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We (my wife and I) are planning to go to Japan for 14 days in May 2023, however we are struggling to decide whether it is cheaper to buy 7 days JR Pass (covers all Japan area) or to not buy the JR pass at all. Here is the itinerary that we are planning:

We arrive at Osaka, and then depart from Tokyo

  • Osaka, Kyoto, Nara for 3 days at the most (we will be staying in Osaka, thus we will have to return to Osaka by the end of the day if we are going sightseeing to Kyoto or Nara)
  • Osaka to Tokyo (Here if we choose to buy JR Pass, we will activate it in here)
  • Stay for a day in Tokyo, and then straight to Hokkaido by plane (if we choose to not buy JR Pass, otherwise will go to Hokkaido using JR Pass from Tokyo) for 2 days at the most (Will go to Asahikawa, Otaru, Mt. Moiwa, etc while staying in Hokkaido)
  • Go back to Tokyo (If we choose to not buy JR Pass, then we will go back to Tokyo from Hokkaido by plane, otherwise will use JR Pass) and then spend the rest of the week in Tokyo before heading back to our home country (Will go to Kawaguchiko Lake, Strawberry Farm, etc while staying in Tokyo)

May we know whether it is cheaper to buy 7 days JR Pass (covers all Japan area), or not to buy at all?

Hope the readers understand what I am trying to say

Thanks

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    Not sure what the difficulty is in deciding. $232 per adult for a 7 day pass japan-rail-pass.com/transportation/japan-rail-pass/national compared with the cost of flights & travel to/from airports.
    – Traveller
    Mar 23, 2023 at 9:08
  • Hi @Traveller, thanks for your comment, may I know if we decided to take plane from Tokyo to Hokkaido and Hokkaido to Tokyo, would the 7 days JR Pass still worth it? for the transport while in cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hokkaido). Thank you very much
    – Reinhardt
    Mar 23, 2023 at 9:24
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    @Traveller The equation is not that straightforward, there are often better options than the JR Pass. Mar 23, 2023 at 11:12
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    It's going to depend on the precise prices for plane fares as well as for other travel, so any answer will fluctuate. You are also supposed to do your own research before asking, so why don't you post what you've found out?
    – Stuart F
    Mar 23, 2023 at 11:57
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    This seems to be a trivial task of summing up the ticket prices for the individual train journeys you intend to take, and then finally comparing them to the cost of the JR Pass. What did you find when you did this? Mar 24, 2023 at 3:11

2 Answers 2

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First, I really encourage you to read the seat61 page about the JR Pass and train travel in Japan in general

The thumb rule about travel passes is to check manually what the prices are individually for your long-distance trips and see if that would be worth it.
Especially as the JR Pass doesn't cover most of urban/suburban transportation and has exclusions on specific Shinkansen Lines

The reference site in English for this is HyperDia

  • A single local train from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto is 570Y/ticket (takes 25min), while a Shinkansen without seat reservation will put you at 1400Y/ticket (takes 13min)
  • Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo is ~14,000Y
  • Tokyo to Sapporo is ~32,000Y

With the 2 last sectors + the return, you have already broken by far the 7 day 29,650Y JR Pass, and getting the 47,250Y 14 days JR Pass is even worth it

In your case, yes it is worth it.

Though Make sure to be aware of the restrictions linked to the JR Pass, especially around Ozaka

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  • Hi @Nicolas Formichella, thanks for your answer, may I know if we decided to take plane from Tokyo to Hokkaido and Hokkaido to Tokyo, would the 7 days JR Pass still worth it? for the transport while in cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hokkaido). Thank you very much
    – Reinhardt
    Mar 23, 2023 at 9:25
  • On Mar/2023/23, Tokyo Sapporo, one way, transfers included on JAL is ~50kY, getting a JR Pass if by far worth it @Reinhardt. If you skip this train leg, it will still be worth it, especially with local trains that will easily stack up. Mar 23, 2023 at 9:28
  • well noted. Thank you very much @Nicolas Formichella
    – Reinhardt
    Mar 23, 2023 at 9:31
  • @Reinhardt The main thing is that Tokyo-Sapporo is 10 hour long by train, but very likely great ride Mar 23, 2023 at 9:32
  • @Reinhardt 50k one way is outrageously expensive, there are much cheaper options than JAL. Check out Spring, Peach, Jetstar, Skymark, Air Do, and be sure to check flights from both Haneda and Narita. Mar 23, 2023 at 10:26
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I'm going to be an opinionated contrarian: you're trying to do way too much in 7 days, and a JR Pass is probably not the most cost effective way to do it.

The rule of thumb is that the Y30,000 JR Pass costs a little more than a full-price Tokyo-Osaka return. But if you're flying into Osaka and out from Tokyo, a Shinkansen between the two will cost around Y16,000 tops (and that's on the Nozomi, not included in the pass) or less if you take a slower service, book discounted fares in advance, etc. Hell, you can even fly for Y5000 or so if you book in advance on a discount carrier like Peach, although getting to/from the airports will add at least a few thousand to that.

Hokkaido is quite large, and it takes a long time to get there from Tokyo by train. It doesn't make sense to spend two days out of your week on trains, and Hokkaido is all about nature anyway, going there and spending all your time in cities like Sapporo, Asahikawa (why!?) and Otaru is a waste.

Instead, I would suggest you explore the Japan Alps between Tokyo and Osaka. Take the train to (say) Takayama or Nagano, rent a car (Y5000/day or so) and drive around, stay in a hot spring, then hop back on the train to Tokyo. This would require much less travel time than going to Hokkaido and still likely cost less than the JR Pass.

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