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Huge price hike for Japan Rail Pass triggers huge drop in foreign travelers who’ll buy it

63 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

In April, Japan Railways Group shocked international travelers thinking about taking a trip to Japan by announcing a gigantic price increase for the Japan Rail Pass. Long considered one of the best deals available for inbound tourists looking to see a large swath of the country, the “JR Pass,” as it’s also known among travelers, gives you an unlimited rides on the Shinkansen bullet train, as well as local JR-managed lines nationwide, over a period of one, two, or three weeks.

Currently, a one-week pass costs 29,640 yen, but that will be jumping to 50,000 yen. The two-week pass will be rising from 47,250 to 80,000 yen, and the three-week pass from 60,450 yen to 100,000. That works out to price increases of between 65 and 69 percent, and depending on where you’re staying and whether you’re splitting hotel costs with a traveling companion, the difference is enough to potentially equal multiple nights’ worth of hotel costs.

Needless to say, the change hasn’t been met with cheers from overseas travelers anxious to visit Japan now that the country has finally reopened from being effectively closed to tourism for almost the entirety of the pandemic. Illustrating just how unpopular is this move by JR is, Export Japan, management company for inbound-to-Japan travel portal Japan Guide, has released the results of an online poll carried out through the site in May, shortly after the Japan Rail Pass price hike was announced. When posed with the question “Will you be buying the Japan Rail Pass after the price increase?”, the responses from 1,098 participants were:

● Probably not: 36.5 percent of respondents

● Absolutely not: 36.1 percent

● I can’t say for sure: 15.5 percent

● I’ll probably buy it: 6 percent

● I’ll definitely buy it: 5.9 percent

Together, that’s 72.6 percent of prospective travelers to Japan thinking the Japan Rail Pass is something they can do without at the increased price.

Screen-Shot-2023-05-30-at-7.30.07.png
Image: Pakutaso

There’s a piece of the picture missing in the survey, though, which is whether the 11.9 percent of people who are thinking they’ll buy the Japan Rail Pass after the price increase is a smaller group than those who have buying it at the about-to-end lower price. While it’s an inexact overlap of respondents, in a separate survey held later in May, Japan Guide asked users who have traveled to Japan before if they’ve purchased the Japan Rail Pass on a trip, and the breakdown for the 697 responses they received was:

● Yes, I have purchased the pass: 60.7 percent

● No, I haven’t purchased it: 24 percent

● I was not eligible to purchase it: 15.4 percent

That third demographic points to a necessary adjustment in measuring the situation, since it indicates that out of travelers who were demographically eligible to buy the Japan Rail Pass, 71.7 percent of them chose to do so, and so the drop down to less than 12 percent of survey participants thinking they’ll still buy it at the higher price is huge.

There’s a concern that increasing the price of the Japan Rail Pass will harm tourism-benefitting businesses and communities in less prominently promoted parts of the country. In order for travelers to come out ahead with the higher prices, that have to take more Shinkansen trips during their pass period. That might seem like it would promote going to more out-of-the-way places, but it’s more likely that the extra pressure to get their money’s worth will cause travelers to increase their focus on hitting a larger number of big-name cities that they feel more confident will justify the extra spending in terms of sightseeing attractions, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Sendai, while skipping the smaller Shinkansen stops between them entirely.

Unfortunately for anyone hoping the survey will have JR Group scrambling to cancel the price increase, its results might not have any effect at all on the rail operator. Prior to the pandemic, there had been a sustained surge in the number of inbound foreign travelers using the Japan Rail Pass. With only so many seats available, JR may feel like it’s approaching the limit of how many passes it can realistically offer and honor. The company cited overcrowding from inbound international travelers as the reason for its decision to start requiring luggage reservations on Shinkansen trains, and it’s quite possible that JR thinks it can make as much revenue from Japan Rail Pass sales as it did before, if not more, by offsetting a lower number of passes sold with higher individual pass prices.

Still, none of that is happy news if you’re trying to keep your budget in check while planning a trip to Japan. The silver lining, for the time being anyway, is that Japan Rail Passes will stay at their lower prices through the summer, with JR saying the increase will happen sometime around October.

Source: PR Times via Norimono News

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Massive price increase announced for Japan Rail Pass, cost to jump by up to 77 percent

-- New Shinkansen luggage rules start today, set to make travel more expensive and less convenient

-- Japan’s best train pass, the Japan Rail Pass, finally being made available for purchase online

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

63 Comments
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Welcome to the new japan, where the electricity has been raised by 42%

-10 ( +20 / -30 )

Time to pay what locals pay, but given the very weak yen the cost is still cheaper for foreigners than yen salaried locals.

-13 ( +13 / -26 )

Sadly this will probably mean - with limited time - many tourists will just stick to the golden triangle of Kyoto-Osaka-Tokyo, rather than venturing further afield to enjoy regional areas a little.

31 ( +36 / -5 )

Shinkansen is just way to expensive. It’s a great service yes but $300 from Tokyo to Nagano return? Sorry no

17 ( +23 / -6 )

Most stupid decision ever! Catch up to 2023 japan, you are still living in 1960!

2 ( +17 / -15 )

just like our English school, they rose the prices by 33% and guess what ? 2/3 of students left. It didn’t bother them nor will it bother JR coz they’d rather go broke than give in , it’s pride.

good luck JR you won’t see my coin

19 ( +27 / -8 )

many tourists will just stick to the golden triangle of Kyoto-Osaka-Tokyo, rather than venturing further afield to enjoy regional areas a little.

Good.

-15 ( +2 / -17 )

Even after price increases, it will still be cheap. I envy foreigners.

-22 ( +6 / -28 )

I said at the time, when the price hike was first mentioned in JT, that the pass was no longer a bargain, and thus had no real value any more. It appears that I'm not alone in that assessment.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Nothing says go away quite like a 65-69% price gouge

16 ( +21 / -5 )

Kokontozai: "Even after price increases, it will still be cheap. I envy foreigners."

It absolutely will NOT be unless you are travelling ALL of Japan in about a week -- like a Japanese tour or something where they visit ten European cities in six days, leaving enough time off the bus for a photograph and that's it.

Anyway, this is so typical of Japanese companies. I remember when Toho and other cinemas were talking about dropping the price of a movie to try and get more people to come. I was like, "Wow! Someone is finally getting it. Dropping it from ¥1800 to even ¥1500 would see a big increase, and therefore an increase of profits." What'd they do instead? INCREASED the costs. These companies seem to have a mentality wherein they believe the same number of customers will partake of the product with cost increases, and they calculate based on how much more they will earn. They raise the cost by 50% and then lose 80% of customers, resulting in massive losses. If they LOWERED the cost even slightly, on the other hand, they'd see a big increase of purchase, I guarantee it.

I use to always recommend this pass for people coming here, even if they were only going from Tokyo to Osaka (and I'd recommend Hiroshima since they had the pass) and back again. Now I definitely will tell them not to buy.

5 ( +13 / -8 )

When I last traveled to Japan I got a 21 day green pass and used it enough to ensure I got value for the investment. Shinkansen is a great way to travel around Japan. With the new price increases I wouldn't even get the standard pass now. It is not a tourist friendly decision and will see some now choose to visit another country rather than Japan. A backwards step to be sure. A small modest increase would be much more sensible.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

The idea of this train pass was to make it cheaper to travel around Japan by train. Now, it’s ¥100,000 it’s cheaper to buy tickets to destinations.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Just as an example looking at the 2 week pass and (just as an example) as an American Tourist - if you'd come to Japan in Feb 2020 (before the borders closed) at the old price then your $ price was $450. At the new price its $571 with the Yen where it is. I would think that demand won't drop off that much! Compared to the rise in air fares and hotel prices still seems very reasonable. Of course I expect the snide comments from the normal people.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

Hard "pass".

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

Express way buses

8 ( +10 / -2 )

That JR decision was all it took to make me cancel my plans to spend 6 weeks in Japan this fall. I used the JR pass extensively during all my past visits which had me on those trains from one end of the country to the other, north to south, east to west. It was a bargain, and while some people might think it still is, I have to disagree. I'll travel elsewhere, and send my thanks to JR for helping with that decision.

14 ( +19 / -5 )

Do you think they raised the price because of fraud? I know many Japanese were using it who lived abroad.

-18 ( +1 / -19 )

This was the best thing for travellers, I'm guessing since airlines raised the prices JR saw the opportunity to also grab money from tourists.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

The article might have been generated by software.

Look at this nonsense: "and depending on where you’re staying and whether you’re splitting hotel costs with a traveling companion".

What splitting cost? Hotels are paid per person, not per room.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Japan is distant from almost any other country apart from China and Korea.

Getting here is expensive and time consuming and tiring

Once here, food, transport and lodging make it much more expensive.

Putting the price of travel up even more will deter a large number of people.

There are many other countries in Asia that offer much better value for our buck

-6 ( +10 / -16 )

Why should visitors pay less than residents? Why should JR, a private company, subsidize visitor travel?

-5 ( +7 / -12 )

What do you expect?

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Do you think they raised the price because of fraud? I know many Japanese were using it who lived abroad.

To use the JR Rail Pass, Japanese need to present evidence of 10 consecutive years of overseas residency, or enter Japan on a foreign passport.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Re kurisupisuToday 06:53 pm JST

Japan is distant from almost any other country apart from China and Korea.

Getting here is expensive and time consuming and tiring

San Francisco to London. 10 hours 20 minutes 248, 300 yen return

San Francisco to Tokyo. 10 hours 45 min 180,00 yen return

London is 25 minutes closer but a LOT more expensive.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Good. The trains will be quieter if more tourists take the bus or hitchhike.

You always pay more for convenience. The shinkansen drops you in the middle of town faster.

The people who think flying is cheaper spend the time getting to the airport (by train), spending another hour is the airport madness, and still have to take another train from the airport to the city.

The shinkansen is still the best value for trips to and from Kanto to Kansai.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

Not surprising. The new price of the 7 day pass won't pay off unless you spend 1 day in Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, etc!

Tourists would be much better off now looking at the regional passes that are on offer such as the Hokuriku Arch pass for travelling between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka or even flying directly into Osaka or taking a regional flight from Tokyo to Osaka.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Japan actively discouraging visitors to go outside the usual tourist bubble. This will cause more crowding at the usual sites, and fewer for those smaller places that need visitors to survive.

When I first came to Japan I used the JR pass to travel all over the country, as did my friends and family when they visited. I don’t think that would happen now.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Huge increases on the face of it, but off-set somewhat for the moment by the weaker JPY.

We did the calculations and for relatives visiting with no pressure to see everything all at once, it's now probably no more expensive, and less time-restrictive, to just use regular transport as necessary.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

when greed is a king this happens...

3 ( +7 / -4 )

For years Locals can't afford to go visit their love ones using Shinkansen they paid for with their tax yen, and yet the government is alright with that. Same with the expressways the people of Japan have been waiting for over 50 years to drive on it free it hasn't happened yet, Corrupt construction companies and their allies keeps ripping off the people and the Government is alright with that too.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Huge price hike for Japan Rail Pass triggers huge drop in foreign travelers who’ll buy it

Which is the plan. When people stop buying it, it will be cancelled due to a drop in customers. They are taking lessons from Amtrak on how to turn off customers.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Well, the price increase has confirmed my decision to get a car rental for my next visit and only visit locations within a couple of hours drive of Tokyo.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

So much for achieving the 40 million tourists goal in 2025.

Own goal for Japan!

4 ( +10 / -6 )

Welcome to Japan if you have enough money to spend.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

@Asiaman

"Why should visitors pay less than residents? Why should JR, a private company, subsidize visitor travel?"

Because that J-Pass is for uninformed idiots anyway. No residents will go on all stops shinkansen (railpass does not apply to Nozomi) and visit places they had never heard of just because all-stops shinkasen stops there. Who in their right mind would take shinkansen from Nagoya to Mikawa Anjo(30km)?

Backpacker level of knowledge can not tell that Nozomi,Hikari and Kodama shinkansens,although look the same, have hours of difference from start to destination.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@garymalmgren

And what about the travel to the airport, the lines to check-in, the lengthy security checks and the innumerable delays until take off?

All add hours to the flight time

Then cramped economy class where it is too hot or too cold and there isn’t space to freely move for hours at a time.

Even animals travel in less cramped conditions…

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Sweet. This is the first yearly family isn't going to visit the grandparents in northern Tohoku due to crazy airfares. We always get the passes to get from Narita up to the homestead, and then to visit other family members near Nagoya. Now our family trips just went up by about $1000. Again- sweet.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Why should JR, a private company, subsidize visitor travel?

AGREE!

Should visitors pay less for taxis? How about meals?

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Of course this survey didn't mean anything for JR. From the beginning their target has been only salary men whose fare is covered by companies, not families let alone foreigners. That's why there's no luggage or stroller storage in the car. If you don't like buying the ticket, they are happy to recommend taking a bus or taxi, or go home.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Good! Why should locals have to pay so much more. Japan is already over crowded so this is welcome to control the hoards and reduce the rif raf. Those who are complaining and don’t want to come. Please don’t.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Morons……

tourist bureau: how do we get more foreigners to visit rural areas in Japan?

idiot JR ceo: I got it! Let’s raise the cost of the foreigner rail pass! Announce it!

yes men: good idea!

tourist bureau: I don’t think that’s how it works…..

idiot JR ceo: I mean we have more tourists coming in, paying X money for the pass. They’ll definitely pay more if we charge it!!!

yes men: I agree. Good thinking boss!

(5 minutes after the announcement)

tourist bureau: ummm, we just had over a 10,000 canceled pass reservations……..

idiot JR ceo: well, that’s ok. I guess they’ll just stay in Tokyo and Osaka for their entire trip! More money for us!!!

tourist bureau: uhhhh, how do we get more foreigners to visit rural areas in Japan?

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Depending on where I am going in Japan, if it is long distance I will either drive ( I love driving ) or I can take a ferry or even fly if the price is right, there is no way I will pay that kind of money for a Shinkansen, that's just crazy, this country will probably lose some tourists because of these price hikes. Just crazy!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

As a foreigner living in Japan, I have to pay ¥ 25.000 for a return ticket Kyoto to Tokyo.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Chibakun

Do you think they raised the price because of fraud? I know many Japanese were using it who lived abroad.

If they were living abroad, it wasn't fraud. They were still only visiting Japan.

FYI - The pass isn't limited to non-Japanese, only to non-residents.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

No thank you. I'll be sticking to the Night/Highway buses. Have been for years, and they're sometimes 60% cheaper than a shinkansen ticket, it'll just take you longer to get to your destination. Actually, there are companies that provide day buses and night buses so you can still arrive at your destination on time, stop in cities you didn't even know existed and make a new friend if someone is sitting next to you. They're actually really comfortable.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

For anyone who would use their pass for going further afield, flights to Fukuoka on a discount airline are cheap which makes buying a rail pass a waste of money

2 ( +2 / -0 )

We were all surprised, and disappointed, to discover that the prices for all the items on the English version of the menu were 10% higher than on the Japanese menu.

Japan isn't Vietnam. The menu probably just hadn't been updated.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

could be worse - could be in another country where it's expensive, not clean, never runs on time...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

With the yen being so weak it is still a bargain if you are planning to travel to several places around Japan. My cousin and his family came here for nearly a month, and they never got the train pass and went to Kyoto and shopped until they dropped, and they said for a family of 4 they spent under 10 thousand dollars this included their accommodations and food.

Had they travel anywhere else in N. America based on where they stayed, what they ate and bought it would had been double and they have been here twice now and are planning another trip back here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

$400(50,000 Yen) sounds cheap for a 1 week long rail pass.

Stop complaining.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

A few people here are saying that tourists should pay the same as locals... I get it, but for a relatively modest discount, encouraging mobility of tourists brings in much needed income to all areas of Japan. The easier it is to move tourists off the Golden Route, the more beneficial it is to those communities.

The proposed change is going to be very annoying for most locals. Now you're going to have WAY more people on the Nozomi trains. You see more tourists than locals on the Hikari trains under the current system, so most Japanese travelers weren't really directly impacted on the Tokyo-Osaka route. Now that passes are less worthwhile, people will be taking the faster Nozomi trains, and create more congestion.

Also not great from a sustainability perspective. People will be taking more domestic flights. I can fly from NRT to HIJ for under 7000yen one way with a discount carrier.

If they changed the pass to 50000yen for 5 or 7 unique travel days in a 3 week period, that would have been more interesting.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If you want Japan, bring more money and problem solved..

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Even at the old prices, the JR Pass is a bit of a ripoff. That's because you must use it on consecutive days. The Eurorail pass, by comparison, allows you to travel on the days of your choosing and convenience, making it a much better proposition. European intercity trains also have suitcase racks, by the way.

JR could have mitigated the backlash if it dropped its rigid condition. But that's typical of a Japanese service provider - a rigid and restricted product that sounds good on the surface but results in the customer getting a raw deal.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Maybe this was the plan all along. Make it too expensive, so they can just phase it out, and tourists can buy ticket like everyone else.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

They should have raised prices, but in exchange allow you to use the JR Pass on non-consecutive days over a limited time period (eg 3 days travel over 7 days). This would encourage tourists to venture away from the 'golden triangle" of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and into places less seldom visited.

Doing so would assist with relieving over tourism in some areas, and spread the tourist dollar/yen around a bit more.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Good news for the Golden Triangle. Curtains for everywhere else. Given cost pressures, it may be the final straw that sees people shift to Asian countries that are working hard to entice tourists in.

They might want to publicise the 'requiring luggage reservations' bit. That might be difficult from several thousand miles away, or for those who buy stuff on a trip and return with more than they set out with.

The UK is also limiting rail transport, cutting timetables, requiring pre-booking and limiting luggage space. UK rail services, whilst not a patch on Japan's, were OK pre-pandemic but have since declined considerably, and those thinking of visiting the UK should factor that in. Tourists seem to be as unpopular as refugees and migrants. I guess we are going to have to get used to exploring less and staying home more.

If they required a 'MyNumber' card to use the shinkansen, it would bump up ID card usage and solve the capacity/tourist luggage issues. They could run shinkansen services for tourists only, at night, when the rest of the system closes down. If you do want to move around Japan, big city to big city, doing it at night means that you don't lose sight-seeing time travelling.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is so cringeworthy. I'm sure they never included anyone wise in this decision, like they do in most places here in Japan. This is a very bad move. It's ok to hike the prices by 10–12%, but this is ridiculous. Train tourism revenue in Japan will be impacted, unless they wanted less people on the trains. I

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They could run shinkansen services for tourists only, at night, when the rest of the system closes down. 

Lol. Get real dude.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Take gun. Shoot self in foot.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Currently, a one-week pass costs 29,640 yen, but that will be jumping to 50,000 yen. The two-week pass will be rising from 47,250 to 80,000 yen, and the three-week pass from 60,450 yen to 100,000. That works out to price increases of between 65 and 69 percent

Now that's what I'd call a "hard pass"! This is what greed looks like! I know they're trying to control the crowds of tourists on the trains and buses, but there has to be another way rather than empty the pockets of tourists.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan is quickly evolving into a country for the rich and only the rich? They wonder why the birth rate is declining, no one can afford t have multiple children. You certainly can't afford to take them on the train across country.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is a foreign inflation rate applied to foreign tourists and will hurt Japanese tourism outside major centres.

Japan; a land of rules and low inflation.

This 70% price increase is best illustrated by the year that we'd need to go back to, it experience the same price incease - and that is 1977.

¥100 in 1977 is now

¥167.26 in 2023

This is not going to solve the problem it is aiming to solve.

I'm a frequent traveller to Japan who has used the pass well over 20 times (20+ return trips to Japan).

In the past 15 years I have seen a significant increase in tourism, with most of that being to Tokyo (which can absorb it) and Kyoto (which cannot absorb it). The Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Osaka is saturated at times.

But after thinking about this issue for months, it is my opinion this is NOT the solution and will dramatically backfire for JR.

This will not necessarily reduce tourism, but it will ensure that tourists only go to major centres.

For the small number of tourists who do use the rail pass and new price, they will move to Nozomi's taking essential seats away from Japanese who were able to use this service without additional competition.

This will significantly reduce tourism to small towns with reduced populations that require tourism to boost their economies.

I feel JR are applying an inflation rule application to only some foreign citizens, not basing this on Japanese inflation as noted above.

The pass in its current form is not sustainable, but I feel there is another way.

Solution?

Increase pass in line with Japanese inflation (as it always had) to prevent inadvertently applying one rule to foreigners and another to Japanese

Apply an additional charge on the Tokyo to Osaka part of the line - to discourage over tourism on this section

Promote other cities outside Kyoto and Tokyo to tourists when selling the JR pass. This could include example itineraries.
0 ( +0 / -0 )

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