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Traveling to Japan in January

We are traveling to Japan in January for 3 weeks (20th - 10th Feb). We are flying into Narita Airport at 6:30pm.

Our itinerary currently is:
Tokyo (20th - 27th)
Hakuba (27th and stay until 31st)
Kyoto (31st - 5th Feb)
Kinosaki (5th - 7th)
Osaka (7th - 10th and fly out of Kansai Airport at 8:55pm)

We will do day trips from these main places but havent planned that far ahead.

Should we get the 21 day pass or the 14 day pass?
Can we use the JR pass to get around Tokyo?


  • Hi,
    As is, you are barely making a 7 day pass pay off. The key is taking some long distance day trips to make the 14 day pass worthwhile.
    There is no shortage of great places in both the Tokyo area as well as in Kansai.
    You still have some problems though. If you started using a 14 day pass on Jan 27, the the last day of use would be Feb 9th - short of getting you to KIX. You can either rearrange your trip or just pay the regular tickets.
    And for getting to Hakuba, you can take a bullet train to Nagano, then pay for a bus the rest of the way (60-90 minutes, 1800-2000 yen). Or you can take a JR pass the whole way and pay nothing extra by using a ltd express train from Tokyo - however, it will take you about 1½-2 hours longer. Your choice.
    I would say for Tokyo 3-4 days are enough - that gives you some time for some great day trips. There is no shortage of great places in the area - Nikko, Karuizawa, Kusatsu, Sendai, Kamakura-Enoshima, Takao, Mitake, Kawagoe, Izu, Kawagoe, Nokogiriyama (in Chiba), plus partway to the Mt Fuji area, and many more.
    The first 4 places would give you the most savings. For the Fuji area though, a JR Pass can only take you part way - there are good Odakyu passes for both Hakone and the Fuji 5 Lakes.

    For the Kansai area, you could also take a day trip to see Himeji with Japan's finest castle, as well as Hiroshima/Miyajima. Both would add a lot of value to your trip. And you should take at least half a day to see Nara as well. It was also a former capital and has some of Japan's best sights. Missing the Todaiji Great Buddha would be a tragedy. Nara Park has a lot of other great places, such as Kasuga Shrine, Kofukuji Temple, the Isuien and Yoshikien Gardens, and feeding the many deer in the area.

    For Kinosaki, look into getting a Yumepa ticket, which lets you go onsen hopping to all the best places.

    Within Tokyo, you could only use a JR pass to a limited extent, such as the Yamanote Line. It goes to several popular places, but not all. You would not be able to use it unless you go the 21 day pass, but that would be a waste of money. Instead, try a 2-3 day subway pass. You can save some money and go virtually anywhere.

    You can see regular fares, routes and schedules on Hyperdia.
    Under "More Options", be sure to uncheck the Nozomi box since you can't ride that train using the pass.

    You can see previews of some of the best places to see in Japan on:

    There are also loads of other tips on

    Hope that helps.
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