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

Tokaido Shinkansen
Most common fleet of Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen N700 sereis, a.k.a. Bullet train.

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.

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

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 table 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 14120 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

194 thoughts on “Compare Japan Rail Pass and regular fare. Which one has a greater value or cheap?”

  1. Hi Takeshi san,
    Thanks for this very informative site. I would like to ask you for my trip:
    Trip 1 Haneda monorail –> Hamamatshucho St –> Tokyo Central st. (1 nite)
    Trip 2 Tokyo Central ST –> Oyama by Tohoku Nasuno (day round trip)
    Trip 3 Tokyo St –> Hakodate by Tohoku Hayabusa (3 nites)
    Trip 4 rent a car in Hakodate to Sapporo (3 nites)
    Trip 5 Sapporo –> Tokyo St

    I planned to buy a JR Pass of 14 days. Is it correct ?

    Other question is when I take the train, do I need to reserve the seats in advance ? If so, how to reserve the seat. If it does not require seat reservation, then how do I take the train, just show the pass to the counter of the departure station every time I take the train ?

    Thanks
    Kanta

    1. Hi Kanta san,

      JR East-South Hokkaido Area Pass is much cheaper.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/hokkaido-area/jr-east-south-hokkaido-rail-pass-user-guide-perfect-deal-for-the-travelers-who-visit-tokyo-and-sapporo-by-train.html
      http://www.jreasthokkaido.com/e/

      You can get all places in your plan by this pass. And this pass is Flex 6 days. You can use any 6 days in 14 days period. You have 5 trips and those trips are covered by this pass fully.

      Reservation is required for Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin-Hakondate-Hokuto. You can make a reservation when you purchase/exchange the pass in Japan. You also can make a reservation online too.
      https://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/English/wb/common/Menu/Menu.aspx?_ga=1.53496424.1325107855.1421419524

      You can take other trains without reservation. You can show your pass and proceed to platform to catch the trains. But your seat is not secured. In worst case, you need to stand up in the train. You can book your seat even just before taking the train. Reserved seat fee is included in the pass. I recommend you to book it.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi there,
    Thanks in advance for your help!
    Could you please look at my planned itinerary and tell me if it is more worth me getting a 14 day for the last 2 weeks of my trip or a 21 day JR pass for the entire trip?
    I’ve tried finding out single trip prices by myself but I’m very confused as to which services are JR and which are not. I know that the Nohi bus to Shirakawago is not covered by the JR pass.

    2/9 Fri Haneda airport to Tokyo
    4/9 Sun Day trip to Hakone
    6/9 Tue Day trip to Nikko
    12/9 Mon Travel from Tokyo to Kyoto
    14/9 Wed Day trip to Nara
    15/9 Thur Day trip to Osaka
    17/9 Sat Travel from Kyoto to Kanazawa
    19/9 Mon Bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go
    20/9 Tues Bus from Shirakawa-go to Toyoma
    21/9 Wed Alpine route staying overnight at Matsumoto
    22/9 Thur Train from Matsumoto to Tokyo

    Thanks greatly!

    1. Hi Lindy,

      You may use JR Pass 14 days for the last 14 days. But you have to include day trip to Nikko and Hakone in this 14 days. Otherwise it will not be paid off.
      JR pass does not cover Hakone but you can access Odawara by Shinkansen. You may add Hakone Free Pass at Odawara if you visit many places in Hakone.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html

      Alpine route is not covered by JR pass either. Tateyama Kurobe option ticket is available.
      http://www.jrtateyama.com/e/

      Subway is not covered by JR pass either. You may need to add single fare or pass in Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi
    I plan to fly to Tokyo (3 nights), take shinkansen to Hokkaido niseko (5nights), then shinkansen to osaka/kyoto(3nights). We are a family of 4 (including 2 kids 7 years and 12 years old), hope to enjoy the scenic rail trip and new shinkansen route.

    Please advise if this is viable and what is the most efficient way to go about it and the suitable pass which we should buy.

    As we plan to go in middle of December this year, should we book in advance or buy when we reach Tokyo. Are prices the same either way?

    Are seats pre-fixed once we book ?

    Look forward to your advise.

    1. Hi Steph,

      If you go back to Tokyo after visiting Oaska/Kyoto, you may use 14 days JR pass. If you leave from Osaka, 7 days pass is okay. In this case, you can start using pass when you leave Tokyo. In Tokyo, you can use subway pass.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      JR Pass cannot purchase in Japan. You must purchase it before you leave.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html
      http://www.japanrailpass.net/index.html

      By the way, Hokkaido is quite far even though new Shinkansen line open. If you go to Niseko, you need to take a bus. Probably Sapporo is the best place to pick up the bus. But it’s 8 hours trip from Tokyo to Sapporo. And you will spend another 3 hours to get Niseko from Sapporo.

      If you go to Kyoto or Osaka from Niseko, you have to add 2.5 hours on top of trip time from Tokyo to Niseko. It’s 14 hours trip. I recommend you to stop by some points in this trip. 14 hours trip is too much. There is no overnight train option.

      If you don’t like it, you may think about domestic flight from Sapporo to Osaka. In this case, you cannot use JR pass. It’s too expensive.

      At this point, that’s all I can say.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi Takeshi,
    Thanks for this informative website. Hope you can answer my question.
    We have a 10 day itinerary in Japan, landing at NRT. I plan to do:
    Tokyo 3 days (JR trains?)
    Tokyo-Sapporo, flight (no extra cost)
    Sapporo 2 days (JR trains?)
    Sapporo-Kyoto (long distance train)
    Kyoto/Osaka/Nara 3 days (JR trains?)
    Kyoto-Tokyo (flight).
    The flights I have incur no extra cost as they’re part of my international ticket I’ll get using miles. So it makes sense for me to use them. Do you think my itinerary above makes enough use of the JR Pass for me to justify buying it?

    1. Hi Aman,

      First of all, you may use some deals for airport access to Tokyo and sightseeing in Tokyo. You can find the info at the link below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      JR pass 7 days meets your plan from Sapporo to Kyoto. However Kyoto is very far from Sapporo. You have to change the trains twice and there is no overnight trains. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/hokkaido-area/how-to-get-sapporo.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Takeshi,
        Thanks for your response. It made me re-consider my plan. Since I also want to experience more of the nature, I changed my plan to include the Tateyma Kurobe Alpine Route. Now my plan is:
        Tokyo (3 days), local sightseeing
        Tokyo-Osaka flight, Kyoto (3 days)
        Kyoto- Shinano Omachi (1 night) train, as you suggested here
        Alpine route – Toyama (1 night)
        Toyama – Osaka (1night) train, as you suggested here
        With this route, what pass is the best? JR?

        1. Hi Aman,

          I suggest you to change the location to stay before reaching Alpine route. Nagano is better than Shinano-Omachi because I recommend you to use Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/tokyo-osaka-hokuriku-arch-pass-user-guide-clarify-valid-trains-coverage-area-and-compare-single-fare-and-pass.html

          You can use this pass when you arrive in Osaka from Tokyo. This pass covers the trip to Nagano via Kanazawa by limited express Thunderbird and Hokuriku Shinkansen. And you can take Hokuriku Shinkansen and Thunderbird when you go back to Osaka from Toyama. You may get Kansai airport by this pass too.

          And also you may add Tateyama Kurobe option ticket.
          http://www.jrtateyama.com/e/

          This deal is only available for user of JR pass and Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass.

          There are some deals for access ticket and subway pass for Tokyo.
          http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/airport_bus/index.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi,

    If let said we are planning a round trip from Osaka to Tokyo, what’s the best choice for us? We staying 7days in Japan. If there enough of time, we might visit Kyoto as well. Please advise which way is the easiest for us.

    Thanks.

    Regards,
    Jasmine Lim

  6. Hi Takeshi,

    We are wondering whether to buy the 7-day or 14-day pass. Our itinerary is below – we are in Japan for a bit more than 2 weeks, but will be in Tokyo for several days at both the beginning and end, so have 8 days of traveling in between.

    Based on our itinerary, is it worth it to buy the 14-day pass, or just the 7-day pass plus a one-way ticket from Hakone to Tokyo at the end? Would we use JR within Tokyo enough to justify the price difference to 14-day?

    Thanks!

    Here’s the itinerary
    26 Mar – 31 Mar: Tokyo
    1 Apr – 2 Apr: Osaka
    2 Apr – 3 Apr: Awaji
    3 Apr – 6 Apr: Kyoto
    6 Apr – 7 Apr: Hakone
    7 Apr – 10 Apr: Tokyo

    1. Hi Maggie,

      JR pass 7 days + single fare from Hakone to Tokyo is okay. Even if you take JR trains in Tokyo, the fare is around 200 yen. It’s not enough to use 14 days pass. If you go for 14 days pass, you need to have another big trip.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you Takeshi!! So even though we won’t make a full Tokyo-Kyoto roundtrip in the 7 days, it is still worth it to buy the 7-day JR Pass?

        Can you also advise on a couple follow-up questions?
        1) From Kyoto-Hakone, best way is to take Shinkansen to Odwara then transfer to Odakyu line? (Our ryokan is near Hakone-Yumoto stop)
        2) From Hakone back to Tokyo, now that our 7-day JR Pass will be ended, would you recommend taking the Romancecar? Or Hakone Freepass? Our hotel in Tokyo is in Chuo area, 1.5km from Tokyo station.
        3) What is your recommended method to get to Awaji Island? Any way to use JR Pass?

        Thanks again!
        Maggie

        1. Hi Maggie,

          Actually total fares will be almost equal to JR pass. It does not give you a big saving but it gives you convenience. JR Pass is much easier to handle otherwise you have to purchase many single ticket and book express trains one by one. It’s too much for you.

          1. Yes.

          2. You should use Hakone Free Pass from Odawara anyway. After arrival Odawara, JR Pass does not cover anything in Hakone.
          After staying in Hakone, you need to add single fare for Odawara-Shinjuku by Odakyu line. Your Hakone Free Pass will be Odawara departure. It does not cover Odawara to Shinjuku.
          Romance car is recommended because it’s direct train service from Hakone-Yumoto to Shinjuku. You need to add limited express surcharge on top of Hakone Free pass too.
          http://www.odakyu.jp/english/romancecar/#link-01

          3. You can use train to Kobe Sannomiya and transfer to bus.
          https://www.awaji-kotsu.co.jp/en/

          It runs almost once an hour.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi there Takeshi,

    I will be traveling to Japan this November with my friend and am quite confuse what type pass I should take. The travel take 12 days (Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto-Tokyo-Osaka). I plan to buy 7-day JR pass and will use it on the 6th day. Below are my breakdown of my plan:

    Day 1 – 2: Osaka (so will use ICOCA & Haruka Ticket)
    Day 3: Kobe (Kansai Thru Pass)
    Day 4 – 5: Kyoto (not sure want to use which pass, kindly give opinion)
    Day 6 – 10: Tokyo (either use SUICA/Tokyo Metro Rail Pass/Toei Subway Pass)
    Day 11-12: Osaka

    Is there anything that I need to add in the between? And is it worth it?

    Thank you in advance.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Angel

    1. Hi Angel,

      Kansai thru pass is minimum 2 days.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      So if you want to use it, you have to find one more day to use this pass. If you visit just city center of Kobe, Kansai thru pass is too much. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/osaka-kyoto-kobe-and-nara/guide-to-take-trains-in-kobe-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      If you want to go for Kansai thru pass, you may use it for day 4, going to Kyoto and sightseeing after arriving Kyoto. You also can use Kyoto city sightseeing Pass or all day bus pass for sightseeing in Kyoto.
      http://www.insidekyoto.com/special-kyoto-bus-train-subway-passes

      JR pass is a right choice for the last 7 days of your trip. You may use JR pass to visit many places in downtown Tokyo too.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi there Takeshi,

        Thank you for the reply.

        So for the Tokyo, do I need to buy Suica/Tokyo Metro Rail Pass/Toei Subway Pass even though I will using the JR Rail Pass? And as for Kobe, I still can use ICOCA from the one that I purchase from Osaka right? Or just use Kansai Thru Pass but then use it for both Kobe & Kyoto (day 4)?

        Thank you in advance.

        Thanks & Regards,
        Angel

        1. Hi Angel,

          You don’t need Suica for Tokyo. JR pass covers JR trains, like Yamanote line. Only subway is not covered by JR pass in downtown Tokyo.
          http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

          You may use ICOCA for Kobe and Kyoto if you want. If you want to have unlimited ride pass, Kansai thru pass is your choice.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Hi Takeshi,

            There’s slightly changes in my plan. The travel days become 1 day lesser, 11 days. This is my breakdown:

            Day 1 – 2: Osaka (ICOCA & Haruka Ticket)
            Day 3 – 4: Kyoto (Kyoto Bus only passes/Kyoto Sightseeing One-day and Two-day Pass Card)
            Day 5 – 8: Tokyo (JR Rail Pass)
            Day 9 – 11: Osaka(ICOCA?)

            I plan to go to Nara and Kobe on the day 9 (will take early train back to Osaka to maximize the time). Any good recommendation which plan good for that?

            And another question, if I use only JR Rail Pass during my stays in Tokyo, will it be enough for me to go back to Osaka?

            Thank you in advance.

            Thanks & Regards,
            Angel

          2. Hi Angel,

            If you start using JR Pass 7 days on day 5, you can use JR pass to get Nara and Kobe. I don’t think you need to have ICOCA.
            You can take rapid train from Kyoto to Nara, Nara to Osaka, Osaka to Sannomiya (Kobe) and Sannomiya to Osaka. Please find the info about rapid train at the link below. All trains are covered by JR pass.
            http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/rapid-service-network-in-kansai-area.html

            You also can use JR pass to visit many places in Osaka and go back to KIX too by JR pass. It covers Haruka to KIX too.
            http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

          3. Dear Takeshi,

            Thanks for the info. I guess JR Rail Pass are enough to cover trip from Kyoto – Tokyo, Tokyo – Osaka, Nara, Kobe and KIX. Thank you so much for the info.

            Thanks & Regards,
            Angel

  8. Hi Takashi,
    I was considering buying the JR pass but I’m not sure if I should take the 7 or 14 days pass.
    I will be staying in Japan for 20 days. However, I will be arriving at Narita airport and staying in Tokyo for about 1 week (and if I understood correctly I don’t really need the pass for Tokyo). Therefore I’m hesitating to buy the 7 or 14 days (for my remaining trip).
    Day 7: Nara
    Day 8: Osaka
    Days 9 to 12: Kyoto
    Day 13: Takayama
    Day 14: Kanazawa
    Day 15: Nagano
    Day 16: Nagoya
    Day 17: Hiroshima
    Day 18-20: Fukuoka (Hakata)

    Could you help me figure out if it would be best for me to purchase the 7 day pass or the 14 day pass? Or if maybe another pass would be best suited for this itinerary?
    Thank you very much,
    Best Regards
    Sofia

    1. Hi Sofia,

      14 days JR pass is the best choice. 7 days cannot cover your trip and there is no better deal than JR pass.
      By the way, if you visit Nagano, Kanazawa, Takayama and Nagoya before you go to Nara, Kyoto and Osaka, your trip is easier.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you Takeshi for your answer!
        I know that my itinerary would be easier if I inverted some places but I need to be at some places at specific dates. However, thank you for your concern and your help.

        Have a nice day
        Sofia

  9. Hi,

    Does the 7 day JR pass work on a 24 hour basis? For example if I arrive on April 25th at 5pm, is it good till May 2nd till 5pm?
    I will be travelling from Toyko to Hakone to Kyoto back to Toyko, is the 7 day pass more cost effective/better than single fares?

    Thanks for your help,
    Ruth

  10. Hi,

    This is my 1st trip to Japan on coming March, but i really don’t know am i necessary to purchase a JR 7 days Pass
    Below is my schedule in Japan , Please help and advise …Thanks

    5/3/2016 -Morning arrival at Narita Airport and stay at Nishi Shinjuku
    6/3/2016 – 8/3/2016 – would like to visit Senso-ji , Meiji-Jingu , Mount fuji and Tokyo nearby area
    8/3/2016 – Afternoon will start travel to Osaka
    8/3/2016 – 11/3/2016 – preferred to visit to Kyoto for 1 whole days within this period , the rest day will stay at osaka area for walk around.
    11/3/2016 – Night – Osaka International Airport back to Singapore

    Here is the 7 days schedule of mine in Japan trip….
    Thousand thanks and Appreciated your opinion & advise….

    Regards,
    Louis

    1. Hi Louis,

      JR Pass is not required. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/basic-itinerary-of-tokyo-kyoto-and-osaka-in-7-days.html

      This above itinerary includes staying in Kyoto. But basically you can use same way.
      Single ticket is your choice between Tokyo and Osaka, and trip to Kyoto. However if you make many train trips other than trip to Kyoto when you are in Osaka, you can use Kansai thru pass 2 days.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      It covers many trains and subways in Osaka and Kyoto. Especially if you visit Kobe or Nara, this pass will work.

      For trip to Fuji, there are some deals. It depends on which part of Fuji you go. Please find more info at the link below:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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  • Please do not ask me to make your itinerary. Because I am not your personal travel agent. I am very happy to check your itinerary. But please try to make the plan by yourself. In this website, there are lots of resources to make your plan.
  • Please do not ask me about the access to your hotel. You can google your hotel and find it at hotel website or google map easily.
  • If you want to ask me which pass suits your plan, please tell me your detailed itinerary and location to stay. I cannot choose any deals without the detailed itinerary because I have to compare the total single fare and deals

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