For non JR pass travellers. Guide to use JR single ticket, basic rules, validity and stopover

This is not a regular JR ticket but a typical JR train ticket looks like this.

I have received many inquiries about Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka one way trip. I always recommend to use a regular ticket for this one way long distance train ride, such as from Tokyo to Kyoto, from Osaka to Tokyo. Because this one way trip is not enough to get the worth of JR Pass 7-day. I have written the post about the fare calculation before.

But I think this post was not enough to explain the fare rule. JR single ticket rule is very complicated for the tourists from oversea. But you do not need to know everything. If you understand some basic rules, single ticket is more useful and it gives you a trip at more affordable rate.

In this post, I will show you some basic rules of the regular ticket for the long distance train ride and how to use and purchase it.

How to purchase it

Simply you can purchase it at the station. If you make a short distance trip in the city or city to just outside city, you can purchase a ticket at the vending machine.

e.g.
Ueno to Tokyo (inside city)
Tokyo to Yokohama (city to just outside place)
Osaka to Universal City (inside city)
Osaka to Kyoto (city to outside place)

If you make a long distance trip, you still can buy a ticket at the vending machine. But the ticket window may be easier to purchase a long distance ticket for the foreign travelers. Especially if you intend to make a stopover on the way, you have to buy a ticket at the ticket window. Because you have to explain your trip plan.

If you want to take a limited express train, you have to purchase a limited express surcharge ticket too. Even if you want to take a non reserved seat on a limited express train, you have to purchase it. You can purchase both a reserved and a non reserved ticket for a limited express (the Shinkansen as well) at “Midori no Madoguchi”. Midori no Madoguchi is the name of JR reservation ticket window. You can purchase a base fare ticket at Midori no Madoguchi too. Please get the detail about reservation at the post below.

In the case of purchasing both base fare ticket and limited express surcharge ticket, you can purchase it in advance. An express surcharge ticket is on sale one month prior to a departure date.

e.g.
Tokyo to Kyoto travel on Dec 1
You can purchase the tickets after Nov 1.

You also can purchase the tickets at any JR stations if you buy both base fare and limited express surcharge at same time. For example, if you start to travel from Tokyo station, you can purchase it at Narita airport station on the day of arrival.

Base fare ticket can be purchased at any JR stations where station staff is on duty. There are many station without station staffs in remote area. In major cities and major stations, there are station staff. Even if you take a train at the station without station staff, you can purchase it from the conductor in the train.

How to get a fare

You can use Hyperdia to get the fare quite easily.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

As you see above capture image of Hyperdia, you can get base fare and seat fare (includes surcharge). In this image, total fare is the following:

Base fare – 9560 yen
Shinkansen Nozomi (Tokyo – Shin-Osaka) – 5740 yen (reserved seat)
Ltd Exp Haruka (Shin-Osaka – Kansai airport) – 820 yen (reserved seat)
Total – 16120 yen

*The above image was captured in 2013. The fare was raised in April l, 2014 because of consumer tax was increased to 8% from 5%. The actual fare is different from the fare in the image above.

The price of Japan Rail Pass 7 days ordinary is 28300 yen. (New price is 29110 yen.) Total single fare is more than 10000 yen cheaper than 7 days pass price. This is the reason why I recommend to use single fare for Tokyo – Osaka one way transfer.

Validity

Please see the above capture image of Hyperdia again. You also can find a distance at Hyperdia. This is a key to use single ticket. Actually long distance ticket can be used in multiple days.

DistanceValid days
101 – 200 km2 days
201 – 400 km3 days
401 – 600 km4 days
601 – 800 km5 days
801 – 1000 km6 days
  • From 1001 km and up, add 1 day every 200 km.
  • If you travel more than 101 km but it is in Tokyo or Osaka zone only, ticket valid in one day only.

So in above capture image, distance is 613.4km. This ticket valid in 5 days.

Stopover

You can stopover as many as you want. Of course you cannot go back. Once you start to travel, you have to go forward. You have to care only one thing. When you depart/arrive to travel at the following areas, you cannot stopover in same areas.

  • Sapporo
  • Sendai
  • Tokyo 23 wards
  • Tokyo Yamanote line
  • Yokohana
  • Nagoya
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Kobe
  • Hiroshima
  • Kitakyushu
  • Fukuoka

These areas are same as city limit. I show you some examples.

1. Above ticket (Tokyo – Kansai Airport)
You can NOT – Stopover at anywhere in Tokyo 23 wards. For example, after you start to travel from Tokyo, you cannot stopover at Shinagawa.
You can – Stopover at Kyoto, Osaka and anywhere outside of Tokyo 23 wards.
By the way, you can start to travel from anywhere in Tokyo 23 wards.

2. Ticket from Narita airport to Osaka
You can NOT – Stopover at anywhere in Osaka city. For example, you cannot stopover at Shin-Osaka. Once you exit at any stations in Osaka city, your ticket will be expired right away.
You can – Stopover at Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya and anywhere outside of Osaka city.
By the way, when you travel through Tokyo downtown core, ticket will be calculated by the shortest route. For example, most typical route from Narita to Osaka via Tokyo, via Tokyo station and Shinagawa station. But if you want to go to Osaka via Akihabara and Shinjuku, you can take this route and stopover.

But in case of using limited express, you have to purchase limited express surcharge ticket for each segments.
ex) Tokyo – Osaka trip, stopover at Nagoya.
You have to purchase two Shinkansen tickets, Tokyo – Nagoya Shinkansen surcharge ticket and Ngoya – Shin-Osaka surcharge ticket.

Sample ideas

Please see above capture image of Hyperdia again. If you use this ticket, you can do the following itinerary.

Day 1 Tokyo – Kyoto (Stopover at Kyoto)
Day 2 Kyoto (no use single ticket)
Day 3 Kyoto – Osaka (Stopover at Osaka)
Day 4 One day trip to Kobe (purchase another single ticket.)
Day 5 Osaka – Kansai airport

When you arrive in Tokyo, you can use other deals, such as Suica & N’ex. And you have 5 days after you finish to see Tokyo. If you add Suica & N’ex one way ticket, total amount is 19620 yen. It is about 9000 yen cheaper than JR Pass 7 days.

I believe this is the perfect solution for Tokyo – Osaka one way travellers.

1,177 thoughts on “For non JR pass travellers. Guide to use JR single ticket, basic rules, validity and stopover”

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    I will be planning 2 weeks trip to Tokyo, Koto, Osaka and Nara. I plan to purchase a single trip ticket only from Tokyo to Kyoto and take a flight back from Osaka.

    Can suggest how to travel from Osaka to Nara without buying 14 days JR pass and still use JR Osaka? Or do I need to take other type of train?

    Regards

    Jack

    1. Hi Jack,

      Just buy a regular ticket at the vending machine. You can get Nara by JR Or Kitnetsu railway. Kintetsu is more convenient. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/subway/how-to-access-to-nara-by-japan-rail-pass-if-you-dont-use-jr-pass-kintetsu-railway-is-more-convenient.html

      In Osaka, there are many deals available.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      If you visit one or two places in a day, you may buy a regular ticket or using Suica.
      https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/welcomesuica/welcomesuica.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi again,

        I have look through some suggestions you had given.

        I notice that the earliest train from Osaka to Nara is at 9.13 am and reach Nara around 10 am. But planning to start the day early at 8.30 am to explore the most out of Nara. I don’t mind walking and take the Kotsu bus to Nara bus.

        I am staying near Osaka Station and plan to use Yomatoji Rapid Service. Will it be correct if I use Midosuji Line from Osaka Station to Tennoji Station and interchange at the same station to Nara on Yomatoji Rapid Service?

        Also, do I need to buy Yomatoji Rapid Service one day in advance before my trip to Nara or can just purchase the ticket from the ticketing machine on the day itself?

        Regards

        Jack Lim

        1. Hi Jack,

          The either train, JR and Kitetsu start to run much earlier. The local train starts to run around 5:30 am. You can start your trip much earlier.
          Please use hyperdia to find the timetable. You can take either Yamatoji rapid from Osaka to Nara or Osaka subway Midosuji line from Umeda to Namba, Kintesu from Namba to Kintetsunara.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hello Takeshi,

    I am planning to travel to Japan very soon for the first time and have been doing some research on travelling between cities. However, because my itinerary is quite complicated, I am a bit lost in how I can travel conveniently and cheaply.

    Day 1: Tokyo
    Day 4: Tokyo -> Kanazawa
    Day 7: Kanazawa -> Takayama
    Day 9: Day trip from Takayama -> Shirakawa-go
    Day 10: Takayama -> Nagahama
    Day 12: Nagahama -> Osaka
    Day 16: Day trip from Osaka -> Kyoto
    Day 17: Day trip from Osaka -> Kyoto
    Day 18: Day trip from Osaka -> Uji
    Day 19: Day trip from Osaka -> Nara
    Day 20: Day trip from Osaka -> Kobe

    We have figured out it would be cheaper without the JR pass for 21 days if we don’t take JR trains. Are there any other passes that we could get that could help us save some money for our journey.

    Thank you for your help!
    Jen

    1. Hi Jen,

      JR Pass does not work. And you may use several local deals and a regular ticket.

      For staying in Tokyo, there are some deals which include airport to downtown Tokyo and Tokyo Subway ticket combo. Please find the deals in the links below:
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/haneda/how-to-access-from-haneda-airport-to-downtown-tokyo.html

      Regular ticket is your choice for Tokyo to Kanazawa. If you take the Shinkansen, it costs about 14,000 yen. If you want to save your cost, google “express bus Tokyo Kanazawa”. You can find some buses around 5,000 to 8,000 yen. But the trip time is much longer than the Shinkansen.

      There is no deals available for Kanazawa, Takayama, Shirakawago and Nagahama. When you go to Takayama from Kanazawa, you may take the bus via Shirakawago. You can drop by there on the way to Takayama.
      https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/highwaybus/shirakawago.pdf

      There are some lockers and baggage storage service in Shirakawago information center which is located by the bus stops. You can store your luggage while sightseeing in Shirakawago.

      You have to go back to Kanazawa to get Nagahama. A few trips of the limited express Shirasagi stop at Nagahama.
      https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/limited-express-shirasagi.html

      There is no deals available for Nagahama to Osaka. But you can use Kanazawa-Nagahama-Osaka one way base fare ticket and you can make a stopover at Nagahama. Don’t forget to mention that you will make a stopover at Nagahama when you purchase a ticket. Otherwise you will get shorter route ticket which does not go to Nagahama.

      For the trip to Kyoto, Uji and Nara, you can use Kansai Area Pass 4-day:
      https://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

      Hanshin Tourist Pass is okay for the trip to Kobe:
      https://www.kansai360.net/m/en/ticket02.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    I’m going a trip to Japan with some of my friends that involve starting in Tokyo, then going to Kyoto, then Hakone, and then back to Tokyo to fly out. I saw the information above about Validity and Stopovers. Is it possible for us to use a stopover in Hakone on the leg between going from Kyoto to Tokyo? Would it be any extra money? I realize if we can’t, then it is probably about the same amount of money for us to buy a JR Pass or just buying all 1 ways then.

    Looking forward to your reply. Thanks,
    John Potts

    1. Hi John,

      You can make a stopover at Odawara which is the gateway to Hakone by the ticket from Kyoto to Tokyo. But you have to pay the Shinkansen seat fee for Kyoto to Odawara and Odawara to Tokyo. As a result, the total cost is almost same as JR pass 7-day. You can take JR local train in Tokyo and Kyoto by JR pass. JR Pass is better choice in my opinion.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi Takeshi

    My partner and I will be arriving in Japan on 31 Jan and are needing to get from Narita airport to Nagano station.

    I have planned out some part of our travels on the trains but I was hoping for your guidance in making sure we are traveling on the correct lines and what kind of rail passes we would need for this trip.

    So far this is my plan:
    31st Jan
    Narita to Shinjuku Station:
    Narita Airport Terminal 2
    Furugome, Narita, Chiba 286-0104, Japan
    Train Narita Express Narita Express 4 Limited Express Ikebukuro
    1 h 42 min (6 stops)
    Arrive 9:58 AM Shinjuku Station

    ——
    Shinjuku Station to Nagano
    10:39 AM
    Shinjuku Station
    Saikyō Line LocalOmiya
    41 min (15 stops) · Stop ID: JA11
    11:20 AM arrive Ōmiya Station
    11:30 AM depart Ōmiya Station
    Hokuriku-Shinkansen Asama 609 Asama Nagano
    1 h 18 min (7 stops) · Platform 18
    12:48 PM arrive Nagano Station

    Looking forward to your reply.

    Thanks

  5. Hi Takeshi,

    The following is the itinerary for my group and we’re having difficulty deciding if the JR pass is worth it or not. I can’t tell if all the routes we are looking at are included in the JR Pass or not. Please advise.

    Feb 16: Narita Airport to Tokyo city center
    Feb 18: Tokyo to Kyoto
    Feb 20: Kyoto to Hakone
    Feb 21: Hakone to Tokyo
    Feb 24: Tokyo to Narita Airport

    If you could let me know whether or not the JR Pass is worth it for us, that’d be great! I’d also like to know what you would suggest we take between cities like the Shinkansen or regular trains, etc. We would just like the fastest time between everything. Thank you in advance!!

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thank you for the speedy response! These links are all very helpful. I saw above that you said I should start the 7 day JR Pass on Feb 18th. What is the reason for that? If I am starting it once I am already in the city, where do I go? I know that you can do it at the airport, but where else?

        Also, this is meaning you think the JR Pass is worth it according to my schedule, correct? Do you perhaps know what the price difference is if I buy JR Pass versus buying single tickets to all locations? I’m just curious as to how much I would be saving. I noticed in this article you had the section about the number of valid days a ticket is. Does that mean if I go Tokyo-Kyoto, I can reuse the same ticket on the way back within 3 days or I have 3 days after purchase to use it?

        From the above, I notice that the Narita train as well as the Shinkasen’s are covered by the JR Passes. Are the trains within the cities of Kyoto, Hakone, and Tokyo covered as well or does it depend? Am I able to tell once I’m at the station which ones are covered? Above you also mentioned the Hakone Free Pass, is that an extra fee not covered by the JR Pass? How much does that cost?

        Also, dumb question, how exactly do I use the JR Pass? Do I just have the pass and scan it somewhere to enter through the gates? Or do I have to go to the ticket counter to get an actual ticket each time and just show them my JR Pass so I don’t have to pay?

        Thanks again in advance! I know there are a lot of questions in this follow-up. All the websites are very confusing and I’ve seen how helpful you are and am very grateful.

        1. Hi Ada,

          Because there are many deals to cover Narita to Tokyo than Tokyo to Narita. And also it is easy to buy the deal for Narita to Tokyo in Narita airport. If you really want to start using it on the arrival day, you can do. I gave you the link about the deal for Narita to Tokyo. Please read it.

          You can exchange JR pass at the stations in the link below:
          https://japanrailpass.net/en/exchange.html

          You can do it in Narita airport station or other stations in Tokyo such as Tokyo station. Even if you start using it on 18th, you still can exchange the pass and book a train on 16th at Narita. You may get some tips about booking and exchanging in the movie below:
          https://youtu.be/KthaJop2-zU

          Roughly you will same about 3,000 yen if you use JR pass. I cannot say the exact amount. It depends on how much you use the pass in Tokyo and Kyoto. You cannot same ticket for Tokyo to Kyoto to Tokyo. This rule applies to one way. JR pass is your choice

          You can use JR pass in Tokyo and Kyoto. You can get Odawara but you have to pay from Odawara to Hakone. Actually I gave you the links about the coverage of JR pass in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hakone in the previous reply. Please read it. All info are there.

          When you take a local train in the cities, you can show your JR Pass to the station staff at the gate to enter. When you take the Shinkansen, you should book a seat. I explain it in the movie in the link above.

          It may take a long time but please read all links which I gave you. I think I explained most things there.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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