For non JR pass travellers. Guide to use JR single ticket, basic rules, validity and stopover

Typical JR ticket is like this.
Typical JR ticket is like this.

I have received many inquiries about Tokyo-Osaka one way trip. I always recommend to use single ticket for long distance transfer. like from Tokyo to Kyoto, Tokyo to Osaka or Osaka to Nagoya. Because it is cheaper than Japan Rail Pass 7 days pass. I wrote about fare calculation before. But I think it is not enough. I need to explain much more about JR single ticket rule. It is very complicated for the tourists from oversea. But you don’t need to understand everything. If you understand some basic rules, single ticket is more useful and it may save your cost.

In this post, I show you some basic rules of single ticket for long distance transfer and how to use and purchase it.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

How to purchase it

Simply you can purchase it at the station. In major stations, you can purchase it at even vending machine. Especially when you purchase a ticket for short distance transfer, vending machine is the easiest. But ticket window is easier to purchase a llong distance ticket for the travellers.

If you want to take express trains, you have to purchase express surcharge ticket too. Even if you want to take non reserved seat on limited express, you have to purchase it. Both reserved and non reserved ticket for limited express (Shinkansen as well) can be purchased at “Midori no Madoguchi”. Midori no Madoguchi is the name of JR reservation window. You can purchase base fare ticket at Midori no Madoguchi too. Please get the detail about reservation at the post, “How to reserve the train seat of Japan Railway. Is Online reservation available for Japan Rail Pass user?“.

In the case of purchasing both base fare ticket and limited express surcharge ticket, you can purchase it in advance. The express surcharge ticket is on sale one month prior to departure date.

ex) Tokyo to Kyoto travel on Dec 1
You can purchase the tickets after Nov 1.

You also can purchase the tickets at any JR stations if you buy both base fare and limited express surcharge at same time. For example, if you start to travel from Tokyo station, you can purchase it at Narita airport station on the day of arrival.

Base fare ticket can be purchased at any JR stations where station staff is on duty. There are many station without station staffs in remote area. In major cities and major stations, there are station staff. Even if you take a train at the station without station staff, you can purchase it from the conductor in the train.

How to get a fare

As I wrote the post, Guide to plan your trip. Fare Calculation, you can get it at Hyperdia easily.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

As you see above capture image of Hyperdia, you can get base fare and seat fare (includes surcharge). In this image, total fare is the following:

Base fare – 9560 yen
Shinkansen Nozomi (Tokyo – Shin-Osaka) – 5740 yen (reserved seat)
Ltd Exp Haruka (Shin-Osaka – Kansai airport) – 820 yen (reserved seat)
Total – 16120 yen

*The above image was captured in 2013. The fare was raised in April l, 2014 because of consumer tax was increased to 8% from 5%. The actual fare is different from the fare in the image above.

The price of Japan Rail Pass 7 days ordinary is 28300 yen. (New price is 29110 yen.) Total single fare is more than 10000 yen cheaper than 7 days pass price. This is the reason why I recommend to use single fare for Tokyo – Osaka one way transfer.


Please see the above capture image of Hyperdia again. You also can find a distance at Hyperdia. This is a key to use single ticket. Actually long distance ticket can be used in multiple days.

Distance Valid days
101 – 200 km 2 days
201 – 400 km 3 days
401 – 600 km 4 days
601 – 800 km 5 days
801 – 1000 km 6 days
  • From 1001 km and up, add 1 day every 200 km.
  • If you travel more than 101 km but it is in Tokyo or Osaka zone only, ticket valid in one day only.

So in above capture image, distance is 613.4km. This ticket valid in 5 days.


You can stopover as many as you want. Of course you cannot go back. Once you start to travel, you have to go forward. You have to care only one thing. When you depart/arrive to travel at the following areas, you cannot stopover in same areas.

  • Sapporo
  • Sendai
  • Tokyo 23 wards
  • Tokyo Yamanote line
  • Yokohana
  • Nagoya
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Kobe
  • Hiroshima
  • Kitakyushu
  • Fukuoka

These areas are same as city limit. I show you some examples.

1. Above ticket (Tokyo – Kansai Airport)
You can NOT – Stopover at anywhere in Tokyo 23 wards. For example, after you start to travel from Tokyo, you cannot stopover at Shinagawa.
You can – Stopover at Kyoto, Osaka and anywhere outside of Tokyo 23 wards.
By the way, you can start to travel from anywhere in Tokyo 23 wards.

2. Ticket from Narita airport to Osaka
You can NOT – Stopover at anywhere in Osaka city. For example, you cannot stopover at Shin-Osaka. Once you exit at any stations in Osaka city, your ticket will be expired right away.
You can – Stopover at Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya and anywhere outside of Osaka city.
By the way, when you travel through Tokyo downtown core, ticket will be calculated by the shortest route. For example, most typical route from Narita to Osaka via Tokyo, via Tokyo station and Shinagawa station. But if you want to go to Osaka via Akihabara and Shinjuku, you can take this route and stopover.

But in case of using limited express, you have to purchase limited express surcharge ticket for each segments.
ex) Tokyo – Osaka trip, stopover at Nagoya.
You have to purchase two Shinkansen tickets, Tokyo – Nagoya Shinkansen surcharge ticket and Ngoya – Shin-Osaka surcharge ticket.

Sample ideas

Please see above capture image of Hyperdia again. If you use this ticket, you can do the following itinerary.

Day 1 Tokyo – Kyoto (Stopover at Kyoto)
Day 2 Kyoto (no use single ticket)
Day 3 Kyoto – Osaka (Stopover at Osaka)
Day 4 One day trip to Kobe (purchase another single ticket.)
Day 5 Osaka – Kansai airport

When you arrive in Tokyo, you can use other deals, such as Suica & N’ex. And you have 5 days after you finish to see Tokyo. If you add Suica & N’ex one way ticket, total amount is 19620 yen. It is about 9000 yen cheaper than JR Pass 7 days.

I believe this is the perfect solution for Tokyo – Osaka one way travellers.

650 thoughts on “For non JR pass travellers. Guide to use JR single ticket, basic rules, validity and stopover”

  1. Hello,
    Is it possible to buy a one way ticket for Fukuoka-Tokyo and then stop at Hiroshima and stay there for a night, and then to stop on Kyoto (or Osaka and to travel from there to Kyoto) for 2 more days before traveling to Tokyo?
    And thank you for this guide! It’s really helpful!

    1. Hi Kell,

      Yes, you may. But you have to pay Shinkansen seat fee for each segment. So you have to purchase one base fare ticket, Shinkansen seat fee ticket for Hakata to Hiroshima, Hiroshima to Shin-Osaka and Shin-Osaka to Tokyo. As a result, JR pass 7 day is cheaper if you are eligible.


      Takeshi /

  2. Hi Takeshi-san,

    I’ve confused myself again. I want to book my ticket to Tokyo-Kanazawa-Kyoto when I arrive at Narita. I want to work out the cost and I went back to Hyperdia and entered Tokyo-Kyoto with pass 1 Kanazawa and I got a much longer route instead of direct trains if I enter Tokyo-Kanazawa and then 3 days later I will go to Kyoto and I enter Kanazawa -Kyoto separately and I get direct trains. I am trying to check the cost including reserving the seat for both journeys. Can you tell me what the cost is? Is it Tokyo-Kanazawa(14,320) fare plus Kanazawa- Kyoto (7100) so total is 21,420? If so what is the difference between buying two direct routes (Tokyo-Kanazawa and Kanazawa to Kyoto and buying one with the stopover (Tokyo-Kanazawa-Kyoto)?

    1. Hi Mimi

      If you use one base fare ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto via Kanazawa, it costs 9,830 yen. And you will add reserved seat fee 6,780 yen for Tokyo to Kanazawa and 1,450 yen for Kanazawa to Kyoto. In total, the cost is 18,060 yen.


      Takeshi /

  3. Hi, please forgive me if this is too basic…

    We have 3-4 legs that we probably want to use the rail service for, on a 5 day stay in Japan…
    Day 1: NRT – Shinagawa
    Day 3: Odawara – Kyoto
    Day 4: Kyoto to Osaka
    Day 5: Osaka to KIX

    Does it make sense to try to buy a one-way ticket with stopovers from NRT – KIX? Or any other leg? Or just buy them all separately

  4. Hello,

    I want to stop at Himeji Castle on my trip from Hiroshima to Tokyo. Can I do this as a stopover? If yes, how exactly do I do this? Also, is it possible to do this with a reserved seat. I will be traveling with my 3 year old son and want to make sure we can sit. I live in Japan so do not qualify for the rail pass.

    1. Hi Ginger,

      You can do it. So you can buy one base fare ticket from Hiroshima to Tokyo. And you need two reserved seat ticket from Hiroshima to Himeji and Himeji to Tokyo. If you share the seat with your son, you don’t need to purchase a ticket for him. But if you want to give him a seat, you need to purchase one base fare ticket and two reserved seat tickets. The ticket price is half of adult price.

      When you make stopover at Himeji, don’t slot your ticket to the machine gate. You have to show your ticket and tell them what you make stopover.


      Takeshi /

  5. Hi again Takeshi!
    We are staying in Tokyo for 5days then proceeding to Osaka.
    Based on your sample Tokyo-Osaka-Kix I can do this itinerary but I have questions:
    Day 1 Tokyo – Kyoto (Stopover at Kyoto for whole day only then proceed to Osaka) — do I need to reserve a seat from Tokyo to Kyoto then from Kyoto to Osaka? You said that we should not pass through the machine but tell the person at the gate that we will make a stop over. Please clarify how do we get inside the train from Kyoto to Osaka, do we also tell the person at the gate that we just made a stop over and show our ticket?
    Day 2 Osaka Universal Studios
    Day 3 Osaka
    Day 4 Osaka – Kansai airport — Do I need to get a reserved seat for this too?
    I just want to clarify when I book the route, because there are time stamped on the route, do I get a schedule for the stop overs and time as to when we should embark the train going to the airport?

    1. Hi Joyce,

      You should book your seat for Tokyo to Kyoto because you will take Shinkansen. But you don’t need to for Kyoto to Osaka. It’s 30 minutes ride and you don’t need to take Shinkansen. You can take commute train, Special rapid to get Osaka.

      When you take this train, you can show your ticket to enter at Kyoto station. It’s a sort of commute train and nobody check your ticket in the train.

      You can use same ticket to KIX but you can use only one ticket for Tokyo to Kyoto with stopover at Kyoto. And then you can add another ticket or deal to get KIX from Osaka because there are lots of deals available from Osaka to KIX.

      Total costs are not much different. And if you use other deal from Osaka to KIX, it may be easier for you.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hi Takeshi!
        Thank you so much for your very detailed instructions. The route is very clear to me now.
        Thank you for keeping this website for visitors like me. This is my second visit to Japan and your help getting to Hokkaido 3 years ago using JR pass is still ingrained in me.
        Thanks so much!

  6. Hello Takeshi-san,

    Just a question about purchasing the ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto with the stopover in Kanazawa that you advised in a previous comment, I thought I would ask this question here.

    When I purchase the ticket, do I buy a ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto or do I need to advise that I will stop in Kanazawa when I book?

    On hyperdia, the fare from Tokyo to Kanazawa is about 14320 yen and from Kanazawa to Kyoto is 7100 yen. A ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto is 14110 yen. I am not sure how a stopover works with the ticket pricing and how it is booked. I would be grateful for the clarification.

    1. Hi Mimi san,

      When you check the fare at hyperdia, you have to put “Kanazawa” in the “Pass” section at hyperdia. Please see the chapter “Search with some conditions” in the link below:

      You will find the fare for Tokyo to Kyoto via Kanazawa.

      When you purchase a ticket for Tokyo to Kyoto via Kanazawa, you don’t need to tell that you will make a stopover at Kanazawa. But you MUST tell that you will take Tokyo-Kanazawa-Kyoto route. Otherwise you will get Tokyo-Kyoto direct route ticket and it cannot be used for Tokyo-Kanazawa-Kyoto route.


      Takeshi /

      1. Thank you so much for clarifying, Takeshi-san.

        One more question, many routes I will be taking require a transfer in between, on hyperdia sometimes the time between arrival and departure time for the transfer can be only 3 mins. Can I assume the transfer is on the same platform or (no track no specified at times) as I would think if I need to get to another track number it would take some time to walk there and I might miss the connecting train. Are the hyperdia times for transferring trains realistic?

          1. Hi Takeshi-san,

            Many thanks for your patience, help and super efficient responses. Your website is the best one I’ve come across for travelling on trains in Japan. Keep up the great work!

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