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Amos

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Some common queries regarding train travel in Japan have come up in this sub thread so I thought I would try to bring together some useful info on the subject.

It's not meant to be the definitive guide and I don't profess to be an expert. But I've had two very excellent holidays in Japan and used the system quite extensively so have some experience.

I intended for this to be an open thread, but suggest that replies are limited to those that add information (or correct posted stuff) to keep it a concise guide.

Which Japan Rail Pass should I get?

Note that you MUST buy the pass before you arrive in Japan.
First decision is whether to get a one, two, or three week pass. The time period is in consecutive days starting from the time you hand over your exchange voucher once in Japan.

There are various types of pass, but your choice is basically between the main JR pass (covers you for JR services throughout the country) or one of the passes offered by the regional JR branches (eg JR East)

Unfortunately, to travel the most common route for tourists (Tokyo to Kyoto) you will need the full JR pass as you'll travel through both JR East and JR West areas. Also note that you can't use the Nozomi class trains.

More information on the types of pass and their cost is available here http://www.japanrail.com/

I only want to see one or two cities, is it worth getting a rail pass?

The rail passes are not cheap and for some people, buying individual tickets may work out cheaper.

My best advice is to go to JR's website http://www.japanrail.com/ where you can download Shinkansen timetables and ticket prices. Use these to see how much you'll pay for your planned train journeys if you bought individual tickets. Then compare this to the price of a rail pass.
For example, Tokyo to Hiroshima one way is approx 11,000Y for an unreserved seat (add another 6,700Y for a reserved seat). So let's say around 36,000Y for a round trip. A 7 day pass is currently Y28,300 and a 14 day pass Y45,100. So you can see that it's more than worth it if you are planning to travel around.

Other things to factor in:
  • the rail pass covers the Narita Express train from Narita Airport to Tokyo;
  • you can use the rail pass for overland trains in Tokyo (e.g. the Yamanote, Chuo and Sebu lines. With this it is possible to get around with minimal use of the subway (the subway is not covered by rail pass);
  • you get free reservations on Shinkansen tickets;
  • it's a hassle free and flexible way to travel - just wave the pass at the barrier and wander through;
  • Many other non-train JR services are covered ・eg buses in Kyoto and the hydrofoil to Miyajima Island.

How much is a ticket from X to Y?
See previous answer

How long does it take to get to.....?

Timetables can be downloaded from JR's website http://www.japanrail.com/JR_timetableandfare.html I suggest taking a copy with you when you go as well.

I can't speak/read Japanese, how easy will it be to navigate the rail system?

While I would always advise learning as much of the local language before visiting a country, it is possible to use the main lines without knowing any Japanese. The Shinkansen have signs and announcements in Japanese and English. I always say to people that it is easier to use the trains in Japan than it is in England.

To give you some idea of how easy it is to use the trains I've attached a picture of the platform for the Hikari Railstar, going south from Tokyo.



Queue in the painted lines


It's useful if you learn the Kanji for 'unreserved', 'reserved' and also 'smoking', 'non-smoking'. Whole cars will either be reserved or unreserved, smoking, non-smoking etc. You find the one that is for you and then queue in the painted lines on the platform.

Where can I get more information?
Read through the Travelling in Japan posts on this forum :)
Japan Rail's website - http://www.japanrail.com/
Japan Rail Pass website - http://www.japanrail.com/JR_japanrailpass.html#a5
A good site covering a guide book specifically written for someone with a rail pass - http://www.japanbyrail.co.uk/Intro.html
 
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ArmandV

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Excellent post!

You are correct that you can start your railpass anytime. I plan on getting the full Japan Railpass for my trip next month. Although I am arriving on April 14, I plan to have my railpass start April 17 for when I travel to Kyushu. It will still be good for when I return to Tokyo on April 22. The drawback is that I will have to pay out-of-pocket for the Narita Express or Keisei Line to get to and from Narita. Still, I will be saving quite a bundle of dough!
 

MeAndroo

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Another option for rail travel is the Seishun Juuhachi Kippu. Primarily targeted at students but available to all, it's 5 all-you-can-ride tickets for use on JR's regular/kakuekiteisha and rapid/kaisoku lines (cannot be used on express/kyuko, limited express/tokkyu, or bullet train/shinkansen) for about $100 US/11,500 yen.

It's a great way to travel if you expect to be getting on and off trains often between destinations, if you'd like to take it easy and see more of the countryside, or if you just can't afford more faster, more expensive travel. The 5 tickets can be used by anyone on any day within the approved travel period (see below). I personally used it on my trip from Tokyo-Shizuoka-Nagoya-back trip with a friend.

Unfortunately, juuhachi kippu is only available during student break periods in summer, spring and winter. For each year's dates, please check:
JR East info
Japan-Guide.com info

Bear in mind that local/rapid trains take MUCH longer if you're planning a trip typically taken by shinkansen (Tokyo-Kyoto for example). But if that isn't an option, Seishun Juhachi Kippu is a great experience at a great price and I heartily recommend it to someone with more time than money.
 

ArmandV

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I got my money's worth!

I just got home from Japan today and I was thinking how valuable the JR Railpass was for me on the trip. I think I got my money's worth.

I got the 7-day railpass for $264.00, which includes the fees for the agent who handled it for me.

On the trip I used it for:

Round trip from Tokyo to Kyushu on Shinkansen.
Round trip from Kumamoto to Mt. Aso.
Kumamoto to Nagasaki.
Nagasaki to Sasebo City.
Sasebo City to Fukuoka.
Smaller commuter trains in Kyushu in the above cities.
Yamanote Line in Tokyo, several times.
 

Zaff

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Armand on my recent trip I only purchased the JR East pass but it was a great help. When I hit a city I like to cover the whole thing from start to finish. So when I got home I did a few calculations on how much I had saved using the JR East pass and I worked it out at roughly £120 (thats $240 about) so the pass was well worth its money and Ill be getting another one when I go in August.
 

ArmandV

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Armand on my recent trip I only purchased the JR East pass but it was a great help. When I hit a city I like to cover the whole thing from start to finish. So when I got home I did a few calculations on how much I had saved using the JR East pass and I worked it out at roughly ツ」120 (thats $240 about) so the pass was well worth its money and Ill be getting another one when I go in August.
Yes, I also used the JR East Pass last year for my trip to Sendai. This year I used the full-Japan Rail Pass.
 

ifjames

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Another really useful site is Hyperdia: even tells you which platforms etc
 

Glenski

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Queue in the painted lines
That yellow painted line is for blind people, so please don't congregate at the end.
 

ifjames

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Hi again Amos, and anyone else with advice on this one: how necessary is it to Reserve seats on the Tokyo-Kyoto route, and Narita Express? We will be going from Tokyo to Osaka around 1pmish on a Tuesday, then back from Kyoto to Tokyo ,again around 1pmish on a Staurday: this is to connect with Narita express as we fly home that night. I had thought it would be wise to Reserve the Kyoto-tokyo-Narita Express trip as we don't want to miss our flight(!) but don't really want to be "locked in" to the Tokto-Osaka time: depends on what we get done/seen in Tokyo before heading off.
Many thanks!!
 

pipokun

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Ekiben
You can find convenience stores selling rice balls, sandwiches, and snacks, standing-up-eating style soba/udon noodle restaurants, and ekiben, Railway Boxed Meal, shops in any stations, so you will never starve during your railway trip.
Ekiben is usually cold and slightly more expensive than boxed meals at convenience store outsides stations, but it touches the heart of a train traveler (at least many Japanese believe so)

The most expensive ekiben must be the one, 150,000JPY, in Nikko, but most box meals cost you about 1000JPY.
http://www.masuzushi.com/maizou/index.html
Though the woodcarving lacquerware box itself costs 150,000JPY, the local bento and the lacquerware shop sell it for promoting their Nikko culture, so the lunch box may be reasonable. (Reservation required)

Stand-up noodle shops in stations are also interesting, for the soup and noodle differs among regions, East, Nagoya, West.
 

Dekamaster

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Anyone here has heard about the JR Christmas Express ? Is it just a catchy name for a the Christmas Eve trip of the shinkansen or does it offer something else special ? I stumbled upon it on youtube, when JR used the "Christmas Eve" song as a CM. Thanks !😌🙂
 

pipokun

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No special long-distance relationship ticket during Christmas, but people would buy coupons to save the cost.

The differences between the bubble era in the late 80' and early 90' in the commercials and now would be...
More blue illuminations on the street now
http://www.caretta.jp/event/5th/index-xmas.html
Few officers in station ticket gates now
Makeup of women

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGu7SGxNWyo&feature=related
JR Tokai X'mas Express TV commercials CM from 1988 to 1992

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsvMYx-cssY&feature=related
CHRISTMAS EVE (English ver.) Tatsuro Yamashita
 

ellechic14

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Where and how can I make seat reservations for the following?

Tokyo Sta/Ueno Sta to Nikko
Tokyo Sta/Ueno Sta to Kamakura
Tokyo Sta/Ueno Sta to Hakone
Hakone to Kyoto
Kyoto to Osaka
Osaka to Tokyo

I tried using the Hyperdia feature on the japanrail.com site but it doesn't explain on how I go about doing it.

Thanks!
 

ifjames

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Where and how can I make seat reservations for the following?

Tokyo Sta/Ueno Sta to Nikko
Tokyo Sta/Ueno Sta to Kamakura
Tokyo Sta/Ueno Sta to Hakone
Hakone to Kyoto
Kyoto to Osaka
Osaka to Tokyo

I tried using the Hyperdia feature on the japanrail.com site but it doesn't explain on how I go about doing it.

Thanks!
Hi: You won't need a reservation for Tokyo to Kamakura : local JR Yokosuka line is a local train, same as Kyoto to Osaka: just another local line: JR Kyoto line
Tokyo to Nikko will only need a reservation as far as Utsunomia, then its a local line (JR Nikko line) from Utsunomia to Nikko: check connection times in Hyperdia
Tokyo to Hakone may need a reservation as far as Odawarra, but after that its local again: again, check connection times in Hyperdia
The others can all be reserved at any JR station ticket office: very easy: just show your pass, and say when you want to go, and they do the rest: staff are wonderful, and very helpful..it really is as easy as..have a great time
 
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pipokun

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TRAIN VIEW RANKING: Best Bets For Stunning Fall Foliage

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Autumn has arrived, and that means the fiery colors of fall are setting the countryside ablaze with gorgeous shades of red, orange and yellow. One of the best ways to view this stirring spectacle is to hop on a local train and head for the mountains.
...

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/FR/TNKS/Nni20081016D16HH463.htm
I've only took Tadami Line and Hakone Tozan Railway before. But there still remains many local lines giving you a bit different taste/speed from the bullet trains.
 

ellechic14

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back from japan...

no issues with the jr pass. it was a good travelling experience.
 

SteveBoss

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back from japan...

no issues with the jr pass. it was a good travelling experience.😌
 

tokyosubway

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For example, Tokyo to Hiroshima one way is approx 11,000Y for an unreserved seat (add another 6,700Y for a reserved seat).
A one way ticket from Tokyo to Hiroshima by direct Nozomi Shinkansen unreserved seat is 17540 yen.
By reserved seat it is 18350 yen.

you can use the rail pass for overland trains in Tokyo (e.g. the Yamanote, Chuo and Sebu lines.
No Sebu line, but there is a Sobu line.

Many other non-train JR services are covered ・eg buses in Kyoto and the hydrofoil to Miyajima Island.
Kyoto City buses are not covered by the JR pass, they were never were.
The boat to Miyajima Island, technically is a JR company owned boat, you can use it on the JR boat, but not the boat of the company next to it.
 

shincastle

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I just find this website about travel in Japan.
There is a good section about railways //japan-i.jp/traffic/railway/index.html

It was quite useful to me, so I share.

Shin
 

The Cheyne

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Taking a coach

hi,

where would i get a coach from Tokyo or Osaka to Matsuyama.
and how long would it take, and how much would it cost?

thank you,
Mark
 

Glenski

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If you can't figure out some of the info from here (OP's first post)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/swine_flu.html

...just use www.hyperdia.com
English translation available in top left corner

Type in Tokyo or Osaka, and then Matsuyama, and on the next screen unclick whatever mode of transportation does not apply (airline, for example). Click "Start" and you'll get a list of possible itineraries and prices and transfers and travel times.
 
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