About the 2023 Japan Rail Pass Price Increase JRパスの値上がり
Japan Rail Pass - Is it worth it?
The popular Japan Rail Pass will be seeing a price increase in October of 2023. If your trip to Japan is scheduled for October or beyond, then you may have to bear a substantial price hike on JR Pass.
Read up more on the details for this update and how it affects visitors to Japan.
What is the Japan Rail Pass?
The Japan Rail Pass (often shorted to JR Pass) is a specialized ticket for foreign travelers to Japan that is distributed by the Japan Railways Group, the largest organization to manage domestic public transportation. Much of the major lines, including those of the cross-country traversing Shinkansen Bullet Trains, are operated by this group.
The special ticket grants unlimited access to these transportation facilities (except for the Mizuho and Tokaido Bullet Train) that can quickly add up in expense when using individual tickets. As of now, the National JR Pass comes in the form of 7, 14, and 21 day passes.
Rates start at 227 USD, and within that one payment, JR-operated facilities can be ridden freely. This is for the standard National version that allows access to the Ordinary Cars (Reserved or Non-Reserved), however, there exists a version for the Green Car that starts at 303 USD and allows access to more luxurious, reservation-only seats. The ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility granted by the pass has made it a very popular option for travelers.
In a recent announcement, Japan Railways is seeing an increase in base price. So, in this article, we'll be going into detail about the changes made in addition to what they mean to those planning travels to Japan.
How much is the JR Pass increasing in Price?
The update details can be seen in this table below (as of now, numbers are only available in JPY):
|Type||Current Price||New Price (as from October, 2023)|
|Regular 7-day Pass||29,650 yen||50,000 yen|
|Regular 14-day Pass||47,250 yen||80,000 yen|
|Regular 21-day Pass||60,450 yen||100,000 yen|
|Green 7-day Pass||39,600 yen||70,000 yen|
|Green 14-day Pass||64,120 yen||111,000 yen|
|Green 21-day Pass||83,390 yen||140,000 yen|
The base price is seeing a fairly significant increase, averaging at around 69%, but with this come other changes that are worth noting. After the price update, the currently un-accessible Mizuho and Nozomi Shinkansen that goes between Osaka and Kagoshima and Tokyo and Hakata respectively, will become rideable with a small supplemental charge. These bullet trains operate much faster than a lot of others and are currently only able to be boarded with a separate ticket, not the JR Pass. Also, there will be additional discount tickets available for certain tourist attractions thrown in. Despite the price change, these additions are a nice upgrade.
When does the increase come into effect?
The update comes into effect in October of 2023. Meaning that actual prices are still applicable before then. In addition, it should be noted that this only applies to purchases made after the update, not usage.
The Japan Rail Pass, if purchased through an official distributor such as Japan Experience, is available to buy three months prior to activation and usage.
This means that tourists who are making plans for up to the end of December in 2023 can still buy a voucher, make an exchange after arriving, and use the it at the more affordable, pre-update prices. This is definitely an advantageous option for those still making arrangements before 2023 ends.
How does this affect the value of the JR Pass?
The value of this popular option objectively takes a hit with this change, but that is not to say that there is no value or savings to be had. We can assess the value in relation to the expenses of a typical trip in Japan:
A typical excursion made is that of Tokyo to the Kansai region, and then back. Roundtrip, Tokyo to Osaka and back costs, on average, 27,000 to 30,000 JPY. This excludes any trips done to other parts of Kansai, such as Kyoto or Kobe, that are often conducted during an itinerary of this nature. As of pre-update, this journey alone would equate to the amount paid for a 7 day National Pass plus more. Post-update, this option exceeds the expense of a Tokyo to Kansai trip, however, it’s important to consider the additional trips made by those who plan on using the JR Pass in the first place.
Kanto to Kansai alone may not be enough to fully optimize the value of the JR Pass, but the many other destinations people intend to travel to surely are enough to see fruitful savings. In addition to Kansai, travelers can make their way out to Shikoku or Hiroshima, and from Kanto, commute to areas in Tohoku and Hokuriku will be covered as well.
Additionally, the holders of the JR Pass are not limited strictly to high-speed rail. Within many towns and major cities, a majority of the express, limited, and local railways are operated by the Japan Railways. A large number of buses and even some ferry rides, such as the one from Hiroshima to Miyajima, are included operated by JR as well. The access granted for visitors on the more local scale is something that should not be overlooked when considering the value of this option.
For example, a day pass for the Tokyo Metro is 600 JPY for an adult. While this is undeniably a good deal, local travel expenses can pile up quickly even with these day tickets, so the options definitely add to the savings.
The JR Pass has always been an excellent option for those who have itineraries that span many different areas. While this increase objectively is a hit to the overall value, it by no means results in a scenario where no savings are to be had, but it'll largely be contingent on the nature of a visitor’s itinerary.
For first time travelers to the country who may not be fully used to rail travel and/or have plans to see as much as possible, this will remain a very fruitful option even from October onward.
Regional Pass : An alternative to the Japan Rail Pass
While the National Japan Rail Pass can still serve as an excellent deal for travelers with an array of destinations on their to-go list, an alternative for some who wish to concentrate primarily on specific regions in Japan is that of the regional passes.
Regional passes operate similarly to the national version, but focus on a specific area of travel. There are an array of options for different regions to choose from, including the aforemntioned Kansai Region, the southern area of Kyushu, the most northern island of Hokkaido, other parts of Honshu, like Hokuriku and Tohoku, and many more. The Kansai Wide Area Pass that allows access throughout this region via train, bus, and even ferry, goes for 75 USD.
For seasoned travelers who wish to take a deeper dive into their favorite regions of Japan, this poses as an excellent deal and more affordable alternative to the national version even at the current, more affordable listing. Many of these also include access to Shinkansen between certain stops within the specific region, meaning there is very little compromise in terms of speed and accessibility.
What are some Regional Passes to look into?
With this option under the radar of many who may not be able to utilize the National JR Pass to its full potential, many ask which Regional options may be best for them. We've compiled a few itineraries for potential tourists to look into.
The most popular options are that of the Hakone Free, Kansai Wide Area, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu Passes.
Any of these would be great options, however we highly suggest options that incorporate Shinkansen, as access to these contributes to greater deals and savings since the bullet train is inherently the most costly railway option.
Discover More of Japan with Our Regional Pass
The perfect alternative to Japan Rail Pass for exploring local treasures!
Will the Japan Rail Pass still be worth it after the price increase?
For years, the pass has been hailed as one of the most advantage-filled package travel deals in the world, not just in regards to travel in Japan. Ultimately, the value this holds after the price-hike in October of 2023 depends on the itineraries and goals of individual travelers, but the same could be said for its current iteration.
A nation as rich in culture and experiences as Japan should be explored to its fullest, and the JR Pass is, and will continue to be, a cost-effective, flexible, and easy-to-use option for visitors. However, we encourage those preparing for their trips to carefully look into their itineraries and consider the costs of travel that can arise to really see if the value remains after the update.
For those making travel plans even as late as December of 2023, the current prices are still applicable if a voucher is reserved and purchased before the update is instituted and the activation date is at least three months after.
For those who’s itineraries do not benefit from the National iteration, Regional Transportation Tickets are worth researching as any means of simplifying and cutting down the costs of transit are worth considering.
What are some of the best ways to get the most out of a Japan Rail Pass?
It may take a bit more effort and planning to get the most out of the JR Pass. With the price increase of the Japan Rail Pass, the most common route "Tokyo <> Kyoto " rule no longer holds true. If you plan on traveling between just two destinations, buying point-to-point tickets may be cheaper than using the JR Pass. However, if you're venturing further afield and making more stops, the pass will represent better value.
One of the major benefits of the National JR Pass is the flexible access nationwide that is not limited to specific regions. Therefore, itineraries that combine accessible areas of different regional passes will benefit the most.
For example, if you want to explore Kanazawa, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima in addition to Tokyo, activating your seven-day pass on the day you leave Tokyo and arriving at your final destination on day seven will give you the most value. Try to move around as much as possible during the period your pass is activated, and then stay in one destination for the remainder of your trip
How can you save money on buying the JR Pass after the price increase?
Using a prior example, From Tokyo to Osaka costs an average of 16,600 JPY. Excursions within the surrounding Kansai area vary, and are not a far distance, but the sheer amount of them can add up significantly. For example, a trip to Kyoto from Osaka and back will go for around 2,800 JPY, and then to Okayama and back can cost around 11,000 JPY. This can all be covered with the National JR Pass.
From the Kansai region, a trip to the historic Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture can be done via the Thunderbird Rapid Train line which is also fully covered. A one-way trip via this train is around 8,250 JPY for a reserved seat.
Exploration of Kanazawa can be a great day trip or overnight adventure (or longer, of course), and from here, exploring the rest of Hokuriku via way of Toyama (a rural prefecture famous for some of the country's best seafood) can be made. This would typically go for around 4,140 JPY. And from here, pass-holders can go to make a trip to Nagano Prefecture, which would typically cost 9,190 JPY with a reserved seat.
Nagano is one of the most geographically large prefectures in Japan and boasts beautiful mountain scenery and a capital city that hosted the Olympics in 1998. From Nagano, the trip back to Tokyo can be made to explore the city and tie up any loose-ends. This Shinkansen ride comes to around 9,710 JPY, and any JR transit within Tokyo are all covered.
The transit between the major destinations in this itinerary equate to a little over 61,000 JPY, without incorporation of local transit and transit from the airport. But in addition to the savings made, the flexibility and ease of use with the JR Pass is a big bonus that should not be overlooked.
Moreover, it makes more sense (depending on your itinerary), to activate your JR Pass immediately for airport transfers and onwards, and use the JR network as much as possible. In Tokyo and Kyoto, opt for the above-ground train system, which is run by JR, instead of the subway, which is not.
To maximize the value of your pass, thoroughly research the places you want to visit and plan your route accordingly. While the JR Pass may not be worth it for the "Golden Route" of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, it can still provide significant savings for those looking to venture beyond these popular destinations.
Frequently Asked Questions about the JR Pass.
Can't find the answer you were looking for?
If you haven't found the answer you're looking for, please check our FAQ page for more information about the Japan Rail Pass.
We're also here to help and would be more than happy to assist you. Simply click our " Contact us " page and email us.
One of our customer support representatives will get back to you as soon as possible.