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Japan Rail Pass or individual train tickets or rental car?

We are a family of 5 (2 adults and 3 children ages 9, 12, and 14) traveling to Japan for 13 days from from June 15 - 28. I am uncertain whether it makes sense to purchase a JR Rail pass for our family given our itinerary. Can you please help advise us?

Arrive Tokyo Narita - Day 1 (June 15)
Tokyo - Day 1 - 5 (June 15 - 19)
Magome - Day 6 (June 20)
Takayama - (potentially with visit to Shirikawa) - Day 7-8 (June 21-22)
Kyoto - Days 9-13 (June 23-27)
Possible day trip to Nara
Back to Tokyo on Day 13 and leave from Haneda on Day 14 (June 28).

Will the JR Railpass work for our trips to Magome/Takayama/and Shirikawa? Or would it be better to rent a car for that leg of the trip and just do a pass for either the first week (while in Tokyo) or the second week (in Kyoto)? Or would it be more economical to purchase individual train tickets wherever we need them?

Thank you for whatever advice you can offer.


  • Hi,
    By my calculations, you'd come up a bit short to make a 14 day pass pay off. But if you do a fairly long day trip either from Tokyo or Kyoto, you can begin to get some good savings. You could for example take half a day and visit Himeji, with Japan's finest surviving castle and Kokoen Garden.
    Or you could take a day and visit somewhere like Karuizawa, Nikko, or the Fuji 5 Lakes.
    Getting a 7 days pass makes little sense if you are just going to stay in Tokyo or the area. Using a 7 day pass for Days 6-13 would likely give you the most savings. If you do that, you could take the 1000 yen bus from Narita to save money.
    And if you want to see some sights around Tokyo, there is the Tokyo Wide Pass or Greater Tokyo Pass.

    You can see train schedules, times, fares, connections etc at
    If using the JR Pass, under "More Options", be sure to uncheck the Nozomi box since you can't ride that train using the pass.

    Also, you can look at some previews of some of the best places to see in Japan on:

    There are also loads of other tips on

    Best regards.
  • This is extremely helpful and I appreciate this forum so much! I will investigate the suggested links and revert with questions. Thank you!!
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