JR Pass(Japan Rail Pass) | Comparing JR Pass VS No JR Pass for Your Japan Adventure

The JR Pass(Japan Rail Pass) is a popular railway ticket exclusively for overseas visitors to Japan. It cannot be purchased by residents of Japan. The popularity of the pass owes to the fact that with the exception of some Shinkansen trains, notably the Nozomi and Mizuho services, it can be conveniently used for unlimited travel on all JR lines.

Unfortunately, however, JR Pass prices are slated for a sharp increase in October 2023.

(Unit: JPY)
Class Current Prices New Prices
JR-designated sales office or agent Website
Standard Car
7 days 29,650 33,610 50,000
14 days 47,250 52,960 80,000
21 days 60,450 66,200 100,000
Green Car
7 days 39,600 44,810 70,000
14 days 64,120 72,310 110,000
21 days 83,390 91,670 140,000

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  • *Child prices are roughly half the amount shown above (children aged between six and 11 as of the day of purchase are eligible for a child pass; children 12 years or older will require an adult pass).
  • *Please note that the new prices are subject to change.

If you want to visit Japan’s most popular destinations, is it worthwhile getting a JR Pass?

We did some research to find out.

Japan has a well-developed public transport network centering on the Japan Railways Group on which the JR Pass can be used. That said, many private-sector companies also operate transport infrastructure in Japan. As such, there are many convenient transport services available, even though the JR Pass is not valid for use on them.

The Shinkansen Nozomi service is the best way to get to Kyoto, Osaka, or Hiroshima.
The Shinkansen has three types of trains.

Nozomi Few stops. Fast. Frequent. Extremely convenient.
JR Pass holders will be able to use this service for an additional fare after the price hike takes effect in October 2023.
164 services per day (83 out of Tokyo and 81 back in).
Hikari Can be used by JR Pass holders without additional cost. Few stops. Fast.
Not so many services. 65 per day (33 out and 32 back).
Kodama This service too can be used by JR Pass holders without additional cost.
However, it stops at all stations and takes longer as it needs to let other trains pass by.
84 services per day (40 out and 44 back).

Approximate travel times from Tokyo to Osaka

Nozomi 2 hours 30 minutes
Hikari 3 hours
Kodama 4 hours

For the abovementioned reasons, most Japanese people choose to ride the Nozomi when travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka. However, JR Pass holders are unable to ride the Nozomi trains.
*There are plans to allow JR Pass holders to travel on Nozomi trains for an additional fee starting in October 2023.

  Comparing the JR Pass and non-JR Pass options when visiting Japan's most popular destinations

  Comparing non-Japan Rail Pass transportation options
Lake Kawaguchi/Mt. Fuji, Nagano, Matsumoto, Kofu, Mt. Minobu, and other destinations

Mt. Minobu
The holy site of Nichiren Buddhism in Japan — roughly 3.5 hours by bus from Shinjuku

Did you know there are three sacred mountains in Japanese Buddhism? Mt. Koya in Wakayama Prefecture, not too far from Osaka; Mt. Hiei, which straddles the prefectures of Kyoto and Shiga; and Mt. Minobu in Yamanashi Prefecture near Tokyo.

Mt. Minobu is home to the head temple of the Nichiren sect of Japanese Buddhism.
It is a spiritual temple town nestled in the mountains not too far from Tokyo where you can gain a deeper appreciation of Japanese Buddhism and culture.

Approximately 3.5 hours by bus from the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal. The fare is ¥3,300.
See here for more details. 

  Comparing the JR Pass and non-JR Pass options when traveling to Mt. Minobu

Shosenkyo Gorge

Shosenkyo Gorge is a ravine situated to the north of Kofu City in Yamanashi Prefecture. It is one of Japan’s best places of scenic beauty where you can gaze up at the imposing precipitous cliffs and experience the ever-changing four seasons of Japan.

Shisenkyo Gorge is located outside of central city of Kofu and would be perfect destination for a day trip from Tokyo.
Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal ⇒ (Highway Bus Reservation ) ⇒ Kofu Station ⇒ (Yamanashi Kotsu Bus) ⇒ Shosenkyo Gorge
*From Kofu station, please take a bus bound for "Shosenkyo" from the bus stop No.4 at South Exit Bus Terminal.

  Comparing the JR Pass and non-JR Pass options when traveling to Kofu