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Best way to use a 7-day JR PASS for 9 days in Japan?


Our family of 4 is traveling to Japan on 10/6 leaving on 10/14. Our itinerary is as follows:

10/6 Arrive in NRT at 2pm - need transport o Tokyo (Hibya Line: Hiro-o station), settle in family in hotel
10/7-10/9 Tour Tokyo using public transport / packaged tours
10/10 - Train to Kyoto
10/12 - Train to Tokyo
10/14 - Transport from Tokyo to NRT for departure at 7pm

My questions are:
- Is the 7-day JR Pass worth the cost for our family of 4?
- Would you recommend activation on 10/7 and bus from NRT to our hotel on 10/6?
- How useful is the JR Pass for subway travel within Tokyo?
- Are there stops along the way between Tokyo and Kyoto that folks would recommend?
- Is the upgraded JR Pass worth the cost for a family of 4 with older kids?

Mahalo for the advice!


  • Hi Christine,

    By using the Narita Express once and the round trip to Kyoto, you can barely make a 7 day JR pass pay off.
    You could save more however using a japanican ticket.
    You can also get there 30 minutes faster on the Nozomi Bullet train, which you can't ride on the JR Pass.

    The JR Pass though is USELESS for the subways. You could ride the JR Yamanote Line which goes to some popular places in Tokyo, as well as from Kyoto Stn to Arashiyama or the Fushimi Inari Shrine if you wanted, but savings are not much.

    A 2 or 3 day Tokyo subway pass can save you some money.

    If you choose to use the JR Pass, you can use the N'Ex one way only to or from Narita. You could activate it at the airport and go to Shibuya, then pay for the subway to Hiroo Stn. Or, activate it just before going to Kyoto, and use the N'Ex to return to Narita.
    Another good way to save money is the 1000 yen bus - you can use it once with the JR Pass or both ways with the japanican ticket.

    For time, you really don't have enough to stop off anywhere interesting between Tokyo and Kyoto. And there's not that much to see in any case. It would certainly be nice if you could add another day for Kyoto. You could see Nara for half a day, which is well worth it.
    Since you are already seeing Tokyo, you can largely skip Osaka during the day. After the temples of Kyoto close down around 5PM, you can zip over to Osaka for the evening. At night the city comes alive and has some great places to see, such as Dotonbori, plus the night views from the Umeda Sky Bldg and Abeno Harukas Bldg are wonderful.
    On another evening, you could also go and see Kobe.

    For getting a Green Seat Pass for JR, I don't think it's necessary - but it's up to you. I certainly have never heard of any grumbling about the ordinary seats. If you want to compare them though, there are some photos of both on:

    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 if you're using the JR pass.

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

    Hope that helps.
  • Thanks so much!!

    I think the JP Rail may be less given the discounted children's tickets (both < 11 years) unless there are children's fairs on the nozomi that I'm not aware of.

    Thanks again!
  • Scratch that! I just saw the 1/2 price cost for kids on the Nizomi! Thanks again!
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