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

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

  1. Hi takeshi,
    Wishing you could help me with this. I am travelling to tokyo for the first time in March. Will be using Narita airport and staying at Shinjuku. We want to just stay in tokyo for 6 days. would it be better to just buy a pasmo or suica card? How much are the fares around tokyo only? will it be worth it to get a jr pass?

    Thank you!

  2. Dear Takashi san

    We will arriving in Japan for the cherry blossom season arriving and leaving from KIX. Should I get the 7 day JR pass or take domestic flight one way from KIX to Tokyo and return via JR?
    1 Apr KIX to Tokyo by JR or domestic flight
    2 Apr Tokyo
    3 Apr Tokyo
    4 Apr Tokyo
    5 Apr Tokyo
    6 Apr Tokyo
    7 Apr Tokyo – Kyoto
    8 Kyoto
    9 Kyoto
    10 Kyoto
    11 Kyoto – KIX

    I know I should get a 7 day pass – which date should I activate it for best deal? I understand if I activate it on 1 Apr (I arrive KIX 0625 hrs) say at 1100 am, The pass will expire at 1100am on Day 7 meaning I have to leave Tokyo early on Day 7 fir Kyoto.

    For Tokyo I plan to visit Yokohama, Nikko. And in Kyoto side trips would be Kobe and Nara.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Awoof,

      I think JR pass is better because it covers trip to Nikko from Tokyo too. If you take domestic flight, you still need to have JR pass but the cost is air fare + JR pass. It’s more expensive.

      JR pass is valid for midnight to midnight. Even if you start it at 11:00 am on day 1. it will be it will be expired at 23:59 on day 7.

      So you may use JR pass from day 1 to 7. And you may use Kansai thru pass 2 days for Nara and Kobe.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      Kyoto city deal is okay for sightseeing in Kyoto.
      http://www.insidekyoto.com/special-kyoto-bus-train-subway-passes

      Another pass, Kansai area pass 1 day gives you direct access to KIX from Kyoto by Haruka express.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-use-jr-west-kansai-area-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Dear Takeshi san
    Am arriving Sapporo by air (New Chitose) on 8th Feb.
    2 nights at Sapporo.
    visit Otaru (day trip) on 9th,
    10th go to Hakodate from Sapporo.
    11th from Hakodate to Chitose.

    Is it cheaper to buy the 3 day Pass?

    Arigato

    Wagner

  4. Hi Takeshi!

    I am wondering if you can help me with my travels to Japan in October 2016.

    My itinerary is as follows:

    24 August – Arrive at Kansai International Airport at 5:40pm.
    25 August – Osaka (USJ)
    26 August – Osaka > Kyoto
    27 August – Kyoto
    28 August – Kyoto
    29 August – Kyoto > Tokyo
    30 August – Tokyo (Akihabara)
    31 August – Tokyo leaving for flight home via Haneda Airport

    I was thinking to buy the 7 days JR pass but what is the best railway option(s) for my trip?

    Hope to hear from you! Thank you so much

  5. Hai Takeshi!

    Hope you are well.
    I am planning to use 7 days JR Pass and maybe start to use on day 5 when I go to Kyoto from Osaka. But I am just wondering, should I use JR Pass to cover my itinerary below or no need to? If I need to use the JR Pass, should I buy 7 or 14 days pass? Here is my itinerary:
    Day 1: From Kansai Airport-Osaka
    Day 2: Osaka
    Day 3: Osaka
    Day 4: Osaka
    Day 5: Kyoto – Osaka
    Day 6: Osaka-Kawaguchiko
    Day 7: Kawaguchiko-Tokyo
    Day 8: Tokyo
    Day 9: Tokyo
    Day 10: Tokyo
    Day 11: Tokyo-Narita

    Thanks!
    Best Regards,
    Christine

    1. Hi Christine,

      Actually JR Pass does not suit your itinerary.
      If you use ICOCA and Haruka on arrival day, ICOCA e-money will cover Kyoto-Osaka fare.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/icoca-and-haruka-ticket-very-flexible-and-good-deal-for-tourist-who-stay-in-kansai.html

      And then you need a ticket for Osaka to Mishima. Mishima is the closest station to Kawaguchiko. You will take a bus from Mishima to Kawatuchiko. This is not covered by JR pass. Express bus runs from Kawaguchiko to Shinjuku. This is the easiest way to get Tokyo and it’s most affordable choice. These info can be found 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

      If you intend to visit outside Tokyo and make a big day trip, JR pass may be considerable. But at this point, single ticket is better choice.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hello Takeshi!

    Hope you are well. I am wondering if you can help me with my travels to Japan in March 2016.

    My itinerary is as follows:

    10 March – Arrive at Narita International Airport at 6:45pm. From there we will head to Tokyo via the LTD. EXP Narita Express 50 (not sure if this is the best way, i just did a search).
    11 March – Tokyo
    12 March – Tokyo
    13 March – Osaka
    14 March – Osaka > Kyoto
    15 March – Osaka
    16 March – Mt. Fuji
    17 March – Tokyo
    18 March – Tokyo > Leaving for flight home in the evening

    I was thinking if i get the 7 Day JR Pass, i could use it on the 13th March when i head to Osaka as that will cover my trip to the airport on the 18th. However, i read and found the “Seishun 18 Kippu” pass and was wondering if it will be cheaper to get that over the JR Pass for my itinerary? i couldnt find which rails the “Seishun 18 Kippu” option was on.

    Hope to hear from you! Thank you so much :)

    1. Hi Tracy,

      I recommend you to use JR pass much more than Seishun 18. Seishun 18 is much cheaper but it covers only local train. Please see the comparison between these deal as below:

      Tokyo to Osaka
      JR Pass – 2.5 hours direct to Shin-Osaka by Shinkansen Hikari (bullet train)
      Seishun 18 – 8 to 9 hours with 6 or 7 times transfer by local trains. All trains are commuter train. It’s same type of car as subway in the city.

      So this deal is cheap but it’s for advanced local traveler.

      If you are okay with it, you can go for it. But you can save your cost but you will lose many hours.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Dear Sir/Madam

    Here is my itinerary

    Day 1 from Sydney arriving at (NRT) 6:45pm
    Day 3-5 Tomamu ski resort
    Day 6 Sapporo
    Day 7 Niseko
    Day 8-21 Tokyo,Osaka,Hakodate,Yokohama,Hakone, Mt Fuji,Nagoya,Nara and Kobe.
    Day 21 leaving from (NRT) to Sydney 8pm

    everything is flexible, just want to know the best way to get around with time and fares. If i catch a JR to Sapporo it will take like 10hours but i can save on the plane ticket and i can also make another stop somewhere on the way on Day 2. I also want to know if its cheaper for me to get a National JR pass or just buy singles till i get to Day 7 around the Tokyo to Osaka area to get a 14day pass. If am flying from Sapporo i should stop at Osaka and work my way up but if am using JR i want to start from Tokyo and work my way down to Osaka with my shopping and catch a JR back from Osaka to Tokyo.

    1. Hi Kit Lai,

      The easiest way to get 21 day JR pass. If you take trains only for whole part of your trip, it give you big savings. Even if you JR pass for only Narita airport to Sapporo, it’s almost same cost as 7 days pass. But if you go down to Tokyo by train from Hokkaido, it’s a huge deal. Just round trip between Tokyo and Sapporo is almost equal to 21 days pass price.

      I have 14 days sample itinerary. It includes most of popular spots in Japan. You can use this itinerary and customize it.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/14days/throughout-japan-14-days-by-japan-rail-pass-14-days-pass.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Hi Takeshi-san!

    I was thinking that a 14-day pass will be most suitable for my itinerary below. But am now considering maybe I should get the 21 day to cover for the airport transfers? What do you think?

    11 oct – Osaka airport to Osaka
    13 oct – Osaka to Tokyo
    16 oct – Tokyo to Lake Kawaguchi
    18 oct – Lake Kawauguchi to Fukuoka
    ? oct – Fukuoka to Hiroshima (and Miyajama)
    22 oct – Hiroshima to Kyoto
    25 oct – Kyoto to Osaka
    28 oct – Osaka to Osaka airport

    I wanted to make it to Fukuoka during the Sumo tournament, hence the travel all the way down south. However, I’m open to a better travel route!

    Thank you!
    Yiu

    1. Hi Yiu,

      14 days pass is okay. There are lots of deals between Osaka and KIX.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      The trip to Fukuoka from Lake Kawaguchi is quite long. You have to take a but to Mishima or take a train back to Tokyo from Lake Kawaguchi.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html

      It will take at least 6 hours. If you want to make it easy, you may stay in Hiroshima first before going to Fukuoka. But you have to get Fukuoka for Sumo, there is no choice.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. Dear Sir/Madam

    Here is our family itinerary

    Day 1 – Day 3 Tokyo ( arrived in Haneda )
    Day 4 Tokyo Odawara – Drive to Lake Shoji
    Day 6 Odawara Kyoto
    Day 6-10 Kyoto ( as based ), Osaka and Hiroshima, Miyajima (day trip)
    Day 11 Kyoto – Takayama
    Day 13 Takayama Tokyo

    My question is should I only buy 7 days JR ( I try to avoid 14 days JR, since to expensive for 5 of us ) starting day 6 so I still can use mine JR Pass to Tokyo? or Takayama-Tokyo is useless using JR Pass? or you have any suggestion? We tray to find the best effective and efficient trip cost comparing by JR 7 days vs buy single trip or vs by JR Kansai combine. Thanks lot. Best regards,

    1. Hi Hadi,

      I agree with you to use 7 days. 14 days is okay because it’s still cheaper than single fares. But if you go for 7 days, you have to go back to Tokyo on day 12. Day 6 is a right choice to start using JR Pass. But it will be expired on day 12. The pass is valid for midnight to midnight. You need to add single fare to get back to Tokyo.

      Even if you add single fare, it’s still cheaper than 14 days pass. And also direct highway bus is available from Takayama to Tokyo.
      http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/tokyo.html
      This is most affordable choice.

      So if you want to save your cost, give up one of the days in Takayama and go back to Tokyo. You can see most of sites in Takayama in two days.
      If you want to keep it, highway bus is the best choice. Reservation is required to for highway bus and need to make a call in advance. You may find the phone number in the link above. However I have never taken this bus. I have no idea how busy this bus is. I don’t know how many days you should book in advance either.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail

  • Your comment will not be shown until I approve.
  • 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.
  • 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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