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


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.

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

All part of Japan

Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass)

This is most well known rail pass for travelling Japan. This pass cover most of areas throughout Japan. Only Okinawa cannot be accessed by this pass because Japan Railway do not have any line in Okinawa. Even if you have a round trip between Tokyo and Osaka, Japan Rail Pass is worth buying. Please get the details at the post, Japan Rail Pass user guide. How to use JR Pass to its maximum.


Hokkaido Rail Pass

This pass is valid in Hokkaido only. If you enter Japan at New Chitose or other airport in Hokkaido and travel in Hokkaido only, this pass is suitable for you. If you stay in Tokyo and travel to Hokkaido by air, this pass may be suitable for you.
The price of this pass is starting from 15,000 yen for 3 days. However Hokkaido rail pass 7 days is sold at 22,000 yen. Japan Rail Pass 7 days is sold at 28,300 yen. If you pay another 6,300 yen, you can travel almost anywhere in Japan. Please see the details about Hokkaido Rail Pass at Hokkaido Rail Pass. The best deal for rail trip in Hokkaido for oversea visitors.

Sapporo subway, street car and bus deal

Common one day pass is sold at 1,000 yen. There are some more deals for subway and/or street car. Please find the detail at City of Sapporo official website:

City of Sapporo, City transportation fare and ticket information

Tohoku (Aomori, Sendai, Akita) and Kanto (Tokyo and surrounding) area

JR East Pass

This pass is valid in JR East area and covers eastern part of mainland, such as Kanto Area (Tokyo and surrounding area), Tohoku area and some part of Nagano Pref and Shizuoka Pref. You cannot use this pass to go to Hokkaido, Kyushu, Kyoto, and most of west part of Japan. If you have a plan to go to Osaka or Kyoto from Tokyo, do not think about this pass. This pass is suitable for the traveller who goes to Aomori, Sendai, Niigata, Nagara, Nikko, Izu and Greater Tokyo area. You can use any 5 days in 14 days at 22,000 yen. You do not need to use in consecutive days.

Please find the details at the post, JR East Pass. Flex 5 days unlimited travel within 14 days in Eastern Japan.

Kanto Area Pass

This is valid in Tokyo and surrounding area only. But the price is very affordable. It is only 8,300 yen for consecutive 3 days.

This pass is very convenient to travel Mt. Fuji, Nikko and Izu peninsula. Please refer JR East Kanto Area Pass. Perfect choice for tourist who want to go to Fuji, Izu, Nikko from Tokyo.

N’EX TOKYO Round Trip Ticket

It was sold as Suica and N’ex, and then it was sold as N’ex Tokyo direct ticket for one way Narita Express ticket only at 1,500 yen. It is very attractive deal. But N’ex Tokyo direct ticket will be end on March 13, 2015 and then N’ex Tokyo Round trip ticket is sold at 4000 yen for round trip by Narita Express. One way deal for Narita Express is no longer available. I show you all deals for Narita airport to downtown Tokyo at the link below:

The list of deals for access to downtown Tokyo from Narita airport

Tokyo Tokunai Pass (Tokyo Metropolitan District Pass)

It is one day pass to cover JR trains in downtown Tokyo. Please find more information at the following link:

Tokyo Metropolitan District Pass (Tokyo Tokunai Pass), good choice for sightseeing in Tokyo.

Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway deals

Subway is most convenient way to explore in Tokyo. Subway pass may be suitable for your trip in downtown Tokyo. Please find more information at the following posts, Fast, economical and convenient for sightseeing in Tokyo. Learn about Tokyo Subways.

Mt. Fuji and Hakone

You may use Kanto Area Pass or other JR deals to visit Mt. Fuji or Hakone. But there are more attractive deals of Odakyu Railway.

Hakone Free Pass

It includes round trip between Shinjuku (or other Odakyu Railway’s stations) and Odawara, and most of local transportation in Hakone. If you visit many places in Hakone, you must have this one.

Odakyu railway’s official site, Hakone Free Pass

Fuji Hakone Pass

This pass includes Shinjuku – Kawaguchiko by highway bus, Shijuku – Odawara by Odakyu railway and local transportation among Kawaguchiko, Gotemba and Hakone. You cam make a circle tour from Shinjuku to Shinjuku via Lake Kawaguchi, Gotemba and Hakone in 3 days.

Odakyu Railway’s official site, Fuji Hakone Pass

Mt. Fuji Round Trip Ticket

It includes round trip fare to Otsuki by limited express reserved seat from Tokyo and unlimited travel on Fuji Kyuko line and the bus to 5th station from Lake Kawaguchi. Please see the link below to get the details:

Mt. Fuji Round Trip Ticket is back in 2015. Perfect choice for just trip to Fuji san!


It is same thing. You may use Kanto Area Pass or other JR deals. But Tobu Railway has some deals.

Nikko Pass, All Nikko Pass

These deals include return fare to Nikko from Asakusa and local transportation. Please find the details about comparison between JR deals and Tobu deals at the link below:

How to access to Nikko from Tokyo. There are three ways from Tokyo, Shinjuku and Asakusa.

Hokuriku (Kanazawa, Toyama) and Takayama Area

Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass

It covers all part of Kansai area, Okayama, Kinosaki, Shingu, Kanazawa and Toyama. If you intend to travel from Osaka to Kanazawa or Toyama, this deal will be the best choice. Please find more information at the link below:

Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass. Perfect deal for the traveller who wants travel to Kansai, Kanazawa and Toyama.

Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass / Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass

This pass is on sale until June 26, 2015. It covers Osaka, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Shirakawago, Takayama and Nagoya. This deal covers not only trains but also bus services to Shirakawago. Please find more information at the link below:

Takayama – Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass. Perfect deal to get Takayama, Kanazawa, Shirakawago from Nagoya or Osaka

After July 1, 2015, this deal is sold as Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass at 13,500 yen. The price is a bit higher than Takayama-Hokuriku Tourist Pass but coverage area is bigger. Please fine more info at the link below:

Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass. Perfet deal to get Takayama, Kanazawa, Toyama, Shirakawago from Nagoya or Osaka

Kansai Area (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Wakayama, Himeji)

Kansai Area Pass

This pass is valid for conventional lines in Kansai airport, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and Nara. This pass include unlimited travel on Kansai airport express “Haruka” non reserved ordinary seat and local trains. This is more useful than Sanyo Area Pass.
The price of this pass is starting from 2,060 yen for 1 day. Please check the details at this post, How to use JR West Kansai Area Pass. Compare pass and single fare..

Kansai WIDE Area Pass

This pass cover not only Kansai area but also outside of Kansai, like Shingu, Shirahama, Okayama, Kinosaki. The price is 7,200 yen for 4 consecutive days. This is such a great deal. I wrote about the details about this pass. Please read my post, The newest JR West rail pass for Kansai and Okayama, Kurashiki, Kinosakai and Shingu area, Kansai WIDE Area Pass.

Kansai Thru Pass

Kansai Thru Pass may be more convenient and worthy than JR West Pass – Kansai Area Pass. This pass includes most of private and subway lines in Kansai area. Especially when you go to Kyoto, major private lines, Hankyu and Keihan are more convenient than JR lines. I compare Kansai Thru Pass and Kansai Area Pass at the post, How to use Kansai Thru Pass. Compare pass and single fare..

ICOCA and Haruka

If you go to Shin-Osaka or Kyoto from Kansai airport, ICOCA and Haruka gives you transfer from Kansai airport by Limited Express Haruka with preload ICOCA e-money 1,500 yen. You can use ICOCA for taking not only JR trains but also Osaka subways, Kyoto subways and other private railway trains, such as Hankyu, Kintetsu, Hanshin.

Please see the details about this deal at the post, ICOCA and Haruka ticket. Very flexible and good deal for tourist who stay in Kansai.

Nankai Railway’s Kansai airport access deal

Nankai Railway is one of major private railway companies in Japan. There are lots of trains between Kansai airport and Namba. Please find more information about the deals at the link below:

How to choose the deals for access to/from Kansai Airport

Koyasan World Heritage Ticket

It is also Nankai Railway’s deal. Nankai Railway connects Namba and Koyasan by direct train services. This deal or Kansai Thru Pass is the best choice for trip to Mt. Koya. Please find more information at the link belwo:

Nankai Railway’s official site, Koyasan World Heritage Ticket

Kyoto city subway and bus deal

In Kyoto, you cannot visit most of places without city subway and bus. Please find the deals at the link below:

Inside Kyoto, Special Kyoto Bus, Train and Subway Passes

Osaka subway deals

One day pass (Eco card) and Osaka Amazing Pass that includes attractions and transportation. Please find the details at the links below:

Osaka Amazing Pass
Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau

Sanyo (Hiroshima, Okayama, Yamaguchi) and Sanin (Izumo, Matsue, Tottori) Area

Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass

*This pass will be available on March 1, 2015.

It gives you unlimited ride in Kansai and Hiroshima area. This is a perfect deal for the travellers who make a trip to Hiroshima, Miyajiam, Kansai area and outside Kansai, like Kinosaki and Shirahama. Please find the information at the link below:

Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass. Perfect deal for the traveller who wants travel both Kansai and Hiroshima.

Sanyo Sanin Area Pass

*This pass will be available on March 1, 2015.

This deals covers most part of western area in mainland, such as Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tottori and Shimane. This deal will replace Sanyo Area Pass.

Sanyo Sanin Area Pass. It is much better deal than Sanyo Area Pass.

Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass

*This pass will be available on March 1, 2015.

This is also new deal from JR West. It includes Yamaguchi and Hiroshima area. It is suitable for the tourist who wants to visit Hiroshima and Yamaguchi from Kyushu. Please fine more info at the link below:

Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass. Designed for the tourists who travel to Hiroshima from Hakata.

Sanyo Area Pass

*This pass will be on sale until March 31, 2015.

This pass is valid for Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hakata, and conventional lines between Kansai airport and Osaka, Osaka loop line, Kyoto, Nara, between Osaka and Shimonoseki. This pass is valid for Miyajima ferry too. This pass can be used to go to Kyoto and Nara. But you cannot take Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to the east.

The prices of this pass are 20,000 yen for 4 days and 30,000 yen for 8 days. Please find the details at the post, Sanyo Area Pass. Good deal for the tourist who visits Kansai, Hiroshima and Hakata.

Kyushu and Shikoku

JR Kyushu Pass

If you travel in Kyushu only, this pass gives you a great deal. There are two kind of passes, all Kyushu and northern Kyushu. Northern Kyushu Pass include the northern part of Kyushu, such as Hakata, Kumammoto, Oita, Beppu, Nagasaki, Yufuin. Northern Kyushu Pass do not include Miyazaki, Kirishima, Kagoshima and most of are in Southern part of Kyushu.
This pass include unlimited travel on Kyushu Shinkansen (Hakata-Kumamoto-Kagoshima), all limited express trains and local trains.
The price of these passes are starting from 7,000 yen for Northern 3 days. The price is very proper. If you fly in Japan at Kyushu, I strongly recommend you to use this pass. If you need more information about Kyushu Rail Pass, please read the post, Kyushu Rail Pass. The best deal for rail trip in Kyushu for oversea visitors. or How to choose Rail Pass for trip in Kyushu. Many choices for both visitors and residents in Japan.

Shikoku Rail Pass

It gives you unlimited travel in Shikoku by not only JR trains and also other railways in Shikoku. Please find the details at the link below:

JR Shikoku, Shikoku Rail Pass

112 thoughts on “How to choose Rail Pass to travel Japan. Summary of most of rail passes in Japan”

  1. Hi
    I had planned a 10-day trip as such, but am unable to find a suitable JR pass, since most of them do not cover Kiso Valley, Matsumoto, Nagano area. Would you be able to help me? Or would you recommend that I move Nagano to another trip and replace Osaka here for 10-11 days? I intend to stay at Toyama for 3 nights to minimise the movement of luggage.
    Day 1 – Nagoya (2 nights in Nagoya)
    Day 2 – Kiso Valley
    Day 3 – Matsumoto, Nagano (overnight in Nagano)
    Day 4 – Toyama (3 nights in Toyama)
    Day 5 – Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
    Day 6 – Kurobe Gorge Railway
    Day 7 – Takayama (2 nights in Takayama)
    Day 8 – Shirakawago
    Day 9 – Kanazawa (overnight)
    Day 10 – Nagoya, Inuyama (overnight in Nagoya)
    Day 11 – Home
    Thanks for your help!!

    1. Hi Rain,

      Actually single ticket is the best choice for your trip. If you can complete this trip in 7 days, JR pass will work but you will spend 10 days. 14 days pass is way too expensive.
      I cannot say anything about changing your itinerary to Osaka. As long as I cannot see whole part of the plan, I cannot find the deal that suit the revised plan.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hi
        I have re-arranged my trip into 2 below to fit the possible JR Pass. Do you think I will be able to complete the trip within the 5 or 7 days?
        5-Day Takayama – Hokuriku Pass
        Day 1 – Nagoya >> Toyama – Kurobe Gorge Railway (2 nights in Toyama)
        Day 2 – Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
        Day 3 – Toyama >> Takayama (overnight)
        Day 4 – Shirakawago >> Kanazawa (overnight)
        Day 5 – Kanazawa >> Nagoya

        JR Rail Pass
        Day 1 – Nagoya – Day trip to Kiso Valley (2 nights in Nagoya)
        Day 2 – Nagoya >> Matsumoto >> Nagano (overnight)
        Day 3 – Nagano >> Toyama – Kurobe Gorge Railway (2 nights in Toyama)
        Day 4 – Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
        Day 5 – Toyama >> Takayama (overnight)
        Day 6 – Shirakawago >> Kanazawa (overnight)
        Day 7 – Kanazawa >> Nagoya
        Thanks for your help!

  2. Hi Takeshi,
    I will travel to Japan next week but still very confuse when choosing the rail pass during staying here. My itinerary is as below:
    Day 1- flight to KIX, stay 1 night in Osaka
    Day 2- from Osaka to Kyoto, stay in Kyoto
    Day 3 – stay in kyoto
    Day 4 – from Kyoto go direct to ITM to take the flight from Osaka to tokyo
    (I work for airline so flight ticket is much cheaper than shinkansen)
    Day 5 – tokyo
    Day 6 flight back
    Japan Rail Pass seem to much for this trip, do you agree?
    I plan to buy Kansai thru pass for moving in osaka,kyoto (maybe take a day trip to kobe/nara) and then use tokyo two day pass. But not sure if it work. Really need your advice.
    Thanks & regards,
    Thu Nguyen

    1. Hi Thu,

      JR pass does not fit. Kansai thru pass may not fit either. If you have round trip to Kyoto from Osaka, it will work. But you have one way to Kyoto. I think single fare and Kyoto city deal is better.

      You may use one of the deals for KIX to Osaka at the link below:

      Limousine bus is only way to get Itami from Kyoto by single ticket.


      Takeshi /

  3. 5 of us will be coming from Tokyo Narita on 6 Jan and we’re thinking of travelling to Nagono, Takayama, Shirakawago area. Understand that the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass / Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass is from Osaka. Would that actually be a pass available from Tokyo?

    1. Hi Shermaine,

      JR East pass may be better than Takayama Hokuriku Pass. Because this pass does not cover Tokyo and Nagano. JR East Pass does not cover Takayama and Shirakawago. But you can access to Takayama from Matsumoto by bus at half price. Please see the link below:


      Takeshi /

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    We will be in Kansai region for 5 days next April, and planned to spend 3 days in Kyoto.

    Can you advise if we should get the Kansai Thru Pass (3 days) or get the 2 day Kyoto Sight Seeing Pass Card + 1 Day City Bus Pass instead?

    Thank you very much.

  5. Hi Takeshi,

    We are 2 people travelling to Japan from 18 Oct-2 Nov 2015, as follows:

    – 18-23 Oct: Tokyo (with one day trip to Mt Fuji)
    – 23-27 Oct: Kyoto (actually based in Uji so we will do day trips to Kyoto, Nara)
    – 27-31 Oct: Osaka (1 day trip to Koyasan)
    – 31 Oct – 2 Nov: back to Tokyo

    Could you please, advice what would be the best (combination of) transportation methods?

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Lucy,

      It’s very hard to find the deal for you at this point. Because JR Pass is only choice to cover most part of your trip. But 7 days pass is too short and 14 days is too expensive even if you use this pass for trip to Fuji and trains around Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara.

      If you want to have your original plan, single fare is the best choice. You may add subway pass or other local deals in Tokyo and Kyoto.

      But if you add one more long trip, 14 days pass will work. You may get Kanazawa and Shirakawago from either Tokyo or Kyoto as day trip.

      You can visit Hiroshima and Miyajima as day trip from Kyoto.

      Koyasan is not covered by JR Pass anyway. Koyasan Heritage ticket is recommended.

      I recommend you to use 14 days JR pass. You have lots of time in Tokyo and Kyoto. It’s not hard to add some more day trip when you stay in these cities. And JR pass gives you flexibility and make your trip be much easier.


      Takeshi /

  6. Hi Takeshi san!
    Our trip will be fr 18/4/2016 – 26/4/2016, need some advice fr u for our train transport. Arr.Sapporo, Departure Kansai airport.
    After this will be taking a day trip train fr Hakodate – Toyama, pls advice on what Pass is more budget & convenient” Attach here are our plan:
    18/4 – 19/4 = Sapporo
    20/4 – 21/4 =Hakodate
    22/4 – 23/4 =Toyama
    24/4 – 25/4 = Takayama
    25/4 – 26/4 = Kyoto
    26/4/2016 = Kansai airport

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Chris san,

      JR Pass 7 days can cover your trip. You may start using the pass on Apr 19. Because you suppose to move just airport to Sapporo. Single ticket is okay.

      The last day, you can use Kansai area pass one day if you take a train. You can take limited express Haruka. It takes you airport directly from Kyoto to KIX.

      Of course it’s much cheaper than single fare.


      Takeshi /

  7. Hi Takeshi,

    I am so glad to have found your website. The wealth of information on this website is excellent for those of us who have never been to Japan.

    I am overwhelmed by the number of different train passes and wanted to confirm something with you please.

    Here is our brief itinerary. According to what I have read, I think JR Pass 7 Day and Kansai Wide Area pass and Hakone free pass would be the best for us. But I’m not too sure. Could you please let us know of the best pass with the cheapest fare?

    19th April – 24th April: Arrive @ Narita and stay in Tokyo (while in Tokyo side trip to Hakone and Kitakami)
    24th April: Go to Hida Takayama
    25th April – 29th April: Kyoto (side trips to Kobe and Osaka)
    29th April: Airport Hotel
    30th April: Go home via Kansai Airport.

    Thank you very much.


    1. Hi Depar,

      Can you make day trip to Kitakami on 23 Apr? If you can, you can use JR pass 7 days from 23 Apr to 29 Apr. This way of using JR pass gives you the biggest saving. You can do Kitakami trip on 22 Apr. But in this case, you have to pay for Kyoto-Kansai airport.

      As you think, you can use Hakone Free Pass for visiting Hakone. But Kansai Wide Area Pass is not required. Try to put Kitakami trip and Tokyo-Takayama-Kyoto in 7 days.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  • 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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