Getting Around Japan with a Japan Rail Pass

Getting Around Japan with a Japan Rail Pass

On our recent trip to Japan one of the things which made travelling around Japan really easy was using a Japan Rail Pass.  When you have a JR Pass you can easily reserve seats for your preferred train services, switch and change your reservations and also go around Japan on the unreserved train carriages.

In our case we used 21 day JR Rail Passes for our four week family visit to Japan and we had a great time exploring!  We started our trip with 10 days in Tokyo, so activated our Japan train pass to be used for the final 21 calendar days of our trip so that we could maximise the value of our passes. 

Below we have detailed our experiences travelling by train in Japan with the JR Passes, including how to activate and use the JR Pass Japan to get best value for your trip!  We hope you enjoy the ride with us 😊.

Note that our Japan Rail Passes were sponsored by Klook.

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You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

What is a Japan Rail Pass?

A National Japan Rail Pass is a pass only available for visitors to Japan which enables you to travel on most bullet trains (or shinakansen) as well as other Japan Rail company trains, buses and ferries throughout Japan – further details on specific inclusions and exclusions are lower in this article.  Japan Rail passes can be purchased for either 7 day, 14 day or 21 day periods, and you can purchase either First Class (Green) or Second Class (Ordinary) passes.  Child Japan Rail Passes are available for visitors aged 6-11 years old, and up to two children or infants aged 5 or under are free as long as they do not need to occupy their own seat.

Your Japan Rail Pass includes the option to reserve your seats on the shinkansen at no extra cost, however in non-peak times a great option is to hop on and off the unreserved seating cars without needing to make any other bookings.  At each station there are floor markings showing where to line up for the unreserved cars.  If you have a reserved seat you go to the floor marking for the specific car on your ticket.

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If you live in either Australia or New Zealand and are planning to purchase a rail pass or tickets for travel in either Japan, South Korea, China, Europe or Vietnam then check out this great sale where you can get up to 10% off all rail passes through Klook! The sale starts on Monday and closes at 11:59pm on Tuesday 5 November 2019.

Click here to check out the Klook Click Frenzy Rail Sale

Where to Buy Japan Rail Pass

The cheapest place to buy your JR Pass in Australia is through Klook, who are an online travel agency who specialise in travel in Asia.  Klook also provides free delivery to Australia, and your Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order vouchers will be mailed to your address by registered post within 7 business days of placing your order.

Further below in this article is a step by step guide on how to book your JR Pass through Klook!

Click here to check out pricing and book your Japan Rail Pass through Klook.  Use coupon code MDE8G to get a $A5 discount off your first order! 

Klook also provides free delivery and other collection options for many other countries, so also check them out at the above link if you are from any of the following countries:

  • Oceania: Australia and New Zealand
  • North America: USA and Canada
  • Europe: United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, and Sweden
  • Asia: Most Asian Countries
Klook.com

How to Activate Your JR Pass

After receiving your physical Exchange Orders, ensure that you pack them to take with you to Japan.

Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order
Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order

After you arrive in Japan the next step is to activate your Japan Rail Pass.  You can activate your pass at the airport after you arrive, and for example at Narita Airport that will then enable you to use the Narita Express train which is included in the pass.  Ensure you allow additional time for the activation process – often there can be a queue, and at the counter it can take around 10-15 minutes to complete the process.

Japan Rail Pass
Japan Rail Pass

Note that you can also wait until later in your trip to activate your pass, depending on your itinerary.  Also, you can pre-activate your pass and select the date that it becomes active, that then enables you to reserve your seats in advance at the counter.

Your Japan Rail JR Pass can be activated in many locations, basically anywhere that Japan Rail has a ticket counter.  A detailed list of those ticket counters and their opening hours is available at this link.  Note that busier train stations may only allow you to make a maximum of two seat reservations in a single visit.

Our JR Pass Activation Experience

In our case, we were concerned that our final shinkansen trip from Osaka to Tokyo to catch our flight home to Australia was occurring in the Golden Week holiday period.  We therefore wanted to reserve our seats as soon as possible to ensure we could catch our preferred train.  A couple of days after we arrived in Tokyo we went to Ueno Station to activate our passes and reserve that train trip.  The queue at Ueno Station was long so we were there for around 45 minutes in total.

To activate your JR Passes you need both your Exchange Order and the passports for each member of your group.  Ensure that your passports have been stamped on arrival in Japan to confirm that you are a foreign visitor.  You have to fill out a form with your details and hand it in to the counter.  They then process the applications, hand you your Japan Rail Passes and you are on your way!  Once the commencement date starts you can then start to use your passes on almost all Japan Rail services as detailed lower in this article.

Getting Around Japan with a Japan Rail Pass
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How to Use Your Japan Rail Pass

At each JR station there is a manned entry and exit queue, you just show your passes to the attendant and they will let you through after checking your pass.

You can also go to any JR ticket booking counter to reserve seats on any included service.  If you are travelling at peak times I definitely recommend that you pre-reserve your seats.  However if you want to stay more flexible you can plan to travel using the unreserved carriages, and take your chances to find a seat.  This can be a good strategy especially during off peak times.

Japan Rail Seat Reservation
Japan Rail Seat Reservation

Our JR Rail Pass Experiences

After finalising our JR Pass activation and reserving our essential trips, it was finally time to start using our 21 day passes!

Days 1-3.  Local JR Trains in Tokyo

Our passes became active for our final couple of days in Tokyo, so we used them to get around any time there was a JR train option.  For this section of our trip we were staying in a hotel in Akasaka, which is on the western side of Tokyo close to Shinjuku and Shibuya.  While our local trains were no JR trains, we used our Suica Cards to get around. 

On Day 1 we did a bigger day trip to visit the Ghibli Museum, and used our JR Passes for the trip out and back.  We caught the JR Chuo Line out and back and had a great day out!  The Ghibli Museum was amazing, however you have to book your tickets well in advance. 

Kichijoji Station near Ghibli Museum
Kichijoji Station near Ghibli Museum
Ghibli Museum
Ghibli Museum

On our return journey from the Ghibli Museum we stopped in to visit Nakano Broadway which is also on the JR Chuo Line to check out their great range of anima, manga and gaming stores.  Our daughter is a big fan and really enjoyed shopping for herself and her friends back in Australia.

Nakano Broadway Entrance
Nakano Broadway Entrance

We then continued on the JR Chuo Line to Shinjuku to see the show at the very popular Robot Restaurant.  It was a great show which we all enjoyed, with great energy and amazing equipment!

The very bright entrance to the Robot Restaurant
The very bright entrance to the Robot Restaurant

After a big day out we returned to Akasaka on the Subway using our Suica Cards.

Days 2 and 3 were also big days out in Tokyo.  We covered a lot of ground, including Toyosu, Akihabara, Nihonbashi, Shibuya and Harajuku!  As it worked out we would have gotten greater use out of our JR Passes if we had chosen accommodation which was in close proximity to the JR Yamanote Line, which runs in a circle around Tokyo.  Lesson learned for our next visit!

Day 4.  Tokyo to Kyoto Bullet Train

On Day 4 of our JR Passes we departed Tokyo and caught our first shinkansen or bullet train for our trip!  It was an exciting day as we were heading to hopefully see Mt Fuji.  We caught the Tokyo to Kyoto Bullet train to head to Shin-Fuji Station, which is located on the southern side of Mt Fuji.  We boarded the shinkansen at Tokyo Station, and enjoyed the short 1:10 hour journey. 

Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Fuji
Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Fuji

 

Shinkansen Interior - Tokyo to Shin-Fuji
Shinkansen Interior – Tokyo to Shin-Fuji – Second or Ordinary Class

We were pleasantly surprised when we got our first glimpse of Mt Fuji from the train from the section between Odawara and Mishima – the last time we had travelled this route Mt Fuji had been covered with cloud!  We had excellent weather to see Mt Fuji with just a few clouds around, which really set the scene that a good day out was ahead. 

First Glimpse of Mt Fuji from the Shinkansen close to Odawara
First Glimpse of Mt Fuji from the Shinkansen close to Odawara
Closer views of Mt Fuji from the Shinkansen
Closer views of Mt Fuji from the Shinkansen

After hopping off the train at Shin-Fuji Station we collected our hire car to explore the Hakone and Kawaguchiko regions over the rest of Day 4! 

Days 5-6.  Mt Fuji Region

Over Days 5-6 we explore the Hakone area, including visiting the Hakone Kowaki-en Yunessun Hot Spring Theme Park in Gora which was great fun

Note that our visit to Yunessun Theme Park was sponsored by Klook.

Main Onsen Room in Yunessun Onsen Theme Park in Gora Hakone
Main Onsen Room in Yunessun Onsen Theme Park in Gora Hakone
Red Wine Onsen Bath at Yunessun Onsen Theme Park in Gora Hakone
Red Wine Onsen Bath at Yunessun Onsen Theme Park in Gora Hakone

On Day 5 we got our first glimpse of Mt Fuji around lunchtime as we were driving from Gora to the northern end of Lake Ashi – and the weather was absolutely perfect with no clouds!  That theme remained the case for  all of Days 5 and 6 and we were very lucky to have such a great period of good weather to view Mt Fuji from all angles.

Mt Fuji from the Western Side
Mt Fuji from the Western Side

If you are visiting Hakone a great option to get around the area is with a Hakone Free Pass, which includes most public transportation and ropeways.

We then did a road trip clockwise around Mt Fuji, so got to see amazing views from the south, west and north of Mt Fuji.  The highlight was watching the sunset over Mt Fuji from the Kawaguchiko Area.  On Day 6 we visited Fuji Q Highland Park which was awesome and several other attractions around the area.

Fuji Q Entry
Fuji Q Entry

Day 7.  Tokyo to Nikko Train

All good things come to an end, and we were sad to leave Kawaguchiko on Day 7 to head to Nikko.  We dropped off our hire car at Kawaguchiko Station and caught the Express Bus direct to Shinjuku Station, ready for the next leg of our trip.

We caught the JR Nikko-Kinugawa Line which runs only a few times each day – and takes you directly from Shinjuku Station to Kinugawa Onsen Station, on the eastern side of the Nikko Region.

Of note is that the JR Nikko-Kinugawa Line is NOT a shinkansen line!  There are many other inter-city train lines in Japan which are not bullet trains, particularly if you are heading away from the more travelled routes in Japan.

JR Train from Shinjuku Station to Kinugawa Onsen
JR Train from Shinjuku Station to Kinugawa Onsen – NOT a shinkansen!

The JR Nikko-Kinugawa Line was a pleasant 2:15 hour journey to get to Kinugawa Onsen, with the advantage that we did not have to change trains at all – if we had departed at other times we may have had to catch four different trains to get there!

After we arrived in Kinugawa Onsen we walked to our luxury ryokan and settled in for a lovely evening. 

Kinugawa Onsen River
Kinugawa Onsen River

Day 8.  Edo Wonderland and Lake Chuzenji

On Day 8 we visited Edo Wonderland, which is easily accessible by bus from Kinugawa Onsen using your Suica Card.  We had a lovely half day out exploring Edo Wonderland and we could have easily spent the whole day there.  But we had to travel to our next destination in the western side of Nikko at Lake Chuzenji! 

Note that our visit to Edo Wonderland was sponsored by Klook.

Edo Wonderland Family in Kimonos
Edo Wonderland Family in Kimonos
Edo Wonderland Horseback Archery Class
Edo Wonderland Horseback Archery Class
Lake Chuzenji in Nikko at Sunset
Lake Chuzenji in Nikko at Sunset

The easiest way to travel to Lake Chuzenji is by direct bus from Edo Wonderland to Nikko Station, and then by local bus to Lake Chuzenji. 

Day 9.  Nikko National Park

On Day 9 we used our Suica Cards to travel back to Nikko on the bus to visit Nikko National Park and see Toshogu Shrine which was amazing, before returning to Lake Chuzenji for the night.

Toshogu Shrine in Nikko
Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

A great alternative option to get around the Nikko Area is with a Nikko Free Pass, which includes unlimited bus transport around the area.

Day 10.  Nikko to Kanazawa Train

On Day 10 we did a big trip to travel from JR Nikko Station to JR Kanazawa Station.  To get there you have to travel most of the way back to Tokyo, changing trains at both Utsunomiya Station and Omiya Station before changing train onto the shinkansen to do the final leg to Kanazawa.  Overall it took almost 4 hours to travel this route!

JR Nikko Station
JR Nikko Station
Shinkansen Carriage Markings
Shinkansen Carriage Markings on the train station platform

Days 11-12.  Road Trip through Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takeyama, Japanese Alps and Matsumoto

On Day 11 we collected our next hire car to explore the region.  After exploring Kanazawa in the morning, we headed off to visit Shirakawa-go, a village of traditional thatch roof houses, before driving on to Takeyama for the night.  On Day 12 we explored Takayama before driving over the Japanese Alps via the Shinhotaka Ropeway and Kamikochi National Park before arriving in Matsumoto.

Shirakawa-go Traditional Village
Shirakawa-go Traditional Village
Shin-Hotaka Ropeway near Takeyama
Shin-Hotaka Ropeway near Takeyama
Kamikochi National Park in Japan
Kamikochi National Park in Japan
Views over Matsumoto Castle, Japan
Views over Matsumoto Castle, Japan

Day 13.  Matsumoto Station to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route and on to Osaka

After dropping off our hire car we caught the local JR train from Matsumoto to Shin-Osaka Station, before travelling over the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route to see the famous ice walls!  The route was very busy and travelled quickly through the route to the ice walls – which were amazing to finally see for ourselves.  We enjoyed walking through the ice walls before heading down the other side of the mountain range towards Toyama to catch our late train to Osaka. 

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route Ice Walls in Japan
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route Ice Walls in Japan

After collecting some delicious ekiben dinner boxes at Toyama Station we settled in for the almost 4 hour trip to Osaka. 

Fruit Options at Toyama Station
Beautiful Fruit Options at Toyama Station
Ekibento Options at JR Toyama Station
Beautiful Gift Options at JR Toyama Station

We caught the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Toyama to Kanazawa, and then caught the JR Thunderbird from Kanazawa to Osaka Station. After that we then caught the Osaka Loop Line using our Suica Cards to get to our accommodation beside Universal Studios Japan.

Day 14.  Universal Studios Japan in Osaka

Day 14 was a massive day!  We spent the day at Universal Studios Japan.  If you are wondering why we visited Osaka twice, it was to enable us to visit USJ on a weekday prior to Golden Week to avoid the crowds!  This was a very effective strategy and on the day we visited there were still quite a few people, but it was definitely a quieter day than the previous time we had visited Japan.  Even though it was quieter we still got good value out of our skip the queue Express Passes.

Universal Studios Japan Entrance
Universal Studios Japan Entrance
Universal Studios Japan - Hogwarts Castle
Universal Studios Japan – Hogwarts Castle

Day 14 (continued).  Osaka to Hiroshima Bullet Train to Imabari

At mid afternoon we completed our USJ visit, ready to catch the train to our next destination.  This time we were going off the main tourist track to the township of Imabari on Ehime Island, a 3:30 hour journey from USJ. 

After catching the Osaka Loop Line to Shin-Osaka Station, we then caught the JR Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen line to JR Okayama Station, along the Osaka to Hiroshima Bullet Train Route.  We then changed trains to the JR Yosan Line Limited Express, to travel across Ehime Island coastline to Imabari Station.  From there we caught two taxis to our accommodation, at the start of the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route.

Day 15.  Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route

On Day 15 we collected out rental bicycles to head off on a family cycle along the first section of the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route, which is an 80km route between Imabari and Onomichi.  We had decided to cycle the first and most scenic section along the route, and the great thing is that with the bicycle hire scheme, there are multiple locations along the route where you can drop off your bicycle and then catch a bus the rest of the way or to return to your starting point.

We had an awesome morning cycling the route, and we ended up travelling the first 20km of the route to Hakata Island.  There were some challenging hills along the way, but once the early clouds lifted we had an amazing day to enjoy the ride!  We then returned our bikes and caught the bus back to our starting point to collect our luggage. 

Shiminami Kaido Bicycle Ride - Start of the Route from Imabari
Shiminami Kaido Bicycle Ride – Start of the Route from Imabari
Cycling on the Shiminami Kaido Bicycle Route
Cycling on the Shiminami Kaido Bicycle Route

From there we returned to JR Imabari Station and caught the faster bus across the route to JR Fukuyama Station.  We also reserved our seats for the shinkasen using our JR Passes before we departed from Imabari Station.  From JR Fukuyama Station we caught the JR Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen to Hiroshima Station, then changed trains to head to Miyajimaguchi Station on the JR Hiroshima Dentetsu Miyajima Line, with our last leg being to catch the JR Ferry to Miyajima Island.  Overall the trip took around 4 hours, including the ferry.

First Glimpse of the Floating Torii Gate on Miyajima Island from the JR Ferry
First Glimpse of the Floating Torii Gate on Miyajima Island from the JR Ferry
A closer look at the Floating Torii Gate on Miyajima Island
A closer look at the Floating Torii Gate on Miyajima Island
JR Ferry to Miyajima Island
JR Ferry to Miyajima Island – is included in the JR Pass!

All of the trains and the ferry were included in our JR Passes.  On arrival our accommodation collected us in their shuttle bus to take us to our Ryokan, just in time for a lovely keiseki dinner.  After dinner Tony and I went for a walk to see the floating Torii Gate, which was within a very short walk from our accommodation.  We really enjoyed being able to relax and take it all in without the tourist crowds.

Day 16.  Exploring Miyajima Island

On Day 16 we explored Miyajima Island, starting with an early morning walk to see the floating Torii Gate again in daylight before the crowds – it was absolutely amazing and the weather was perfect!  After breakfast we did a family trip up the cable cars and the subsequent walk to climb to the top of Mt Misen.  The views along the way and from the top were amazing!  Until many hundreds of school children arrived…

The Cable Car to Mt Misen on Miyajima Island
The Cable Car to Mt Misen on Miyajima Island
View of the Seto Sea from Miyajima Island
View of the Seto Sea from Miyajima Island

We then returned to the area near the Torii Gate to have lunch and explore the shops – again along with many many school children.  It was the last day of school before the children started their Golden Week holiday so they were all very excited.

We enjoyed playing with the small deer and checking out the town, and then returned to relax in our Ryokan for the afternoon and evening.  After so many days on the go we really enjoyed having some quiet time!  And to enjoy the lovely onsen baths 😊 .

Friendly - Hungry Deer on Miyajima Island
Friendly – Hungry Deer on Miyajima Island

Day 17.  Exploring Hiroshima

The following day we headed off to Hiroshima.  While we could have used our JR Passes to retrace our steps to Hiroshima Station, we instead decided to purchase tickets to catch the fast direct ferry.  It travels direct from Miyajima Island to the Peace Park in Hiroshima in 45 minutes, and is a great way to see the islands and travel up the river in Hiroshima.  We were then able to easily drop our luggage off at our accommodation before exploring.

We started by visiting the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Hypocenter – the location where the bomb exploded 600m above the city.  The location is marked by a discreet small plaque.  We then viewed the Atomic Bomb Dome, which is a building which survived the explosion, and then walked through the Hiroshima Peace Park.  We completed our visit by visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which had only just reopened a few days before our visit after being refurbished.

Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome
Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome – one of the few buildings to survive the explosion and subsequent building works
Hiroshima Children's Peace Monument - Placing Paper Cranes
Hiroshima Children’s Peace Monument – Placing Paper Cranes
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Overall it was a sombre day to learn more about this significant event which led up to the end of the War of the Pacific during World War II.

That evening we ate Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki Pancakes and enjoyed learning more about Hiroshima food culture on a foodie tour.

Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki - Japanese Pancake
Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki – Japanese Pancake

Day 18.  Hiroshima to Osaka Bullet Train

On Day 18 we travelled on the Hiroshima to Osaka Bullet train via Himeji to return to Osaka, our final destination for our trip to Japan.

We had been unable to reserve our seats on the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen as this day was the beginning of the Golden Week holiday period, so instead decided to see if we could travel using the unreserved carriage for the first time.  Image our surprise when we boarded the train and found an almost empty carriage!  The carriage did fill up as we stopped along the route but was never actually full. 

JR Hiroshima Station
JR Hiroshima Station
Waiting to catch the Shinkansen at Hiroshima Station
Waiting to catch the Shinkansen at Hiroshima Station
The unreserved carriage from JR Hiroshima Station to Himeji
The unreserved carriage from JR Hiroshima Station to Himeji

After travelling for one hour we arrived at JR Himeji Station.  We managed to find some large lockers to store our luggage, and then walked to visit the castle.  It was a pleasant walk, and the castle was amazing.  The queue however to visit inside the castle was almost two hours long (another Golden Week issue) so we decided to skip visiting the inside. 

Getting to Himeji Castle from JR Himeji Station
Getting to Himeji Castle from JR Himeji Station
Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle

After walking around the grounds we walked back to Himeji Station, collected our luggage and caught the shinkansen to Shin-Osaka Station, and from there we caught the Midosuji Line to Shinsaibashi Station using our Suica Cards, and from there we had a short walk to our accommodation.  Overall the trip from JR Himeji Station took approximately 1:15 hours.

Day 19.  Osaka to Kyoto to Nara to Osaka

On Day 19 we did a very large triangle route from Osaka.  We started by catching the direct train from Yodoyabashi Station to Nishiki Market in Kyoto.  By travelling on the Keihan Main Line we were able to travel almost door to door, and were able to use our Suica Cards for this trip.

We then did a food through through Nishiki Market which was great, although very crowded due to Golden Week and it being the weekend.  We visited Kyoto on our previous trip to Japan so did not stay long to explore further. 

Exploring Nishiki Market in Kyoto
Exploring Nishiki Market in Kyoto

We then caught a local bus to Kyoto Station using our Suica Cards, then caught the JR Nara line to Nara, a journey of 45 minutes.  We discussed whether to hop off the train to visit the very popular Fushimi Inari Temple as well, but decided against it as we did not have time on this day trip plus our expectations were that it would be super crowded.

In Nara we decided to skip the temples and visit the deer, as we had already visited so many temples and shrines on this trip.  We arrived around mid afternoon and then walked the shopping gauntlet to get to Nara Park, and eventually arrived in the area where the deer live. 

Unfortunately it had also been a busy day in Nara and by the time we arrived the deer were not very hungry…  After exploring for a while our children finally found some deer who were interested in food and they were pleased to have the experience of feeding the deer.

Deer Food at Nara
Deer Food at Nara

Our goal was achieved and we were able to walk back to JR Nara Station having brought our children’s desire to fruition.  Along the way we stopped in to see the very popular mochi being made – talk about a good exercise workout!

Feeding Deer at Nara in Japan
Feeding Deer at Nara in Japan
Mochi Maker in Nara Japan
Mochi Maker in Nara Japan – definitely hard work!

We then caught the JR Yamatoji Line direct back to JR Namba Station, a journey of 45 minutes.  We then walked through the Dotombori Area of Osaka which was also quite busy.  We enjoyed seeing all of the cool foodie signs and sights before returning to our accommodation. 

Dotombori Views
Dotombori Views
Exploring the Foodie Area in Dotombori Osaka
Exploring the Foodie Area in Dotombori Osaka

For dinner we enjoyed an amazing Indian dinner from a small restaurant just up the street from our accommodation – by this part of the trip we were craving non-Japanese food and this place had the most amazing naan bread, which they made using their own tandoor oven!

Days 20 and 21.  Exploring Osaka

On Day 20 and the morning of Day 21 we explored Osaka using our 2 Day Osaka Amazing Passes.  These passes include local subway transportation as well as entry to over 40 local Osaka attractions and activities. 

Across the one and a half days we enjoyed the Umeda Sky Building Observatory, the HEP Five Ferris Wheel, the Osaka Castle Museum, The Illusion Museum, The Pirates of Osaka boat cruise and the Don Quixote Ferris Wheel in Dotombori!

Osaka Castle in Japan
Osaka Castle in Japan
Dotombori Views
Dotombori Views of the River cruises, which were a very relaxing way to see the area.  You can also see the Don Quixote Ferris Wheel on the right hand side of the river – which was awesome!

Day 21.  Osaka to Tokyo Bullet Train

On our final day in Japan we had to travel from Osaka to Haneda Airport in Tokyo to catch our evening flight back to Australia.  We had pre-booked our Osaka to Tokyo Bullet Train seat reservations first when we initially activated our JR Passes, as we did not want to miss out on our preferred train option during Golden Week.  This date was also the day that the new Emperor ascended the throne so we definitely did not want to get caught out.

After packing up we headed to JR Shin-Osaka Station and caught our shinkasen as planned and had a smooth 2:20 hour journey to Shinagawa Station.  My daughter and I then caught the JR Yamanote Line to Shibuya return to collect our two extra luggage bags which we had placed into storage (yes, we did do a lot of shopping during our trip!). 

After reconnecting with my husband and sons back in the Shinagawa Station passenger waiting area we then decided to use our Suica Cards to travel direct to Haneda Station on the Keikyu Line, which was a 20 minute journey direct.  We could have caught the JR Yamanote line and then transferred onto the Tokyo Monorail to get there instead but that would have required us to do another train transfer, and as we by this stage carrying a lot more luggage we decided that the direct option would be the best choice!

After arriving at Haneda Station we checked in, sent most of our luggage to the cargo hold and settled in to wait for our flight. 

We had a lovely final Japanese style dinner while waiting and reflected on the amazing trip we had just completed.  After spending 4 full weeks in Japan we felt that we had covered a lot of ground and had done so many activities and experiences as a family.  But there is so much of Japan that we have not yet visited so we expect many more trips to Japan in the future!

Is a JR Pass Worthwhile?

Of note with regards to our JR Passes, you can see in our story above how often we did use non-JR transportation options, however when we did the calculations our JR Passes were still worthwhile in comparison with purchasing point to point tickets. 

A feature which people often do not consider is how easy it is to switch and change trains once you have your pass – whereas if you have purchased point to point tickets you need to queue at a counter to get them changed each time.  Also, the JR Passes make it easy to use the unreserved carriages so you can be very flexible in terms of planning out each day and not needing to lock in a specific seat for each journey.

Where to Buy JR Pass in Australia (and other countries!)

The cheapest place to buy your JR Pass in Australia is through Klook, who are an online travel agency who specialise in travel in Asia.  Klook also provides free delivery to Australia, and your Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order vouchers will be mailed to your address by registered post within 7 business days of placing your order.

Click here to check out pricing and book your Japan Rail Pass through Klook.  Use coupon code MDE8G to get a $A5 discount off your first order! 

Klook also provides free delivery and other collection options for many other countries, so also check them out at the above link if you are from any of the following countries:

  • Oceania: Australia and New Zealand
  • North America: USA and Canada
  • Europe: United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, and Sweden
  • Asia: Most Asian Countries
Klook.com

How to Order Your JR Pass through Klook

When you are ready to place your Japan Rail Pass order through Klook here is the process to follow.  After clicking through on this link, select which pass you are interested in purchasing – 7 day, 14 day, 21 day, Ordinary or Green Class.  As an example I am going to demonstrate the ordering process for the 7 Day JR Pass below.

Klook JR Pass Options for Australian Delivery
Klook JR Pass Options for Australian Delivery

After clicking through to your preferred pass, click the orange ‘Book’ button on the top right hand side.

Klook JR Pass 7 Day Order Page
Klook JR Pass 7 Day Order Page

It will jump you further down the Klook booking page and you will see the below section.  Select your date of travel at the top of this section. You then need to select your delivery country.  If you are needing delivery to an Asian country then look at the top section until you find your preferred option.

If you are from Australia, North America, Europe, India or New Zealand, you then need to go to the final option on the page ‘USA, Australia, United Kingdom, and Rest of the World Mail Delivery’.  You can click on the Package Details section to confirm your country of delivery and the delivery timings and options.

Klook JR Pass 7 Day Order Page - Country Delivery Options
Klook JR Pass 7 Day Order Page – Country Delivery Options

You then choose ‘Select’ on the Right Hand Side of your preferred option, you then have the option to confirm the date you plan to start using your JR Pass, and also select how many adult and child passes you require.  Press ‘OK’ and the Booking details will pop up on the right hand side of the screen.  In this example I have selected passes for 2 adults and 2 children.  You can then choose to either add it to your Klook Shopping Cart or to Book Now.  Choose the button which suits you best.

Klook JR Pass 7 Day Order Page - Add to Shopping Cart
Klook JR Pass 7 Day Order Page – Add to Shopping Cart

While you are using the Klook booking site there are other items you may wish to order for your trip to Japan, so now is a good time to add these to your Shopping Cart.  Our recommended items to add to your shopping cart are as follows:

Public Transport Card:

  • Suica tap on tap off public transportation card for collection at your arrival airport. You will need this card to travel on non JR transportation even when you have an active JR Pass.  You get a starting amount of credit and then top it up at any train station as you travel.  You can use the Suica in most Japanese cities and for most forms of local public transportation, however it cannot be used on the shinkansen.  Click here to pre-order your Suica Card through Klook.

Japan Airport Arrival and Departure Transfers:

Pocket Wifi and Sim Card Options:

Tokyo Tickets:

Mt Fuji Area Tickets and Passes:

Nikko Area Tickets and Passes:

Osaka Tickets and Passes:

Once you have finished shopping, go to your shopping cart to finalise your JR Pass and other items order.  If it is your first time ordering through Klook you will need to set up your Klook account.  Use coupon code MDE8G to get a $A5 discount off your first order!  In the below image you can see the shopping cart page.  Click on the orange ‘Pay Now’ button to finalise your order.

Klook JR Pass 7 Day Order Page - Shopping Cart
Klook JR Pass 7 Day Order Page – Shopping Cart

The next page requests the additional information required by Klook to finalise your order.  You need to confirm your shipping country and delivery address details, the names of each JR Pass traveller which needs to be exactly in accordance with each passport name (note that you do not need to supply a passport number for this order). 

Klook JR Pass 7 Day Order Page - Additional JR Pass Information Entry Page
Klook JR Pass 7 Day Order Page – Additional JR Pass Information Entry Page

You then enter your payment method, and also have the option to save your payment method at the time of booking to make additional orders easier.

Once you have entered all of this information, select the orange ‘Pay Now’ button at the bottom of the screen, and you will then see a booking confirmation page, and also receive a booking confirmation email and voucher from Klook.  After that has been received, there is nothing more to do than to wait to receive your physical package containing your Japan Rail Pass Exchange Orders within 7 business days.  Our package actually arrived within 4 business days, so the timing can be quite quick! 

It is essential to receive your package before you depart, as you must have the physical Exchange Order to obtain your Japan Rail Pass after you arrive in Japan.

Transportation in Japan

While Japan Rail is a major transportation provider in Japan, and you can use their services for most inter city trains such as the shinkansen, you can also use local JR services to get around each city.  However, there are a large number of other transportation providers who provide trains, buses, trams and ferries which are not included in the JR Pass.  You should therefore plan to also purchase a Suica, Icoca or Pasmo tap on tap off card which can be used on most of these other services (and can also be used on JR local trains etc in period where you do not have an active JR Pass!).  Click here to pre-order your Suica Card through Klook.

JR Pass Inclusions

A Japan Rail JR Pass enables you to take unlimited rides on specific trains, buses and ferries in Japan as detailed below.

Railway Inclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass includes:

  • Unlimited rides on all JR group railways, which includes shinkansen bullet trains, limited express trains, express trains, rapid trains, local trains and the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), and the Tokyo Monorail.
  • Travel on the “HIKARI,” “SAKURA,” “KODAMA,” or “TSUBAME” shinkansen trains.
  • Reserved seats on shinkansen trains are included at no extra change. To make a reservation you can go to the ticket office at the departure station to obtain your reserved seat ticket.  Note that during crowded periods you cannot be guaranteed a seat on a specific train, so plan to book ahead if travelling during these time periods.  Crowded periods include 27 April – 6 May, 11-20 August, 28 December to 6 January.
  • If you use the GranClass car of the Tohoku, Hokkaido, and Hokuriku Shinkansen, you must pay the limited express charge and the GranClass car surcharge.
  • Passengers using JR trains on non-JR lines must pay additional fares and charges for sections traveled on such lines, because some JR trains use the lines of other companies railways for direct services.

Railway Exclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass does not include:

  • Train rides on the Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen trains.
  • The Aoimori Railway between Aomori and Hachinohe, the IR Ishikawa Railway, between Kanazawa and Tsubata and the Ainokaze Toyama Railway between Toyama and Takaoka each have some special conditions. If you plan to travel to these areas check the specific rules for these options.

Bus Inclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass includes unlimited rides on all local JR Bus lines, and validity is subject to change at any time.  JR bus lines include JR Hokkaido Bus, JR Bus Tohoku, JR Bus Kanto, JR Tokai Bus, West Japan JR Bus, Chugoku JR Bus, JR Shikoku Bus and JR Kyushu Bus.

Bus Exclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass does not include:

  • Travel on Express Bus routes operated by JR Bus

Ferry Inclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass includes travel on the JR-WEST Miyajima ferry between Miyajima and Miyajimaguchi.  Miyajima Island is a major tourist attraction close to Hiroshima.

Ferry Exclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass does not include travel on the JR-Kyushu hydrofoil ferry service between Hakata and Busan (South Korea).

You may also like:

Join the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

 
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2 Comments

  • Wow, this is such a fabulous and comprehensive itinerary. We still haven’t made it to Japan, but this just pushed it higher on my list. The train looks like a great way to see the country.

  • Anne I loved reading this extensive post. We also used a JR pass to get about on our recent trip to Japan and like you, we costed it up and found it to be a better option for our itinerary. Our first two trips to Japan a JR pass was a more expensive option so we only used the Passmo card. You make planning a trip so easy for first time travellers to Japan to follow.

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