The Japan Rail Pass Is The Savvy Traveler's Secret To Saving On Train Tickets

Want to save money on your trip to Japan? Of course you do. The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) could save you money on train tickets in Japan, leaving you with more yen in your pocket for the important things in life, like sushi and bathing in an onsen. That's not to say train travel in Japan isn't important though. The shinkansen is part of many people's image of Japan, and it is the way to get around the country. The bullet trains can reach speeds of 200 miles an hour, whisking you from Tokyo to Kyoto in just two hours and 40 minutes.

But, tickets for the shinkansen can be pretty pricey. A roundtrip fare from Tokyo to Kyoto is ¥26,160 (around $200) — and that's just one journey. Add to that the train fare from Narita International Airport (¥4,070), and you've already spent over ¥30,000. Enter the hero of our story, the JR Pass. A seven-day JR Pass will cost you ¥29,650 (about $230), even saving you a bit of money on an airport trip. The pass also covers travel on the JR Yamanote line in Tokyo, JR buses and ferries, and seat reservations (per Japan Rail Pass), so the savings start to mount.

Save big with the Japan Rail Pass

If you want to see more of Japan (who doesn't?), the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) comes into its own. Let's say you want to add a visit to Hiroshima. A ticket on the shinkansen from Kyoto costs over ¥18,000 (about $140) one way, and then you've probably got to get back to Tokyo. With a JR Pass, these journeys are covered, as are the day trips you'll want to take from Kyoto to Nara and Osaka. You can use the fare calculator on to work out exactly how much you're going to save with your itinerary.

If you're lucky enough to be spending even longer in Japan, there are 14-day and 21-day passes available. With the additional sightseeing you'll be able to do during your trip, they'll likely be worth the money but use the fare calculator to check. In contrast, if you're only planning to spend time in a small area of the country, there is a huge range of regional passes that might be more economical for you.

There are a few caveats to be aware of with the JR Pass, which blogger Nomadic Matt warns about. Once you activate the pass, it's valid for consecutive days, not travel days, so think carefully about when you want to start using it. You also cannot use the pass on the fastest Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen lines, but the "regular" shinkansen lines are almost as fast. Overall, the pass will help you save thousands of yen: that's a whole lot of ramen.