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Japan trip May/June, National pass vs Regional passes

Hey guys, was wondering if you could help me out a bit making a decision between:
A). The JR national pass for 21 days (470,- euro pp)
B). Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass (first 5 days Kumano Kodo) and then 2 x 7 days JR Sanyo San'in Area Pass (380,- euro pp).

The price difference between the two options is 90,- euro per person, which is about what it would cost us to rent a car in Kyushu. I was wondering if it's worth saving some cash and the Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass is actually quite nice, because you can take all the local busses around the Kumano Kodo trail. However, I'm not sure if the JR Sanyo San'in is worth if for the last days we spend around Kyoto and Osaka. Most likely in our case it might be cheaper buying separate tickets all the time, but because we have a few days where we travel quite some distance, I don't think JR passes would be that much more expensive, plus you have the convienence of not having to purchase tickets all the time.

Our travel schedule:

18...19 May: Osaka
20...22 May: Kumano Kodo
23 May: Ise
24...26 May: Hiroshima
27 May: Miyajima
28...31 May: Kyushu area by car (starting from Fukuoka)
1...2 June: Iwakuni
3...5 June: Kyoto
6...7 June: Osaka (last we fly back)

Some questions I've got that can make the decision making a bit easier for me:

1. For option B. is possible to order all the passes and pick them up in one go? It would be inconvenient to pick up each pass separately each time... I would purchase the following:
- 19...24 May Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass
- 24...30 May JR Sanyo San'in Area Pass
- 1...7 June JR Sanyo San'in Area Pass

2. Is the part from Iwakuni-Kyoto-Osaka doable with the Sanyo San'in Area Pass? I've read for example that you can't use the Shinkansens from Kyto to Osaka with this pass. But apart from the shinkansens, will I be able to travel with this pass around Kyoto and from Kyoto to Osaka?

3. Are there any more area's the JR Sanyo San'in Area Pass does not cover, or any other specialties the JR national pass does have, but this one does not?

Kind Regards,
William Limberger


  • Hi,
    If you are not getting your money's worth, then it makes no sense to get a rail pass. *Maybe* if you are close to the break-even point, you could get one for the convenience factor. But with the 21-day pass, it would be a colossal waste of money for you. Rail passes only make sense when you are traveling long distance, especially by bullet train.
    The Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass would likely be a good buy for you.
    But getting 1 or 2 Sanyo San'in Area Passes would likely be money losers for you. You can add up your plans on the rail pass calculator at
    to check, or for less conventional itineraries, add up each leg on Hyperdia.com
    You don't give your full plans for Kyushu, but there are a lot of good sites to see.
    If you go all over northern Kyushu by train (Kumamoto, Nagasaki etc), then a JR Sanyo Sanin Northern Kyushu Pass might break even for you. Renting a car can be a great way to see a lot of places that public transportation is not good at, but you have to figure in the fuel, parking, time, and other concerns. If you really have your heart set on driving, then a Kyushu Expressway Pass might help.
    If you choose to get the passes anyway, you should be able to buy all at once, and if you want to activate them, you can designate a future date as your first day. Once activated, they cannot be changed, so it does lock you into a schedule.
    You are correct that with the JR West passes, the bullet train between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto are not covered. You can take a rapid or other trains, however. Of course for the JR Passes other rail lines like Kintetsu, Hankyu and so on are not covered. If you want more details about coverage, please go through the passes you're interested in on:

    Your time at some places seems too long, unless you mean using that city as a base with some day trips. Two days for Iwakuni is way more than enough - you can see the best sights in just half a day. There are some other very good sights you could add if you wish, like Akiyoshido, Tsuwano, and so on.

    Likewise, 3 days is way too much for Hiroshima, though you can definitely fill up a day with the city, and see a lot of great places that most people never bother to visit - sadly, many just go to the Peace Park and then leave the city. The Shukkeien Garden is very beautiful, and the Mitakidera Temple is the secret jewel that almost nobody discovers.

    You could also see Kure for the Yamato Museum if you like, or Sandankyo Gorge (75" by bus from Hiroshima Stn), Onomichi, or other sights.

    Your timing is also perfect to see Miyajima - at the start of June, they will be covering up the giant torii gate for over a year due to renovations. If you are spending a full day, try to see the shrine at both high and low tides - at low tide, you can walk out on to the beach right up to the torii gate.
    The shrine itself is better at high tide but only takes about 20 minutes to go through. Don't miss the beautiful Daishoin Temple which is in many ways even better. And the view from atop Mt Misen is one of Japan's favorites (when the weather cooperates). There is a flood of tourists on the island during the day, but 95% of them are day trippers and at night the whole area becomes extremely quiet and empty - take some time and walk around for a very different experience.
    For getting around Kansai and to KIX, you might consider getting the Icoca & Haruka discount ticket. The JR Pass is of limited use within the cities.
    You can check on a site like Hyperdia - you can see regular fares, routes, and schedules.
    Under "More Options", for your full JR pass be sure to uncheck the Nozomi box since you can't ride that train using the full pass (but you can with the JR West regional passes).

    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.

  • Thanks a lot for all your reply. Based on your reply I've made a list of all the train trips we're going to do, and it seems that the Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass for the 5 first days and then the JR Sanyo San'in Area Pass for 7 days is already worth it in our case.

    Also big thanks for giving us tips for places to visit and we are so happy we are at the right time in Miyajima!

    One thing I'm now trying to figure out (change in plans, we're going from Iwakuni to Okayama and then to Kytoto), is how to travel from Okayama to Shin-Osaka using the Shinkansen covered by the Sanyo San'in Area Pass. This pass excludes the usages of the Tokaido Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto, but It would be possible to travel from Okayama station to Shin-Osaka right using this pass right? I'm having a hard time figuring out how to travel from Okayama Station to Shin-Osaka (form there on to Kyoto), google maps always points out you're using the Tokaido Shinkansen Mizuho, but I can't find if that part IS covered by the Sanyo San'in Area Pass.

    Do you know by any chance? If that part is covered and ONLY Shin-Osaka to Kyoto is NOT covered by the Sanyo San'in Area Pass, that means getting this pass is already worth it.

  • Hi,
    As you said, the bullet train between Kyoto & Osaka is not covered with that pass.
    Regarding the last part of getting to Kyoto, you have a few choices. If you don't want to pay anything more above the rail passes, then you get off the bullet train at Shin-Osaka, leave the bullet train part of the station and go to the regular train section, and then catch a rapid train to Kyoto. It's only 15-20 minutes longer than the bullet train, plus any waiting. That said, some rush hour trains may change to local trains half way there, so it might add more time.

    If you don't want the hassle of changing trains and are OK with paying more for the bullet train to get to Kyoto faster, then the easiest thing to do is just buy a bullet train ticket for Shin-Osaka to Kyoto at your station (Iwakuni, Okayama, or wherever you're returning from) - it's ¥1420 for an unreserved adult ticket. This way also avoids any language difficulties. Or, when the conductor walks through the train after you leave Shin-Osaka, you just buy the ticket from him on the spot. If nobody walks by during that leg (it's only 15 minutes or so), then when you arrive at Kyoto Stn you pay the fare at the station gate.
  • will the JR pass get cheaper : JR east has 5 in 14 day TOKYO ATIKA return include aomori Morika
  • First, it's better to start a new thread and not piggyback your question on someone else's.
    Your question is unclear. Yes, there is the full JR Pass, and there are many regional rail passes. The one you may be referring to is the JR East Tohoku Area Pass.
    And it is quite cheaper than the full JR Pass, if you are only going to the Tohoku Region.
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