If you are a first time visitor, you don’t know how big is Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass). Actually it’s not handy size. I had an experience that I almost lost it! One of my reader, Tak gave me a very useful information. He found the perfect size case at 100 yen in Japan. I would like to share this information with you.
Train system in Kyoto may be complicated for you. There are three types of railway, JR, Kyoto City Subway and Private company’s railways. Actually it’s a key to travel in Kyoto smoothly and avoid wasting your valuable time. Of course city of Kyoto has city wide bus service. But during peak season, bus service runs behind the schedule sometimes due to traffic congestion.
And also, there are many types of deals, such as ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kyoto city pass. Each pass has different conditions. You have to understand which train system is covered by your pass.
Shinshu region is located in the heart of Japan. You might have heard Nagano where held winter Olympic games in 1998. There are lost of popular cities in this region, such as Nagano, Karuizawa and Matsumoto. And also Shinano-Omachi is well known as the gate way station to Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine route. Hakuba is very popular ski resort in winter season.
Takayama is one of the most popular destinations for overseas travelers. Especially spring and fall seasons are very popular since the festivals are held. This city is also known as the gateway to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawago.
I would like to tell you about the access to Takayama in this post. Continue reading How to access to Takayama by trains and buses.
I published several post about the limited express trains to Sanin area, such as Super Oki, Super Matsukaze, Super Inaba, Super Hakuto and Hamakaze. But there are some more trains from Osaka and Kyoto to Kinosaki-Onsen area. And there are several gateway stations. You might be confused.
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 website, the pages of overnight trains, such as Twilight Express, Cassiopeia, Hokutosei and Hamansu, are very popular. You can save time and money to take an overnight train. I understand why it is so popular. However as I explained you about reservation in the post “How to reserve seat”, we do not have any online reservation to get a seat or berth before departure. I already explained about the alternatives of several overnight trains in the following links:
But these alternatives on the above links are not enough. I think most of travellers are very stressful because they cannot reserve a seat before departure. Now I would like to share the information about another option to get Hokkaido by overnight transfer. It is the ferry services between Aomori and Hakodate. It is not covered by Japan Rail Pass. But the fare starts from 1710 yen and they have a midnight ferry service too. It may be considerable for some of the travellers. Let’s see the details. Continue reading Another idea of overnight transfer to Hokkaido, using ferry service between Aomori and Hakodate
Most of travellers who stay in Tokyo think about visiting Hakone (箱根). It is only a few hours away from Tokyo. It is well known as one of the most popular hot springs resort in Japan. And also it is very close to the highest mountain in Japan, Mt. Fuji. But Hakone is not connected with Tokyo by Japan Railway. That means Japan Rail Pass cover limited part of your trip to Hakone. Odakyu Electric Railway (小田急電鉄) that is one of the major private railway companies in Tokyo and Highway bus are more convenient way to get there. Though Japan Rail Pass cover limited part of travel, some of you still think about using Japan Rail Pass as much as you can and try to minimize the extra cost.
As you probably have already known, train system in Japan is very complicated. Especially in urban area, there are lots of railways. You might not understand the difference between Japan Railways (JR), subways and private railways.
Especially in Kansai area, such as Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji and Wakayama, many trains runs among these cities. You may be overwhelmed. But it is very important to understand the train system. You will make a trip much smoothly and save your trip time.
I supposed to write about the transfer among Kobe (神戸), Osaka (大阪) and Kyoto (京都). But I should explain about JR (Japan Railway) lines in downtown Osaka. I believe the information about the location of JR stations and rail system let you understand the rail system outside of Osaka easily.
And this post may help the tourists who will start the trip from Osaka. Some of you are not sure to buy 7 days pass or 14 days pass for your trip. You may learn how much you can use Japan Railway line when you stay in Osaka. For example, if you travel in Japan for 10 days and stay in Osaka for the first 3 days, you may not use Japan Railway line when you stay in Osaka. As a result, you can buy 7 days pass.
JR West operates many commute trains, rapid and local between 5:30 am and midnight. But when you travel in Kansai area by JR trains, special rapid service trains are the best way to travel among cities, like Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Wakayama and Kansai airport. These “Special” rapid service skips many stations and much faster than rapid and local trains. If you use JR pass, you may take limited express trains. But these rapid service trains are sometimes faster than express trains and run much more frequently. That means you do not check the timetable. These are commute trains and mostly very busy in even daytime and late night, but it is convenient. It is a key to understand this rapid train system to travel among cities in Kansai area.
Japan Railway operate Rapid trains throughout Japan. Especially lots of Rapid trains are operated in urban area, such as Greater Tokyo. In Tokyo, these trains are operated basically for commuters. But there are many operation routes. Of course you can use these trains for your exploring in surrounding Tokyo area. These trains connect Tokyo (=東京) and Shinjuku (=新宿) with Yokohama (=横浜), Kamakura (=鎌倉), Odawara (=小田原) (for Hakone (=箱根)), Utsunomiya (=宇都宮) (for Nikko (=日光)), Mito (=水戸), Narita airport (=成田空港) and even Atami (=熱海) (Izu peninsula hot springs (=伊豆半島)). These trains are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. If you have Japan Rail Pass Green, most of Rapid trains in Greater Tokyo have double decker Green cars. You will feel same type of atmosphere in a commute train. Continue reading No express surcharge! Fast, economical and convenient! Rapid service network in Greater Tokyo
I was asked many times that Japan Rail Pass Green Pass is worthwhile? Of course Green seat is better than ordinary seat. As long as you have enough budget, you can buy Green pass. But JR Groups have so many kinds of trains. They operate more than 100 limited express trains on only regular track and more trains on Shinkansen. And some limited express trains do not have Green seat. But some local trains have Green seat. And also they have many kinds of Green seat. For example, some limited express train give you 2+1 seat configuration. But the other trains give you same 2+2 seat configuration as Ordinary class. So if you have some more ideas about Green seat before you buy Japan Rail Pass, you can make a better decision which pass you buy, Green or Ordinary.
Kyoto (京都) is most famous sightseeing destination in Japan. Most of you visit Kyoto by Japan Rail Pass. Hikari and Kodama on Tokaido Shinkansen can take you to Kyoto. You might stay in Kyoto for multiple days and use Japan Rail Pass before arrival at Kyoto and after departure from Kyoto. Some of you are wondering if we can use Japan Rail Pass to explore Kyoto?
These trains connect Shinjuku and Ikebukuro in Tokyo, and Nikko and Kinugawa-Onsen. These trains run on JR line and Tobu Railway line. That means you have to pay extra if you use JR Pass. JR Pass cover JR line portion only. But if you use JR East Passes, such as JR East Pass Nagano Niigata, Tokyo Wide Pass, JR East Pass Tohoku, both JR line and Tobu Railway lines are covered. This may be complicated for you.
If you want to save the time and save your money to stay hotel, overnight transfer is considerable. Many travelers move among Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. We have a few ways to take overnight transfer among these cities by Japan Rail Pass too. I would like to tell about it in this post. Continue reading Overnight transfer between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka
Mt. Koya (Koyasan) has been getting popular destination in these days. Most common way to Mt. Koya is Nankai Railway line. It takes you to Gokurakubashi station where is located at the base of Mt. Koya. You may transfer to the funicular to Mt. Koya.
If you use JR deals, such as JR Pass (nationwide pass), Kansai area pass, Kansai Hiroshima area pass and other JR West passes, you cannot use the pass because Nankai Railway is not JR. If you do not use these JR deals, you may use other deals, such as Kansai Thru Pass, Koyasan World Heritage Pass.
You may use these JR deals partially to get Mt. Koya if you want.