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View of Mount Fuji on board Shinkansen bound for Kyoto.
View of Mount Fuji on board Shinkansen bound for Kyoto.

 

Japan Rail Passes

Do you need JR Rail Passes? Get them only if you’re planning a multi-city travel throughout more than two prefectures in Japan. They will save you money ONLY IF you can speed travel across more than 3 cities within a limited time frame. The JR Rail Passes are sold as 7, 14 or 21 day passes, with prices in ascending order. If you are travelling one way between major cities, such as from Tokyo to Kyoto, you are better off purchasing the single trip Shinkansen tickets in Japan. You need to be using them at least three times to recover back the cost. Tokyo – Kyoto Shinkansen tickets are priced at ¥8,210 per pax.

How to get JR Rail Passes

First, you need to get them outside of Japan from an authorised dealer. Only foreign nationals with a valid Tourist visa stamp are eligible to purchase these passes. If you purchase the rail passes from a non-authorised website or company, you are likely to be charged extra administrative or service fees. Check the Japan Rail Pass link here for an authorised office. Please take extra special care of your pass as you won’t get refunds, nor replacements should they be damaged, stolen or lost.

How to use your JR Pass. Your JR Pass is given to you in the form of an Exchange Order. In Japan, go to a Japan Rail Pass exchange office at a major JR station, and present your Exchange Order to get your Japan Rail Pass. At the exchange office, you will be asked to fill in a short application form and to show your passport with the Temporary Visitor stamp/sticker you received upon entry into Japan. Please show your actual passport.  Photocopies of your passports are unacceptable. You have been warned. Finally, make your seat reservations at a “Midori-no-madoguchi” Reservation Office. More details at this link here.

Plan your route. Use Hyperdia’s train times and prices to help you decide on the train times, including bullet trains, and ticket prices. Just type in the starting and ending station names in the search section and a list of choices should appear. Depending on the number of places you intend to go, using this should give you a fairly good idea of your transport costs in Japan.

 

A Bento Box
A Bento Box
Bento Box unwrapped.
Bento Box unwrapped.
Inside: carefully arranged food.
Inside: carefully arranged food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bento boxes are available at the major train stations for those long train trips and to keep hunger pangs at bay. These bentos can be quite delicious too.

 

JR Rail Pass Prices. They are rather pricey upfront, as you can see from the table below. On top of that, they have a time limit from the date of activation. So, be sure to plan your itinerary well in order to maximise savings. Also, there isn’t much comfort difference between a Green seat and an Ordinary seat. Basically, a Green seating means more leg room, and reclines more deeply than an Ordinary seat. Green class seating comes in rows of 2 x 2, whereas the Ordinary seats are in rows of 3 x 2. Read a little bit more about Japan’s bullet trains here on Japan Guide.

Type:
Green
Ordinary
Duration
Adult
Child
Adult
Child
7-day
38,880 YEN
19,440 YEN
29,110 YEN
14,550 YEN
14-day
62,950 YEN
31,470 YEN
46,390 YEN
23,190 YEN
21-day
81,870 YEN
40,930 YEN
59,350 YEN
29,670 YEN

Prices are accurate as of February 2015.

 

Subways

Trains. In Osaka, a trip costs around 200 – 300 yen. There are of course, the tourist and one-day passes if you’re full of energy and plan on cramming all you can see in a day, which is beyond me. There is already a lot of walking involved and plenty to see, eat and explore. All these sights take time. I’m not so sure if the one-day passes are any good in this respect. Bear in mind the opening and closing times of an attraction, the time it takes to get there, and the time you will be spending there. Remember, we are only human, we have only so much energy and operation hours are restricted. I doubt that it’s possible to see so many places within a single day.  If you are just after photos as brag trophies for family and friends back home, congratulations, it’s a superhuman feat!

To determine which is the best train travel option, you really need to work out your travel itinerary and check the appropriate following train lines listed here for further information and options.

Tourist Rail Passes, check this link for discount passes. There are various tourist rail passes available in different prefectures. There is a Tokyo Subway 1-Day Ticket. It is valid for one day of unlimited travel and costs ¥800, the 2-day ticket is valid for two consecutive days of unlimited travel and costs ¥1,200, and the 3-day ticket is valid for three consecutive days of unlimited travel and costs ¥1,500.

 

Bicycles

Separate cycling path.
Separate cycling path.
Own your Lamborghini in Japan!
Own your Lamborghini in Japan!
Bicycles parked everywhere.
Bicycles parked everywhere.
Clearly designated cycle pathways.
Clearly designated cycle pathways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have bicycle will travel cheaply or for FREE. My favourite option. On top of getting a Japanese local’s perspective of their cities, you get a good exercise workout for that next dining foray!  Within a localised area, the best way to get around and see most of Japan at ground level is to cycle! You don’t have to hustle with the subway crowd and you save a ton on train fare. Rent a bicycle if your accommodation doesn’t provide you bicycles. Japan has an established cycling network in place. Most cities have separate cycling paths beside the pedestrian paths. Just stay on the cycling path to keep on the right side of the law. Nearly all Japanese cycle everywhere from grocery shopping to getting to work.


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