With only four full days in Japan, we originally planned to just explore Tokyo for two days, spend one day in Tokyo Disney Sea, and then go on a day trip to Kyoto.
With that travel itinerary in mind, we set out to do our research to find out how much a return train ticket would cost from Tokyo to Kyoto. We found out that a one-way ticket Tokyo to Kyoto costs about 13,080 yen or CAD$161.05 (as of June 20, 2016). If we buy two one-way tickets to make it a return trip, it would cost 26,160 yen or CAD$322.10 per person. This price is for a non-reserved seat on any of the shinkansen or bullet trains: Hikari, Kodama, or Nozomi. Of course, the prices go up for reserved seats. For reserved seats on either the Hikari or Kodama, it costs about 13,500 yen or CAD$166.23 one way so about 27,000 yen or CAD$332.46 both ways. As for a reserved seat on the fastest shinkansen which is the Nozomi train, the price is around 14,000 yen or CAD$172.38 one way and 28,000 yen or CAD$344.76 both ways.
We were taken aback with the prices so we did a little bit more research. Buying a Japan Rail (JR) Pass was never an option for us, at least in the beginning, because most people we’ve asked who’s been to Japan said it is not worth it to buy a JR Pass if we don’t really plan on taking the trains as much and since we are only going to be there for four days. They said we won’t get the bang for our buck. But after finding out how much a Tokyo-Kyoto return ticket costs, we looked into how much a JR Pass costs and actually considered it.
Our research brought us to a website and found out that an ordinary seven-day unlimited JR Pass costs CAD$346 and a green or first class JR Pass for seven days costs CAD$455. The ordinary seven day JR Pass is only CAD$23.90 more than the Tokyo-Kyoto return ticket on a non-reserved seat. To us, it made more sense to get a JR Pass especially since one can use a JR Pass in local trains in Tokyo and Kyoto as well as long as the trains are within the JR company. We will also be able to use the JR Pass for a train ride from Narita Airport to Tokyo and vice-versa using the Narita Express which saves us money. According to a friend, a train ride from Narita Airport to Tokyo using the Narita Express costs about CAD$20 to CAD$30. In short, having the JR Pass is actually the cheapest option for us and we would no longer need to buy individual train tickets which will also make our lives easier when travelling.
In the end, we opted for the ordinary JR Pass as we really could not afford to shell out another CAD$100 for the green or first class JR Pass. Based on our research, buying a green JR Pass gives a passenger more comfort, an oshibori or hot towel on board, as well as free drinks on some routes. Those do sound good but we can do without it. 🙂
We ordered two ordinary JR Passes online on a Thursday night and we received it on Friday before noon. It was sent to us via FedEx from France. Our order also came with a free Japan Railway map and timetables as well as a Japan by Train Travel Guide.
Since we decided to get a JR Pass, we have made changes to our travel itinerary to make the most out of our JR Pass. Instead of spending two days in Tokyo, one day in Tokyo Disney Sea, and one day in Kyoto, we have decided to spend one day in Tokyo, one day in Kyoto, one day in Osaka, and one day in Tokyo Disney Sea. I know that means we will be rushing to see as much as we can in those four days but we thought it would be best for us to see a little bit of everything. This only means we need to go back to Japan to see more of the things we may miss on our trip in August.
Things you should know about the JR Pass:
- The JR Pass can only be used by foreigners who are visiting Japan as tourists and are staying for less than 90 days
- If you are thinking of getting a JR Pass make sure to buy it before you leave for Japan as you cannot buy it when you land in Japan
- Do not order a JR Pass more than three months away from your trip as you need to validate your JR Pass within three months of ordering it. You can validate your JR Pass at the airport when you land
- The JR Pass is not exclusive to trains as it can also be used on the JR Miyajima ferry
CAD$697 which includes two ordinary seven-day JR Pass, Japan by Train Travel Guide, and Japan Railway map and timetables.