Photo: iStock/ emiekayama

Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?

By Adam Douglas

There are many things to love about Japan, from the food to the living tradition to the ultra-modern streets of fast-paced Tokyo. Of course, there are also the trains. Sleek and punctual, they whisk passengers from one corner of the country to the other in comfort and style.

Regular visitors will know about the Japan Rail Pass, an affordable, all-you-can-ride ticket that grants access to the many Japan Rail-associated trains, including the famous bullet train, the shinkansen. However, prices have recently increased—and by quite a lot.

Is the Japan Rail Pass still worth it?

What Is the Japan Rail Pass?

A limited-time transportation pass Photo: WikiCommons/ Jennifer Feuchter

The Japan Rail Pass is a time-limited pass that allows you to ride most (but not all) JR trains in Japan. Tickets come in seven, 14 and 21-day variants for either regular or first class (Green Car) seats. Prices start at ¥50,000 for seven days for adults for the regular car and ¥70,000 for the Green Car. There are also child prices, which are half of the adult cost for each level. (Children are defined as those 11 years or younger.)

Note that these prices went into effect on October 1, 2023, and are significantly higher than the previous tickets. More on this later.

How Do You Get the Japan Rail Pass?

Click here to read more.

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They're not worth it anymore. On top of the price jump, they're inflexible: you have to use them throughout the period with no breaks, so you're prompted to rush through your journey, which I guess is the Japanese style of travel anyway.

The Eurorail passes, which allow you to choose your travel days within a one-month period, are a fair better deal and cater to the needs and convenience of the traveler rather than to the rail operator.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?

Not since they raised the price. It used to be, though. But, only if you took a few shinkansen trips in the 7-day span.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Not worth it at all.

Anyway, if and when we travel, we drive.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Not being able to use the Nozomi is huge

I don't think most tourists understand this before they come

Also I feel sorry for the train conductors always having to kick japan rail users off Nozomi trains

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Sadly,not anymore.

Highway buses are better,unless you drive.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I agree with many above, but if you think about it, those who earn in USD hardly felt a huge difference:

2019 average rate: 109.01

Ticket price: 29,650 yen (272 USD)

Current rate as of 12/11: 145.42

Ticket price: 50,000 yen (344 USD)

Difference to USD earners: 72 USD

Difference to Yen earners: 20,350 yen

Many tourists coming to Japan are still calling Japan cheap. It's sad that us yen earners feel the inflation but tourists don't.

An interesting interview done by TAKASHii from Japan that gives you an interesting perspective of how Japan is perceived by tourists in terms of affordability:

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I read that for tourists, the fare has been increased a lot to something like USD $250.00 for a DAY rail pass.

I for one will not use it then and then look for alternative transportation.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Recently used the kosoku bus from Kobe to Fukuoka for Y8,400, it was great! Three seats across the whole bus, everyone gets a curtained compartment. Needed to be in the waiting room off Kobe centagai by 1140 pm, arrived Hakata station before 8am. Two drivers, two 15 minute parking area/konbini stops on the way. Hakata arrival terminal has wide choice of breakfasts (I chose pancakes and coffee) and includes a nice onsen.

8 ( +8 / -0 )


Not being able to use the Nozomi is huge

It's a minor inconvenience, at worst. I never had an issue. Although, I agree that it is a stupid and unnecessary restriction.

I don't think most tourists understand this before they come.

It's made extremely clear on the JR website, and on the purchase certificate.

Also I feel sorry for the train conductors always having to kick japan rail users off Nozomi trains.

I'm surprised that it would happen so often, as it is made clear in writing that Nozomi is not eligible.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I'm with the majority here. It ain't worth it anymore. I used to sing its praises for decades.

With LCCs now available in Japan, if you're going far, that's the cheapest and fastest way to go. Mid-distance, go highway bus. Otherwise it'll cost ya.

Looking at it from a different point of view, if you rode the bullet train from Tokyo to Kagoshima at the southern end of Kyushu, which is around ¥30,000 each way, you would be getting your money’s worth. However, with airplane tickets starting at around ¥5,000 it would be much cheaper to just fly.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why does every one of these types of articles have to start with obligatory butt- kissing slop? Anyway, the pass is expensive as hell, and, if you're a late-night person like me, you'll need to pay for lots of other transport. I'll stick to driving my car.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?

it WAS. past tense.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Haven't used a JR pass in at least 15 years. Flying is quicker and less expensive. It's still a good thing for a first time tourist who wants to see alot of places and intentionally ride the trains.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's a minor inconvenience, at worst. I never had an issue.

2.5 hours Tokyo to Osaka vs 4 hours on the slower trains is a huge inconvenience

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Getting on and off Shinkansen stations is easier than airports. Not all destinations have airports. Certainly, long distance is better for flying.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's still lot cheaper and flexible than Switzerland and UK.

Worth it every cent/pence/yen for the Great Japanese service.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Still don't understand how it was ever feasible in the first place. Last time, I had a jolly two week vacation traveling from Osaka to Tokyo (with a few side-trips) and spent about ¥17,000 on Shinkansen (and a few thousand more on local lines). JR Pass for 14 days would've been ¥80,000. Even before the price hike, JR Pass only seemed of value when on a looooong vacation, really going hither and thither across Japan, always keeping in mind where the pass is valid, and generally spending lots of the vacation in public transport. Much easier to just have a regular IC card.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I live in Japan now, and use to travel here for vacation a lot. I still think it's worth it as a visitor. A 14 day Pass allows you to use the pass for 14 consecutive days. You are in Japan for 14 days consecutively for your vacation. You start in Tokyo. Tokyo has a dozen or so JR lines. Everytime you use these trains you use your rail pass and the ride is free through out Tokyo. Let's say you stay in Tokyo for 5 days. Great. Now you take the Shinkansen to Kyoto. That is ¥14,500 one way. Stay in Kyoto. Don't book hotels in every city you want to visit. Stay in Kyoto for the next week. You take day trips out from Kyoto to other cities. Osaka has local trains that take about 40 minutes or you take the shinkansen for a 15 minute ride. Kobe? Take the shinkansen from Kyoto, Hiroshima take the shinkansen. This is how i use to travel on the cheaper version, and while it's more expensive, it still works out to save you money, and time. You're not fighting with luggage every couple days to go to the next city. Kyoto to Hiroshima is probably ¥10,000. Not to mention a lot of the trains out of Kyoto to Nara and surrounding places that aren't shinkansen are JR, and the Ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima Shima? That's a JR Ferry. Then you take the shinkansen back to your airport maybe Tokyo since that's where you arrived. Guess what you saved another ¥14500.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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