Should I get the 7 or 14 day Japan Rail Pass?
April 6, 2019 10:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm running into a headache trying to figure out if we need the 14 day JR Pass. Halp.

There's two of us and we split up towards the end. I'm trying to figure out if either of us need the two week pass or if we should just get the one week pass. Not sure which route is better served with the JR Pass or regular ticket.

Our itinerary is:

April 20: arrive in Tokyo
April 25: Tokyo to Hakone
April 26: Hakone to Kyoto
May 1: Person A returns to Tokyo airport. Person B goes to Koyasan Temple
May 2: Person B - Osaka
May 5: Person B leaves Osaka

We're thinking of doing day trips from Tokyo, but not sure where yet and no solid plans. Same with Kyoto and Osaka, but it's all kind of loose. In which circumstance does it make more sense to do the 7 day pass? or should we just get the 14 day pass to cover all airport transports (except last one)?
posted by monologish to Travel & Transportation around Japan (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If I remember correctly at least part of the train trip between Osaka and Koyasan is not covered by the rail pass...but it was a while ago.

Without running the numbers, these all look like not-super-long trips, and it seems that it might be more cost-effective to pay per ride. But it could also depend on what you want to do for day trips when you are in Tokyo.

This may not help if you're sort of frozen with fear, but I was in a similar position before I left. I sat down with Excel and priced out every leg of major train travel I'd be doing, and on what days. I was there 10 days, and by the point I priced out leg 5 of my trip I had hit the point of it more than breaking even with a 14 day pass.

Sorry to not have a definitive answer...but I hope that maybe this all can help.
posted by aloiv2 at 11:35 AM on April 6, 2019

The JRail Calculator might give some insight.
posted by umber vowel at 11:35 AM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Couple things:

Hakone can be done as an overnight trip but it's also very much a reasonable a day trip so keep that in mind. But either way, you should take the Odakyu line from Shinjuku to get from Tokyo to Hakone and back - which isn't covered by the JR pass anyway.

Don't think of the railpass as something that'll provide much benefit within Tokyo. The real value of the JR pass is the Shinkansen - it ends up being far cheaper (last I checked at least) to get a rail pass if you're taking basically anything beyond a round-trip from Tokyo to pretty much anywhere on the Shinkansen. So your instinct to use it to get from Tokyo->Kyoto->Osaka and back is spot on.

You refer to "Tokyo airport" which I'm guessing is Narita but could also easily be Haneda; personally I wouldn't advise waking up in Kyoto and heading to either airport on the same day just due to travel time and potential uncertainty in the event of delays or something but it's certainly possible, and travel to both is covered by the JR East pass so you could save a little bit of money that way (though that's really more of a concern if you're taking the Narita Express since thats decently more expensive than just taking the monorail if you were going to Haneda).

That all said, a roundtrip ticket on the Narita Express is like $40 so it's probably worth spending that money to get more value out of your JR pass by waiting a few days to activate it until you're heading out of Tokyo

I think you could finesse your schedule a bit to make it a little more efficient but ultimately it seems Person A should probably get the 7 day and person B should get the 14
posted by Riptor at 1:50 PM on April 6, 2019

If person B is spending the second leg in Kansai only, look into budgeting it on the Kansai thru-pass or two vs the second week of the JR Pass. You can't get to Koyasan by JR anyway, and the Kansai pass works on (almost) all non-JR transportation in Kansai including Kyoto buses, Kyoto-Osaka on Hankyu trains, and the Nankai line to the airport. Two three-day Kansai passes still work out cheaper than a second week of JR Pass and in a lot of the cities in the area, the JR stations are a bit out of the way.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 5:48 AM on April 7, 2019

The 7-day JR Pass is priced just higher than a return trip from Tokyo - Osaka, so for Person A it would pay off (although the better options for Hakone on the Odakyu Line aren't covered under the pass).

Person B shouldn't get either pass, since they are not returning to Tokyo. Like Hakone, the best options to Koyasan aren't on JR Lines so the pass isn't applicable (and even the JR option is only ¥ 1,490 yen each way).

If I were in your shoes I would consider skipping the pass entirely - that way you can take the Romancecar to Hakone and the fastest shinkansens from/to Kyoto for about the same price as the 7-day JR Pass.

The benefit of having a JR Pass would be if you decide one morning you want to day trip to Himeji or Hiroshima, which would be pricey shinkansen trips but free with a pass. So the more planning you can do before you decide on a pass, the better.

To look up prices yourself (as suggested above, a spreadsheet is really helpful) you can use Uncheck the "Private Railway" and "NOZOMI / MIZUHO" boxes to show only JR Pass options. If you use the Hyperdia mobile app you also do a "JR Pass" search which will show you routes that use both JR+private railway with the JR cost as 0. (The mobile app will ask for a subscription after 30 days; you can just delete and re-install it to keep using for free.)
posted by Gortuk at 6:01 AM on April 7, 2019

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