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)

stationTokyoOsakaNagoya
Sapporo232703240030180
Aomori168702611026250
Akita168102625024030
Sendai103902139019170
Yamagata110302183019930
Niigata107202139019170
Nagoya105806180
Takayama13300103105870
Kanazawa1412074408280
Osaka137506180
Hiroshima18050995013430
Fukuoka (Hakata)217201459017530
Kumamoto247501832020450
Kagoshima280302160023730
stationHakodateKushiroAbashiriAsahikawa
Sapporo8590912096404520
stationNagasakiYufuinBeppu/OitaKumamotoMiyazakiKagoshima-Chuo
Fukuoka4580443054204990914010170

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

  1. Hi,

    I would be travelling to Japan this 4 Nov 2018 to 12 Nov 2018.
    Could you please advise is which pass should i take? I’m a bit confused on how to choose. Option 1 is only take the JR 7-days Pass and Option 2 is to waive the JR Pass and take the other passes such as Osaka Amazing Pass?

    Day 1 – Arrival in Kansai Airport estimated at 2140 hours. Head to accommodation in Namba
    Day 2 – Osaka
    Day 3 – USJ
    Day 4 – Osaka
    Day 5 – Kyoto
    Day 6 – Tokyo
    Day 7 – Fuji-Q
    Day 8 – Tokyo
    Day 9 – Osaka

    Our arrival and departure would be at Kansai Airport. Thus i’m having some difficulties with planning.

    Also would be there train left upon our arrival (2140 hours) from Kansai Airport to Namba?

    This is the first time i’m going outside of Malaysia, so i’m a bit scared if i got lost or have troubles with finding the correct route, or which train i can take with JR Pass.

    Thank you for your advise. I would gladly appreciate it.
    Amy

    1. Hi Amy,

      JR pass is required anyway because you have a round trip between Tokyo and Osaka. Round trip fare by Shinkansen is almost same cost as 7 days JR Pass. Ii recommend you to use 7 days pass for the last 7 days.

      You may use a regular ticket (920 yen) for day 1 to take Nankai railway train to Namba. Train runs until 23:30. You will be fine.

      You can use other deal, such as Osaka amazing pass for day 2. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      Please see the links below the coverage of JR pass. You will find which train you will take by JR pass.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-departure-arrival-stations/stations-in-tokai/nagoya-toyohashi/what-is-shinkansen-bullet-train.html
      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
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/how-to-build-the-trip-plan-to-fuji-area-various-sample-itineraries-of-fuji-five-lakes-and-5th-station.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thank you for the prompt reply. My friend and i have decided to take JR Pass because she doesn’t want to think about transportation too much as it will be very confusing.

        As for the OAP, i read in the link you provided that it must 3 consecutive days. If i use the OAP on day 2, day 3 go for USJ then use OAP again on day 4, it is not possible, isn’t it?

        With the JR Pass, i understand it covers the trains (not all). Means for places that have entrance fee, i would have to pay, correct?

        Does Kobe and Nara (i wanted to go to the Deer Park) is also covered by JR Pass?

        If we want to take the shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo, what time is the first train and how many hours would it take? As i understand they are 3 type of shinkansen and 1 or 2? is not covered by JR Pass. Thus i don’t know if the ETA stated is the same for each Shinkansen.

        Thank you so much for your help.

        1. Hi Amelia,

          Osaka amazing pass is only 1 day or 2 days. There is no 3 days option.
          https://www.osp.osaka-info.jp/en/

          You have to use it in 2 consecutive days, such as day 2 and 3. You cannot use it for day 2 and 4.

          JR pass does not cover any admissions. You have to pay it.

          Please see the link below to find the timetables of Shinkansen.
          https://global.jr-central.co.jp/en/info/timetable/_pdf/eastbound.pdf
          https://global.jr-central.co.jp/en/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound.pdf

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    I will be traveling to Japan for 9 days in October and below is my itinerary

    Day1: arrive at Narita airport 9am. Travel to Tokyo
    Day2: Tokyo
    Day3: Tokyo (day trip to mount Takao, flexible to go on day2 or day3)
    Day4: Tokyo to Osaka
    Day5: Osaka
    Day6: Osaka to Kyoto day trip
    Day7: Osaka to Nara day trip
    Day8: Osaka to Tokyo
    Day9: Tokyo to Narita airport

    Is it worth getting a 7-day JR pass? Does JR pass cover mount Takao?

    Thank you,
    Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,

      JR pass 7 days is recommended for the last 7 days of your trip (day 3 to 9). You can use JR pass on the way to Takao. But it covers JR lines only (in this travel, JR Chuo line). You have to pay a small extra to take Keio Railway. Please see the link below to find more info:
      https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3029.html#section_get_there

      You can add other deal for day 1 and 2. Please see the link below:
      https://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/airport_bus/index.html

      Cheers,

      Taeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Dear Takeshi,

    I have finalized my intinerary as below.

    Day 1 – Arrive Kansai Airport
    Day 2- depart for Shirahama
    Day 3 – depart for Wakayama
    Day 4 -Depart for Osaka
    Day 5 to day 8 – Stay around Osaka
    Day 9 – departure

    Is it still fine to proceed with KANSAI area pass?

    Thanks
    May

  4. HI there

    I will travelling from Sin to Osaka and to Takayama and to Kyoto eventually back to Osaka in Nov.
    I reached Osaka on 21/11, travel to takayama on 24/11, travel to Kyoto on 27/11 and travel back to Osaka on 29/11.
    I understand that it is best to take Shinkansen from Osaka to Nagoya and then take the Hida Wide View express train to takayama.
    How about from takayama to Kyoto and from Kyoto to Osaka?
    If I get a 7 days pass from 23/11-29/11, does it make sense? will be safe us some money?

    thank you for your help and look forward to your advice.

    cheers

    1. Hi Amy,

      It’s same route for Takayama to Kyoto as Osaka to Takayama. You can take wide view Hida to Nagoya from Takayama and then take Shinkansen to Kyoto. But there is one round trip running between Osaka/Kyoto and Takayama directly.
      https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/limited-express-wide-view-hida.html

      JR pass does not work. Regular fare is cheaper. If you want to save your cost, you may use Takayama Hokuriku area pass.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/takayama-hokuriku-area-pass-perfect-deal-to-get-takayama-kanazawa-toyama-shirakawago-from-nagoya-or-osaka.html

      But you cannot take Nagoya route. You have to go to Kanazawa first and then take bus via Shirakawago. Trip time is at least one hour longer than Nagoya route.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-access-to-takayama-by-trains-and-buses.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi there,

    I will be in Japan for a total of 16days and plan to cover Hokkaido, Tokyo, Osaka (with day trips to Nara, Kobe, neighbouring cities).
    My plan is to come through Narita, head straight down to Osaka for 05days, then up to Hokkaido for 05days to catch the last of the cherry blossoms and last 06days in Tokyo before flying home from Narita.
    Initially i thought of getting 14day jrpass, but im not sure it would cover much of Hokkaido, then i figure take 07day jrpass to cover the shinkansen trips between tokyo & osaka and get a separate pass for hokkaido trains.
    What would your recommendation be? Thank you.

    1. Hi Shazmeen,

      JR pass 14 days is your choice. There are other deals available but all rail passes have same coverage of JR pass. It doesn’t make any senses to use two different passes. 14 days JR pass is the best and more affordable choice.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. I will be traveling to Japan for 9 days in October 2018. This is my itinerary:

    Day 1 – Arrival in Narita Airport @4:55 PM. Head to Osaka.
    Day 2 –Osaka
    Day 3 – Osaka
    Day 4 – Osaka to Kyoto
    Day 5 – Kyoto
    Day 6 – Kyoto to Tokyo
    Day 7 – Tokyo
    Day 8 – Day trip to Mt. Fuji
    Day 9 – Tokyo to Narita Ariport

    Should I get a JR pass and try to make it to Osaka the same day I arrive in Narita airport? Not sure if I will make it before the last train. Or would it best to catch another flight from Narita to Osaka?

    Your help is very much appreciated. Thank you very much.

    1. Hi May,

      JR pass 7 days is the choice for your trip from day 1 to 7. If you go to Mt. Fuji on day 7, you may save some fare to get Fuji.
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/how-to-build-the-trip-plan-to-fuji-area-various-sample-itineraries-of-fuji-five-lakes-and-5th-station.html

      The last train to Shin-Osaka for JR pass is Hikari 533 (Shinagawa at 20:10)
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound.pdf

      You can get Shinagawa by Narita Express. If you take this Hikari 533, you have to get Narita Express 46 at 18:48.
      http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/e_nex_u/05.html

      As long as your flight arrives on time, you have around 2 hours. You will be fine. But if your flight is late, it may be tight. There are some more trains after Hikari 533 but all trains are Nozomi which is not covered by JR pass. You need to pay full fare if you need to take Nozomi. If I were you, I will stay in Tokyo or take domestic flight. If you take domestic flight, you cannot use JR pass because you cannot get the worth. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7to9-days/basic-itinerary-of-osaka-kyoto-and-tokyo-in-7-days.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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