Transportation in Japan

My itinerary always so packed and going around many cities in each visit. So I was using 7 Day JR Pass and 14 Day JR Pass last time to travel between cities. And if you’re arriving or departing from Narita airport, please read the section about Narita express at the bottom of this post.

What is JR Pass? The Japan Rail Pass (also commonly called JR Pass) is a very cost effective rail pass for long distance train travel in Japan. It can be used by foreign tourists only, and offers unlimited use of JR trains for one, two or three weeks at a cost that residents of Japan can only dream of.

More info : http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361.html

Depends on your itinerary and budget, you may need / no need JR Pass. When you need to consider to purchase is when you plan to travel from one city to another city and going back again. You can calculate the cost of the train / shinkansen ticket from this website below (it’s very convenience and accurate, really…!! Thanks to those people who create them! And note that Japanese people so punctual with the schedule, so when you see the train depart time is 1PM, they literally means depart at 1 o’clock) :


THAT HYPERDIA WEBSITE going to save your life in Japan..!! You just need to know what are the station names (depart & arrive), and they will generate the routes for you! NOTE : Please make sure you choose the top route (1st or 2nd as much as possible), it did happen to me when I wait for shinkansen from somewhere (…ok I forgot already, too often take shinkansen) and we saw from Hyperdia that we should take Hikari train that will come in another 10 minutes, yet I saw there was Kodama train which going to the same destination, already in the platform and going to depart soon. Me and my travel mates debating why we not just take that Kodama train instead? After I check again… taking Kodama train was the 3rd or 4th route in Hyperdia… which will reach to the destination way longer than taking Hikari train…!! O_O” so it’s like taking Hikari train will take around 3 hours, while taking Kodama will take around 5 hours… that’s because Kodama will stop at all stations (those small stations) along the way, while Hikari train only stop at few big stations.

So… back to the JR Pass… The reasons I choose to buy JR Pass for me because:

  • it save cost (JR Pass + non-JR lines cost < buying tickets on JR and non-JR lines in my itinerary), considering my super packed (and crazy) itinerary –> I use 14 days JR Pass and travel to Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima, Kanazawa, Tokyo, etc
  • save travel time (shinkansen way faster than bus and local trains)
  • reduce the time to buying tickets again / top up –> because you just have to show your JR Pass to the officer when you pass thru the station gate
  • and ride on shinkansen itself was a good experience~ you can even reserve the seat for shinkansen without paying more
  • I can still reach my destination without Nozomi / Mizuho train that not covered by JR Pass

If you already calculate how much the total cost by buying the single trip tickets & buses (eg. Willer bus), then compare to JR Pass, and you found out that using JR Pass will save more money; you can purchase it from the travel agent in your country, such as JTB or HIS, or any travel agents in your country. For me, I purchased them from this website :


The reason is… this website sell the ticket with good SGD/ JPY rate and very up to date on the currency rates 😛 anddd it’s include the shipping fee to Singapore using Fedex (UPDATE : nope, please check if they still give free shipping or not), received in 2 days~ What you will get is the receipts to be exchanged with the real JR Pass when you reach Japan (note this : You don’t always have to start using your Japan Rail Pass on the day of the exchange. When exchanging your voucher you will have to decide on the date you want to start using your pass. This date has to be within 30 days of the exchange. So if you plan to visit Japan for 10 days, you can choose not to activate it on your 1st day there, you can come to the JR Office to exchange on the 1st day but tell the officer you want to start using on the next following date. It’s very useful in the case you only travel to the other city on the 2nd or 3rd day of your trip, and you need to depart as early as possible, yet the JR Office only open around 9.30 -10 AM. So if you already exchange the JR Pass since your 1st day; on 2nd or 3rd day you just wake up early and straight away start your journey, rather than waiting for the JR office to start operating and queue again to exchange your JR Pass)
You can read the FAQ here :

But remember also, JR Pass can’t be used in the private lines / non-JR lines and non-JR bus. So for example in Tokyo there are many lines of trains and subway, you can use it on the JR lines, but when you need to change to other lines in the interchange station, you need to go out from the JR station gate and go to other line gate, which you need to purchase separate ticket (if you change line from JR line to another JR line no need to go out). Another consideration also, in city like Kyoto, the main transportation there is bus. You can’t use JR Pass, so you have to pay cash (230 yen per trip), or buy 1 day pass bus and/or bus and subway pass. Same goes to other cities like Nagoya, Osaka, etc where they equally have a lot of private lines. But it doesn’t mean your JR Pass totally useless for inside the city, because there are JR lines going to Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari from JR Kyoto station, and the popular Yamanote line in Tokyo covered by JR Pass also. Another example in Osaka you can still go to Dotonbori from JR Nanba station, then walk a bit (seriously very near, only walk for less than 10 minutes you can reach, compare to the subway Nanba station only 5 minutes difference). Other than train/shinkansen, in Hiroshima and Kanazawa you can use JR buses, and going to Miyajima Island also covered by JR ferry. It’s just that when you visit places like Mt Fuji area, Hakone, Shirakawa-go, going to/from Nagoya airport (Meitetsu lines), etc you need to purchase separate ticket.

How about taking taxi in Japan? …I’d rather not to take taxi because they’re so expensive 😦 compare to Singapore, I think Japan cost double. I did take taxi in Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Tokyo for some reasons though (blame the bus time schedule why only start at 8 AM and bad weatherrrr >___<), and also because I shared with the other 3 persons in my group (so effective, pffff…) Another problem with the taxi : most of the driver can’t speak English, so you better prepare the address in Japanese, or tell the taxi driver for the place name that the driver can understand (eg. Tokyo Station : say ‘Tokyo eki mae’ –> ‘eki’ = train station, or the name of your hotel, if your hotel is easy to find, LOL)

Actually there are many other regional (BTW even JR Pass have regional and nation-wide pass) and tourist pass in Japan. Eg. there are Hakone Pass, city’s tourist pass, etc. Just remember there are so many train pass in Japan, and not a single one can cover all places. You can find out from here :


For short visit in Japan, you can use IC Card:

What is an IC card?

IC cards are rechargeable cards that can be used to conveniently pay fares on public transportation and to make payments at a rapidly increasing number of vending machines, shops and restaurants by simply touching the card on a reader for about one second. More than two dozen train and bus operators across Japan have started issuing their own IC cards since 2001.

You can check out if your IC card can be used in the cities that you going to visit also, since this IC Card have been improved but still not covering all :


Using Narita Express

There is a lot of option to reach Tokyo from Narita airport (and the way back to Narita airport). You can take bus, train – NEX / normal rapid train, taxi (NO! DEFINITELY NO), and among them, one I want to take note about Narita Express train.

  • JR Pass cover this Narita Express
  • Narita Express might not available on the day you will want to travel to/from Tokyo (That’s why, please check the schedule from hyperdia website); and make sure the ticket office is open when you reach Narita Airport (esp when you want to buy round trip ticket)
  • You have option to buy round trip ticket for 4000 yen, instead of single trip, and it can be used within 14 days
  • You can go out in other station than Tokyo station (basically ‘greater Tokyo’ area), like Ueno, Shinjuku, etc. The officer will ask your destination and the seat number should be the correct train that will go to your destination (…because NEX trains will ‘separate’ at Shinagawa, lol) img_usearea
  • Narita Express is all reserved seat, so if you purchase round trip ticket, you have to find the ticket machine (located around the NEX platform) and insert your return ticket, choose the station where you will depart (eg. Shinjuku) and time you will depart (eg. 2:10 PM), anddd it will print the ticket with your seat number, and will return your previous ticket you insert to the machine. When you reach Narita Airport station (Terminal 1 or 2), you will have to insert both ticket to go out from the station.
  • useful links about NEX round ticket : https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/nex_round.html

I hope you can plan well before going to Japan and have a pleasant trip 🙂



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