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Compare Japan Rail Pass and regular fare. Which one has a greater value or cheap?

Enkoji Temple in Kyoto

Enkoji Temple in Kyoto

When you think about buying Japan Rail Pass, you may compare the price of Japan Rail Pass and a single fare. But it is very hard to get an exact fare because the fare rule of Japan Railway is so complicated. So I will give you some examples and consider which way has greater value.

Narita airport to Kyoto for round trip

Base Fare: 18060yen
Surcharge: 3220yen (Narita Airport-Tokyo), 10480yen (Tokyo-Kyoto)

Total Cost: 31760yen

As long as you travel within 7 days, Ordinary 7 days pass (28300yen) is cheaper than a regular fare.

Narita airport to Sendai for round trip

Base Fare: 13660yen
Surcharge: 3220yen (Narita Airport-Tokyo), 9620yen (Tokyo-Sendai)
Total Cost: 26500yen

Ordinary 7 days pass (28300yen) is more expensive, but I go for the pass. Because the pass can be used during staying in Tokyo and Sendai. And also there are some popular sightseeing spots, such as Matsushima or Yamadera, around Sendai. You can use your pass to travel to these spots.

Yamakasa Festival in Hakata

Yamakasa Festival in Hakata

Narita airport to Hakata (Fukuoka) for round trip

Base Fare: 25320yen
Surcharge: 3220yen (Narita Airport-Tokyo), 16560yen (Tokyo-Hakata)
Total Cost: 45100yen

It is exactly same price as Ordinary 14 days pass. If your trip is in 7 days, of course 7 days pass is a great deal!
Even if you travel more than 8 days, the pass is much easier to handle. And also you may have an extra trip.
Anyway if you go to Kyushu island, the pass recover your cost easily.

Narita airport to Sapporo for round trip

Base Fare: 25880yen
Surcharge: 3220yen (Narita Airport-Tokyo), 12000yen (Tokyo-Hachinohe), 2400yen (Hachinohe-Hakodate), 3030yen (Hakodate-Sapporo)
Total Cost: 46530yen

Ordinary 14 days pass is much better choice obviously. If you have an itinerary that includes Hokkaido island, choose the pass.

Fare standard of major sections

I show you some base fares. Please use these fares to compare to the price of Japan Rail Pass. But this is just standard fare. If you have Multi-city travel, the fare may be cheaper. These following fares are based on Shinkansen and daytime limited express trains. (As of April 2012)

station Tokyo Osaka Nagoya
Sapporo 23270 32400 30180
Aomori 16870 26110 26250
Akita 16810 26250 24030
Sendai 10390 21390 19170
Yamagata 11030 21830 19930
Niigata 10720 21390 19170
Nagoya 10580 6180 -
Takayama 13300 10310 5870
Kanazawa 12710 7440 8280
Osaka 13750 - 6180
Hiroshima 18050 9950 13430
Fukuoka (Hakata) 21720 14590 17530
Kumamoto 24750 18320 20450
Kagoshima 28030 21600 23730
station Hakodate Kushiro Abashiri Asahikawa
Sapporo 8590 9120 9640 4520
station Nagasaki Yufuin Beppu/Oita Kumamoto Miyazaki Kagoshima-Chuo
Fukuoka 4580 4430 5420 4990 9140 10170

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70 Comments to “Compare Japan Rail Pass and regular fare. Which one has a greater value or cheap?”

  1. Donna Wilson says:

    Dear Mr. Takeshi,
    We are planning a three week plus trip to Japan I. October. Part of that time will be on a cruise.
    After departing the cruise the itinerary is:
    15 October Yokohama to Kyoto. While in Kyoto we are doing a one day tour of Nara
    20 October Kyoto to Hiroshima. We will be traveling to Iwakuni for a day and Mayiiyama for a day
    24 October Hiroshima to Tokyo
    27 October Tokyo to Narita
    I am not sure if the two week pass is worth the money. Can you suggest?

    • Hi Donna,

      Your total fares will be slightly less than 14 days price. In my estimation, it will be around 43000 yen. (14 days 46390 yen)
      If you are okay with this small difference and feel easy to use pass, go for JR pass. If you really care about the budget, use single fares.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Kristina O. says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    I see that you have been so helpful to other commentators, I hope you may help me as well. I thought that a JR pass would be extremely helpful in my future travels in Japan but after reading many of the postings on the blog I am not so sure it will be helpful to where I am going. If you could take a look at my itinerary I would be so grateful!

    31st July Thur.
    -Arrive late into Tokyo
    -sleep in Tokyo
    1st Aug. Friday
    -sleep in Tokyo
    2nd Aug. Sat
    -Sleep in Tokyo
    3rd Aug. Su
    -travel to Hakone (I believe mt. Fuji is nearby? As I plan on visiting during the day)
    -Sleep in Hakone
    4th Aug. Mon
    -Travel to Kamakura (day trip)
    -Travel to Kyoto at night
    5th Aug. Tuesday
    -Kyoto plan
    6th. Aug wed
    -Travel to Hiroshima
    -Sleep in Hiroshima?
    7th Aug. Thur
    -Head back to Tokyo
    -Stop to visit Nara
    -Sleep in Tokyo(?)
    8th Aug. Fri
    -Day trip to Nikko(?)
    -Flight to Seoul at night from Narita

    I was thinking a 7 day JR pass, But now I don’t know since not all places are accessible.
    Also I wanted to fit Nikko into the end of the trip (Friends are joining us until Hiroshima and not interested in going or else I would have arranged it to the beginning of the trip)
    Is it possible to travel from Hiroshima to Nara?
    Would it be smarter to travel from Nara straight to Nikko and spend the night there?
    Or, Is it possible to travel to Nikko and be back to Narita in time for say a 6 pm flight? (haven’t booked the flight yet)
    Then travel back to Tokyo?

    I’m a little stuck because I find the trains confusing. Thank you!
    Kristina O.

  3. Ryan says:

    Hi, I am planning to go to Kanazawa november next year. I am just thinking of going to sub trips while in there. Help me find ways where I could maximize the unlimited pass. By the way, I need to return to Kanazawa on night time. Thank you in advance in answering my question.

    Day 1: Home country to Kansai Airport. Overnight to Osaka
    Day 2: Osaka to Himeji to Kanazawa
    Day 3: Kanazawa to Nara
    Day 4 or 5: Kanazawa to Kyoto
    Day 6: Kanazawa to Osaka
    Day 7: Osaka to Kobe then Osaka
    Day 8: Osaka to Kansai then Home Country

  4. Elvira Yunitan says:

    hi, do i need to buy one day pass for the day in tokyo?
    1. going to disneysea and back to shinjuku?
    2. going to noborito station (fujio museum) and back to shinjuku?
    thank you

  5. felliyani says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    Thank you for your response.
    If I skip Shirakawago, is it still recommended to buy 7 days JR Pass?
    Can ICOCA be used in Tokyo and Osaka?

    • JPRail says:

      Hi felliyani,

      Single ticket will be cheaper. Osaka-Tokyo single ticket + Shinkansen surcharge is almost half of 7 days pass price. If you have return trip from Tokyo to Osaka or Kyoto, 7 days pass will work. Otherwise singlet ticket is cheaper.

      ICOCA can be used in Tokyo as well. But in Tokyo, it’s very limited to put the fund into ICOCA. And also if you make empty ICOCA and return ICOCA in Kansai area, you will receive 500 yen deposit. But if you keep it in Tokyo and leave from Tokyo, you can’t receive any deposit and your ICOCA is your souvenir.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. felliyani says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    I plan to go to Japan this Dec. Although there’s still long time to Dec, I wanna make plan from now. My itineraries as follow :
    Day 1 : From Kansai go to Osaka (around osaka castle, shinsaibaishi)
    Day 2 : Osaka Universal Studio
    Day 3 : Go to Kyoto (Arashimaya, etc) and go to Shirakawago (1 night stay)
    Day 4 : From Shirakawago to Tokyo
    Day 5 : Around Tokyo
    Day 6 : Lake Kawaguchi, Mt, Fuji
    Day 7 : Tokyo Disneyland
    Day 8 : Around Tokyo

    Could you please make any suggestion what is the cheapest transportation ? I really confused with so many trains available. Should I buy 7 day JR Pass or else? Can the JR Pass use for all trip in Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo also? Thank you in advance.

  7. bbcakes says:

    Hi There,

    I will be traveling to Tokyo, Takayama, Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Hakone. I have been to Kyoto before. Would you recommend the JR Rail 7 Day pass? and which order/itinerary would you suggest?

    Thank you!

    • JPRail says:

      Hi bbcakes,

      I’m sure 7 days pass will be suitable if you visit these cities.
      You can visit Tokyo – Hakone – Takayama – (Shirakawago if you want) – Kanazawa – Hiroshima.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  8. Janice Pang says:

    Good day Takeshi,

    It will be my first visit to Tokyo in February 2014.My rough itinerary is :

    Day 1 : Arriving late night at Haneda Airport (spending the night at airport)
    2 :Off to Ikebukuro
    3 Shinjuku to Mt Fuji (Kawaguchiko)
    4 :Tokyo Disneyland
    5-8 : Sight seeing in Shibuya,Shinjuku,Tokyo.Taking late evening flight back to Malaysia
    on the 8th day.

    Would like your recommendation on which pass is most suitable.


  9. Jesmine says:

    Hi Mr Takeshi,

    I am visiting Hokkaido from 29 Nov to 6 Dec this year. Can I get your advice if I should get a 7 day Hokkaido JR Pass or purchase single trip tickets. The following is my itinerary:

    29 Nov – arrive at New Chitose Airport, travel to Sapporo

    30 Nov – Otaru (day trip), return to Sapporo

    1 Dec – Sapporo to Niseko

    3 Dec – Nkiseko to Hakodate

    5 Dec – Hakodate to Noboribetsu

    6 Dec – Noboribetsu to New Chitose Airport, flying to Tokyo

    Is it necessary to reserve seats on trains? We are a family of 4 people.

    Can we purchase tickets on day of departure or do we need to book tickets in advance?

    Does the Hokkaido JR Pass cover train tickets from New Chitose to Sapporo Station?

    Thank you for your advice.

    Best regards,

  10. bbc says:

    Hi Mr Takeshi,

    I am planning to travel to Japan from 5 – 12 April 2014. My itinerary as follow:

    5 Apr 2014 – arrive at Kintai Airport late night (10:25pm) will check in to shin-osaka hotel

    6 Apr – Osaka to Nara and return to Osaka

    7 Apr – Osaka to Kyoto day trip & return to Osaka

    8 Apr – Osaka day trip

    9 Apr – Shin Osaka to Kawaguchiko

    10 Apr – Kawaguchiko to Tokyo

    11 & 12 Apr – Tokyo sightseeing and depart from Haneda airport to home (midnight flight)

    I’m not sure jrpass (7days) is worth for my itinerary above..I would like to know your recommendation which pass combination is most suitable?

    Thank you in advance :)


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  • I am not a travel agent. Please do not ask me to make an itinerary. I can check your itinerary and give you suggestion. I think making an itinerary is a part of your travel. Please try to make it by yourself. Enjoy! :)
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