Travelling in Japan

So I haven’t even made it to Japan yet, and I’m already lost! Trust me, it’s possible. Of course that’s only if it’s your first time going ( or your second, but this time you’re not following your friend around like their shadow f^^;).

Now I say I’m lost because I’m still trying to figure out the cheapest possible way to see all the different places I would like to visit. There are many ways to travel around Japan, and I guess the determining factors of how you’re going to do that will be based on how much time you intend to spend in the country, and which regions you plan to visit.  In my case, I’ll be in Japan for 20 days, and the places I would like to visit include Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, Nikko, Kamakura, and Yokohama. だから、どうしよう??

Japan Rail Pass

I’m sure most of you will have heard of the Japan Rail Pass. It’s the deal of the century for foreigners planning a visit to Japan! The pass allows you to travel all around the country on JR lines (except for Nozomi/Mizuho/Hayabusa shinkansen and private railways). You can either get a 1 week, 2 week or 3 week pass. And the great thing, is you can choose the date from which you want the pass to start. So for example if I were to only travel for 14 days out of the 20 I’m going to be there, I would only get the 14 day pass and commence it on the day I wish to travel. But, the pass also comes in more than one variety. If you’re not going to visit the whole country, then why get a such a pass? Luckily, you can also get regional ones: Kansai, Sanyo, Hokkaido and Kyushu. Another great thing about the JR pass is it allows you to use the shinkansen (bullet train). By using that you’ll save on a lot of time. So if you’re constrained by time, this is definitely one of the best options.

You can only buy the pass outside of Japan, and it is only for foreigners visiting as a “temporary visitor”. Now the big question is, how much is the pass?? On the Inside Japan Tours website you can buy a 7 day pass for £184, a 14 day pass for £293 and 21 day pass for £375. (o_O!) Sounds expensive doesn’t it? But here’s an example of how much my train fares would cost me without the pass:

Tokyo – Kyoto 13420 yen

Kyoto – Nara 690 yen
Nara – Osaka 540 yen
Osaka – Kobe 390 yen
Kobe – Tokyo 14470 yen
Tokyo – Nikko 5630 yen
Tokyo – Yokohama 450 yen
Tokyo – Kamakura 890 yen
And the grand total is…………43,450 yen (£288)!! So just under the price of 14 day pass. But is it really worth me getting one or not? I don’t know yet…
Japan Bus Pass
Another way to travel is by bus. And there’s even a pass for that! The Japan Bus Pass by Willer Express is a fantastic way to travel on the cheap side. There are three different passes: 3 days (10,000 yen/ £66), 4 days (12,000/£79) and 5 days (14,000 yen/£93). The days do not need to consecutive, and you can use the pass anytime within two months of purchase. The advantage of this pass (apart from it being cheap), is it can be used by both foreigners AND Japanese. You still have to buy it outside of Japan though. The main disadvantage of course, would be time. BUT, they do overnight buses too. So you could also save on hotel fees if you decide to only travel overnight 😉
Seishun 18 Kippu
This is a seasonal ticket that gives you unlimited travel on any local or JR lines nationwide for 5 days. And just like the bus pass, it can be used by both foreigners and Japanese. Plus, you can actually buy it in Japan. It costs 11,500 yen/ £76. What’s great about the seishun kippu is that it can be used by more than one person. Also the days do not have to be consecutive. The disadvantage of this ticket: it can’t be used on any shinkansen or express trains. So your journey will take a lot longer. I believe a trip from Tokyo to Osaka would then take you about 4 hours on regular trains, rather than the quicker 1hr30min on the Shinkansen. Also you have to make a couple changes. But that can all be a part of the journey でしょう 😉
Kansai passes
Special thanks to Pablo from Wander in Japan for this tip 🙂 Since I’m mainly travelling to the Kansai region, I could also get either one of these passes: Kansai Wide Area Pass or Kansai Thru Pass. Both these passes allow you to travel around the Kansai region for quite cheap. The Wide Area pass is 7000 yen/£46 for 4 consecutive days. It’s also valid on a few shinkansens and express trains. You can buy the pass either inside or outside of Japan, but it’s only usable by foreigners in Japan as temporary visitors. The Thru pass does a 2 day ( 3800 yen/£25) or 3 day (5000 yen/£33) ticket. You can use it to ride subways, private railways and buses. It doesn’t have to be used on consecutive days, AND a Japanese person accompanying a visitor can also use it. You can buy the pass either inside or outside the country. If I were to use any of these, I would probably use the latter. Although, it doesn’t cover as wide an area as the Wide Area pass, it goes to all the cities I want to visit.
So there you have it! All sorts of tickets to visit Japan. Which one is the best for me? Well I still don’t quite know yet. I will be travelling with my Japanese friend, and I want to make it as cheap as possible not only for me, but for her as well. I could very possibly do a combination of these tickets. But I think I’ve thought about enough for today (@_@;;)
Have you ever travelled to Japan? If so, what pass did you get? Do you have any more recommendations on how to travel around the country? Let me know in the comments below! よろしく 😉
P.S A few helpful websites:
Hyperdia to help you check train fares
Japan Rail Pass for more information
Japan Travel Centre for more information on regional JR Passes
Japan by Rail for more information on regional JR Passes

2 thoughts on “Travelling in Japan

  1. Good luck with your planning! Personally I would probably go for the normal JR Pass. Buses and local trains can take much longer, and although travelling is fun, you want to allow yourself some time to enjoy the destination! Don’t forget, you can also use the JR Pass on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo and Osaka’s Loop Line. It’s a shame your friend can’t have one too, though.


    1. Oh I had no idea it could be used on the Yamanote and Osaka’s loop line! That’s quite good.
      The JR Pass is very tempting, and I’m about 70% sure I want to get it. But I really don’t want to put my friend out of pocket either.


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