This spring I'm going to Japan, and our current itinerary looks like this for a few of the days:

  • Day 1: Tokyo Station -> Nagano (Shinkansen), overnight in Nagano
  • Day 2: Nagano -> Kanazawa (Shinkansen), overnight in Kanazawa
  • Day 3: Kanazawa -> Kyoto (Limited Express)

I read this excellent answer about stopovers in Japan, but am still unsure - can I do the above itinerary with one Tokyo -> Kyoto ticket, with the stopovers (and so save a great deal of money)? Which one would I need to buy? Or is there another cheaper way of doing this?

I'm also doing another journey, this time:

  • Day 1: Osaka Station -> Himeji -> Mihara (Shinkansen), 2 nights in Mihara
  • Day 3: Mihara -> Hiroshima (Shinkansen)

Does this also work out? I think so (seems less complicated than the first itinerary above) but still not sure.


Note: I feel obligated to state that, at this point, your best deal is likely to just get a JR Pass. Your Tokyo to Kyoto journey will cost 18,000 yen, while your Osaka to Hiroshima journey will cost you another 10,000. If you also need to return from Hiroshima to Tokyo, you should seriously consider getting a JR Pass. If you have a JR Pass, then there's no need to worry about anything below.

You can do Tokyo to Kyoto via Nagano and Kanazawa easily. Here is the route you want:

Tо̄kyо̄ --- via Shinkansen --- Nagano --- via Shinkansen --- Kanazawa --- via Hokuriku Main Line, Kosei Line & Tо̄kaidо̄ Main Line --- Kyо̄to

If you can read Japanese, use a ticket vending machine and buy a base fare ticket. It will let you choose the route you want. Then, buy all the required limited express tickets as you go; I usually do it right before I take the train. The limited express train that runs between Kanazawa and Kyо̄to is the Limited Express Thunderbird (特急サンダーバード).

If you cannot read Japanese, your best bet is to show this to the person at a ticket vending window:

東京 --- 北陸新幹線 --- 長野 --- 北陸新幹線 --- 金沢 --- 北陸本線・湖西線・東海道本線(特急サンダーバード)--- 京都

Your base fare ticket should have something like this printed:

経由: 新幹線・長野・新幹線・金沢・北陸・湖西・東海道

Note that you don't actually need to list all your stopover points. As your ticket is for a very long trip, stopovers are simply allowed, unless you disembark within Tokyo or Kyoto. However, stopovers will invalidate your limited express ticket if you have one.

Your second itinerary will work out, but very tightly. Osaka to Hiroshima is 337.8 km, and by JR rules your base fare ticket will be valid for exactly 3 days.

  • Thanks for your help the Japanese to show at the ticket desk is especially helpful! Re: Jr pass, we're flying out of hiroshima and unfortunately we'd need to buy a 2 week pass as we're in Kansai for 7 days. Re: the limited express tickets, are they like an add on? Or would it be simpler/the same price to get a ticket to Kanazawa with one stop-off at Nagano, then buy a completely separate limited express ticket from Kanzawa to Kyoto? – Callum Rogers Jan 6 at 10:05
  • 1
    @CallumRogers A base fare ticket (乗車券) allows you to travel from A to B. A limited express ticket (特急券) allows you to use a certain limited express service between A and B, so indeed it's sort of like an addon. You will need to buy one base fare ticket and three limited express tickets: Tokyo to Nagano, Nagano to Kanazawa, Kanazawa to Kyoto, because limited express tickets don't allow stopvers. – xuq01 Jan 6 at 23:39

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