Train travel in Japan: a complete guide

Shinkansen train on the Tohoku line

If you are planning a trip with the Japan Rail Pass, better be prepared! You will be riding Japanese trains quite often.

While visiting the country may be a dream come true for many, figuring out how to manage the Japanese transportation system might be somewhat of a challenge for others. This article will solve all doubts regarding riding the trains in Japan so keep on reading.

The Japanese train system

The railway system in Japan is so well developed, punctual, extensive and diverse that you can simply assume that wherever you plan to go – there is a train that will take you there.

The very first thing to know is that railway lines in Japan are not operated by a single company. National Japan Railways Group owns roughly 80% of the railroads, but the rest are privately owned companies.

Due to this, when reading the visual maps above any ticket-vending machine around Japan you will notice that some lines headed in the same direction have different prices. This is so because each company has its own price list.

You are free to select the company you wish. The Japan Rail Pass discounted multi-use ticket is part of the National JR Group.

For more information about the national, regional and local lines, please check our maps page.

Types of trains in Japan

Following are the intercity and suburban Japanese train categories explained:

Shinkansen (Super Express)

Also known as bullet trains, these are the fastest transportation modes in Japan with very few stops (if any) in comparison to the rapid or local ones.

The Shinkansen run on separate tracks and platforms since their track gauge is completely different from the others. This is due to the line’s high-speed capabilities and overall construction.

A Super Express fee is required when boarding any of the bullet trains, in addition to the regular base fee. The price is usually between 800 and 8,000 yen, depending on your final destination.

Note: Shinkansen bullet trains are included in the Japan Rail Pass*, which means that JR holders will not have to make any extra payments when boarding this train during the validity of their pass.

*With the exception of the “Nozomi and “Mizuho” privately owned trains.

Japanese bullet train - Shinkansen
E Series Shinkansen Bullet Train (© Tupungato via Shutterstock.com)

Limited Express trains

There are over a 100 different types of Limited Express trains, with a limited number of stops, so they only go to major Japanese stations. Similar to the Shinkansen, the Limited Express also requires an additional fee to be paid. The Japan Rail Pass does cover some of those trains, however not all of them. The extra cost can vary between 400 and 4,000 yens.

Express trains

Many of the Japanese Express trains have been stopped and upgraded to Limited Express or downgraded to Rapid. The JR Group operates the current Express trains, which means Japan Rail Pass holders can use them free of charge. All other passengers will be charged an additional fee.

The JR Pass also covers the main airport transfers, which are usually operated by express or limited express trains: Haneda International Airport (Tokyo Monorail), Narita International Airport (Narita Express), and Kansai International Airport (Haruka Express).

Rapid trains

Passengers will not be charged any extra fees when boarding a rapid train. A single train ride costs equally to one local train ride. The only difference is that rapid trains skip a few stops in comparison to the local one, which makes their time of arrival notably shorter.

Local trains

To ride a local train you will need to buy a regular ticket. No extra fee will be required. Local trains can either go from point A to point B or run at loop lines both directions (like the Yamanote line in Tokyo or the Osaka loop line), stopping at all stations. It is recommended not to take these trains for long distances as they are some of the slowest and least spacious in Japan.

Special trains

While most trains are geared toward commuting or business travel, there are many trains that are designed for tourists. In Japan, this type of train is broadly referred to as joyful trains.

The most popular trains are the various steam trains that run on more scenic lines. These mostly run on weekends and holidays and many operate only in the summer months. Many of them called character trains have been given unique designs to attract visitors to scenic locations. This started with trains featuring characters popular with children, but more recently, prominent industrial designers have been recruited to design unique trains more appealing to adults.

Train tickets in Japan

Before explaining the ticket-buying process, let us focus on the train ticket options you will have with the different companies and services:

The Japan Rail Pass

With the JR Pass, you can choose between 7, 14 and 21-day pass, giving you access to all Japan Railways Group (JR) trains, buses and ferry services available throughout Japan.

Japan rail passes

Standard train tickets

These are the regular tickets that will take you from point A to point B. For short distances, it is easier to purchase them from the ticket machines, which you can find easily on any platform.

IC cards

IC cards are prepaid rechargeable transportation cards, which can be used to pay your train or bus fare – similar to the London Oyster card, for example. Pasmo and Suica are the most popular transportation cards in Tokyo.

What is more, there is an increasing number of shops and restaurants where travelers can use an IC card to make a contactless payment.

Note: Please keep in mind that each Japanese city has its own prepaid travel card. The good news is that they are interchangeable, which means you can use your Tokyo Suica card on the Kyoto metro.

City passes

Many Japanese cities offer city passes that grant 24h unlimited access to any of the city transportation means such as trains, trams, buses, and metro. Such passes are also referred to as Day Pass. You can purchase them at a ticket counter in any of Japan’s big cities: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo, Nagoya, Hiroshima and more.

How to buy individual train tickets

Tickets for short distance trips are sold at vending machines, whereas tickets for long distance trips can be purchased at ticket counters.

First-timers might be puzzled by the typical Japanese ticket machines as grasping how to buy a ticket right from the beginning is not always easy. Do not be scared! Here is our step-by-step guide to managing the Japanese ticket vending machines:

How to use the ticket vending machines

  • Locate the ticket vending area at your station. Typically there will be a big map above it.
  • Take a look at the map and find the name of your final destination.
    TipThe station you are currently at will be written with larger letters (usually red) and in some occasions indicated by a red arrow (“You are here” style). The map displays the names of the stations in both Japanese and English together with the price to get to each destination.
  • Once you know how much your trip will cost you, take a look at the machine screen.
  • Tap the “English” button on the top right corner of the screen for an English translation of the process.
  • One the left hand-side of the screen select the number of passengers.
  • If your final destination costs 200 ¥ (for example), select 200 on the screen (usually, you don’t choose the name of your destination but the price to get there).
  • You can also insert coins/notes first. If you have added 200 (¥), the screen will highlight in green the options for this amount.
  • Once you have selected the amount and inserted it, your ticket will be immediately printed and you will be given your change (if any).

Even though it might seem complicated or too unfamiliar at first, don’t be discouraged. The second try will already be easier!

Note: Keep your ticket with you until the end of your trip. You will need it to get out at your destination station.

How to reserve train seats on Japanese trains

All Japan Rail Pass holders are entitled to free seat reservations. If you are a JR Pass holder, you can simply go to any of the ticket offices located at the stations, specify which train are you planning to take and that is all. You will be given a confirmation of your seat reservation within seconds.

The procedure is the same for passengers with no Japan Rail Passes. However, they will have to pay an extra fee. The exact amount depends on the selected type of train and class.

Note: Always remember that Japanese trains are punctual to the second. If you have a seat reservation, make sure to be at the station in advance.

Getting around Japanese train stations

Japan Rail Pass holders enter the train platforms at the station from a different gate than those with standard train tickets. To enter, JR Pass travelers should go to the glass booth located next to the gates and show their JR Pass (and passport, if required) to the staff.

JR station ticket gate
Ticket gate at JR Station. The Japan Rail Pass gate can be seen at the end.

When at the station waiting for your train, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  • Follow the queue like the Japanese do.
  • Make sure to check which is your track before boarding, as sometimes more than one train leaves from the same platform.
  • All the indication you need will be displayed on the monitors in both Japanese and English.
  • Stand in a straight line. Personal space and waiting behavior matter to the Japanese!
  • Follow the example of the Japanese when entering the train by first letting everyone get out.

Note: for more information about stations, please refer to our complete guide about Japanese train stations.

Where to store your luggage

Riding the trains with large suitcases is not recommended as there is little storage space provided on most trains. This excludes the Narita Express, which will take you to and from Narita Airport to central Tokyo, and the Haruka train. Both are well equipped for large luggage, however, the rest of the trains are not.

Shinkansen trains offer overhead storage compartments for regular luggage. Also,  there is space behind the last row of seats of each car. However, this space is limited, and there is no guarantee it will be available.

The Japan Railways regulations state the following:

  • Each passenger can carry two pieces of large luggage.
  • Each suitcase should not exceed 30 kg in total.
  • The total of the luggage’s three dimensions (length, width, depth) should add up to 250 cm maximum. The length should not exceed 200 cm.

Note: for more information about transporting luggage, please refer to our guide about luggage forwarding and coin lockers.

Interior of a shinkansen bullet train
Interior of a Shinkansen bullet train

Other travel tips

It is important to understand that the Japanese follow a strict etiquette in public and especially when riding a train or taking a bus. Always bear in mind that speaking on the phone is not accepted, as you are disturbing those who surround you.

Listening to loud music, placing your bags on the seat next to you or not giving it up to the elderly, sick or pregnant is practically forbidden.

A final recommendation will be to enjoy to the fullest your time in Japan but always to be mindful of those around you.

Cover photo – Local train next to Ueno Station (Tokyo) – By @chucknado (Flickr)

Related Posts

79 thoughts on “Train travel in Japan: a complete guide”
  1. Hi we are travelling to Japan arriving at Narita. When we arrive we have to travel to Yokohama for our first night. We then cruise for 8 days and on our return we would like to go to Kyoto for two nights. Is purchasing the Japan railway pass our cheapest option or should we just pay for the individual travel to Yokohama from Narita then Yokohama to Kyoto return?

  2. Hello there 🙂

    We’re first time travellers to Jap and will be covering these areas – We’ll land in Osaka stay for 6days with day trips to Kyoto and Nara, followed by Tokyo for 5days. We’re not likely to travel out from Tokyo.

    I would like to check:
    1. is JR Pass is necessary for us?
    2. does the JR pass include the airport train Narita express if we were to travel from Osaka to Tokyo?

    thanks and hope to hear from u soon!

    1. Hi Jean,

      You can always buy individual train tickets but the JR Pass would save you costs! It does include the Narita Express at any time, the trains from Osaka to Kyoto and Nara, the Osaka loop line and other local JR lines, and the Tokyo Yamanote loop line and other JR lines, and most importantly the bullet train Osaka-Tokyo (which would be the most expensive ticket). With that in mind, is up to you where to choose the 14-day pass or to choose the 7-day pass and activate it before leaving for Tokyo.

      Have a nice trip!

  3. Hi JRailPass Team,
    Appreciate the effort you take in answering all the questions of us.

    I will be travelling to Japan on November 10th to 19th 2018 and will be purchasing the JR pass.
    I need your help in guiding me on how do i travel from Tokyo-Shinjuku to Mount Fuji, and from Mount Fuji to Osaka

  4. Hello,

    I will be travelling to Japan on October 24 and staying until November 3. I will be purchasing a JR pass but would like some help.
    My plan is to visit several cities/prefectures but I am a little confused what are the limitations are to use of the pass. I understand not all trains will be available to me as well as not all buses. But can can you give me some information:

    1. Where can I find schedules for the different trains/buses?
    I prefer to be travelling at night when going from 1 place to another to save up on time.

    The plan is:
    Nagoya > Kyoto
    Kyoto > Osaka
    Osaka > Tokyo

    2. Are there overnight trains/buses that I can use the JR Pass?

    Can you provide some information on this please. Thank you

  5. Hello
    With my partner, I will be travelling to Japan this October. It’s our first trip and we’d like to know whether Japan Rail operates on all of the lines we want to travel, and so whether a JP pass would be a good idea for us.
    We will stay for a week in Tokyo, then set off to Yakushima island for a few days, then on to Naoshima island, then Kyoto, and finally back to Tokyo.
    Does a travel pass with JP cover all connections?
    Thanks
    Niels

    1. Hi Niels!

      To get from Tokyo to Yakushima island you can take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Kagoshima. The trip will last approximately 8 hours and requires several train transfers, but is completely covered by the JR Pass. From Kagoshima, you can take a boat or ferry to the island. To get to Naoshima island you will first need to reach Okayama, which is easy with your pass. From Okayama Station, take the JR Uno Line to Uno Station. From Uno Station, walk across the street to the ferry terminal. Please not that the ferry passage is not included in the JR Pass and costs ¥290 one way.

      Naoshima is easily connected to Kyoto. You will just need to walk back all the path to Okayama Stations and once there you will just need to take the Hikari train on the JR Tokaido / Sanyo Shinkansen Line to Kyoto Station.

      Happy travels!

  6. We are leaving Kyoto for Kanazawa on Sept. 29th. How long will that trip take? How often do these trains run? Also are are trains starting 9AM – 11AM.
    We would also like to know the same for the trip from Kanazawa to Takayama on Oct. 1st. and Takayama to Hakone on Oct. 3rd.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Sue!

      The Limited Express Thunderbird, included in your Japan Rail Pass, connects Kyoto Staton to JR Kanazawa Station. Regarding Takayama and Kanazawa, there is no direct train line between them. Take an early Wide View Hida Limited Express Train from Takayama to JR Toyama Station, and then make your way to the Hokuriku Shinkansen which will take you all the way to JR Kanazawa Station.

      Regarding the duration and time of trips in concrete days, please make sure to check Hyperdia. Hyperdia offers detailed timetables, platform information, trip duration and exact distance, which will help you greatly in organizing your trips in Japan.

      Happy travels!

  7. Hi,
    If i buy jr pass for trip from tokyo to osaka, am I entitle for free ride from haneda airport to shinjuku as well as from osaka to kansai airport? Or it is just a one way free ride

    1. Hi Wawanadjwa! The Japan Rail Pass is a multi-use all-you-can-ride discounted rail ticket. It gives you unlimited access to all Japan Rail National trains, as well as JR bus services, ferry services, and airport transfers during the time the pass is valid. Unlimited trips are valid with this pass, both one way and return trips. Enjoy your stay!

  8. Hi there

    We plan on coming to Japan but the train is confusing to me can you tell me if JR rail pass will cover the below?
    Can you also tell me which train line we have to take?

    a. our train ride from NRT to Shinjuku
    b. Our train ride around the city of Tokyo
    c. Our train ride from Tokyo to Osaka
    d. our train ride from Osaka to Nara
    e. Our train ride from Nara to Kyoto
    f. Our train ride from Kyoto to Tokyo

    1. Hi Satwinder!

      The Japan Rail Pass will fully cover all your itinerary:

      – To go from Narita Airport to Shinjuku please take the Narita Express.
      – When in Tokyo, the JR Pass affords access to five main Tokyo railway lines: the Yamanote Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keio line, JR Musashino line, JR Nambu line and JR Yokohama line.
      Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are connected with by the Tokaido Shinkansen line, included with the Japan Rail Pass.
      – In order to get from Kyoto to Nara, begin at Kyoto Station. Take the Miyakoji Rapid Train, on the JR Nara line to JR Nara Station.
      – Begin your trip from Osaka to Nara at the JR Osaka Station. Take the Yamatoji Rapid Train to JR Nara Station.

      We hope you enjoy your stay!

  9. Hello,

    I have some questions on getting from Narita to Tokyo. I will be landing July 1st at 9pm in Narita and would need to get to Nippori to the hotel, would the Narita Express not work? Or would I have to take the JR Line? If so, how exactly does that line work?

    Also: 1. I will be traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto what is the best way to get around Kyoto?
    2. I will be traveling to Kyoto, back to Tokyo, staying there for a couple of days and then heading to Osaka, what is the best pass to get? I know there are separate Kansai passes but they are CONFUSING, since I also want to use the JR pass WITHIN Tokyo? What is the specific name of the pass I should get?

    Thank you so much!

  10. I have a client who would like to take a train from Kyoto to Sapporo and a few days later take a train from Sapporo to Tokyo. Can you tell me how long those train rides would take and would he have to change trains. Also can he make reservations in advance and if so how can he do that?

    1. Hi Mary!

      To get from Tokyo to Sapporo he will need to take the JR Tohoku / Hokkaido Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate Station from Tokyo Station. From Shin-Hakodate Station, he will take the Hokuto limited express or Super Hokuto trains to Sapporo Station. Both are covered by the Japan Rail Pass and the whole journey will take 8 hours.

      The journey by train from Kyoto to Sapporo takes around 11 hours. From Kyoto Station, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Tokyo Station. Then, proceed from Tokyo Station as described above. This is a great use of your JR Pass, as a one-week pass costs several thousand yen less than would the individual train fares.

      Happy travels!

  11. Hi, we arrive in Haneda airport at 1730 on Tuesday March 27th. Will we have enough time to get to JR office to exchange our vouchers? I checked and they close at 1830.
    I looked on HYPERDIA what train to take from Haneda airport to Kyoto. It gave me different options with three to 6 transfers!
    I picked 3 transfer option which was the least transfer option:
    Walk from terminal 1 to the domestic terminal at the airport
    Take bus, Fare: 580
    Yokohama track #4
    JR Keihin-Tohoku/Negishi line local for Minami-Urawa
    Higashi-Kanagawa
    JR Yokohama line local for Hachioji
    Shin-Yokohama
    Shinkansen Hikari 533
    Kyoto
    So do I have to take a bus before taking the train and do I need to pay for the bus or is that included in the JR pass?
    What time do JR trains start running from Tokyo to Kyoto and from Kyoto to Tokyo and what’s the latest time they stop running? I can’t find this information on HYPERDIA.
    Is it easier to go from Haneda airport to Kyoto in the evening or from Kyoto to Nareta airport very early in the morning?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Fariba!

      If travelling with a Japan Rail Pass, from Haneda Airport you can easily reach central Tokyo at no additional cost in the Tokyo Monorail. It will take you straight to Monorail Hamamatsucho Station which facilitates transfer to the JR Keihin-Tohoku line. Then you just need to get off at Shinagawa Station and there you will be able to take the Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line that will take you all straight to Kyoto. All is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

      The most updated information on timetables, tracks and trains can always be found at Hyperdia – the number 1 Japanese online transportation planning tool.

      We hope you enjoy your trip!

  12. Hi, I will come to Japan on April 2018
    I need to buy a Rail Pass but I don’t understand after pay online how or where I receive an Exchange Order
    if is a printable Email or is send to me in a regular postal mail or I need to take from a JR office in the airport
    thanks
    chris

    1. Hi Chris!

      The Japan Rail Pass cannot be emailed nor scanned or photographed. Due to the strict regulations of the Japanese Government, it is required to present the physical Exchange Order at any of the exchange offices in Japan.

      Happy travels!

  13. Hi, i am travelling fr kansei to kyoto, then internal travel to see sights iwthin kyoto, then travel to osaka, and back to kansei airport. Which is the best pass to get? Or which combination is best?

    1. Hi Bern!

      The Japan Rail Pass works nation-wide and thus you would be able to use it in your whole mentioned itinerary:

      – From Kansai Airport you can easily reach Kyoto in the Haruka Express.
      – From Kyoto to Osaka just take the Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line.
      – While in Osaka, you will be entitled to make full use of the Osaka Loop Line.
      – From Osaka to Kansai Airport you can also take the Haruka Express.

      We hope you enjoy your trip!

  14. Hello, we will arrive at Narita Mar 29, leaving Narita Apr 09. We plan to stay in Tokyo (2 of us, my husband and I) from Mar 29 – Apr 02 and then to travel to Osaka Apr 02 – 08 where we will do several day trips for example to Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima. We will then come back to Tokyo Apr 08 for our last night, leaving the evening of Apr 09. We are wondering if it is better to buy a 72-hour Tokyo Metro Pass, then a 7-day JR Pass, then a 24-hour Tokyo pass? Or if a 14-day JR Pass would make more sense?

    Also, if we are not activating/using the JR Pass until Apr 02, does that mean we cannot reserve seats until that activation date for our day trips?

    Last, if we need to go from Narita to Tokyo Shinjuku Station and the reverse, but during the dates do not have the JR Pass active, how do we do that on the trains and what is the cost? N’Ex, is it included in the 72-hour or 24-hour Tokyo passes?

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Tara!

      To assess which is the ticket option that makes more sense in your case, we think the best would be to check the individual prices of each ticket at Hyperdia and compare them to the price of the Japan Rail Pass. Depending on the amount of trips and the distance you want to travel, even the longest validity pass could be cost-effective.

      To book a seat it is essential to have your actual Japan Rail Pass (exchanged). However, should you have already exchanged your trip you will be able to book your seats in advance before its activation date. What this implies is that if you already have your itinerary mapped out, you can make seat reservations for your entire stay in Japan.

      There is no limitation to the number of times a JR holder can use Narita Express, whereas other transportation cards like SUICA, are not valid for the service. A single ticket in N’EX from Narita Airport to Shinjuku Station costs 3,190¥ (standard class) or 4,730¥ (first class).

      We hope you enjoy your trip!

  15. Hi

    I will be travelling to Tokyo from 13-21 April,I will be landing on 14 April 8am+ and my flight return will be on 21st 11am+. So if I choose JR pass 7 days pass,it is able to cover?7-8 days…then first and last day will need to take NEX train back and forth from the Narita airport.

    Secondly,if I buy the JR pass online,then I need to exchange the ticket at Narita Airport?where to exchange?

    Thanks and look forward to your reply

    Regards
    Keiyee

    1. Hi Kei Yee!

      The Japan Rail Pass validity period is calculated in days, not in hours. Therefore, if you have purchased a 7-day pass and your activation date (when you first use the pass) is the 14th of April, the exact expiration time will be midnight on April 20.

      To activate your Japan Rail Pass, please go to any JR Exchange Office. They are spread through most Japanese Airports, such as Narita and Haneda. You can also find them at all the main train stations, located across the country.

      We hope you enjoy your trip!

    2. Hi

      Thanks for your reply.

      Do you have any recommendations on the suggestion itinerary for 3 days two nights at Kyoto/Osaka?
      We will be staying at Kyoto, what’s Isa the better way to travel around there in order to save time/cost?

      Thanks
      Kei yee

  16. Could you please advise, whether the JR Yamanote line goes in both directions or would I need to make a whole circle if I would need to go to the previous station?

  17. Hi there,

    Thanks very much for the very helpful article. I just wanted to confirm something with you since I was having a hard time finding a clear indication of the policy on this.
    I will be landing in Osaka-Kansai airport, and was planning to spend a few days around Osaka/Kyoto before heading to Tokyo. If I purchase a ticket from Kansai airport to Osaka (LTD-Express Haruka 54), Then a Shinkansen Nozomi to Tokyo(stopping at Kyoto) would I be able to do the following:
    Saturday: Land (at evening) at Kansai, take Haruka to Osaka
    Sunday evening or Monday morning: Train to Kyoto (Shinkansen Nozomi)
    Tuesday evening: Shinkansen Nozomi from Kyoto to Tokyo, without purchasing another ticket

    ie, the question is, can I ‘separate’ a Shinkansen Nozomi single-fare train ticket from Osaka to Tokyo by a day or two in Kyoto, using the several days’ worth validity on it given the distance between Osaka and Tokyo?

    Would this be possible? And, would it be what you recommend or do you have a better alternative in mind?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Rawi!

      The Japan Rail Pass is valid on the Kodama, Hikari and Sakura types of Shinkansen, but is not valid on the Nozomi and Mizuho classes. You will not have access to the ‘Nozomi’ and ‘Mizuho’ Shinkansen that are the fastest trains on the Tokaido and Sanyo lines. However, you have access to the ‘Hikari’ or ‘Sakura’ Shinkansen that cover the same routes. The Hikari and Sakura bullet trains reach the same top speed as the Nozomi and Mizuho trains and use the same type of actual train, but have more stops along each route. For example, from Tokyo to Kyoto, the Hikari takes 15mins more than the equivalent Nozomi.

      We hope you enjoy your trip!

  18. Hi,

    I will be going to Tokyo over the marathon weekend, and then leave to Kyoto straight after the marathon. From Kyoto I will visit Nara and Osaka over the course of 3 days and will then fly to Hokkaido from Osaka. Since I will only be travelling by train over the course of those 4 days (I will be renting a car in Hokkaido) I am unsure which rail pass to buy.
    Buying the 7-day pass seems excessive, so I thought of buying the Kansai Pass and then separately buy a one way ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto – does this make sense economically? Or would it be cheaper to actually buy the 7-day pass for those 4 days?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Lucila!

      To assess if the Japan Rail Pass is the most cost effective ticket for your trip, we recommend you to check at Hyperdia which would be the cost of the individual ticket. When you have this detail you will be able to compare this price to the nation-wide pass price.

      We hope you enjoy your trip!

  19. Information on your page entitled “Where to Store Your Luggage” is CONFUSING! We are a family of 9 planning to use the Shinkansen Hikari to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto in October of 2018. We will have large piece of luggage, but your information about large luggage on the Shinkansen seems to conflict with each other. One part says “Riding the trains with large suitcases is not recommended as there is little storage provided on most trains…..” Then it says, “Shinkansen trains offer overhead compartments for regular luggage….” Well, what is considered “regular” luggage. Then the same article continues with “The Japan Railways regulations state the following: each passenger can carry 2 pieces of large luggage….each suitcase should not exceed 30 kg in total…..the total of the luggage’s dimensions should add up to 250 cm. maximum…..”
    I am confused: so does this mean that the Shinkansen WILL ACCEPT large luggage? And if so, where will they store it?

    1. Hi Linda!

      Travellers are allowed luggage on board of Shinkansen bullet trains at no additional cost. However, there is a limitation of two pieces of luggage, both of which should have a maximum weight of 60kg and a total of 250 cm in height, length and width.

      Happy travels!

  20. Hello
    Im from Malaysia and will travel to Japan this coming october 2018..got a few questions to ask if you dont mind..
    1) If i wish to travel in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, which JR pass that suits my trip ? Or any better recommendation other than JR pass?

    2) If i Buy the JR East pass, is It possible to ride on shinkansen from Tokyo to hokkaido which means direct to Hakodate? Is It includedbin jr east pass?

    3) how about going to osaka from Tokyo or to Kyoto?is It possible to use jr east pass ?

    4) which pass jr offer to use in osaka and kyoto? Or any better recommendation other than jr pass?

    Thank you in advance

    1. Hi Faizah!

      The Japan Rail Pass would cover all your itinerary:

      – Transfers from main airports to Japan’s biggest cities (it covers Narita Express from Narita Airport, Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport and Haruka Express from Kansai Airport).
      – During your stay in Tokyo, the JR Pass affords access to five different local railway lines: the Yamanote Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines.
      Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are connected with by the Tokaido Shinkansen line, included with the Japan Rail Pass.
      – In Osaka you will be entitled to fully use the Osaka Loop Line.
      – Sapporo, capital of the northern island of Hokkaido, is fully reachable with your Japan Rail Pass. Visit our guide to check the route depending on the city you are travelling from.

      Please note that none JR East Pass covers both Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka.

      Happy travels!

  21. Hello,
    we are going to Tokyo Narita on 23rd April and we will stay for 10 days in Japan. We will also stay in Kyoto for two nights, then return to Tokyo and fly back home from Narita.
    I was thinking of getting a Japan Rail Pass (or activate it) after we have been three days in Tokyo, to explore the city first and then use it on the last 7 days.
    We plan to visit Mount Fuji with one of the Azusa Trains (limited express) to Otsuki (and then with Suica Card to the rest of the Fujikyko Line) and also Matsumoto from Tokyo. For Kyoto and back, we’d choose the Hikari bullet Train. In my opinion, the JR Pass would already save us some money on the mentioned routes.
    As the JR Pass does not cover all tracks, I wanted to get a Suica Card for like Tokyo or Kyoto Metro and the main private lines.
    Do you think this makes sense to combine JR Pass and Suica?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Sabrina!

      It makes perfect sense to combine a nation-wide Japan Rail Pass and a SUICA/PASMO Card for local transportation. The Japan Rail Pass tends to be more cost effective the more you travel and the longer the distance. A round trip between Tokyo and Kyoto could cost between 26,000 and 27,000 yen. Given that the 7-day standard Japan Rail Pass has a cost of 29,110 yen, adding very few rides you are already saving money. In your case you will also be entitled to use:

      – The Narita Express between Narita Airport and Tokyo city center (which already costs between 3,020 and 6,160 yen depending on the station you want to travel).
      – The trip to Mount Fuji through the Gotemba trail is almost fully covered.
      – You will also be able to travel to Matsumoto at no additional cost: from Tokyo Station, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station or Ueno Station to Nagano (the fastest train is called Kagayaki). From there you can easily reach Matsumoto by train on the JR Shinonoi Line.

      If you want to plan your itinerary taking into account times and costs of each trip we recommend you to check Hyperdia, the number 1 Japanese online transportation planning tool.

      Enjoy your trip!

  22. Hello, we are a party of 4 and will be planning to travel to Tokyo to Kyoto and then Osaka. We will each have one full size luggage and one hand-carry. Will we be able to bring it with us on the Hikari train from Tokyo to Kyoto station?

  23. Greetings jrailpass
    My name is franky and there is a lot of question that i want to ask
    (I already buy 7 days JR pass for my trip at 5-12 december 2017)
    I have make ittenary for 8 day
    5-7 december at tokyo stay near Uguisudani Station
    7-8 december at takayama (stay there) and seeight seeing at shirakawa
    8-10 december stay at osaka (hotel diamond Taishi, Nishinari Ward, Osaka)

    Question
    1. Would you tell me what is the name of the station are for these spot ( i hope nearest the JR pass station)
    – Tokyo : tokyo imperial palace, tokyo skytree, asakusa, sensojji temple, ueno park, meiji shrine, odaiba (diver city), mount fuji,
    rainbow bridge
    – Takayama / Shirakawa go : hida no sato, old house, samurai statue, observatroy point, ogimachi village
    – Kyoto : kinkakuji temple, fushimi inari taisha, gion, the sagano bamboo forest,
    – Osaka : osaka castle, universal studio, shinsekai, shinsaibashihsuji street, dotonburi, umeda sky building, tempozan feris wheel
    2. I will arrive at narita international airport terminal 1, how do i get to Uguisudani Station from narita (use JR pass)
    3. Please give me advised about my trip, is there is a change i visit those spot (no 1)
    4. Is JR pass can use for night train ?
    Thank you very much for your attention

    1. Hi Franky!

      Find below the answers to your questions:

      – To move around the city of Tokyo the JR Pass affords access to five different Tokyo railway lines: the Yamanote Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines.
      – Takayama is easy to access using your Japan Rail Pass, you can read all the details in our article Takayama and the Japanese Alps: Travel guide with the JR Pass.
      Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are connected with by the Tokaido Shinkansen line, included with the Japan Rail Pass.
      – When in Osaka, you will be granted full, unlimited access to the Osaka Loop Line.
      – From Narita airport you will be able to take the Narita Express to central Tokyo.

      Should you want to discover more spots to visit we strongly recommend you to surf through our blog 🙂

      Very happy travels!

  24. Hello,

    We are planning a 6 days trip to Japan. We will fly in at Kansai Airport and fly out from Narita airport. We will stay in Kansai area for 4 days, station at Osaka and make days trips to Kyoto, Nara, Kobe. Then we will take the Hikari Shinkansen (one way) to Tokyo and stay there for 2 days. We are thinking of buying a 4 days JR West Kansai area pass. Will the JR West pass be good enough for the stay? or should we purchase a JR pass instead. Does this JR West Kansai pass cover the Hikari Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo?

    Thx and regards
    Cindy

    1. Hi Cindy!

      The JR West Kansai Pass won’t cover your whole trip. Should you travel with this pass you wouldn’t be entitled to take the Hikari Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo, Tokyo’s internal lines or the final transfer from Tokyo to Narita Airport. We would recommend you to check which would be the individual cost of those trips at Hyperdia and compare it to the cost of the nation-wide Japan Rail Pass.

      The Japan Rail Pass would definately allow you to make all the mentioned trips:

      – From Kansai Airport you will be entitled to travel in the Haruka Express straight to Osaka.
      – While in Osaka, you will have full acess to the Osaka Loop Line which “loops,” or circles, through downtown Osaka.
      – Travelling between Kyoto and Osaka is as easy as pie with the Japan Rail Pass: just take the Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. You will get between Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station in less than 30 minutes.
      – Begin your trip from Osaka to Nara at the JR Osaka Station. Take the Yamatoji Rapid Train to JR Nara Station. These trains run once per hour; the trip lasts around 45 minutes and is covered by the JR Pass.
      – When traveling from Osaka to Kobe using the JR Pass, you may take the Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Shin-Kobe Station.
      – To get from Osaka to Toyko, you will need to take either the Hikari bullet train or Kodama from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo or Shinagawa stations in central Tokyo. Both run on the Tokaido Shinkansen line.
      – When in Tokyo, the JR Pass affords access to five different Tokyo railway lines: the Yamanote Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines.
      – And last but not least, you will be entitled to take the Narita Express from central Tokyo to Narita Airport.

      We hope you enjoy your visit!

  25. Hello,.
    We are having trip to Japan on Nov 26 to Dec 4 and we are planning to purchase the JR pass.
    we will be staying in Hilton Tokyo bay in Maihama which is quite far from the Tokyo center.
    Can you guide us what train to take if we are going to shinjuku graciery hotel?how about to tsukiji market? Shibuya stn?
    and if we want to go to lake lake kawaguchi from Maihama tokyo bay?
    And froM Maihama to Kyoto station?
    Thanks

  26. Traveling to Japan. Our itinerary is Fly into Narita then travel to Osaka.

    From Osaka, we are planning day trips to Kyoto and Hiroshima.

    Then return back to Tokyo. Our total trip is 7 days.

    Questions:
    – Should we buy a 7 day rail pass?
    – Is there a train from Narita airport down to Osaka or do we need to travel from the airport west to Tokyo to grab the train to Osaka.

    1. Hello Ed,

      First, we would recommend you to take the 7-day pass since you are planning to go to Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo as well, so you would be making savings. To compare the prices of all the alternatives, check Hyperdia app or website.
      Also, the best way to get from Narita Airport to Osaka is to take the Narita Express to Tokyo station, from where you can board the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka. This is the bullet train station for Osaka.

      Hope this helps.
      Kind regards

  27. Good Day, I will buy a JR Pass so that I can see all the stadiums for the rugby world cup in advance. I wish arrive in late May 2018 and visit each of them within 21 days. What is the best itinerary arriving from Hong Kong and leaving for Hong Kong. I guess arrive Fukuoka and leave from Sapporo – what rail routes should I take within the time available? Thank you. Alex

    1. Hi Alex!

      The Japan Rail Pass will easily allow you to have the unique opportunity to discover the whole country, which will be specially useful for you since all venues are spread through the country. In the Rugby World Cup official website you will find the exact location of all the venues. Having that it should be as easy as cake to draw the best itinerary with Hyperdia‘s help!

      Wish you an amazing trip!

    1. Hi Charisse!

      Yes – you will be able to travel from Tokyo to Nikko with your Japan Rail Pass. The trip is fully included in the pass. To get from Tokyo to Nikko, simply take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen (“Yamabiko” or “Nasuno Trains”) from Tokyo Station or Ueno Station to Utsunomiya; then, take the JR Nikko Line to Nikko Station.

      Very happy travels!

  28. This is Kathy,
    I am coming to Tokyo with my daughter and grand-duaghter on 1st November. My jusband will join us on the night of 8th and we want to go straight to Kyoto next morning as quickly as we can – then we will all return to Narita on 15th November.
    I am thinking of buying either the 7 day JR pass or the Japanican E-voucher for Nozomi Tokyo/Kyoto/Tokyo for all of us.
    My question is whether I will be able to buy our tickets to Kyoto on either Nozomi or Hikari before my husband arrives. I will have his E-voucher or JR pass with me but not his passport of course. I am concenred that in mid-November these trains will be busy and he doesn’t get in until quite late on 8th.

    1. Hi Kathy!

      To exchange the voucher all passengers are required to go to any of the JR offices in person, and to bring their passport together with the Japan Rail Pass exchange order. In our FAQ section you will be able to see all the JR Exchange Offices and their service hours to check if any of them would work for your husband.

      Have a nice trip!

  29. Thanks for the reply about the JP pass. I am still unclear about the Haruka Express to Shin Osaka (as opposed to Osaka city). It looks like from KIX that it goes first to Tennoji. Do we stay on the train or do we need to transfer to get to Shin Osaka (for instance, to catch the Tokaido Shinkasen line to Tokyo.

    Thanks,

    Henry

    1. Hi Henry!

      The Haruka Express stops at Tennoji Station before getting to Shin-Osaka as you state. However you won’t need any transfer to get to Shin-Osaka as it will take you there directly. Should you want to go to Osaka city center, once you get to Shin-Osaka Station you may want to transfer to a local train to Osaka Station. The trip from Shin-Osaka to Osaka takes only three to four minutes.

      Have a nice trip!

  30. This is Henry–There will be 5 of us travelling. We will fly into KIX and have reservations at the Remm Shin Osaka. We plan to spend 3 days in Osaka, then travel on the Shenkansen to Tokyo for a couple of days, then to Narita to fly back to the USA. I’m unclear about the Japan Rail Pass and costs. Can I buy 5 tickets for a seven day period and make all these trips with no additional costs. Or do I also have to purchase separate rail tickets. Can I do what needs to be done when I arrive at KIX or do I need to purchase passes in advance?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Henry!

      The JR Pass can be purchased online or through specialized agents, like this website. However, since March 8, 2017, and on a trial basis, the pass is also sold at selected stations inside Japan, at an increased cost. While you are now able to purchase the JR Pass in Japan, please keep in mind that it is only sold in particular stations, at a higher price and you are required to pay in Yens, as no other currency will be accepted.

      If travelling with a Japan Rail Pass, you can make the following trips at no additional cost:
      – Travel from KIX to Osaka city with the Haruka Express.
      – Travel from Osaka to Tokyo in either the Hikari bullet train or Kodama: both run on the Tokaido Shinkansen line and will take you to Tokyo or Shinagawa stations in central Tokyo.
      – From central Tokyo you will be able to easily reach Narita Airport through the Narita Express at no additional charge.

      Very happy travels!

  31. Hello Japan Rail Team,

    I am Prudence and I will be visiting Japan in December 2017 with my family. We will arrive in Haneda and stay in Tokyo for a few days and sightseeing around in Tokyo city. On 27 Dec we are planning to go from Tokyo to Osaka by bullet train and stay there for 3 nights. But we will also make a day trip to Kyoto (from Osaka) and do sight seeing. What do you recommend i should buy? JR pass or JR pass plus Kansai Pass ? Thank you

    1. Hi Prudence!

      The Japan Rail Pass will already cover all the mentioned trips.

      – The Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport will take you straight to Hamamatsucho Station in central Tokyo, on the Yamanote line.
      – To get from Tokyo to Osaka, you will need to take either the Hikari bullet train or Kodama from Tokyo or Shinagawa stations in central Tokyo. Both run on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, connecting the two cities.
      – To travel between Kyoto and Osaka just take the Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. You will get between Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station in less than 30 minutes.

      Enjoy your trip!

  32. Hi,

    I will be arriving and departing at Narita Airport and will be staying at Shibuya for 4 days explore around Tokyo and Disneyland and am planning to go to USJ, Kyoto, and Mt. Fuji for 2 days. My stay will be 6 days in total, can I use the JR Rail Pass for all of my trips? Also, may I have the detailed stations and trains to ride? Thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi DL!

      Yes – the Japan Rail Pass mainly covers all your scheduled trips.

      – While in Tokyo you can use the Yamanote Line, included in the pass, to discover the city. Since you will be staying at Shibuya and one of the stops of this line is there, it can be a great starting point for exploring Tokyo.
      – To go to Tokyo Disneyland, use your JR Pass to travel from Tokyo Station to Maihama Station, on the JR Keiyo line. Travel time is 20 minutes and the park is a mere five-minute walk from the station.
      – Universal Studio Japan is located nearby Osaka. To get there, from Osaka Station, take the Osaka loop line to Universal City Station. From Nishikujo Station, you can also take the JR Sakurajima line (also called Yumesaki line). The park is a five-minute walk from the station.
      – Getting from Tokyo to Kyoto with the Japan Rail Pass is easy. You should take the Shinkansen Hikari train from either Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station in central Tokyo, and arrive at Kyoto Station.
      – And last but not least, to go from Tokyo to Mount Fuji take JR Tokaido line for Kozu from Tokyo Station, using your JR Pass; once at Kozu (Kanagawa), take the JR Gotemba Line for Numazu and get off at Gotemba Station.

      We hope you have an amazing experience in Japan!

  33. I am going to Osaka in October, I will be travelling from Kansai airport to Osaka, and planning to do one or two Kyoto day trips, along with a weekend in Tokyo. I would prefer to go via Shinsaken as it’s quicker.

    Would the JR 7 day pass be worth this?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Natalie!

      All the mentioned trips are included in the Japan Rail Pass:

      – To travel from the Kansai Airport to the city of Osaka, board the Limited Express Haruka at the Kansai Airport Station using your Japan Rail Pass.
      – There are many day trips you can make from Kyoto. Among our favorites are Nara, Kobe and Himeji Castle, all of them included in the pass.
      – To go from Osaka to Tokyo, you can either take Hikari bullet train or Kodama to Tokyo or Shinagawa stations in central Tokyo. TTo go back you can just travel the other way around.
      – While in Tokyo, you are entitled to use some local lines such as JR Yamanote one.

      If you did all the mentioned trips travelling with the Japan Rail Pass would for sure be cost effective.

      Have an amazing vacation!

  34. Hi

    This is our first time to Japan. We will stay in Tokyo mainly and visit Kyoto during our time and leaving from Tokyo. I wonder if I should buy a JR pass during my stay 21-30. Does the JR pass cover the Nozimi bullet train. Can the JR pass be used in the city for short trips. I am staying in Shinjuku area.

    Any information or help you provide will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Patrick!

      Please note the Japan Rail Pass can be used within Tokyo on certain lines. The pass should translate into big savings when you travel within the whole country. It fully covers the trip to Kyoto as well as many other points in the country. We would recommend you to check the day trips you can make from Tokyo – you will for sure try to get to know amazing places!

      Regarding the Nozomi, these trains are not included in the Japan Rail Pass since they are owned by private companies. However you will always be able to use a Shinkansen Hikari that will cover the same itinerary.

      Very happy travels!

  35. Aloha . I will be going to Japan in June. I am not sure which pass to purchase – a one week, two or three. I will be coming from Narita to Tokyo, Tokyo to Osaka in a week’s time, then Osaka to Hiroshima and back to Osaka, Osaka to Nara and back , then from Osaka to Kyoto, and in the third week stay in Kyoto and then return to Tokyo and then Tokyo to Narita. Of course, in between, I would like to travel around but am not sure where I will be traveling to. Your advice is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Sheri,

      Your Japan Rail Pass choice will depend mainly on your travel plans. We recommend you to check your itinerary in Hyperdia to see which would the actual cost with individual tickets be and then compare it to the cost of the Japan Rail Pass.

      However please note the pass covers all the mentioned trips:

      Narita Airport transfers to central Tokyo.
      Tokyo to Osaka and Kyoto, in any possible combination of from and to points, and unlimited in number of times you want to make the trip.
      – Transport from Osaka to Hiroshima (from Osaka’s city center, take the JR Haruka Express to Shin-Osaka Station, then transfer to the Sanyo Shinkansen line (westbound, Hikari trains).).
      – Transport from Osaka to Nara, by beggining your travels at the JR Osaka Station and taking the Yamatoji Rapid Train to JR Nara Station.

      We also recommend you to surf further through our blog for more recommendations on how to fill the time and possible daytrips from the main cities. Also please note transportation within main cities is also included (Osaka Loop Line, Yamanote Line in Tokyo…).

      Very happy travels!

    1. Hi Arlene,

      Yes, it is covered. From Tokyo Station, you can take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Hachinohe Station.

      Regarding the departure times and trip scheduling, please take a look at our Hyperdia page.

      Have a great trip!

  36. Hi, I will come to Japan on April 2017. My plan will go to Mt Fuji. I bought JR pass already. Can you tell me which JR train will me from Shijuku Station to Mt. Fuji? Thanks

  37. Hi,
    I’m planning to come to Japan to see Cherry Blossoms this April 2017. I’m going to stay near Osaka Park. My question is should I buy JR Pass to use from KIX airport back and forth and go to Kyoto? I know that I have to subways like Tanimachi Line, Nagahoritsurumiryokuchi Line, or Sennichimae Line. I have to pay those subways separately right? I’m going to stay for 8 days and the JR Pass is only good for 7 days.

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Cecilia,

      You can use the Japan Rail Pass from KIX Airport, taking the Limited Express Haruka train. You can take the Osaka Loop line and the Shinkansen bullet train line to Kyoto as well as other JR lines in the city. Please note that you will have to pay separately for all non-JR lines.

      For further inquiries, please contact our Customer Service department at: https://www.jrailpass.com/contact

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *