Guide to Japan’s Travel Passes

While the Japanese transportation system is world-renowned, its fares can also quickly take a bite out of your budget. Take advantage of the plethora of budget travel passes available so that you can still travel in comfort and enjoy Japan’s fantastic transportation, but without so much of an impact on your wallet. 
 
National Passes 
By Train
Due to the speed and efficiency of Japan’s rail network, taking a train is usually the fastest option. 
Japan Rail Pass                                                                                    
The most well-known travel ticket, the Japan Rail Pass is an excellent option for those only staying in Japan for a few weeks. At a price that any Japanese would love to have access to, the Japan Rail Pass entitles the pass-holder to unlimited travel on several of the most used lines on the JR Railway (one of the largest travel companies in Japan), including its famed shinkansen, bullet trains. While previously only available for purchase outside of Japan, it is now available at a few selections inside of Japan from March 8, 2017-March 31, 2018, albeit at a higher price than those bought abroad. 
 
Pros: 
-        Access to a wide network of trains that cross the entirety of Japan 
-        Allows for the quickest travel (via shinkansen), so great long distance travels (ie. Tokyo to Kyoto)
-        Also covers local trains within various of Japan’s largest cities (eg. Tokyo), as well as JR-operated local buses
 
Cons: 
-        Comparatively high price in comparison to other passes
-        Must be used on consecutive days
 
Price: 
7 days—¥29,110 (Ordinary), ¥38,880 (Green)
14 days — ¥46,390 (Ordinary), ¥62,950 (Green)
21 days — ¥59,350 (Ordinary), ¥81,870 (Green)
 
Seishin 18 Kippu 
An incredibly cheap option, the Seishin 18 Kippu allows for travel on five non-consecutive on slower trains. While there are specific time periods during when they can be used (generally Mar.1-Apr.10, July 20- Sept. 10, and Dec. 10-Jan.10), this pass is a wonderful way to approach Japanese transportation at a much more leisurely pace. As a result, it would be possible to absorb Japan’s beautiful scenery and day-to-day life.  
 
Pros: 
-        Purchasable within Japan at most JR stations
-        Can be split among 5 people (for a group travelling on the same route)
-        Useable on non-consecutive days 
Cons: 
-        Ticket is only valid on the local and rapid trains -- travel times are therefore much longer. 
 
Price: ¥11,850 
 
By Bus 
While Japan is arguably more well-known for its excellent train network, its bus system is particularly robust as well. Spending the night on an overnight bus is an excellent way to save on accommodation costs as well.
Image credits: Willer Express
 
Japan Bus Pass 
The Japan Bus Pass is an excellent offer for budget travelers, especially for those willing to spend overnight on a bus. Administered by Willer Express, it can be used for both daytime and nighttime long distance buses. There are 3-, 5- and 7-day version of this pass, and the option to buy one only valid from Monday-Thursday, or one valid all days of the week. 
 
Pros: 
-        Useable on non-consecutive days 
-        Overnight buses can help save on accommodation costs
 
Cons:
-        Required seat reservations 
-        Bus networks are clustered around Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto, so it is more difficult to use for off-the-beaten-track trips. 
 
Price: 
3 days — ¥10,000 (Mon-Thurs), ¥12,500 (All days)
5 days — ¥12,500 (Mon-Thurs), ¥15,000 (All days)
7 days — ¥15,000 (Mon-Thurs)
 
By Plane 
When traveling particularly far distances (ie. Tokyo to Okinawa), taking a plane is your best option.
Taking off from Narita Airport, Tokyo
 
JAL Welcome to Japan Fare 
Available to any foreign visitors who are travelling to Japan via any airline, this is an ideal airline passes for those travelling to more far-flung locations, or prefer planes over buses or trains. 
 
Pros:   
-        Open to any visitor to Japan, regardless of which airline used to fly in/out
 
Price:  
-        ¥14,040 per domestic flight
 
ANA Visit Japan Fare
Similar to the JAL Welcome to Japan Fare, this pass is also perfect for those who are visiting places particularly far from each other, or would like to visit areas not easily accessibly by other modes of transportation (ie. Okinawa)
 
Pros: 
-        Open to any visitor to Japan, regardless of which airline used to fly in/out
 
Price: 
-       ¥13,000 per domestic flight

Oneworld Yokoso Visit Japan Fare
This pass is very similar to the JAL Japan Explorer Pass and ANA Experience Japan Fare, but only bookable by foreign visitors flying to/from Japan via oneworld partners (ie. Cathay Pacific, JAL, American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, etc.)
 
Pros: 
-        ¥10,800 per domestic flight
 
Cons: 
-        Availability limited to Oneworld fliers 
 
Region-Specific Passes 
If you will be travelling within a specific region in Japan, there are also several region-specific transportation passes that can allow for you to save even more money. Here is a selection of the most heavily used ones: 
 
Kanto 
JR East South Hokkaido Pass 
Covers local/rapid/limited express, and shinkansen travel in the Kanto, Tohoku, and southern Hokkaido regions operated by JR East and JR Hokkaido.
 
Pros: 
-        Semi-flexible: can be used on any 6 days within a 14-day period 
 
Price: 
6 days (semi-flexible, can be used on any 6 days within a 14-day period) — ¥26,000 (bought outside of Japan)
6 days (semi-flexible) — ¥27,000 (bought inside of Japan)

JR Tokyo Wide Pass
Covers local/rapid/limited express, and shinkansen travel in the Kanto region. 
 
Price: 
3 consecutive days— ¥10,000 
 
Tobu Nikko Free Pass
Covers a round-trip journey to Nikko via Tobu trains as well as travel on Tobu buses/trains in the Nikko region. 
 
Price: 
Nikko City Area Pass (2 consecutive days)— ¥2,670
Nikko All Area Pass (4 consecutive days, expanded access) — ¥4,520 
 
Hakone/Mt. Fuji 
Fuji Hakone Pass
Covers roundtrip to the Mt. Fuji area via the Fujikyu/Keio high bus and Odakyu railways, use of specific trains, ropeways, boats, buses, and cablecars in the Fuji Five Lakes Region and Hakone.
 
Price: 
3 consecutive days—¥8,000 (from Tokyo [Shinjuku]) 
3 consecutive days —¥5,650 (from Odawara) 
 
Chubu 
Hokuriku Arch Pass
Covers travel on JR local/rapid/limited express, and shinkansen in the region between Tokyo and Osaka.
 
Price: 
7 consecutive days — ¥24,000 (bought outside of Japan)
7 consecutive days — ¥25,000 (bought inside of Japan) 
 
Kansai
Kansai Thru Pass
Covers transportation on all non-JR trains, subways, and buses in the region. Its extensive network that includes quite a few ropeways, and the accompanying booklet includes discounts to regional tourist sites. 
 
Price: 
2 non-consecutive days—¥4,000
3 non-consecutive days — ¥5,200

 
JR Kansai Area Pass
Covers transportation on all local/rapid JR trains in the region. Excludes the shinkansen.
 
Price: 
1 consecutive day — ¥2,200
2 consecutive days — ¥4,300
3 consecutive days — ¥5,300
4 consecutive days — ¥6,300

 
JR Kansai Wide Area Pass
Similar to the JR Kansai Area pass, but with additional access to limited express JR trains in the Kansai region as well as the Sanyo Shinkansen (between Okayama and Osaka). 
 
Price: 
5 consecutive days—¥8,500 (bought outside of Japan)
5 consecutive days—¥9,000 (bought inside of Japan) 
 
Chugoku
JR Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass 
Covers travel on JR local/rapid/limited express, and shinkansen in the Kansai Region and along the Sanyo Coast. Ideal for travel between Osaka and Hiroshima. 
 
Price: 
5 consecutive days—¥13,000 (bought outside of Japan)
5 consecutive days—¥14,000 (bought inside of Japan) 
 
JR Okayama Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass 
Covers travel on JR local/rapid/limited express, and shinkansen in the Hiroshima, Okayama, and Yamaguchi prefectures.  
 
Price: 
5 consecutive days—¥13,500 (bought outside of Japan)
5 consecutive days—¥14,500 (bought inside of Japan) 
 
Shikoku 
All Shikoku Rail Pass
Covers travel on all trains in the Shikoku region, including those operated by private railway companies as well as the JR. 
 
Price: 
2 consecutive days — ¥7,400
3 consecutive days — 8,500
4 consecutive days — ¥9,400
5 consecutive days — ¥10,000
 
Kyushu
Kyushu Rail Pass
Covers travel on all JR trains in the Kyushu region, only excluding the Sanyo Shinkansen. There is also a version limited to northern Kyushu called the Northern Kyushu version. 
 
Price: 
Kyushu 3 consecutive days — ¥15,000
Kyushu 5 consecutive days — ¥18,000
Northern Kyushu 3 consecutive days — ¥8,500
Northern Kyushu 5 consecutive days — ¥10,000
 

Hokkaido 
JR Hokkaido Rail Pass
Covers travel on JR local/rapid/limited express trains, as well as most JR buses in the region. 
 
Price: 
3 consecutive days — ¥16,500
4 non-consecutive days — ¥22,000
5 consecutive days — ¥22,000 
7 consecutive days — ¥24,000 
 
Enjoy!

Eri Lin