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.

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

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

  1. Hello Takeshi sama,
    Could you help me decide or if it is worth it to get the 7 day JR pass? I read many of your post and the price for a 72 hour ticket for the subway in Tokyo is really cheap, so now I am considering maybe not buying the pass. let me explain you my itinerary:
    day 1; arrive at Narita at 3:20 and if dont buy the JR pass i will make reservation for the 800 yen bus and also get the Tokyo 72 hours ticket
    day 2; Tokyo with the 72 hours ticket can i explore all Tokyo? even the far parts of Tokyo?
    day 3; Tokyo but i will like to go to Mt. Fuji too
    day 4; travel to Kyoto, nor sure how to do it if I don’t get the JR pass
    day 5; Kyoto, I am thinking of renting a bike and explore
    day 6; Kyoto
    day 7 travel to Tokyo Disney land (if i had the JR pass it will be the last day i use it)
    day 8, disneyland
    day 9, disneysea
    day 10, Tokyo, move to the last hotel and stay at Tokyo for 3 more days and then go to Narita
    I will appreciate any advise you can give me and help me deciding if JR is worth it ( it cost 260$ , and I am traveling with my girlfriend haha) thank you so much Takeshi san.

    1. Hi Eduardo san,

      First of all, you should use JR pass 7 days. You should use it for the last 7 days of your trip. You can get the worth of this pass.
      You should go to Fuji in this 7 days period. JR pass is not a perfect deal for the trip to Fuji. But it covers some part of the trip. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html

      You may use subway pass for the first 3 days. It covers basically downtown Tokyo only. Please see the link below:
      https://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

  2. Hi Takeshi,
    Can I ask for your help on deciding which Pass to buy for Tokyo? Here’s my rough itinerary on Tokyo (my lodging is on Iriya):
    Day 1: Arrive on Haneda (9.30 pm)
    Day 2: Asakusa (Kaminari mon, sensoji, asakusa jinja, nakamise shopping street), Ueno (Ueno Park, Kiyomizu kannon temple, Toshogu shrine), Akihabara, Imperial Palace, Ginza (shopping street), Tsukishima, Roppongi (Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Tower)
    Day 3: Tokyo Disney Sea
    Day 4: Tsukiji fish market, Shibuya (Hachiko statue, shibuya crossing, yoyogi park), Harajuku, Omotesando, Shinjuku, Odaiba (Ooedo onsen)

    Sorry it’s long, thank you so much!

    1. Hi Matta,

      If you can switch day 3 and 4, you can use WELCOME! Tokyo Subway Ticket 48 hours for the first 3 days.
      http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/airport_bus/index.html

      And single fare is okay for day 4 to Disney.

      If you cannot, you still can use WELCOME! Tokyo Subway Ticket. But you need 24 hours. When you go to Disney, you can take subway to get Akihabara and catch the bus.
      http://info.tokyodisneyresort.jp/en/access/bus/akihabara.html

      And add another subway pass for day 4. Odaiba is not covered by any rail pass. You need to add single fare.
      https://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 Takeshi, thanks for your help!
        Unfortunately i already bought the Disney ticket for that day, so i couldn’t changed it.
        Seems that i had to buy 24 hours pass.
        Do all my destinations can be reach by subway only (except Odaiba & Disney) or i had to add some single fare for JR?
        Also, i read that if i buy shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kansai Airport, i can make several stop before airport like on Kyoto and Osaka station as long as it’s between the validity time (around 5 days)?
        Is that true?
        Thanks again!

        1. Hi Martha,

          You can visit all places. I put this link but please see it once more to make sure:
          https://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 can make a stopover on the way to KIX. But if you don’t stay near JR stations in Kyoto and/or Osaka, you may use just one single ticket to Kyoto and use single fare from Kyoto to Osaka. And then add other deal for Osaka to KIX.
          https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

          And Platt Kodama is considerable instead of single fare for Tokyo to Kyoto.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/platt-kodama-one-way-deal-among-tokyo-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-by-shinkansen.html

          Platt Kodama + single fare for Kyoto to Osaka and deal for Osaka to KIX may be cheaper and more convenient.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. I ve read some usefull tips and information on your website. But as you said, volume of information is bigger than I expected.
    We are having a trip to Japan like this:
    20.09 2017 – land on Haneda
    26 .09.2017 – arrive in Kyoto
    04.05.2017 – take of from Haneda

    Me and my wife, we booked accommodation only in these 2 cities, but we would like to visit also Osaka, and maybe other cities near Kyoto. We though buying JR Pass only when we leave to Kyoto, but our stay there is 8 days.
    Please advise us about this issue…
    Thank you!

  4. Hi Takeshi / JPRail.com,
    Me and family (2A1C) are planning to travel from Osaka to stay 1 night around Mount Fuji area in November. Will Hakone be a better place to view Mount Fuji if at the same time we can also go Gotemba Premium Outlet before we head to Tokyo. Could you give us your best advise what’s the best mode of transport for us to travel to Hakone and thereafter to Tokyo. Look forward to hear from you soonest. Thank you so much.

  5. Hi Takeshi, can i ask for your help?

    Me & my friend are going to visit Japan in October.
    We will arrive at Haneda around 9.30 pm. We’ll stay in Tokyo for 4 days, Kyoto 2 days, and Osaka 3 days. We’ll fly home from Osaka.

    Is it better if we buy JR Pass or using regular fare?

    Thanks for your help!

      1. Thanks for your replying!
        Sorry for my late reply.

        I really appreciate your help!
        I’ll try to arrange my itinerary according to suggestion.

        Thanks again.

  6. My partner and I are travelling around Japan after he finishes a short bit of work in Tokyo. Sadly although I will buy a JR rail pass, he enters into the country on a Work Visa.
    Can you recommend another type of pass that he may be able to use to best effect? Our itinerary is as follows:
    Tokyo
    Kanazawa
    Beppu
    Hiroshima
    Kyoto
    Tokyo via Nara

    Many thanks for your assistance!

    1. Hi Amber,

      Actually there is no other deals available like JR Pass. There are many kinds of local deals and regional passes. But these are available for overseas tourist only. He needs to purchase regular ticket and it will be very very expensive. Please see the link below to find more info about single ticket.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/for-non-jr-pass-travellers-guide-to-use-jr-single-ticket-basic-rules-validity-and-stopover.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thanks for clearing this up, and the suggestion on the local deals. I wonder if you might be able to answer one more question for me? Since my partner is having to buy individual tickets he may choose to do some of the travel in First class, and others not to economize. If I bought a first class JR ticket would I be able to reserve a standard class seat for those journeys where we couldn’t quite stretch to the cost of a local cost first class ticket? Or am I only able to travel first class with a first class JR ticket?

        Many thanks again.

        Amber

        1. Hi Amber,

          If you have Green JR pass (first class), you can choose both ordinary and Green. But if you have regular ticket for Green class, you can take only non reserved ordinary class. If you want to secure your seat on reserved ordinary car, you must have ordinary class regular ticket because seat is assigned when you purchase a ticket. Regular green ticket assigns a seat on Green car only.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi Takeshi,

    How areI would like to cover Osaka-Kyoto-Nara-Mount Fuji within my 6 days visit to Japan. Could you help to suggest me the best pass that I should buy for my trip? It’s quite complicated especially when I would like to plan my trip to Mount Fuji from Osaka or Kyoto. Could you help me on this?
    Thanks you very much in advance.

    Regards,
    Nazrin

  8. Hi Takeshi,
    I hope you are doing well!

    Just a question..

    My family and I are thinking if we should get a JR Pass for 7 or 14 days.

    We arrive from Narita and stay in Tokyo(Shinjuku/Tochomae) for 6 days (5-11 December) and then go to Kyoto (11-13 Dec) and then to Osaka (13-19December. Leave Japan from Kansai airport on 19).

    We want to visit Mt Fuji while in Tokyo and also want to visit Kobe and Nara while in Osaka.

    What would you recommend for us?

    1. Hi Jeremy,

      Actually even 7 days pass does not suit your plan. There are many ways and deals available to Fuji. JR pass is not a perfect choice. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html

      For other part of your trip, please see the link below. You may add trip to Fuji on this sample itinerary in this link:
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/basic-itinerary-of-tokyo-kyoto-and-osaka-in-7-days.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. Hi.

    We are planning to visit Osaka this coming July. And plan to visit kobe, Himeji, Kyoto, Nara during our 10days stay there in Osaka. I kindly like to ask which of the train passes is suitable for us?

    Is JR pass the same with Icoca card? Can we use Icoca throughout all our stay in Osaka or do we need to buy 1day kansai area pass?

    Thank you and Regards,
    alex

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