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JR Pass for Tokyo-Kyoto or Buy As We Go?

Following ski trip in northern Japan from Jan 5-18 (separate JR East Regional Pass already purchased)

Jan 19-23 from Tokyo to Kyoto
Jan 24 from Tokyo to Narita Airport

I don't know what we may do around Kyoto area yet. Should I buy a 7 day pass national JR Pass ($362 CAD) or buy separate tickets?

How useful is the pass is in and around Kyoto area? Could I use for Nara, Arashiyama (2 places I saw recommended on this forum), other recommendations?


  • Hi,
    I presume you are taking the train back to Tokyo from Kyoto on Jan 23 or 24, right? You would make a 7-day JR Pass pay off with that round trip, plus taking the Narita Express to the airport. And yes, you can take JR trains to see Nara (very worthwhile), as well as Arashiyama, which is the west side of Kyoto.

    Other than those routes though, the JR Pass will not help you much in Kyoto. The pass does not cover city subways, nor any city buses. There is a 600 yen bus pass you can get, but rush hour traffic can be bad and it's better to take a subway or non-JR train those hours, if it is convenient to get someplace. In addition, if you still have some energy at the end of the day, you can also go to Osaka in the evening, which has some very nice places to see like Dotonbori, Shinsekai, and city views from the Umeda Sky Bldg, Abeno Harukas Bldg, Cosmo Tower, etc.

    And if you would like to take half a day to see Himeji Castle (the best in the country) and Kokoen Garden, you would get even more savings from the pass, and you can quickly zip over there by bullet train.

    If not however, there is a cheaper way to travel the round trip, and that is by the japanican ticket.
    It only covers the Tokyo-Kyoto round trip as well as a free day of local transport. Plus it gets you there about 30 minutes sooner by Nozomi trains. But it is far cheaper, and even after paying for the Nara tickets, it still comes out costing less. And from Tokyo to Narita there is the Access Narita Bus for just 1000 yen.
    So it's up to you - a choice between money and convenience.
    You can check on train info on Hyperdia - you can see regular fares, routes, and schedules.
    Under "More Options", with a full JR pass, 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.
  • Thank you - yes we will be doing a return trip and depart from Narita Airport so I think the pass gives us motivation to also visit Nara. Thank you for the expanded information and tips!
  • Also, I just noticed reviewing other comments that the japanican ticket is not longer available anyway, so even if we decide to stay in Kyoto (and skip Osaka, Nara, Arashiyama) our best option is JR Pass (for return trip Toyko-Kyoto and Tokyo to Narita). Do you agree?
  • You have a choice, actually. And yes, they stopped the japanican ticket which is a shame. At any rate, you can get the full 7-day JR Pass. But you have another choice - you can also get the Hokuriku Arch Pass for about 5000 yen less. But it will take a couple hours longer each way. It doesn't cover Himeji either, though you could get a 1-day Kansai Area Pass and save a bit that way. So it's back to the old question, money or time. Up to you.
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