continue reading

How to use and how much can we use Japan Rail Pass in downtown Osaka?

Osaka Castle is one of the most popular spot in Osaka. ©JNTO
Osaka Castle is one of the most popular spot in Osaka. ©JNTO

I supposed to write about the transfer among Kobe (神戸), Osaka (大阪) and Kyoto (京都). But I should explain about JR (Japan Railway) lines in downtown Osaka. I believe the information about the location of JR stations and rail system let you understand the rail system outside of Osaka easily.

And this post may help the tourists who will start the trip from Osaka. Some of you are not sure to buy 7 days pass or 14 days pass for your trip. You may learn how much you can use Japan Railway line when you stay in Osaka. For example, if you travel in Japan for 10 days and stay in Osaka for the first 3 days, you may not use Japan Railway line when you stay in Osaka. As a result, you can buy 7 days pass.

Anyway I show you JR line in downtown Osaka and I compare JR lines and Osaka subway lines. Continue reading

How to access from Kansai airport to downtown Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe

JR Limited Express Haruka is one of the popular way from KIX to get Osaka.
JR Limited Express Haruka is one of the popular way from KIX to get Osaka.

Kansai airport is the international airport in Osaka. It is the closest international airport to Kyoto, Nara and Kobe too. There are many ways to get downtown Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. In this post, I give you basic information about the route to major spots in Osaka. I also have another links below to tell you about Kansai airport. Continue reading

Most economical transfer, No express surcharge! Rapid Service Network in Kansai area

Special rapid trains route map (Click to enlarge)
Special rapid trains route map (Click to enlarge)

JR West operates many commute trains, rapid and local between 5:30 am and midnight. But when you travel in Kansai area by JR trains, special rapid service trains are the best way to travel among cities, like Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Wakayama and Kansai airport. These “Special” rapid service skips many stations and much faster than rapid and local trains. If you use JR pass, you may take limited express trains. But these rapid service trains are sometimes faster than express trains and run much more frequently. That means you do not check the timetable. These are commute trains and mostly very busy in even daytime and late night, but it is convenient. It is a key to understand this rapid train system to travel among cities in Kansai area.

In this post, I would like to show you the route of Rapid service trains network and how to use these trains. Continue reading

No express surcharge! Fast, economical and convenient! Rapid service network in Greater Tokyo

Tokyo rapid lines map (Click to enlarge)
Tokyo rapid lines map (Click to enlarge)

Japan Railway operate Rapid trains throughout Japan. Especially lots of Rapid trains are operated in urban area, such as Greater Tokyo. In Tokyo, these trains are operated basically for commuters. But there are many operation routes. Of course you can use these trains for your exploring in surrounding Tokyo area. These trains connect Tokyo (=東京) and Shinjuku (=新宿) with Yokohama (=横浜), Kamakura (=鎌倉), Odawara (=小田原) (for Hakone (=箱根)), Utsunomiya (=宇都宮) (for Nikko (=日光)), Mito (=水戸), Narita airport (=成田空港) and even Atami (=熱海) (Izu peninsula hot springs (=伊豆半島)). These trains are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. If you have Japan Rail Pass Green, most of Rapid trains in Greater Tokyo have double decker Green cars. You will feel same type of atmosphere in a commute train. Continue reading

Learn more about Japan Railway’s trains and networks

One of two express trains Kitaguni
One of two express trains Kitaguni

Japan Railway Groups (JR) operate many trains and it is very complicated for the travellers from overseas. If you understand JR trains and networks, it is easier to make your travel itinerary. So I will tell you what types of trains JR operate and how to use these trains.
Continue reading

Which JR Pass is better, Green or Ordinary? Worthwhile buying Japan Rail Pass Green Pass?

1024px-JRW_series283_inside-greencar.jpg
Panoramic view green car on Ocean Arrow 287 series. Green seat is like business class seat. (C) w0746203-1

I was asked many times that Japan Rail Pass Green Pass is worthwhile? Of course Green seat is better than ordinary seat. As long as you have enough budget, you can buy Green pass. But JR Groups have so many kinds of trains. They operate more than 100 limited express trains on only regular track and more trains on Shinkansen. And some limited express trains do not have Green seat. But some local trains have Green seat. And also they have many kinds of Green seat. For example, some limited express train give you 2+1 seat configuration. But the other trains give you same 2+2 seat configuration as Ordinary class. So if you have some more ideas about Green seat before you buy Japan Rail Pass, you can make a better decision which pass you buy, Green or Ordinary.

In this post, I show you some example that help you to understand more about Green seat. Continue reading

Japan Rail Pass is the best way to explore Kyoto? How to use Japan Rail Pass in Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial Palace ©Akira Okada/©JNTO
Kyoto Imperial Palace ©Akira Okada/©JNTO

Kyoto (京都) is most famous sightseeing destination in Japan. Most of you visit Kyoto by Japan Rail Pass. Hikari and Kodama on Tokaido Shinkansen can take you to Kyoto. You might stay in Kyoto for multiple days and use Japan Rail Pass before arrival at Kyoto and after departure from Kyoto. Some of you are wondering if we can use Japan Rail Pass to explore Kyoto?

In this post, I tell you how much you can use Japan Rail Pass to explore in Kyoto. Continue reading

Direct access to Nikko from Shinjuku, Limited Express Nikko and Kinugawa

Tobu Railway Limited Express "Spacia" (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Tobu Railway Limited Express “Spacia” (C) Sonic Rail Garden

These trains connect Shinjuku (新宿) and Ikebukuro (池袋) in Tokyo with Nikko (日光) and Kinugawa-Onsen (鬼怒川温泉=Kinugawa hot springs resort). When I published the post, “How to get Nikko”, I did not mention these limited express trains. Because these trains are operated by Japan Railway East and Tobu Railway Co. and run through Tobu Railway line from Kurihashi (栗橋) to Nikko or Kunugawa-Onsen. That means you have to pay extra if you use Japan Rail Pass. But since I received many valuable comments from the visitors of this site, I know that some of Japan Rail Pass users do not hesitate to pay to get better service. Continue reading

Save time and money! Overnight transfer between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka

Overnight bus service "Dream"
Overnight bus service Dream

Additional info on March 3, 2013.
Japan Rail Pass official site announced express bus service will be no longer available for Japan Rail Pass that will be exchanged after April 1, 2013. Please be careful that Overnight highway bus “Dream” will not be covered by Japan Rail Pass.

If you want to save the time and save your money to stay hotel, overnight transfer is the perfect solution. Especially most of travellers transfer among three major cities, Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. We have several ways to take overnight transfer among these cities by Japan Rail Pass. Let’s see how we can transfer.

Continue reading

How to access World Heritage Mt. Koya. Japan Rail Pass can be used to get Mt. Koya?

Koyasan (Mt. Koya) (C) JNTO
World Heritage site Koyasan (Mt. Koya) too. (C) JNTO

Mt. Koya (Koyasan=高野山) has been getting popular destination recently. The fastest way to get Mt. Koya is using Nankai Railway line (=南海電車). They take you to Gokurakubashi (=極楽橋) station where is the nearest station to Mt. Koya and easily transfer to the funicular to Mt. Koya. But you cannot use Japan Rail Pass to take Nankai Railway. So I show you how to get Mt. Koya by Japan Railway as much as we can. Then let’s see the difference of cost and time between using Japan Railway and using Nankai Line.
Continue reading

How to access World Heritage Shiretoko by railway. Japan Rail Pass can be used to access there?

Shiretoko Pass is the highlight of Shiretoko peninsula. (C) JNTO
Shiretoko Pass is the highlight of Shiretoko peninsula. (C) JNTO

Shiretoko is one of UNESCO World heritage site in Japan. Shiretoko cannot be accessed by only rail, you need to take the bus from the station. You have two way to access to Shiretoko. The first one is from Abashiri(網走) via Shiretoko-Shari(知床斜里). The other one is to access from Kushiro(釧路). The nearest station is Shiretoko-Shari(知床斜里). So if you want to save the money, take Abashiri via Shiretoko-Shari route. Let’s see the time and extra cost.


View How to get Shiretoko in a larger map

Access from Abasiri via Shiretoko-Shari

This is most popular route to access Shiretoko. Shiretoko-Shari is 40 minutes away from Abashiri by the local train. Abashiri can be accessed by Limited express train “Okhotsk” from Sapporo where is the biggest city in Hokkaido. But we only have 4 trips of express train from Sapporo. And one more trip is added in Ryuhyo (Drift ice) season. This seasonal train is called “Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze”. This express train is operated by the different type train set from regular trains. Please see the details on Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze.
Then you need to take a local train to get Shiretoko-Shari. There are also only 9 local trains from Abashiri to Shiretoko-Shari. It is very limited access by rail. In Drift ice season, there are some additional train between Abashiri and Shiretoko-shari too. This train is called “Ryuhyu Norokko train”. This train is designed for Drift ice watching from the train. Please see the details about this train at Ryuhyo Norokko train.

If you stay in Sapporo, your sample itinerary is the following;
07:21 Depart from Sapporo by Ltd Express Okhotsk 1
12:46 Arrive at Abashiri
13:25 Depart from Abashiri by the local train
14:12 Arrive at Shiretoko-Shari
14:20 Depart from Shiretoko-Shari by bus (operated by Shari Bus company)
*This website is in Japanese only.
15:10 Arrive at Utoro

If you stay in Abashiri, your sample itinerary is the following;
06:41 Depart from Abashiri by the local train
07:22 Arrive at Shiretoko-Shari
08:00 Depart from Shiretoko-Shari by bus (operated by Shari Bus company)
*This website is in Japanese only.
08:50 Arrive at Utoro

These itineraries are based on 2010 summer schedule. If you travel in winter time, the bus service is very limited. The bus fare is 1,490 yen from Shiretoko-Shari to Utoro one way, from Utoro to Rausu at 1,310 yen, and some bus take you to directly to Rausu from Shiretoko-Shari at 2,410 yen.

Utoro(ウトロ) is located in the west coast side of Shiretoko Peninsula. It is the gate town to go around Shiretoko. You can access to Shiretoko Five Lakes, Kamuiwakka Falls and Shiretoko Pass from Utoro. And also you can access to Rausu(羅臼), the east side of Shiretoko Peninsula, via those sightseeing spot. It takes another 50 minutes from Utoro to Rausu.

Access from Kushiro

You can access to Kushiro from Sapporo by Limited Express Super Ozora. We have 7 trips from Sapporo to Kushiro. So it is a bit more convenient than Abashiri. You can access to Rausu from Kushiro by bus. It takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes. We have four trips in weekdays. But we only have two trips in weekend. By the way, this bus line is the longest operated local bus in Japan.

If you stay in Sapporo, your sample itinerary is the following;
09:04 Depart from Sapporo by Ltd Express Super Ozora 3
13:03 Arrive at Kushiro
13:50 Depart from Kushiro by bus (operated by Akan Bus company)
*This website is in Japanese only.
17:35 Rausu

If you stay in Kushiro, your can take the first departure at 07:35 from Kushiro. It will arrive at 11:05. We have another two departures in weekdays only at 10:05 and 16:00 from Kushiro. The bus fare is 4,740 yen one way. We have two departures at 06:40 and 12:45 from Rausu everyday. And another two departures at 09:10 and 16:50 in weekdays only.

Sample Itinerary

If you want to enjoy Shiretoko and another sightseeing area in the east part of Hokkaido, take Abashiri via Shiretoko to Kushiro. You access to Lake Mashu, Lake Akan and Kushiro Marsh on the way to Kushiro from Shiretoko or from Kushiro. If you want to see Kushiro Marsh, take the local train from Shiretoko-shari to Kushiro. Please refer one of 7 days sample itineraries, Hokkaido 7 days. If you want to enjoy Shiretoko, save time and not to hesitate to spend extra cost, take the bus from Rausu. You must see Shiretoko both Utoro and Rausu.

Compare many rail services and shuttle bus. How to get downtown Tokyo from Narita airport.

Narita Airport departure floor © Y.Shimizu/© JNTO
Narita Airport departure floor © Y.Shimizu/© JNTO

Narita airport is mostly your gateway to explore in Japan. But Narita airport is not close to downtown Tokyo. You have to think about a transportation to downtown Tokyo. Let’s see which way is the best for you. Continue reading