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These 7 Scenic Trains Offer the Best Views of Japan

By Marianna Cerini

running High speed train Tokaido Shinkansen and Fuji mountain with rice field on spring season.

Japan—where remaining pandemic travel restrictions drop today —knows a thing or two about great train rides. The country boasts a solid railway system that’s fast, punctual, and relatively affordable, particularly if you get a discount rail pass—from the country-wide Japan Rail Pass (most commonly known as JR Pass, which must be purchased outside of Japan) to local ones homing in on specific regions.

But it also includes some of the splashiest private train lines there are, with on-board services akin to those you’d find in an ultra-luxury hotel , comfortable private cabins, lounges that are essentially salons on wheels, and elevated gastronomic offerings.

Simply put, whatever area in Japan you decide to focus on, there’ll be a captivating train journey to zip you around it. Here are seven of the very best trains in Japan, from glamorous to panoramic and plain romantic.

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Kurobe Gorge Railway

The Japan Alps—the mountain ranges running along the spine of central Honshu (the country’s main island)—have long been the nation’s geographical and spiritual heart, home to shrines and sacred sites, hot springs, and traditional farmers’ villages. A trip to the region is an absolute must, and the Kurobe Gorge Railway is the perfect sightseeing train to set the mood for it.

Originally built in the mid-1950s to serve the construction of the Kurobe dam, the line operates along a winding 12.4-mile stretch that crosses the Kurobe Gorge—one of the deepest gorges in Japan—linking the stations of Unazuki and Keyakidaira. On the 80-minute ride, guests can take in views of rugged mountain landscapes and steep cliff sides, a forested ravine and the gurgling Kurobe River, as they traverse more than 20 bridges and some 40 tunnels. Different stops along the way offer plenty of opportunities to go for a hike or, why not, stop at an open-air onsen.

Tickets start at $18 (or 2,610 yen). Be aware that the train operates seasonally from late April through November, and it’s most popular in October, when the fall foliage turns the hillsides into a tapestry of reds and yellows. If you go then, bring a jacket: most of the cabins are open-sided.

Gonoline ran to side of the Sea of Japan. Vehicle Transportation Train Watercraft and Vessel

Running along the western coast of the Aomori and Akita Prefectures in northern Japan—a region brimming with wild nature and volcanic mountain ranges—the 91.5-mile Gono Line is an important route for residents of the area. It also happens to be one of the country’s most scenic railways. Depending on the season, the train passes through lush forests and snowy landscapes, rice paddies and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakami-Sanchi, a virgin forest of Japanese beech trees. Expect the standard quality of Japan trains—efficient, fairly comfortable, and extremely reliable. 

Word to the wise: Add an extra layer of entertainment to your sightseeing experience by booking the Joyful Train that runs along the Gono Line ( Joyful Trains are concept trains featuring on-board activities, special dining cars, and special station events). Called Resort Shirakami , it includes live “shamisen” (traditional three-string guitar from the Tsugaru region) performances and storytelling sessions in the Tsugaru dialect. JR Rail Passes can be used for the Gono Line and all Joyful Trains if reserved in advance.

Tourists taking pictures of Hozukyo Ravine nature scenery on Sagano Railway Romantic train sightseeing ride in Kyoto...

Sagano Scenic Railway

At only 4.35 miles long and a mere 25 minutes one-way, the Sagano Scenic Railway is the shortest route on the list, but possibly the most romantic. Running from the Torokko Saga Station in Arashiyama—the second-most important sightseeing district in Kyoto—to the town of Kameoka, the train snakes leisurely through the mountains along the Hozugawa River, offering front row seats to the surrounding wooded ravine. Each train is outfitted with retro-nostalgic touches like wooden benches—a nod to its original debut back in 1899—and made up of one fully open cabin and four enclosed cars (with windows that can be opened). It is particularly popular during the autumn foliage season as the leaves along the way change their colors, but spring passengers can enjoy pretty views too, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The line doesn’t operate from late December through February. Tickets start at $6 (880 yen), and can be purchased at Torokko Saga Station or at JR ticket offices in the Kansai Region.

running High speed train Tokaido Shinkansen and Fuji mountain with rice field on spring season.

Tokaido Shinkansen Line

No trip to Japan would be complete without getting a glimpse of Mount Fuji. The Tokaido Shinkansen Line (a bullet train) is the easiest way to achieve that. Connecting Tokyo and Kyoto in around two hours and 20 minutes, the route passes the majestic mountain in both directions, delivering picture-perfect vistas of the country’s highest and most famous peak. Pick a seat on your right if you’re headed to Kyoto, or on your left if you’re going to the capital. Even better, reserve the window-side E row for the very best views. Plus, access to the Tokaido Shinkansen line is covered by the JR Pass.

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Train Suite Shiki-shima

A hybrid electric/diesel deluxe sleeping train, the Train Suite Shiki-shima is one of the world’s most exclusive and expensive railroad rides in the world—so much so that passengers have to submit an online application to get on, and are chosen by a random draw. With interiors by industrial designer Ken Okuyama, known for his luxury car work with Ferrari, Maserati, and Porsche, the 10-cabin, 34-passenger service features a lavish east-meets-west aesthetic, (think Japanese seating and western style beds), floor-to-ceiling windows in some of the carriages, and a futuristic observatory car kitted out with sinuous white chairs and grass-green carpets. Rooms are over-the-top spacious, and categorized as suites, flats, and maisonettes.

Once you’re on board, you’ll be heading from Tokyo into Japan's far north , namely Tohoku and Hokkaido—wide-open regions boasting spectacular nature and enduring traditions.

Itineraries are either two or four days long, and include sightseeing stopovers and overnight hotel stays, as well as some seriously superb culinary experiences, from breakfast to dinner. New routes are scheduled to start from April 2022 onwards. Tickets start at $3,830 (555,000 yen) for single occupancy in an entry-level suite.

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Twilight Express Mizukaze

One of Japan’s most luxurious trains, the 10-cabin Twilight Express Mizukaze (also referred to simply as Mizukaze) rides some of the most breathtaking routes on the western side of the country. Five different itineraries take passengers along the coastline of the Seto inland sea, making stops in Osaka , Setonaikai National Park, Miyajima, and the lesser-visited San'in region, depending which way you go. On board, passengers—a maximum of 34—can expect five-star service from the dining car to the six ‘rooms,’ the swankiest of which consists of an entire railcar that comes with its own tub (it’s aptly called ‘The Suite’). Tickets for it are quite hard to get, with a waitlist that can be over half a year, but snag yourself a seat, and you’ll be in for one of the most exclusive train journeys in the world. Tickets—only purchasable in Japan—start at $2,800 (400,000 yen)

Seven Stars Kyushu Japan

Seven Stars

The luxury sleeper Seven Stars , which cruises around Kyushu island—Japan's southern and westernmost main island—is worth adding to your Japan bucket list if you’re ready to splurge. Launched in 2013, the 20-passenger, seven-cabin train is as fancy as it gets, with plush interiors across its 10 suites (all of which are built in maple, walnut, or teak wood), a fine dining restaurant run by Kyushu’s master chefs, and a lounge car that even has its own piano. The Seven Stars name refers to the region’s seven prefectures—Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Saga, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima—which the train passes on two- and four-day circular itineraries, covering some 1,864 miles in total. Tickets are steep, but, on the plus side, include a series of activities that go beyond the train journey: sightseeing trips to mountain ranges, volcanoes, and traditional pottery villages, onsen experiences, and overnight stays at traditional (but still top-of-the-class) ryokan. Tickets start at $4,400 (650,000 yen) per person for a two-day trip, or $8,450 (1,250,000) per person for a four-day sojourn.

If you’re after something less pricey, Kyushu also has plenty of simpler sightseeing trains, like the Hisatsu Line, a slow, local railway line (currently suspended due to floods caused by heavy rains last July).

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Taking the train in Japan - all you need to know

John Walton

Mar 28, 2024 • 11 min read

best train journey in japan

Find your way in Japan with our ultimate guide to rail travel © Chay_Tee / Shutterstock

You will fall passionately in love with trains in Japan .

Japanese people didn’t invent rail travel, but they arguably perfected it. Whether you’re on the newest shinkansen (bullet train) zooming across the country at 320km/h (199mph) or an elderly regional railcar, you can count on your train being scrupulously clean, safely operated, highly reliable, famously punctual and generally a joy to ride.

You can see almost the entire country by train, and with a wide variety of rail passes — including the iconic Japan Rail Pass — you can travel across Japan for less than US$50 per day, including the shinkansen.

Signs are in English even at the smallest stations, translation apps and devices are widely used for complicated questions, and staff are genuinely happy to help travelers.

Japan has an enormous number of train lines and kinds of train, but don’t be put off by the sheer volume: it’s surprisingly easy to navigate , even on your first trip, with your phone’s maps app and a sense of adventure.

A woman stands at a bank of electronic ticket machines. Above her head is a color-coded map showing train lines

There are different services on the Japanese train network

Trains run almost everywhere in Japan. The main backbone of the network, and the fastest, is the shinkansen. These bullet trains run from Hokkaidō  in the far north all the way to Tokyo Station , where you have to change for the shinkansen going to Nagoya , Kyoto , Osaka , Hiroshima and on to Kyushu. For travelers visiting Japan’s main sights , this will be the kind of train you take the most.

The next fastest are Limited Expess trains — “limited” as in “limited stops” — that run between cities and to rural areas on pre-shinkansen conventional lines (the non-high-speed ones). Many run through beautiful parts of Japan, so don’t count them out.

Local trains are the slowest and may even be as small as one single car. “Rapid” trains are fairly rare, and are essentially local trains that skip a few of the smaller stops.

Urban rail, commuter trains and subway lines are widespread in cities. These usually work very similarly to what you might be used to in your home country, although do watch out for limited-stop semi-expresses. The big picture transit maps can look a little intimidating, but most major cities now have a system of colors and station codes in place to help you navigate, and your phone's maps app is great for a quick idea of how to get from A to B.

Confident visitors outside major cities will love Joyful Trains, which are special tourist trains operated largely on weekends and holidays in rural areas. These might be renovated steam trains, or specially themed — JR East’s Koshino Shu’Kura is all about sake, including tastings, while the  JR Kyushu A Train is jazz-themed.

Japan’s train stations are destinations by themselves, with larger and newer stations offering a huge range of restaurants for every appetite and budget, and shops ranging from high-quality handmade artisanal local goods to Japanese malls to 100-yen stores. Convenience stores and pharmacies are also often on hand.

Do look out for special local snacks in the omiyage souvenir shops (these are intended for Japanese travelers to take back to friends and colleagues as presents) and for ekiben,  local specialty boxed bentō  lunches.

A single-track train line heading towards the iconic shape of Mount Fuji

Travel short distances with a prepaid travel card

Coming from overseas, traveling short distances on Japanese railways often feels very inexpensive, while traveling longer distances without a rail pass can feel more costly. Let’s start with shorter distances.

Taking subways and urban rail is simple if you get an IC card – one of the many prepaid stored-value contactless cards – that works in a similar way to Oyster in London or Clipper in San Francisco: just tap on and tap off. Most rail operators across Japan will sell you their version, which are almost all interchangeable when it comes to loading and spending them — you can use an ICOCA card from the Osaka region in Tokyo , or a Pasmo from Tokyo in Sapporo . You can also use iPhones to get a virtual Suica card (JR East's version of a prepaid card) via the Wallet app and load it with money using Apple Pay. If you're using an international Visa card, be aware that JR East has had issues processing those payments in the past, so you may need to use a different credit card.

A hand holds up a Japan Rail Pass in front of the rounded nose of a bullet train at a station

Travel long distances with the JR Pass

Over longer distances, the Japan Rail Pass (¥50,000 or about US$335 for seven days – less than US$50 a day!) is generally a good deal if you are planning anything more than simply Tokyo–Kyoto–Hiroshima–Tokyo, and the flexibility it gives you to take an earlier or later train is an added bonus.

You can either buy the ticket online or from an overseas travel agent. Note that you don’t actually buy the pass itself from overseas — you buy a voucher called an Exchange Order, which you then  exchange at a major station (including all international airports) for the pass itself. 

If you don’t have a pass, tickets cost the same no matter what time of day you travel, where you book, or how busy it will be — it’s not like airline tickets where that can change wildly. Most overseas travelers still use paper tickets for everything outside urban travel.

Long-distance travel fares are based on two elements:

  • Ticket price, essentially the distance you travel
  • Whether you want to reserve a seat or not, and in which class, if that’s available: Limited Express and Shinkansen trains will offer non-reserved seat tickets, a reserved seat in standard class, a reserved seat in the Green Car business class, or in some regions a reserved seat in Gran Class (first class).

Tickets can be bought at stations or at JR Travel Service Centers

Use Google Maps or the  Japan Transit Planner from Jorudan to find fares, or for JR trains visit your local JR station (look for the “green window” ticket booking office or a JR Travel Service Center), where you can also reserve a seat. At major airports and in Tokyo, you can expect some basic train-related English to be spoken by "green window" ticket agents. JR Travel Service Center staff tend to be more multilingual. Elsewhere, if you speak no Japanese you may well get lucky with someone who speaks English, and you can always lean on your phone's translation apps. Write down (on a printout or even just on your phone's notes app) the dates, times, destinations and details of the train you want, for example: "12 April, Tokyo–Osaka, 12:00, window seat, Mt Fuji side please."

Unless you’re visiting during a major Japanese holiday or want to take a specific Joyful Train, there’s little need to book before arriving in Japan. You can in some cases book online, but it’s pretty complicated and I wouldn’t recommend it to first-time visitors. If you’re confused and want English-speaking advice, head to  one of the stations that specializes in Japan Rail Passes . Only a few trains outside the JR network allow prebooking.

Three different trains cross bridges near each other in a city

There are many rail passes to choose from

Japan has a wide variety of rail passes available to overseas visitors, from the JR Pass valid across the JR network (with a few exceptions like the very fastest trains west of Tokyo) to regional and commuter passes.

The most useful is the  Japan Rail Pass in its six variants: 7/14/21 days and standard car or Green Car business-class versions. This is probably what you should get your first time in Japan if traveling outside Tokyo.

Adventurous travelers and long-term visitors, or anyone wanting to go deep in a particular region, could also consider:

  • The  various regional passes from JR East , including the very useful  Hokuriku Arch Pass for traveling the slower way between Tokyo and Osaka via Kyoto and Kanazawa
  • The many  JR West Passes , including the  All Area Pass for most of western Honshu
  • The  four JR Kyushu passes
  • The  three JR Hokkaido passes  
  • The  JR Shikoku ALL SHIKOKU pass

You’ll usually need to be visiting with the “temporary visitor” stamp in your passport, and there may be a small discount (a couple of thousand yen or US$5–10) for buying it online or outside Japan. Otherwise, check out the details online or visit a large station, including those at airports: the bigger, the better, and the more likely to have English-speaking assistance.

Train etiquette means not disturbing fellow travelers

Japanese urban trains can be famously crowded during rush-hour, but by and large even Tokyo is no worse than any major global city.

Even if crowded, the etiquette on a Japanese train is to be as quiet as possible and disturb others as little as possible: headphones on quiet, very little chatting, backpack on your front, give up your seat to anyone who needs it more than you.

There is something of a stereotype of loutish tourists yapping away to their traveling companions on long-distance trains. Try not to contribute to it. Separate your trash according to the recycling bins, and always leave the seat as clean and tidy as you found it.

Eating and drinking is fine (even encouraged!) on longer distance trains. General rule: if the seats are subway-style along the sides of the car facing inwards then don’t, but feel free if the seats are airline-style facing forwards. If in doubt, follow the lead of the nearest senior Japanese person.

A beautifully presented box of food with each element separated into its own square

On-board facilities vary depending on the service

With the exception of the Joyful Train tourist excursion services, Japanese trains don’t have buffet cars any more, although you can see what they used to look like at several of Japan’s excellent railway museums. A shrinking number of trains still have a trolley service offering snacks, sometimes bentō  and a variety of drinks.

Good news, though: any station smaller than the tiniest rural halt will have a convenience store inside or nearby, which will offer bentō , hot meals, snacks, drinks and essentials. Many larger stations have restaurant complexes, while some smaller ones will have delightful smaller options like a soba or ramen shop.

Long-distance trains will usually have toilet facilities, with newer ones (including all shinkansen and some Limited Expresses) having excellent facilities for disabled passengers, people with reduced mobility and often ostomy facilities too.

Shinkansen and newer Limited Expresses offer two-pin US-style 110V charging ports, while wi-fi is also increasingly available and easy to use.

Most Japanese trains are not set up for luggage bigger than a small carry-on — and “small” here does not include a US-sized rollaboard or anything like a bicycle. On some trains you have to pre-reserve anything bigger. Take advantage of the nationwide luggage shipping services like Yamato  – known as Kuroneko Yamato for its black (kuro) cat (neko) logo – that ships larger bags for US$10–20.

These are the best seats for great views

Always take a window seat, whether you’re gazing out on Japan’s sprawling megalopolises from an urban train, watching the country fly by at 320km/h (199mph) from a shinkansen, or enjoying picturesque views from a slow rural train.

On the shinkansen, if you want the best mountain views — including the iconic Mt Fuji between Tokyo and Shizuoka — select a window E seat in standard class and a D seat in the Green Car.

Limited Expresses are wonderful for countryside views, with the  Hida from Nagoya to Toyama through the Japanese Alps and the Inaho from Niigata to Akita just two great examples.

Ask for help when navigating busy city networks

Urban trains, commuter rail and subways may have a set of complicated and confusing names with different stopping patterns, especially during rush hour, but this is no worse than figuring out what a “Watford Semi-Fast” is on London’s Tube or how skip-stop works on the subway in New York. As a visitor, just ask station staff or, in a pinch, a fellow passenger — and be prepared to get on the wrong train with a confident smile and a sense of affable adventure.

The majority of trains are wheelchair accessible

A significant majority of intercity, urban rail and subway stations in most major cities (80–90% in Tokyo  according to official numbers ) are accessible for wheelchair users, with elevators, stair-climber lifts, and ramps widespread. 

Older stations, such as the main Tokyo Station, may be complex and accessible only from certain entrances. Tactile strips to assist blind people or those with reduced visual acuity are almost everywhere. 

Accessible Japan is an excellent resource for information, while the very detailed  For Safe and Convenient Accessibility website offers route and station search as well as  contact details for further assistance. Station staff are keen to help wherever they can.

Many trains offer wheelchair positions, level boarding, with ramps available if you need them. Urban rail and subways have priority seating, and Japan developed the  Help Mark badge system for people with invisible disabilities to easily signal their needs. The badge is  free from a number of locations in Tokyo , under US$10 from Amazon Japan (consider having it delivered to your first night hotel), or you can DIY your own before leaving home.

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The Luxury train Travel Company

Exploring Japan’s Opulent Rails: A Guide to the Most Luxurious Train Journeys in Japan

Hop onboard as we embark on a lavish adventure into the world of luxury trains in Japan! In this guide, we’ll look closer at luxury Japanese train travel and unveil the secrets behind how and why these indulgent escapes are so revered. From the panoramic views to world-class dining experiences, get ready to discover the pinnacle of rail travel sophistication in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Seven Stars in Kyushu: Japan’s Premier Luxury Sleeper Train Experience

Ranked as the top choice in Condé Nast Traveller’s Readers Choice Awards 2023 list for The Best Train Trips in the World, embarking aboard this Japanese luxury sleeper train requires more than simply purchasing your ticket and packing your bag. Competition for places can be intense, leading to a lottery system deciding who gets a cabin. Seven Stars in Kyushu provides a genuinely sumptuous voyage no matter what journey you choose. From the moment you step onboard this Japanese luxury train, a world of refined comfort and impeccable service will envelop you. Whether relaxing in your deluxe suite, enjoying a cocktail in the bar, enjoying tea in the tea room, or experiencing local delicacies in the Junpiter Dining Car, it’s plain to see why many consider Seven Star In Kyoshu Japan’s most luxurious train.

Spacia X: A Futuristic Journey on Japan’s Luxury Train Rails

With the Spacia X design language taking a nod from Edo culture, the fretwork and bamboo wickerwork detailing on this luxury train in Japan are a spectacular celebration of traditional arts and crafts. Spacia X offers a Japan luxury train journey that seamlessly merges the past with the future, whisking passengers through stunning countryside in unmatched style along the Tobu Railway Nikko Line. These Japan luxury train tours indulge their guests in gourmet delights as they take in the views from the vast panoramic windows. Spacia X is more than just a method of transport to get you from Asakusa to Nikko. It is Japan luxury train travel in its pomp.

Twilight Express Mizukaze: The Ultimate Japanese Luxury Sleeper Train Adventure

Can you picture yourself gliding through the picturesque countryside on a Japanese luxury sleeper train heading toward Kyoto or Shimonoseki? A Japan luxury train tour on the Twilight offers passengers an extraordinary journey. The carriages offer supremely plush interiors adorned with traditional motifs that make for a highly comfortable trip. Once onboard, exquisite Japanese gourmet meals are served to the highest standards. The Twilight Express Mizukaze furnishes those lucky enough to have a ticket a glimpse into a bygone era of travel romance. This is a high-end Japan luxury sleeper train where you’ll be able to indulge in an enchanting odyssey that epitomises the quality and comfort of the most luxurious train in Japan. 

Tohoku Emotion: Gourmet Dining on Japan’s Luxury Train Tour

Although far from being the most expensive train ride in Japan, this exquisitely designed train comprises three railcars: One car is an open kitchen, car number two contains private compartments, and the third is the fabulous dining area. Jump onboard this luxury train in Japan for the non-stop outbound journey from Hachinohe to Kuji or the return leg that stops at Taneseshikaigan, Same, and Hon-Hachinohe. Passengers enjoy magnificent views along the Sanriku Coast, and this luxury Japanese train slows down at the most scenic points of the journey to allow guests to absorb the region’s natural beauty. The incredible cuisine served includes a lunch course, afternoon tea, and desserts, depending on which journey is taken, all adding to how memorable this trip is.

Sunrise Seto & Sunrise Izumo: Overnight Elegance with Japan’s Sleeper Train Service

If you’re visiting Japan, luxury train holidays don’t get any more exciting than an overnight adventure on one of these trains. The Sunrise Seto and the Sunrise Izumo are long-distance luxury trains in Japan that are coupled when they leave Tokyo before separating at Okoyama and heading to Izumo and Takamatsu, respectively. Each Japanese luxury sleeper train comprises seven cars and represents the country’s last regularly scheduled sleeper service, providing passengers with onboard showers, vending machines, sleeping platforms, and stretch-out seats. Passengers on the inbound journey stop at Sannomiya and Osaka once Seto and Izumo have re-coupled. The last of a dying breed in Japan, luxury train journey experiences like this must be savoured before they disappear entirely!

Shiki-Shima Exclusive Luxury Train Travel Through Japan’s Scenic Beauty

The Shiki-Shima offers you the opportunity to take the most expensive train ride in Japan, and it’s well worth it as the journey gives passengers a unique insight into Japanese culture and the country’s breathtaking wild beauty. Highly sought after and habitually at capacity, this Japan sleeper train has a range of luxurious suites, including the two-floor Shiki-Shima Suite, complete with traditional furnishings and a bespoke cypress bathtub where you can rest and relax. The onboard dining room reaffirms Shiki-Shima’s reputation as Japan’s most luxurious train as guests are served stunning fine dining cuisine that exploits seasonal ingredients from each region. If your pockets are deep enough, Japan train luxury like this will be hard to beat.

Aru Ressha: A Gastronomic Voyage on Japan’s Luxury Train

The Aru Ressha is a luxury train in Japan that had its name revived back in 2015 after over one hundred in the shadows. This luxurious train operates between the port town of Hakata and Yufuin, offering travellers one round trip daily. Boasting two stunning rail cars that combine two and four-seat configurations, using maple wood in car one to private rooms in car two with darker, richer walnut, this luxury train in Japan is truly impressive. The dining experience during this Japan luxury train journey is second to none and directed by world-clas chef Yoshihiro Narisawa. His captivating menu offers passengers fish and meat dishes, sweets, and mini-sweets created using the finest products, treating diners to an unforgettable culinary escapade.

Saphir Odoriko: Coastal Elegance on Japan’s Luxury Train Route

If you’re exploring travel options, you’ll have to go a long way to find a better way than this to travel in Japan. Train luxury like this gives passengers access to authentic attractions, spectacular natural beauty, and places of historical and cultural significance. This exquisite luxury train in Japan is more than just a mode of transportation. It’s an immersive journey through Japanese history. Once onboard one of these Japan luxury train tours, travellers are treated to incredible gourmet delicacies in absolute comfort while watching the stunningly attractive landscapes slide by as they gaze through the panoramic windows of their carriage. With meticulously designed and finished interiors that provide a traditional Japanese aesthetic, this is one of the luxury trains in Japan that must be experienced.

36+3: A Unique Thank You from the Most Luxurious Train in Japan

A trip onboard this spectacularly finished black and gold luxury Japanese train is like stepping into a time capsule where the ultimate elegance combines with contemporary mastery. Passengers can recline in sizable, plush cabins trimmed with traditional Japanese craftsmanship while traversing the picturesque landscape. The onboard serenity offers luxury train travel in Japan at its finest. Exquisite dining, attentive service, and observation decks all add to the magnificence of a stay onboard during one of the five scheduled scenic routes. Depending on which day you travel, the 36+3 will allow you to see seven prefectures from a starting point of Fukuoka. 


Japan’s luxury train faqs, what makes japan’s luxury trains different from regular train services.

Luxury train travel in Japan surpasses regular rail services by some distance, even though the rail system in the country is well-known for being very comfortable, clean, and superbly efficient. In Japan, luxury train tours really do go above and beyond and offer passengers opulent accommodations, world-class dining, and exclusive onboard experiences such as luxury bathing facilities, observation decks, and two-storey suites. The Japanese prioritise comfort and quality to create a unique travel experience that combines incredible Japanese hospitality with breathtaking landscapes, making Japan’s most luxurious train journeys unforgettable.

How can I book a journey on one of Japan’s luxury sleeper trains?

Booking your place on luxury trains in Japan is a simple process. You can visit the train operator’s official website or contact several reputable travel agencies specialising in luxury train travel. Some services offer Japan luxury train holidays on a lottery system if they receive more booking applications than available spaces, so booking well before your travel date is advisable.

What are the price ranges for luxury train travel in Japan?

The cost of travelling on luxury trains in Japan can vary significantly, from as low as a couple of hundred dollars to over ten thousand dollars for the most expensive train ride in Japan. These figures are per person, depending on route, the journey duration, the level of luxury offered and subsequent amenities. These high-end trail journeys regularly feature incredibly lavish accommodations and fine gourmet dining experiences catering to the discerning traveller seeking unparalleled comfort and service. The luxury train Japan price variation is based on the selected package of the traveller, but there are often good deals to be had, although you’ll need to be quick as these tickets sell very quickly. 

Can I experience Michelin-star dining on Japan’s luxury trains?

The Japanese are renowned for their incredible dining experiences, which are carried through into Japan’s most luxurious train journeys. The Seven Stars in Kyushu and the Twilight Express Mizukaze offer their passengers Michelin-star dining. Both trains showcase a top-notch culinary adventure, with gourmet meals prepared by highly skilled chefs using fresh, regional ingredients. Fine dining is all part of the grand appeal of a Japan luxury train tour and helps to create a more memorable journey. 

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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.

This post may contain some affiliate links. When you click through and make a purchase we may receive some commission, at no extra cost to you .

One of the best ways to enjoy amazing scenery in Japan is to take one of its many scenic train rides. Sitting comfortably while watching a changing landscape passing by is a wonderful immersion in the natural beauty that Japan has to offer . Most trains on the rides below have extra large windows so you don’t have to miss a thing, and some of them even have open-air carriages. Let’s dive into the world of scenic train rides in Japan!

Japan Rail Pass

1. sagano scenic railway (kyoto), 2. tadami line (fukushima), 3. hisatsu line (kumamoto), 4. minami aso railway (kyushu), 5. gono line (akita, aomori), 6. kurobe gorge railway (toyama), 7. oigawa railway (shizuoka), 8. senmo line (hokkaido), 9. mount fuji from the shinkansen, 10. toden arakawa line (tokyo), japan wonder travel tours , other articles you might enjoy.

When travelling in Japan, international tourists can purchase a Japan Rail Pass also known as JR Pass . With the JR Pass, you can hop-on-and-off most of the public transportation lines operated by the nationwide Japan Rail Group. The multi-use tickets includes use of the local JR trains, most of the Shinkansen trains, JR operated buses and even the JR-WEST Miyajima ferry is covered. Some of the scenic train rides below are included in the JR Pass, so before getting your ticket make sure to check if the JR Pass covers the ride too.

best train journey in japan

Are you going to be in Kyoto during the autumn? Then you can’t miss the Sagano Scenic Railway that runs between Arashiyama and Kameoka. The environment is decked out in beautiful reds and oranges during the fall foliage season between late November and early December, making Arashiyama one of the best places to see the beautiful autumn leaves . The delightful old-fashioned train rides at a leisurely pace through the mountains alongside the river, giving first-class seats to the natural spectacle in the forested ravine. One of the cars is open, and in the other cars windows can be opened to enjoy a fresh breeze of autumn air. 

The ride is most popular during autumn and is closed during winter, but in the spring it reopens again to take passengers for a ride past the cherry blossoms . You can also take the ride in summer for a break of temple sightseeing amid some refreshing greenery.

Despite being operated by JR West, this railway is not covered by the JR Pass. Check Sagano Scenic Railway for pricing, schedules and how to make a reservation (recommended in autumn and sakura season).

While Fukushima prefecture is definitely off-the-beaten-path for most tourists, you will be rewarded with incredible natural beauty if you make the trek to the prefecture hundreds of km north of Tokyo . The Tadami Line , operated by JR East, connects samurai city Aizu-Wakamatsu with the Oku-Aizu countryside. Besides enjoying the scenery passing by the train window, you can visit the spots of interest along the route by hopping on and off the train.

Sakura train Aizu railway / Fukushima

So what should you not miss when you ride the Tadami Line? In Aizu-Wakamatsu you won’t want to skip Tsurugajo Castle if you are interested in Japanese history. In Yanaizu the picturesque cliff edge-positioned Enzoji temple is worth a stop. You will also want to get off at Aizu-Nishikata station to see the best view of the Tadami Bridge. Along the Tadami River there are various bridges and viewpoints, but the iconic No. 1 Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint offers one of the best photo spots and is the easiest to reach by public transportation. Lastly, in Kaneyama there is a special carbonated onsen that allegedly can work wonders on your blood pressure and circulation issues.

The Tadami Line is covered by the JR Rail Pass.

Fukushima is the third biggest prefecture in Japan, and there is so much to explore. However the sad truth is that most people hear the word “Fukushima” and immediately think of the 2011 earthquake and disaster. The affected areas have come so far in the reconstruction process since the disaster. If you want to see the area, learn all about what happened in 2011, and even enter the Nuclear Power Plant, you should check out our 2-Day Fukushima Tour !

best train journey in japan

Kyushu is a volcanically active island that is blessed with lush nature as a result of it. The third largest island of Japan has a lot of different scenery to offer and Kyushu is a must visit when travelling in Japan . On the Hisatsu Line that runs right through the inland between Yatsushiro and Hitoyoshi you can see much of that natural beauty as you rush past the green slopes dotted with small villages! You can also see a rapid river on the way where many water sports lovers go to raft.

best train journey in japan

On the weekends and holidays between March and November you can also ride SL Hitoyoshi, Kyushu’s only steam driven train! The holiday sightseeing train operates only during the summer months and makes one round trip per day. Riding the SL Hitoyoshi is extremely popular and ticket must be reserved well in advance.

best train journey in japan

The Hisatsu Line is covered by the JR Rail Pass.

Mount Aso is one of Kyushu’s most famous landmarks. The beautifully-shaped still active volcano is surrounded by large plains of waving grass and you can often see plumes of smoke coming from its crater. Minami Aso Railway operates a trolley train called ‘yuusuge’ that lets you take in the sights around Mount Aso. You can feel the wind in your hair as the cute train takes you for a round in one of Japan’s greenest areas.

Mount Aso

It is operated on weekends and national holidays off season, and it rides every day in the peak season. One ride lasts around 25 minutes, and it runs between Nakamatsu station and Takamori station.

Please check Minami Aso Railway for pricing and schedules

Located in one of Honshu’s (Japan’s main island) northernmost corners, the JR Gono line follows the coastline of Aomori and Akita . Depending on which season you ride, you can see the beautiful rugged coast either surrounded with green trees or a snowy landscape. It runs between Higashi-Noshiro and Kawabe station, and some other train station that are among the coolest train stations of Japan , you will pass through the Shirakami Sanchi World Heritage Property. You can also see characteristic rice paddies along the way and if you time it right, a fiery sunset.

Gono train

If you really want to enjoy the ride, you can use the Resort Shirakami train , which, as its name suggests, lets you savor the scenery in a more luxurious way. Live traditional music is played while you can take in the surroundings through large windows.

The JR Gono line is covered the JR Rail Pass. Check JR East for more information and schedules.

Tucked away in the remote Toyama Prefecture, the Kurobe Gorge Railway takes you past some real hidden gems. If you like onsen hot springs, this is an especially good scenic ride to check out. A nice detail is that many of the onsen are outdoor, so you can enjoy the fresh air while you soak. The train line was originally built to aid the construction of the Kurobe Dam , but has become an attraction itself too. Each station offer offers various attractions, like observation decks, souvenir shops, hiking trails and of course onsen!

Kurobe Dam

Running from Unazuki to Keyakidaira station, the train ride itself takes you through a ravine with steep cliffs covered with forests. The journey takes around 80 minutes and includes two additional stops where you can get off to enjoy the area. Only operating from mid April to November, it is the fall season which is the best. Boasting open as well as closed cars, you can choose how you want to enjoy the ride. One little insiders’ tip: sit on the right side of the train for the best views!

Please check Kurotetu for current pricing and schedules.

The Oigawa Railway, also known as Daitetsu, is located in Shizuoka, a naturally-blessed prefecture that’s famous for its tea plantations and, of course, Mount Fuji . But lovers of trains will know the area for its original 1930s old-fashioned steam locomotives. They run year-round on the Oigawa Main Line between Shin-Kanaya and Senzu , and Ikawa Line from Senzu to Ikawa. On both lines you can see some spectacular sights on the way, especially Okuoikojo Station, located on a cliff in the middle of the Oi River , is worth a visit. If you come in spring, you can see the cherry blossoms as well around Ieyama station. The fall season is amazing, too.

Besides the scenic environment of Okuoikojo station, there are many points of interest along the way that you can stop by on your way back. There are open air hot spring baths, Japan’s shortest tunnel, a 220m suspension bridge you can walk and the Southern Alps Abt Railway (very steep). Kids and other Thomas the Tank Engine fans will also love Oigawa Railway, as you can actually ride Thomas and his friends!

Okuoikojo Station

Please check Oigawa Railway for current pricing and schedules.

Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost island, which therefore has a temperate climate in summer and cold winters . The island boasts huge National Parks and other natural areas , and it’s a paradise for birders. The Senmo Line runs from Abashiri in the north straight through Hokkaido’s heartland to Kushiro in the south.

You will be treated to the amazing coastline of Abashiri, then go through Akan Mashu National Park with volcanic scenery and beautiful lakes, towards the Kushiro Marsh lands. In the winter, you can see a phenomenon called drift ice on Abashiri’s coast which can only be observed in very cold sea regions.


The JR Pass covers the Senmo Line.

Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s most famous icons , and spotting it at least once on your trip to Japan is quite essential. If you are taking the shinkansen between Tokyo and Kyoto , you’re in luck: you will pass by Mount Fuji around one hour after leaving Tokyo. If it is not too cloudy, you will usually see the majestic mountain from the window on your right (going in the direction of Kyoto) or on your left (going in the direction of Tokyo). In both cases, you’ll need to reserve seat E to see Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen .

Whether you take the fastest Nozomi (only line not covered by the JR Pass) or the slightly slower Hikari or Kodama doesn’t matter, all trains running on the Tokaido line will pass through Shizuoka and past Mount Fuji. They are nice enough to point out on the speaker system that you are passing Mount Fuji at the closest distance at that moment, so you definitely won’t miss it as the train rushes past. 

best train journey in japan

You don’t have to go far away from Tokyo to experience a scenic train ride in Japan. In fact, there is a beautiful ride that you can do in the city itself; the Toden Arakawa Line which runs between Waseda and Minowabashi in the northwestern part of the metropolis. The best part is that this train isn’t massively long like many commuter trains in Tokyo, but it is cute and very short with only two cars. You will see a whole different side of Tokyo while riding this streetcar, with narrow local alleyways and everyday life passing you by.

The nickname of this train is ‘ sakura tram ’, because if you ride it at the right time around late March or early April , you will have an amazing view of the blooming cherry blossoms along the route.

Pricing will depend on where you get off, but it is never more than a few hundred yen per person.

Sakura tram

These are 10 of the most scenic train rides in Japan, but for the enthusiasts there are many more. There is so much to discover in Japan, that for many one trip to the land of the rising sun is not enough. Whether you are a first-timer or a repeater, we can help you make the most of your travel to Japan!

Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan.  From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help you organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are visiting, our knowledgeable and friendly English speaking guides will happily take you to the best spots!  In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need some help! 

▶ Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Food and Drink Tour Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo and try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake with one of our friendly and knowledgeable English speaking guides! 

tsukiji tour

▶ Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours) There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.

Asakusa Tokyo private tour

▶ Mt. Fuji Day Trip Bus Tour from Tokyo Experience the breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji by visiting the highlights of the area on our guided sightseeing bus tour! Departing from Shinjuku in central Tokyo, you can travel comfortably to all of the best spots in the area by bus.

mount fuji chureito pagoda

▶ Kyoto Private Full Day Walking Tour On this full-day private tour of Kyoto, you will be able to see the highlights of Kyoto in just one day and at the same time develop a deeper understanding of both the culture of the area and Japan as a whole.

best train journey in japan

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Stay informed of the best travel tips to Japan, the most exciting things to do and see, and the top experiences to have with the Japan Wonder Travel Newsletter. Once every two weeks we will introduce you to our latest content.

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Train advice from the Man in Seat 61...

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The best way to get around Japan is by train.  On this page you'll find an introduction to train travel in Japan, with advice on times, routes, tickets and passes.

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Japan Rail pass guide 2024

What are japanese trains like, airport links & other useful info, ferries to & from japan, useful country information, maps of the rail network, how to check train times & fares, the classic network, shinkansen high-speed lines, ordinary class or green car, reserved or non-reserved , busy periods to avoid.

The busy periods when reserved seats sell out way ahead and unreserved cars are very crowded are:

- Golden Week between late April & early May;

- Obon in mid-August;

- New Year from 29 Dec to 3 January.

The most crowded trains tend to be the ones heading out of the big cities into the country at the beginning of the holiday and back into the big cities at the end.  If you can, time your visit to Japan to avoid these times.  Christmas itself isn't such a big issue in Japan.

If you can't avoid travelling at these busy holiday periods:

Aim for the less popular first & last trains of the day;

Try booking the slower trains such as the all-stations Kodama shinkansen rather than the faster & busier Hikari or Sakura trains;

Try splitting the booking: If you can't get reserved seats from Tokyo to Kyoto, try Tokyo to Nagoya then Nagoya to Kyoto, that may work;

When using unreserved seats, pick a train that starts at the station you're at, not one which comes from elsewhere, already heavily-loaded.

Example journey times & prices

£1 = 180 yen.  $1 = 140 yen.

* Nozomi = fastest Shinkansen stopping pattern.

** Hikari = next fastest train type, Japan Rail Passes can be used.

*** Fare by Nozomi with reserved seat.

Check Japanese train times & fares at . 

Children aged 0 to 5 travel free, children aged 6 to 11 travel at half fare, children aged 12 and over pay full fare.

Rail fares in Japan are expensive, and if you are an overseas visitor a Japan Rail Pass can be the cheapest way to travel even if you are only planning one return trip from (say) Tokyo to Hiroshima.  See the Japan Rail Pass section .

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How to buy tickets

You can of course buy tickets at the station, either at the staffed counters or using ticket machines, these have a touch screen with an English language facility.  There are many trains & seats, so buying at the station is unlikely to be a problem unless you hit one of the busy national holiday periods - and even then, you can always travel in the unreserved seats cars. 

How to buy local tickets

Use the self-service ticket machines.  At any main station you'll find a row of these with a big network map above them near the ticket gates onto the local platforms, see the photo in the Tokyo station section below .  You'll soon get the hang of buying tickets, like this:

-  Look at the big network map on the wall above the machines.  Find your destination station & note the fare shown next to it. 

-  On the touch screen, press English .

-  Press the side button for the number of adults/children in your party.  For 2 adults & 2 children you have to buy as 2 transactions.

-  You'll now see a screen full of possible one-way fares for one adult.

-  Touch the fare for your destination.  So if the fare shown on the map against your destination is 350, touch the 350 button.

-  It'll now show the total cost for the number of adults & children you have selected.

Japan Rail Pass guide

Japan Rail Pass or point-to-point tickets?

Train fares in Japan are expensive as there are no cheap advance-purchase fares, just one hefty fixed price for each journey.  A Japan Rail Pass can save money over point-to-point tickets even for one round trip, if it's a long-distance one.  A significant Japan Rail Pass price rise in October 2023 means it's no longer a foregone conclusion, but here are some comparisons after the pass price increase:

A 7-day Japan Rail Pass costs ¥50,000 = £268 or $340 .

The normal return fare from Tokyo to Kyoto is ¥27,940 = £150 or $190. 

The normal return fare from Tokyo to Hiroshima is ¥39,120 = £210 or $270.

The normal return fare from Tokyo to Nagasaki is ¥52,620 = £290 or $360.

So a 7-day Japan Rail Pass saves money for one round trip from Tokyo to Nagasaki, but not for a round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto.  It may be worth buying a Japan Rail Pass for a round trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima if you do one or more side trips as well.

How to work out if a pass makes sense

First check Japan Rail Pass prices at .  Then use to check point-to-point fares for the journeys you intend to make.

Remember that the total point-to-point price you'd pay = basic fare + the reserved or unreserved seat fee.  A pass covers both of these elements, reservations are free.

Big price rise in October 2023

Green car or ordinary class?

A green class pass is great if you can afford it, but ordinary class on Japanese trains is perfectly adequate, there's no need to pay more if you don't want to.  Green car simply gets you more leg and elbow room, and carpet rather than synthetic flooring, that's all.

Personally, I find shinkansen ordinary class seats a little cramped where they are arranged 2+3 across the car width, the 2+2 seats in the green car are much more spacious.  On the other hand, if you plan to be spontaneous much of the time and not pre-plan everything you'll end up in the unreserved ordinary class cars, so don't fork out for a green car pass if you're not going to use it.

What does a Japan Rail Pass cover ?

You can buy a Japan Rail Pass for 7, 14 or 21 days in either ordinary class or green car (1st class).

The pass gives unlimited travel on all JR trains across the whole of Japan, including high-speed shinkansen (bullet trains), the local, rapid, express and limited express trains on the classic network and even the Narita Express between Narita Airport & Tokyo and the monorail to & from Haneda Airport .

There are just the following exceptions:

You can't use a Japan Rail Pass on lines run by private rail operators , only lines operated by one of the six JR companies.  For example, it doesn't cover the Tobu Railway from Tokyo to Nikko, or the Tokyo subway trains which aren't run by JR either.

But it does cover the Narita Express airport train as that's run by JR.  It also covers JR local trains in Tokyo & other cities including the useful Yamanote loop line linking Tokyo main station, Ueno, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shimbashi, Ikebukuro every few minutes, which you can use to get around Tokyo.

Sleeper trains:   There there's only one sleeper train left in Japan, the Sunrise Seto / Sunrise Izumo , but you can use this with a Japan Rail Pass if you either pay the hefty sleeper supplement for a private sleeper - we're talking ¥20,000 per room for a private 2-berth B-type sleeper - or use the open-plan shared nobinobi or 'carpet berths' which are free of charge with a Japan Rail Pass, reservation required.  Indeed, if you're on a budget, saving a hotel bill by taking the Sunrise Seto between Tokyo & (say) Himeji is an interesting option!

Nozomi or Mizuho shinkansen trains:   Until October 2023, Japan Rail Pass holders couldn't use the fastest limited-stop Nozomi or Mizuho category shinkansen trains.  You can now use them, but must pay an extra fee, typically ¥4,000-¥6,500 ($27-$44) depending on distance.

You'll find more detailed info at .

How does a Japan Rail Pass work ? 

Order your pass & receive a voucher

You order your Japan Rail Pass online at an official pass agency website such as and an exchange voucher is sent by tracked courier to your home address.  You'll also get a free Japan rail map and a Japan railways timetable booklet.

You need to buy the pass before you leave home, you can't buy a Japan Rail Pass in Japan.

When you get to Japan, exchange the voucher for the pass

When you arrive in Japan, you exchange this voucher for a Japan Rail Pass at any of the JR ticket offices & travel centres designated as a Japan Rail Pass exchange office.

The voucher can be exchanged for a pass any time within 3 months of buying the voucher, so there's no need to specify exact travel dates when you order it.

There are Japan Rail Pass exchange counters at around 50 JR stations, including Tokyo's main station which has Japan Rail Pass exchange counters on both the Marunouchi (west) & Yaesu (east) sides of the station, Tokyo's Ueno, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro stations, Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, Kansai Airport, Shin-Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and even Sakaiminato where (if & when operating) the ferry arrives from Vladivostok.

Tip:   The Japan Rail Pass exchange counters at Narita and Haneda airports are usually fairly relaxed places to exchange your voucher.  In Tokyo the JR East Service Centre in the historic North Entrance on the quieter Marunouchi (west) side of the station is also a good and relaxed place to exchange your voucher, more relaxed than the Japan Rail Pass counter on the more hectic Yaesu (east) side of the station.

When you exchange the voucher, you'll be asked to show your passport and to fill in a simple form with your name and passport number which they incorporate into the pass itself.  You'll be asked on what specific date you want the 7, 14 or 21 days to start, this can be any date within the next 30 days - the pass does not need to start on the same day you exchange the voucher for the pass.

For example, in July I booked a flight to Japan for travel in late October.  I ordered my 7-day Japan Rail Pass in September.  I didn't need to decide in advance exactly what days I would use it, as long as I exchanged the voucher for a pass within 3 months of ordering it.  So I could have delayed my visit until November and still used the same voucher.  Arriving in Japan on 20 October, I exchanged my voucher for a pass at Tokyo station on 21 October, asking for my 7 days of unlimited travel to start on 22 October.

Then ride as many trains as you want!   Once you have your pass and your 7, 14 or 21 days of unlimited travel have started, you use as many JR trains as you like, travelling whenever and wherever you like.  There is no limit on the number of trains you can take or the distance you can travel - that's what unlimited means.

Making reservations with your pass

Local & Rapid trains:   You don't need a reservation to travel on local or rapid trains on the classic network, such trains don't even have seat reservations.  Just hop on and show your pass when the conductor comes along.  Easy!

Unreserved seat cars:   Express, limited express and shinkansen trains usually have several non-reserved ordinary class cars, as the name suggests you don't need a reservation to travel in these.  Platform announcements, departure boards and platform signs in English will tell you which car numbers these are, and where you should stand on the platform for them - it's all very efficient.

If you are happy travelling in the non-reserved cars you can just get on and sit where you like, and show your pass to the conductor when he comes long.  Normally there's little problem finding a seat, indeed you may even be spoilt for choice.  But a seat isn't guaranteed, and at busy times of day or at busy holiday periods you may have to stand or sit on your luggage in the aisle if you find all the seats are taken.

Reserved seat cars:   To be sure of a seat on a shinkansen, limited express or express train, or to sit in a Green Car seat with a Green Car pass, you must reserve a seat in one of the reserved cars.

You are unlikely to have any problem getting the reservations you need, even booking at short notice when you get to Japan, unless you hit a busy holiday period .  And even then, you can always use the unreserved cars so you'll never be stranded, although it may be crowded so you may have to stand.

Reserving seats at stations:   You can reserve seats this free of charge at any JR ticket office or travel centre where you see the green seat reservation symbol.  Just show your Japan Rail Pass and passport and ask for a reservation in the class you want on the train you want.  You can make reservations at any time right up to a few minutes before the train leaves.

Reserving seats using a ticket machine:   You can also make reservations using self-service ticket machines, these have an English language facility.  Select the rail pass option.  Select the number of passengers.  Then scan the QR code on your Japan Rail pass and enter your passport number, repeating this for each passenger (so you’ll need their pass & passport numbers).  You then enter the starting station, destination, date & time and it will find trains and let you choose seats.  It will also let you select oversized baggage seats if available.  It’ll issue a seat reservation ticket.

You can't make seat reservations before you get to Japan

You can't reserve seats to go with your pass until you reach Japan and can get to a station.  There's one key exception:  JR East have set up a website for Japan Railpass holders to make reservations on their high speed trains north & east of Tokyo, including the Narita Express and the Joetsu, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Hokkaido, Yamagata & Akita shinkansen, but not the Tokaido, Sanyo or Kyushu shinkansen linking Tokyo, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Hiroshima, Hakata, Nagasaki as obviously these aren't run by JR East, but by JR Central & JR West.

To make reservations on JR East services, see (if this link stops working, try and please let me know ).  Seat reservations made using this service must be collected before 21:00 the day before travel or they will be cancelled.

Green car seats:   Green car (1st class) seats on shinkansen & limited express trains are always reserved , if you sit in a green car seat without a reservation you'll be charged the hefty green car shinkansen reserved seat fee, even if you have a Green Car Japan Rail Pass.  So if you have a Green Car pass, either make a reservation to use the Green Car, or if you want to be spontaneous and hop on a train without a reservation, use the ordinary class unreserved cars.

Reservation tips

There's no penalty for not using a seat reservation you've made with a Japan Rail Pass.  Bad manners not to cancel it perhaps, but if you had a reservation for (say) the 18:45 and decided to leave earlier, you could hop on the 17:45 and sit in the unreserved cars, no problem.

If you know your itinerary, there's no reason why you can't make all the necessary reservations for your trip in one go when you exchange your voucher for the pass.  But do the legwork first.  Look up each of the trains you want using then type out a clear written list of reservations specifying date, journey, train number, departure time, class and number of passengers.  If it's not too busy, the staff at the Japan Rail Pass counter may work through the list for you, issuing a reservation ticket for each reserved seat.  But if it's busy and there's a queue behind you, don't be surprised of they turn you away, asking you to make reservations as you need them at the ticket office.  Staff at the JR East Service Centre did all my reservations for me, no problem.  But a notice at the Haneda Airport travel service centre said they were only prepared to do reservations for today.  Feedback appreciated !

Suggested 7-day itinerary

Click here for my recommended itinerary using a 7-day Japan Rail Pass, starting in Tokyo and visiting Kyoto for its temples & geisha district, Himeji for its castle, Hiroshima for its museum and Peace Park and Nagasaki for its history as the only point of contact with the outside world from the 17th to 19th centuries.  I think this is the ideal tour for a first visit to Japan!

Buy a Japan Rail Pass

You need to buy your Japan Rail Pass before you leave your home country as you can't (generally) buy a pass once you're in Japan.

Option 1 , buy a Japan Rail Pass at .

Passes can be sent any address worldwide, you can book up to 180 days in advance, prices are shown in various currencies.  A reliable agency I've been recommending for some years now.

Option 2 , buy a Japan Rail Pass at , here's a direct link to their all-Japan pass page .

When you buy your pass

Japan Rail Pass exchange voucher

1. Exchange Voucher.   When you order your pass online, you are sent an Exchange Voucher (above, on left) plus a handy Japan Rail Pass user guide, a Japan rail timetable and a Japan rail map.  The voucher can be exchanged for a Japan Rail Pass at any time in the 3 months after ordering.

A Japan Rail Pass

2.  Japan Rail Pass.   You exchange the voucher for a Japan Rail Pass at any one of 50 designated JR exchange offices in Japan, including Tokyo main station (2 offices), Ueno, Shinjuku, Narita International Airport, Haneda International Airport, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nagasaki.  The photo above shows an old-school pass, from 2023 passes are being issued as credit-card-size card tickets which can operate ticket gates.

Regional rail passes

Japan east pass, sanyo pass, kansai pass.

There are also regional Japan Rail Passes covering smaller areas.

The Japan East Pass covers Tokyo, Nagano, Niigata, Sendai, Morioka, Misawa & Akita.

The JR West Pass covers Osaka-Fukuoka and all trains run by JR West, for 7 days.

The Sanyo area pass covers an area including Osaka, Himeji, Okayama, Hiroshima & Hakata.

The Kansai area rail pass covers Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara & Himeji and costs only around £15/$23 a day, a pretty good deal.

For more information and to buy a pass , see (passes sent to any address worldwide) or .

Seishun 18 Kippu

The Seishun 18 Kippu (Youthful 18 Ticket) gives 5 days unlimited travel on Japan Railways' local trains and kaisoku (accelerated local) trains for ¥12,050, about $97 or $20 per day.  It's possible to travel all the way across Japan this way, incredibly cheaply, but only using the narrow-gauge local trains.

It's sold to both Japanese citizens and overseas visitors of any age (in spite of its name), but only during specific Spring (March-April), Summer (July-September) & winter (December-January) periods.

Rather than explain it further here, see this page for details: or or .  Update:  Most online info seems to have disappeared, but in March 2024 it's confirmed that the pass still exists if you buy in Japan.

1, 2 & 3-day metro passes for Tokyo

Foreign visitors can buy Tokyo metro 24 hour, 48 hour & 72 hour tickets, see .

If you like, you can buy a 1/2/3 day Tokyo metro pass online in advance at and collect it from the metro ticket machines.

You can buy one-day passes covering the Tokyo metro, or Tokyo metro+Toei Subway+JR local trains (called the Tokyo Combination ticket), see .

What are Japanese trains like ?

Shinkansen high-speed trains.

Everyone has heard of Japan's bullet train lines, more properly known in Japan as shinkansen which means new trunk line .  These are high-speed lines, built to European and North American standard gauge with rails 4' 8½" apart.  The first shinkansen was the Tokaido Shinkansen opened in 1964 between Toyo, Kyoto and Osaka, later extended as the Sanyo Shinkansen to Hiroshima, Kobe and Hakata.  There are now a whole range of shinkansen lines linking all the most important cities in Japan, including Niigata, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Hakata and Kagoshima.

Tokaido & Sanyo shinkansen N700A

These 16-car N700As owned by JR Central & JR West operate the Nozomi and Hikari services on the Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo, Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.  Many Nozomis and a few Hikaris extend to Hiroshima, Kobe & Hakata over the Sanyo Shinkansen.  These trains operate at up to 285 km/h (175 mph) on the Tokaido Shinkansen and up to 300km/h (186 mph) on the Sanyo Shinkansen.

Shinkansen seats are always rotated to face the direction of travel, and all seats come with a drop-down table attached to the seat back in front.  If there are four of you, you can rotate one pair of seats to make a face-to-face group of four.  There are power sockets (Japanese 2-pin) at all seats on these N700s.

Sanyo & Kyushu shinkansen N700

These 8-car N700 shinkansen trains owned by JR West & JR Kyushu operate the Mizuho & Sakura services on the Sanyo & Kyushu shinkansen lines between Shin-Osaka, Hiroshima, Himeji, Hakata and Kagoshima.

On most shinkansen trains, ordinary class seats are the same whether reserved or non-reserved.  But on these particular trains, ordinary class reserved seats (above left) are arranged 2+2 across the car width, much more spacious than the non-reserved cars (above right).  An added benefit of reserving a seat!

Joetsu, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Hokkaido, Yamagata & Akita shinkansen

You'll find a range of exotic trains on the Joetsu, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Hokkaido, Yamagata & Akita shinkansen routes heading north & east of Tokyo.

Limited Expresses

An extensive network of classic 3' 6" narrow-gauge lines covers the whole of Japan taking you to almost every city and town of any size.  The fastest trains on the classic network are classified Limited Express , and these train come in all shapes and sizes.  Indeed, the classic network often parallels the shinkansen:  For example, you can travel between Kyoto, Osaka and Himeji by Limited Express on the classic network just as easily as by shinkansen.  Give it a try!

Local & rapid trains

Completing the picture, there are many local & rapid trains on the classic 3' 6" narrow-gauge network, again of many shapes and sizes.

Sleeper trains : See the video

There's now only one sleeping-car train left in Japan, the Sunrise Express .  It runs as one combined train from Tokyo to Himeji & Okayama and then splits, the Sunrise Seto heading for Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku and the Sunrise Izumo heading for Izumoshi.

You can use the Sunrise Express at no extra charge with a Japan Rail Pass if you make a reservation for one of the basic nobinobi berths (see the photo below left) or you can pay the room fee to have a private compartment.  Expect a private sleeper compartment for one person to cost around ¥8,000 for a B-type single , around ¥7,000 for a similar but slightly smaller B-type solo , or ¥15,000 for a more spacious A-type deluxe single-bed sleeper with washbasin.  For two people, it costs around ¥15,000 per compartment in a B-type single-twin with upper & lower berths or ¥16,000 per compartment in a B-type Sunrise twin with two lower berths side by side.  Without a pass, you pay the regular fare and limited express extra fare plus these berth costs.

The sleeper train runs on the classic narrow-gauge network, but it can save time compared with daytime shinkansen travel but more importantly it's a unique experience, watch the Sunrise Express video .  It could save a hotel bill too!  See the official Sunrise Express information page , in Japanese, translatable with Google Chrome, to see photo of each accommodation type and check current berth fees.

Travel tip:   Himeji is a popular destination, but the Sunrise Express arrives there very early westbound and leaves late at night eastbound.  Remember that with a Japan Rail Pass you can easily double back, leaving or boarding the train an hour away in Okayama at a more attractive time instead.  The useful Tokyo-Nagasaki sleeper train is long gone, and the Hokutosei   & Cassiopeia sleeper trains between Tokyo & Sapporo disappeared in late 2015/early 2016 with the expansion of high-speed shinkansen services to Hokkaido.

Travel tips

Ticket gates.

When entering (or leaving) the platform area at any principal Japanese station, you'll need to pass through a set of automatic ticket gates like the ones shown here.  To catch a shinkansen train you may need to pass through two sets of gates, the first to access the JR Lines platform area serving the classic network, then another to access the Shinkansen platforms.  The gates are usually open by default, they'll spring shut if you try to pass through without a ticket.  All gate lines have a staffed side-gate, and if you have an old-style Japan Rail Pass you'll need to use this.  Just flash your pass at the side gate and you'll be waved through.  However, Japan Rail Passes are now being issued in the same format as normal magnetic-stripe card tickets, and passes in this format will operate the gates.

Finding your platform, train & seat

Many visitors worry about language in Japan, but signs are in both Japanese and English and the system is so efficient and easy to use.  The photos below show how easy it is to find the right platform, stand in the right place for your car when the train comes in, and be sure you're getting on the right train.

Tip:   The board also tells you which cars are unreserved.  If you want to use Sakura 557 without a reservation, you can see that cars 1-3 are the non-reserved ones.

Luggage on Japanese trains

Luggage is no real problem on Japanese trains.  Within reason, you can take what you like, nobody weighs it, measures it or argues about it.  You simply take it with you onto the train and stick it on any suitable luggage rack.  The overhead racks on shinkansen trains take anything up to backpack size.  If you have a huge suitcase or don't want to lift heavy bags to the overhead rack, go to the back of your car and put your bags in the gap between the wall and the rearmost seats, as in the photo below right.

Rules for very large suitcases from 2020

Extra large luggage rules have applied to the Tokaido, Kyushu & Sanyo shinkansen lines since May 2020.  Passengers with very large suitcases over 160 linear centimetres (linear cm = length + width + depth) will have to reserve a place for their suitcase at the same time they reserve their shinkansen seat, it's free of charge.  But if they don't reserve, they face a ¥1,000 fine (about $8) on the train.  It will no longer be possible to travel in an unreserved seats car with very large suitcases.  The suitcases will go in behind the rear row of seats, or (when modifications are completed) in a new lockable luggage area which will replace some of the washbasins in designated cars.  Obviously, the 160cm cut-off means this won't affect backpacks or normal-sized luggage, just over-sized cases.  For more details see .

Luggage lockers at stations

All principal stations have luggage lockers in various sizes in various locations.  Expect a small locker to start at around ¥300 or ¥400, and you'll need coins.  It's not usually difficult to find vacant lockers at any time of day.  Below right, arriving in Himeji at lunchtime it was no problem to find a vacant large locker which took two backpacks and a holdall for ¥700.  There's also a small staffed left luggage office at Tokyo station, inside the Marunouchi central entrance inside the JR Lines gated area.

Food on board:  Eki-ben

First the bad news.  Japanese trains don't have restaurant cars or even a bar car, just vending machines and in some cases a refreshment trolley.  The trolley on premier shinkansen trains such as Nozomi, Hikari, Mizuho or Sakura services sells tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, sake, snacks, small tubs of ice cream.  The trolley accepts both cash and credit cards.

Now the good news.  You can of course take your own food and drink onto Japanese trains, and one of the joys of Japanese train travel is the ekiben - eki meaning station, ben short for bento , meaning traditional Japanese packed lunch.  Ekiben is sold at ekiben shops found at all main stations, and also from the refreshment trolley on principal shinkansen services.  Ekiben comes in all sizes, shapes and qualities, but expect a decent large box to cost perhaps ¥800 bought at the station or ¥1,000 bought from the trolley on board a train.  The ekiben boxes include chopsticks and finger wipes.

If you want to buy ekiben from the shinkansen refreshment trolley, just ask the trolley lady - she'll show you pictures of the what she has available in a little laminated menu booklet, just point to the one you want.  You'll soon be a Black Belt in the ancient and honourable Japanese martial art of Eki-ben...

Power sockets & WiFi

You can reckon on finding power sockets for standard Japanese plugs at seats on almost all shinkansen and most limited expresses.  Free WiFi is now available on most shinkansen routes including the Tokaido, Sanyo & Tohoku lines.  Check your mobile provider for a data package for Japan, there is good mobile data reception along most shinkansen routes.  You'll also find JR Free WiFi at a key stations including Tokyo, Shinagawa, Nagoya, Kyoto & Shin-Osaka.

Tokyo station : See location map

Tokyo's main central station is shown as plain Tokyo in timetables.  Unlike most main stations worldwide, Tokyo station lacks a main entrance and main concourse.  It's something of a rabbit warren, but as most visitors end up there sooner or later, here are some tips.  You can read more about the station and its history at .  It's the busiest station in Japan in terms of trains, though not in terms of passenger numbers.

The west side of the station is called the Marunouchi side , and it features the historic station building built in 1915 and now beautifully restored, with it's upper floors housing the wonderful Tokyo Station Hotel .  It's the quieter side of the station, close to the Imperial Palace.

There are Marunouchi North, Central & South entrances, each with a row of ticket gates to access the JR lines (classic network) platforms 1-10.  If you are catching a shinkansen, you'll need to pass through one of these gatelines and cross the JR Lines area to another set of ticket gates at the entrance to either the Tokaido/Sanyo shinkansen platforms 14-19 or the Joetsu, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Hokkaido/Yamagata & Akita shinkansen platforms 20-23.  It's all well-signed in English.

Which platform?

Tokyo station, marunouchi side, tokyo station, yaesu side.

Buying local tickets in Tokyo.   There's a row of ticket machines like this near every entrance to the platform area.

The yellow & green machines on the left sell Shinkansen & Limited Express reserved & unreserved tickets & reservation changes.

One-day metro & local train passes for Tokyo:   There are 1-day passes you can get to cover either metro trains or metro trains + JR local trains in the Tokyo area.  You need to clock up perhaps 5 or 6 journeys in a day to make one of these worthwhile.  See .

The Tokyo Station Hotel : Check prices

The lovely 5-star Tokyo Station Hotel is another unique place to stay that deserves a special mention, even if (unlike capsule hotels) it's not a budget option!  The hotel occupies the 2nd & 3rd floors of the historic and beautifully-restored 1915 station building on the quieter Marunouchi side of Tokyo station.  Given that so many of Tokyo's classic hotels have been destroyed by earthquakes or wartime bombing then rebuilt as modern tower blocks, this has to be one of the most historically-interesting places to stay.  It's a luxurious and well-located choice, too, with a first-rate breakfast buffet served in the Atrium located inside the large central pitched roof above the 3rd floor.  And it's so handy for the trains.

Ryokans & capsule hotels

Any visit to Japan is a cultural experience.  Don't just stay in western hotels and visit the sights.  Make the places you stay part of the experience, by staying in a traditional Japanese ryokan, or even a capsule hotel.

Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns.  The rooms don't have beds, the floor is covered with tatami matting on which you place a bedroll.  You may be offered a hot cup of green Japanese tea when you first arrive.  You can sometimes find ryokans online on hotel booking sites such as .  The very best and most famous ryokans can be fabulously expensive, but cheaper ones can be a budget option.  Search for Ryokans in Tokyo .  Search for Ryokans in Kyoto .

In Kyoto, the excellent Gion Ryokan Q-Beh (pictured above) is 10-15 minutes walk from the Kyomizu-dera temple, 10 minutes walk from the Gion Geisha district.  It has budget dorm rooms and private rooms, and free WiFi.  The photos above show a family room with shower & toilet.

In Hiroshima, try the Chizuru Ryokan , 10 minutes walk from the Peace Park.

Capsule hotels

Another classic Japanese experience is to spend a night in a capsule hotel - which coincidentally is also a money-saving option for staying a night in the heart of Tokyo or another big city.  These are more civilised than you might think.

The hotel reception looks like any other hotel reception.  Remember to take your shoes off before you walk in, and place them in one of the lockers in the lobby.  Upstairs, there will probably be several floors of fibreglass sleeping capsules, each floor with its own locker room and shared showers.  You change in the locker room and put your clothes and bags into your locker.  Your capsule has radio, alarm clock and TV, and a screen or curtain pulls over the capsule entrance for privacy.  The main drawback is that the main clientele for these hotels is Japanese businessmen who have missed their last train home, so capsule hotels are usually male-only.  But capsule hotels for women do exist.  The pictures below show end-entry capsules, but some capsule hotels have side-entry types, and you'll now find some capsule hotels with larger, more hotel-style capsules too.

You can usually walk into a capsule hotel and ask for a bed for the night, but if you want to pre-book this unique experience, try the Capsulevalue Kanda in downtown Tokyo near Kanda station, one stop north of Tokyo station, a bed in downtown Tokyo for as little as ¥3,400 (about £26 or $32) per night.  Men and boys over 10 can stay there, but not women or children.

Haneda Airport to Tokyo

Emerging into the Haneda Airport International Arrivals hall, follow the signs to the Monorail which is just a few metres straight ahead of you. 

Narita Airport to Tokyo

Option1, narita express to tokyo main station, option 2, keisei skyliner from narita to ueno station, cheaper options, europe to japan by trans-siberian railway.

You can travel from London to Tokyo in just 12-14 days by Trans-Siberian Railway for roughly £800 in round figures.

Update 2024 :  War in Ukraine & sanctions on Russia currently make this route impractical.  Moscow-Beijing trains are suspended.

Option 1, via Vladivostok

- Travel from London to Moscow, see the London to Russia page .  This takes 48 hours using the Paris-Moscow Express .

- Take the Rossiya from Moscow to Vladivostok, this runs every second day taking 7 days, see the Trans-Siberian page . 

- Take the ferry from Vladivostok to Sakaiminato in Japan, sailing once a week taking 36 hours, see the Vladivostok-Japan ferry section .

Option 2, via Beijing & Shanghai

-  Travel from Moscow to Beijing on one of two weekly Trans-Siberian trains, taking 6 days, see the Trans-Siberian page . 

- Take an overnight or high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai ( see the Beijing to Shanghai page ).

- Take one of the two weekly ferries from Shanghai to either Osaka or Kobe in Japan, see the China to Japan ferry section .

Going via Vladivostok is simpler to organise as you need fewer visas, but going via Beijing more varied and interesting, and the one I'd recommend.

Ferries between Japan & China, Korea, Vladivostok

For the weekly ferry from Sakaiminato in Japan to Vladivostok in Russia, see the Trans-Siberian page .

For ferries between Japan and Shanghai in China, see the China page .

For ferries between Japan and South Korea, see the Korea page .

Tours of Japan by train

If you want a tour agency to organise a tour of Japan for you with train travel, transfers & hotels included as a package, Railbookers specialise in train-based tours and have several suggested tours of Japan by rail, including Best of Japan, Scenic Japan and Golden Route of Japan.  These can be adjusted to your specification.

  UK call 0207 864 4600, .

  us call free 1-888-829-4775, .,   canada call free 1-855-882-2910, .,   australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, .,   new zealand call toll-free 0800 000 554 or see website ..

Japan by Rail & Lonely Planet guides:  In the age of the internet, a printed guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but you'll see so much more and know so much more about it if you have a decent pocket guidebook.  The Trailblazer Japan by Rail guide is specifically aimed at train travel around Japan, with both city and train information - highly recommended!  Other than that, for the serious independent traveller, the best guidebooks to take are either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  I personally prefer the layout of the Lonely Planet, but others prefer the Rough Guides.  Both guidebooks provide excellent levels of both practical information and historical background. 

Click the images to buy online at

Flights to japan.

Overland travel around Japan by train is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But a long-haul flight might be unavoidable to reach Japan in the first place. 

1)  Check flight prices at Opodo,

2)  use skyscanner to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines....

skyscanner generic 728x90

Travel insurance & other tips

Always take out travel insurance.

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flag

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for the country you're visiting and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list . is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data .

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month at time of writing.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:   1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android .  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than digging a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card , they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  W hy you need a VPN

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explained .  ExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I get a small commission to help support this site.

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from or from Buy from .

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8 Japan’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys You Can Take

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If you’re a train enthusiast, Japan should definitely be on your hit list.

Even if you’re not, traveling the country by railway will open your eyes to the country’s beauty and culture.

Japan’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys guide

Let’s take a look at eight of the most scenic railway journeys that you can take in Japan:

  • Kurobe Gorge Main Line
  • Ōigawa Main Line
  • Chuo Main Line
  • Tokaido Shinkansen Line
  • Sagano Scenic Railway
  • Hakone Tozan Line
  • Sanriku Railway

Table of Contents

What to Expect from Your Journey?

Enjoying Japan scenic railway journey

Not only are Japan’s railways extremely efficient, but they’re also pretty complex too. Almost every place in Japan is accessible by train.

You likely won’t need a hire car on a visit to Japan, and you won’t have the bother with traffic either. The trains are punctual and fast, not to mention relatively affordable.

What’s More – The diversity of the railways and trains only adds to your experience. Take a ride on the most modern of trains on a super-fast track or tootle along on one of the old-style local trains.

No matter the style, you’re pretty much guaranteed stunning scenery.

1. Kurobe Gorge Main Line

The Kurobe Gorge Main Line railway operates within the Toyama Prefecture.

It is run by a private company and is famous for its views of deep valleys and the most stunning emerald-green lake.

Best time to visit Kurobe Gorge in Japan

The 20-kilometer (12.4 miles) distance from Unazuki station to Kayakidaira station takes around 80 minutes and follows the Kurobe River with priceless views of cliffs, valleys, ravines and mountains.

It also goes across more than 20 bridges and through many tunnels. But be aware that this line isn’t a year-round possibility.

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  • Your Kurobe Gorge Itinerary

Its operating months are from mid-April through to the end of November. The most popular time to travel on the line is in the fall when the trees all change into magnificent reds and oranges.

One of the most exciting prospects when traveling on this line is that you can travel in an open-air train car!

Additionally – You can stop off at the natural hot springs ( onsens) along the way. Who wouldn’t want a hot bath in Japan’s Alps? There are also sacred sites and shrines to look at too. It’s a must if you’re into your sightseeing.

2. Ōigawa Main Line

Ōigawa Main train Line

The Ōigawa Main Line is also owned by a private rail company and is situated in the Shizuoka Prefecture.

It’s a line that links Shimada and Kawanehon and offers beautiful views of the river, countryside, and mountains. You may even spot some interesting and rare wildlife along the way.

Not only that, but many people also travel this line due to the attraction of the train itself as it is still a steam train in a Western, old-fashioned style.

The best time to take a ride is supposedly in the fall with the breathtaking views that the autumn leaves color explosion brings.

3. Chuo Main Line

Chuo Main Line Japan

The Chuo Main Line runs from Tokyo to the Aichi Prefecture and is around 425 kilometers (264 miles) in length.

As such, it’s one of the main trunk railway lines in Japan.

Linking Tokyo and Nagoya, it travels through many scenic spots, including:

  • the countryside of Kanagawa and Yamanashi
  • as well as Nagano and Gifu

Traveling along the line in spring affords you the stunning backdrop of cherry blossom trees in full bloom , covering the hills and fields.

4. Tokaido Shinkansen Line

Tokaido Shinkansen Line

If you’re heading to Japan, you’ll want to spot Mount Fuji.

The Tokaido Shinkansen Line (the bullet train) is one such way of doing so. It connects Tokyo and Kyoto in a time of just two hours and 20 minutes.

It passes by the majestic Mount Fuji in either direction, with picture-perfect views of the most famous and highest peak in the whole of Japan.

  • 5 Best Hotels with a View of Mount Fuji

If you’re headed to Kyoto from Tokyo, take a seat:

  • on the right-hand side of the train for the best views
  • or the left-hand side if you’re traveling toward the capital.

If you want the very best of vistas, reserve the seats in Row E on the window side.

5. Sagano Scenic Railway

Sagano Scenic Railway Japan scenic railway journey

In Kyoto, the Sagano Scenic railway is a popular option for sightseers.

It’s a short railway of only 7.3 kilometers (4.5 miles), but it showcases the historic city’s natural beauty.

The train carriages are in a traditional style with wooden benches, and the train travels at speeds that are much slower than you’d expect. In fact, it takes just 25 minutes one-way.

It follows the beauty alongside the Hozugawa River, letting you soak up the magnificent scenery en route .

In the Fall – It’s a great way of observing the autumn foliage that Kyoto offers. Leisurely meandering round the mountains, you get to experience the wooded ravine up close.

Be aware that the line closes during the winter months, from the end of December until the end of February normally.

6. Hakone Tozan Line

Hakone Tozan Line

This line is a sightseeing train line in the Kanagawa Prefecture.

Running between Odawara and Hakone, the 15-kilometer (9.3 miles) journey treats you to the stunning sights of the mountains and valleys with their bright hydrangea flowers and thick, dark forests.

The best time to ride this route is in June and July as the flowers on the track sides are in full bloom.

If you’re staying in Tokyo but want to leave the city for a couple of days, this is a perfect choice. You can get there by taking a train from the city to Odawara station and then hopping onto the scenic line.

7. Gono Line

Gono Line

This line connects the prefectures of Akita and Aomori, in the northern part of Japan.

The line is 147.2 kilometers (91 miles) long, and it runs along the Sea of Japan’s coastline.

Here, you’ll witness the beautiful horizon and Japan’s marine waters:

  • In the wintertime, you’ll see the scenery covered in snow, especially Mount Iwaki, a mountain measuring 1,625m (1 mile) in height!
  • You’ll also get to see the virgin forest of Japanese beech trees at Shirakami-Sanchi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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  • Does it snow in Japan?

The seats on this line tend to be booked up quickly, so try and book your ride in advance.

As you’d expect in Japan, this line is dependable, efficient and pretty comfortable. If you want a little added extra, you can book the Joyful Train.

This one has special dining carriages and on-board activities, including storytelling and live music on the shamisen , a traditional Japanese three-stringed guitar.

8. Sanriku Railway

Sanriku Railway Japan scenic railway journey

The Sanriku Railway was destroyed in the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. It took three years to rebuild it and it finally reopened in 2014.

If you’re looking for a ride along a coastal track with picturesque ocean views and filled with Japanese history (not to mention pride), the Sanriku railway makes an excellent journey.

The Takeaway

Unless you’re a train enthusiast, the chances are that a visit to Japan will afford you a couple of scenic train journeys at best. With this fantastic list above, how do you possibly choose?

No matter which you opt for, you are guaranteed the best seat in the house when it comes to Japanese scenery: mountains, rivers, cherry blossoms, hydrangeas, forests and valleys. The colors and possibilities are second to none. What are you waiting for?

Best Golden Week Destinations In Japan

About the author

best train journey in japan

Hey, I’m a freelance writer, translator and former MFL teacher based in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, UK. When not writing with my dog curled up at my feet, I enjoy running and performing on stage in local amateur dramatics productions.

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best train journey in japan

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Shinkansen rolling past Mt Fuji in Japan

Two weeks in Japan: the ultimate rail itinerary for first-time visitors

Got two weeks to explore Japan? Lucky you. Here’s how to spend your time in the island nation using the 14-day Japan Rail Pass

Selena Takigawa Hoy

It’s cliché to say you could spend forever in Japan and not get bored. What I will say is that two weeks in Japan will never feel like enough, but makes for a great introduction to this endlessly fascinating country. Using the Japan Rail pass, you can take in the lights and buzz of Tokyo  before experiencing the country’s rich local culture. 

This two-week Japan itinerary takes you on a round-trip from Japan’s delightfully disorienting capital, whisking you from castle towns in the north to the cities of Osaka ,  Kyoto  and Hiroshima in the south – and finishing off with a relaxing break in the hot spring town of Beppu. You’ll travel the length of Japan’s main island of Honshu and experience the onsen island of Kyushu,  visiting craftspeople, rolling through rice paddies,  marveling at  mountain temples, feasting on local specialties like  okonomiyaki –  and much, much more. 

Japan itinerary map

Spoiler: some of the best places in Japan are the ones that you stumble upon in between hitting the major attractions. Do treat this as a guide and feel free to go your own way – that’s the flexibility the Japan Rail Pass can offer (more on that below).

How to travel around Japan

There’s no more natural way to travel in Japan than by train. I’ve traveled extensively from north to south using Japan’s famously efficient, modern rail system, which reaches nearly every corner of the country. 

For maximum freedom and flexibility, a rail pass is a great way to go. The best pass for visitors is the Japan Rail Pass or JR pass, an all-inclusive ticket covering almost any Japan Rail train in the country – including most high-speed trains. 

The current price for a 14-day adult pass purchased outside of Japan is ¥47,250 (£275, $341); ¥52,960 (£302; $380) if purchased inside Japan. Note that the price will rise in October 2023 to ¥80,000 ( £457; $575) for a 14-day pass. Before the increase, the pass is excellent value; after the hike, the pass is still a good choice if you want to travel all over Japan, visit several different places, and plan to spend no more than a few days in each location. 

You should order your passes well in advance of your trip, as shipping can take a while. Note that passes are only open to foreign visitors, and cannot be purchased by residents of Japan or those with Japanese passports. 

If you’d rather concentrate on seeing one area, a regional pass is a good bet. Choices include the JR East Pass (Tohoku), the JR Tokyo Wide Pass (Area surrounding Tokyo), the JR West All-Area Pass (Western Honshu), as well as passes covering Kyushu , Shikoku , and Hokkaido . 

The following itinerary uses the nationwide Japan Rail Pass.

Selena Takigawa Hoy is a Japanese-American writer based in Tokyo. A t Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our  editorial guidelines  and check out our latest  travel guides  written by local experts.


🇯🇵 The   best things to do in Japan 🏨 The   best hotels in Japan

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The ultimate two-week Japan itinerary

Days 1-3: Tokyo

Days 1-3: Tokyo

Welcome to Tokyo! It’s time to start your trip with a few days in Japan’s exhilarating capital. Most of central Tokyo is accessible by the metro – this is a separate system from Japan Rail and does not fall under the pass, so we recommend you don’t activate your rail pass yet (more on that later).

Shop your way through bustling  Shibuya , stroll through Yoyogi Park , visit Meiji Shrine , look for toys and anime goods in Akihabara , and eat and drink your way through the city, from Michelin-starred restaurants to cheap noodle stands and quirky street food  (make sure to snap a photo of the crazy cotton candy from Momi & Toys ). 

Where to stay in Tokyo

The Asakusa Kokono Club Hotel is spacious by Tokyo standards, close to the famous  Sensō-ji (temple), and loaded with delightful design details. On a tight budget?  The Toyoko Inn chain has locations all over the city. Quarters are on the smaller side, but rooms are clean and serviceable, and there’s a basic free breakfast.

Next stop… Hirosaki

It’s time to activate your rail pass! Take it to the ticket office of a major Japan Rail station to activate, then book a seat on your northbound train. You can travel from either Tokyo Station or Ueno Station. Reservations (free) are required on the Tohoku Shinkansen, so be sure to secure a booking as soon as you validate your pass.

Ride the Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori Station, then switch to the limited express Ou Line to Hirosaki Station. The journey takes four hours.

Days 3-4: Hirosaki

Days 3-4: Hirosaki

Hirosaki is a castle town in Aomori Prefecture, the northernmost prefecture in Honshu. Once there, stroll the grounds of Hirosaki Castle and the adjacent park, and visit the Neputa Village to learn about the fascinating culture of neputa :  huge paper lanterns covered with depictions of gods and warriors that grace the summer Neputa Festival floats. Don’t leave without sampling the city’s famous apple pastries and hard cider. 

Where to stay in Hirosaki

The Good Old Hotel , in the heart of the drinking and nightlife district, is a row of tiny former ‘snack’ bars converted into accommodation. The Dormy Inn  is an efficient chain known for its on-site hot spring baths and free late-night instant ramen. 

Next stop… Akita and Sendai

Train enthusiasts will want to reserve a seat on the scenic Resort Shirakami , running between Hirosaki and Akita. The one-way trip takes under five hours, spent gazing out at the ocean and enjoying some of the onboard interludes, such as a Tsugaru-jamisen performance and a puppet show. Change in Akita , where you can spend a few hours visiting Akita Museum of Art and Senshu Park , adjacent to the station, before boarding a southbound shinkansen (don’t forget your reservation) to Sendai , the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture. The Akita-Sendai train takes two hours 20 minutes. 

Days 4-5: Sendai

Days 4-5: Sendai

Delve into Sendai’s samurai history, learning about the exploits of Masamune Date and the Date Clan, whose mausoleum and statues dot the city. Spirits fans will enjoy visits to the Nikka Whisky Distillery or touring some of the many local sake breweries. In the hot spring enclave of Sakunami Onsen , you’ll find traditional artisans making carved wooden kokeshi dolls and other crafts. 

Where to stay in Sendai

A fun choice in Sendai is the Hen-na Hotel (literally ‘Strange Hotel’) featuring a high-tech, hologram-driven check-in. 

Next stop... Kanazawa

You’ll need two shinkansen to get to Kanazawa on the west coast of Honshu: the Tohoku or Akita Shinkansen from Sendai to Omiya (just over an hour) and the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Omiya to Kanazawa (about two hours). 

Days 5-7: Kanazawa

Days 5-7: Kanazawa

The capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa has loads of traditional charm and well-preserved areas with a fraction of the tourists of Kyoto or Tokyo. There’s a lot to pack in here. Stroll around  Kanazawa Castle  and the colourful Edo-era gardens of  Kenroku-en , admire the handsome wooden buildings in the teahouse districts of  Higashi Chaya  and Nishi Chaya , browse the stalls at  Omicho Market , learn about the art of gold leaf and its history in the region, and check out the  21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art .

Where to stay in Kanazawa

A new(ish) opening in May 2023, Omo5 Kanazawa Katamachi is a boutique mid-range option not far from the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Next stop... Kyoto 

You have a few options to get between Kanazawa and Kyoto; the most direct is the Thunderbird Express, taking about two hours 15 minutes.

Days 7-10: Kyoto, Osaka and Nara

Days 7-10: Kyoto, Osaka and Nara

There’s so much to see in Kyoto  –  and everyone else wants to see it too. If possible, visit during the week for slightly fewer crowds. Highlights include Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion), the pagoda and shopping street at Kiyomizu-dera , and the Zen garden at  Ryōan-ji . Use Kyoto as a base to visit nearby cities as well: head over to Osaka (30 minutes by shinkansen) to explore foodie neighborhoods like Dotonbori , Shinsekai , and Kuromon Market . You might also want to visit the ancient capital of Nara to see the enormous Buddhist temple Todaiji and its accompanying tame deer. 

Where to stay in Kyoto

For a nice midrange hotel right near Kyoto Station, try the Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto , which has an indoor swimming pool and several dining options onsite. For something more classic, there’s Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura Urushitei , with futon bedding, tatami mats, and traditional furnishings. Do opt in for the excellent Japanese breakfast.  

Next stop... Hiroshima

Time to board the Tokaido Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima; 1 hour 40 minutes. Reservations are recommended, but not required. 

Days 10-12: Hiroshima

Days 10-12: Hiroshima

The focus of any Hiroshima visit is of course Peace Park , the A-Bomb Dome , and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum . Hiroshima is also a beautiful, resilient, and thriving city.

Spend at least half a day visiting the island of Miyajima ; with a  moderate hike, you’ll catch sight of roaming deer and monkeys, as well as  Itsukushima Shrine ,  a Unesco World Heritage Site  famous for its ‘floating’ torii  (the red shrine gate that rises from the sea off the coast).

Don’t forget to get your fill of okonomiyaki , Hiroshima’s most famous food, a thick savory pancake made with batter, noodles, vegetables, meat or seafood, and more. Vegan versions are available at several locations including Okonomimura .

Where to stay in Hiroshima

The Knot Hiroshima is a stylish, affordable option near Peace Park; or if you don’t mind tight spaces, why not try a budget capsule hotel? The Sejour Inn Capsule offers pods for all genders (some capsule hotels only accept men), with compact sleeping quarters, lockers, and shared bathing facilities.  

Next stop... Beppu

Take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Kokura Station, then change to the Sonic Nichiren Express to Beppu Station; 2 hours 30 minutes. 

Days 12-14: Beppu

Days 12-14: Beppu

The island of Kyushu generally has a more laid-back vibe than much of Honshu (Japan’s main island), and in the hot spring resort town of Beppu , relaxation is the name of the game. Check out the sulfuric pools and geysers called the ‘Hells’ of Beppu and soar over the active volcano of Mt. Tsurumi on the Beppu Ropeway   – then unwind in the region’s famous hot spring baths. Each has different mineral properties that are believed to soothe various ailments. 

Where to stay in Beppu

When in a hot spring town, staying at a ryokan is a must. Try Beppu Nagomitsuki  or Ryokan Sennari , both of which offer sumptuous multi-course meals and on-site open-air hot spring baths. 

Next stop... back to Tokyo

Use the last day on your pass to return to Tokyo . Take the Sonic Nichiren Express back to Kokuro, then the Tokaido Shinkansen all the way back to Tokyo; about 6 hours. Don’t forget to pick up a bento at the station or buy one on the train.

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Japan Rail Pass

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best train journey in japan

The 10 Best Scenic Train Journeys In Japan

Romantic train in Osaka Japan scene from the river below

An excellent way to see the beauty of Japan’s countryside is by taking the train. Below are some of the best train routes to enjoy the country’s natural scenery. You can use your Japan Rail Pass to enjoy the views on many of these routes.

1. Hisatsu Line (Kumamoto Prefecture to Kagoshima Prefecture)

Connecting Yatsushiro Station in Kumamoto Prefecture and Hayato Station in Kagoshima Prefecture, the Hisatsu Line is a JR Kyushu railway line that spans 124.2 kilometers of some of the most impressive natural scenery in Japan. It goes over the Kuma River, passes through the mountains of Kirishima, and goes past the thriving forests of Kyushu.

Red iron bridge at Sakamotomachi, Sakamoto, Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture.

2. Hanwa Line (Osaka Prefecture to Wakayama Prefecture)

A good way to enjoy the sakura season is via the Hanwa Line, which is a commuter train line operated by JR West. It extends 63.1 kilometers from Osaka’s Tennoji Station to Wakayama’s Wakayama Station. Along the way, passengers get the best seats to get a glimpse of the countless cherry trees in full bloom in the valleys and mountains on this part of the Kansai region, especially towards the end of March.

Sunset of Engetsu Island

3. Sagano Scenic Railway (Kyoto)

A popular sightseeing train line in Kyoto, the Sagano Scenic Railway is a 7.3-kilometer-long line that showcases the natural beauty of this historic city. Featuring train cars with wooden benches and traditional designs, it runs at slower-than-usual speeds, as it follows the Hozugawa River, to allow the passengers to take in the magnificent scenery. In autumn, it is one of the most popular ways to view Kyoto’s autumn foliage. It is not covered by the JR Pass, so passengers must purchase reserved seat tickets.

ozugawa River cruise during Autumn season. Hozugawa River Cruises (Hozugawa Kudari) are sightseeing boat rides down the Hozugawa River from Kameoka to Arashiyama

4. Takayama Main Line (Gifu Prefecture)

A train line that connects Gifu and Toyama, Takayama Main Line is a JR West Company railway line that provides opportunities to enjoy the gorgeous landscapes of the prefecture. The journey from Gifu Station to Toyama Station takes you on a memorable sightseeing experience, as you pass by the impressive rugged mountains and valleys, and the pristine and immaculate rivers on the way to Toyama. In the summer months, the surroundings are refreshingly green, and in the winter season, they are snow-covered and look magical.

World heritage site Gokayama, Toyama, Japan

5. Kurobe Gorge Main Line (Toyama Prefecture)

Run by the private railway company Kurobe Gorge Railway, the Kurobe Gorge Main Line is a sightseeing train that runs along the Kurobe River, affording picture-worthy views of the mountains, cliffs, valleys, and ravines of the Northern Japan Alps. It covers a distance of 20 kilometers, from Unazuki Station to Keyakidaira Station, and takes about an hour and 20 minutes to complete a one-way trip, passing through dozens of tunnels and going over 20 bridges. It is only open for operation around the middle of April until the end of November, and is most popular in the autumn season, when the trees along the slopes have turned red and orange.

Kurobe Gorge Railway red bridge, Japan

6. Gono line (Akita Prefecture to Aomori Prefecture)

The Gono Line, which is a railway line managed by the JR East, connects Akita Prefecture and Aomori Prefecture, two of Japan’s northernmost prefectures. Measuring 147.2 kilometers in length, it runs along the coast of the Sea of Japan, and offers beautiful views of the waters and the horizon. In the winter, it showcases a snow-covered scenery, including the breathtaking 1,625-meter tall Mount Iwaki.

Mount Iwaki view from Hirosaki Castle Park in Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan

7. Hakone Tozan Line (Kanagawa Prefecture)

The Hakone Tozan Line is a sightseeing train line owned by the Odakyu Group. It runs from Odawara Station in Odawara to Hakone-Yumoto Station in Hakone. Throughout the 15-kilometer-long ride, passengers are treated to the amazing sights of thick forested valleys and mountains, and colorful flowers by the tracks that are most especially stunning in June and July when in full bloom.

The Hakone Tozan Train passes

8. Oigawa Main Line (Shizuoka Prefecture)

Owned by private railway company Oigawa Railway, the Oigawa Main Line is a railway line that provides a connection between Kanaya Station in Shimada and Senzu Station in Kawanehon. It offers excellent views of the mountains, river, and countryside, and a chance to spot some interesting wildlife.

A local train traveling on a bridge by a flourishing cherry blossom ( Sakura ) tree near Kawane Sasamado Station of Oigawa Railway in Shimada, Shizuoka, Japan ~ Spring scenery of Japanese countryside

9. Sotobo Line (Chiba Prefecture)

Operated by the JR East Company, Sotobo Line is a railway line that links Chiba and Kamogawa. Starting in Chiba, it passes through some of the other cities in the prefecture, including Oami-Shirasato, Mobara, Isumi, and Katsuura, and offers scenic views of the rural countryside. As it runs along the coast and approaches Kamogawa, passengers can also enjoy fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean.

Katsuura with japan

10. Chuo Main Line (Tokyo to Aichi Prefecture)

About 425 kilometers long, the Chuo Main Line is one of Japan’s major trunk railway lines. It links Tokyo and Nagoya, starting at Tokyo Station and ending at Nagoya Station. It passes through several scenic places, through the countrysides of Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano, and Gifu. In spring and autumn, the sights that it affords are simply breathtaking — cherry blossoms in full bloom and autumn foliage that cover the hills, mountains, and fields.

Shirakawa-go Village, Gifu

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best train journey in japan


Get the Ultimate Guide to the JAPAN RAIL PASS for FREE

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about the Japan Rail Pass including Extensive information, Is it worth it?, What it includes & How it works.

best train journey in japan

Boutique Japan

Getting Around Japan: A Complete Guide to Train Travel

Japan’s railway system, including its world-renowned shinkansen (bullet train), is famously clean, safe, modern, and efficient. But to a first-time visitor, getting around Japan can also seem a bit confusing — especially at first.

Don’t worry if the idea of navigating Japan by train feels a little overwhelming to you now. After you read this introductory guide to train travel in Japan, you’ll be ready to:

  • Use an IC transport card to navigate the Tokyo Metro subways (and buy drinks at vending machines)
  • Understand the difference between Japan Railways (JR) and other railway companies operating throughout the country
  • Purchase train tickets — and avoid some of the most common mistakes most travelers make –– including how to read shinkansen timetable
  • Decide whether to reserve ordinary, Green Car, or Gran Class seats
  • Map out your travel plans utilizing a combination of shinkansen , limited express trains, and local trains

There’s no shame in feeling daunted by Japan’s extensive network of trains and rail operators, veritable web of stations, and dozens of different types of trains. But after experiencing Japan’s wonderful rail system for yourself, you’ll find it’s an absolute joy to travel by train in Japan!

Also, as if it weren’t enough that the trains are spotless (and run on time), it’s also worth remembering that Japanese people are extraordinarily helpful. If you are ever lost or in doubt, simply find the nearest station attendant and ask for help — unlike in many countries, they’ll actually be happy to assist (one of the many amazing things about Japan )!

Straphanger Tokyo Metro Japan

Guide to Train Travel in Japan

If you’re not sure where to begin, we suggest starting at the top. But if you’re wondering about a specific topic, refer to the Table of Contents below:

Types of Trains (Train Categories)

Ic cards (refillable transport passes), how to buy train tickets in japan, how to use train tickets in japan, planning your journey (and japan travel apps), useful rail and transport passes, non-train travel in japan.

Let’s be honest: The terminology below may not sink in for you immediately, but as you read the rest of this article, it should come in handy.

In Japan, as in any other country with a robust rail network, there are various types of trains, ranging from slower to faster. The classifications can get painfully specific in Japan, but for most travelers, it’s not necessary to get into excessive detail.

To avoid overwhelming you, here is a brief summary of the main types of trains you will encounter while traveling around Japan, in order of relative speed:

  • Express (急行)
  • Limited Express (特急) / Special Express (特急)
  • Shinkansen (Bullet Train) (新幹線)

If you want to nerd out, here is an excellent guide to the various types of trains in Japan .

You don’t need to do anything with this information yet. Just keep this in mind as we proceed. All aboard!

Toei Oedo line subway Tokyo Japan

Let’s start with the single easiest “travel hack” that will make your trip to Japan smoother and more pleasant: obtaining an IC card.

If there is one thing you can do to make exploring a city easy, it’s getting that city’s version of a transit card. Some well-known examples include London’s Oyster card, Hong Kong’s Octopus card, and New York City’s MetroCard.

In most ways, Japan’s IC cards put them all to shame.

IC cards are rechargeable passes that you can use to pay fares on public transportation. You can also use them to buy drinks and snacks at most conbini (convenience stores) and vending machines.

Japan’s IC cards come by different names across Japan, with several regional variants. Most travelers to Japan are likely to come into contact with the Suica, PASMO, or ICOCA cards, but they are essentially all interchangeable.

For example, if you have a PASMO (issued by Tokyo Metro), you can still use it on trains in other cities (for example, in Osaka). Or say you have an ICOCA (issued by JR West, where Kyoto and Osaka are located): Fear not, as you can use it elsewhere, including in Tokyo, for example.

Imagine being able to use your New York MetroCard in Boston or San Francisco!

You don’t strictly need an IC card. If you prefer inconvenience (why?!), you could simply buy tickets each time you need to hop on the subway.

But if you favor simplicity and ease of travel, an IC card is essential. With an IC card, you can explore much more freely, seamlessly switching between trains and buses, and even different railway companies.

IC cards are also easy to refill. On occasion, you may reach the end of your journey, perhaps after an evening exploring Tokyo nightlife , only to find that you don’t have enough credit to exit the station.

Don’t worry! There are always “fare-adjustment” machines in the vicinity of the ticket gates, where you can top up as needed.

JR Yamanote line Tokyo Japan

IC cards are ideal for short-distance travel and an essential part of getting around within cities in Japan. Referring back to the types of trains introduced above, IC cards are generally useful for these types of trains:

But for the following types of trains — this includes longer journeys and most intercity travel — you’ll need train tickets, or a rail pass:

Do You Need the Japan Rail Pass?

One of the most persistent myths about traveling in Japan is that the Japan Rail Pass is a must. We won’t bore you with all the details, but the short answer is that it’s not.

Yes, it’s true that the Japan Rail Pass can be the best option in certain circumstances (and it’s often ideal for budget travelers). But for travelers who prioritize convenience and comfort, the Japan Rail Pass is rarely the best option.

For more information on its pros and cons, check out our Japan Rail Pass guide .

Where to Buy Train Tickets in Japan

The easiest place to purchase train tickets is typically at your local station. In Japan, there are countless railway companies, with routes crisscrossing the country. But one railway company stands above them all: Japan Railways .

While traveling around Japan, it is likely you’ll come across other companies including Tokyo Metro, Keikyu, Odakyu, Tokyu, Hankyu, Kintetsu, and many others. But for most long-distance trips — including via the shinkansen (bullet train) — you’ll be on JR.

In major cities, most large stations have a ticket office (at JR stations, they’re called Midori no Madoguchi ) where you can speak with an agent to purchase the tickets you need. While you may feel daunted by the Japanese language barrier , most ticket agents are used to helping non-Japanese speakers, so don’t worry!

If you’d rather try your luck at an automated ticket machine, there is usually an option to go through the process in English. JR West has a useful video and visual guide to purchasing train tickets .

Inside a passenger train in Japan

Types of Train Tickets in Japan

Now that you’re ready to buy your tickets, a little train ticket terminology may help you make the right choices.

Reserved Versus Non-Reserved Tickets

If you’re traveling solo, or on a tight budget, then you may want to consider non-reserved seats.

Most bullet trains have a few non-reserved carriages, and finding a seat is usually not too challenging — provided you’re traveling on a busy route with frequent trains, it’s not peak season, and your travel party is small (naturally, if you’re traveling in a party of two people or more, you may not be able to sit together).

For most travelers, reserved seats are the way to go.

Classes of Service: Ordinary, Green Car, and Gran Class

Even ordinary class in Japan is of a very high standard, but if you’re looking for a bit of extra comfort, you may want to consider splurging on Green Car or Gran Class seats.

As you might expect, ordinary car seats are clean (the usual, in Japan), and they’re also surprisingly spacious. But if you’re looking for more space, consider springing for Green Car. In the Green Car, you have a bit more space (ordinary class seats are laid out in 3×2 configurations, while Green Car seats are 2×2).

Generally speaking, even ordinary car seats have electrical outlets, but on the whole, the higher-category seats are most likely to have electrical outlets and heated seats (it can vary by train).

We recommend browsing for ekiben (bento boxes designed for train travel) before departure. In most stations, you’ll find a colorful array of fresh, beautifully packaged meals to enjoy on the train, including local and seasonal specialties.

As for Gran Class: This is a whole different experience altogether. Gran Class cars have their own attendant, and come with lovely bento lunch boxes, and unlimited drinks (including beer, sparkling wine, sake , Japanese whisky , and more). The seats are also extra plush and spacious.

Unfortunately, most bullet trains don’t yet have Gran Class carriages, but more are being added to cater to demand!

For “advanced studies,” check out JR East’s detailed chart on the various types of tickets .

A bullet train (shinkansen) conductor monitoring the train

You have tickets in your hand. Now what?

Japan Train Ticket Dos and Don’ts

Tip 1: hold onto — i.e., don’t lose — your ticket(s).

This is not the New York subway! When riding trains in Japan, you always need your tickets for the whole journey.

Here’s how it works:

  • When entering the station, insert your ticket at the ticket gate. It will pop back up at the other end almost immediately.
  • Walk through the open gate and retrieve your ticket.
  • At the end of your journey, insert your ticket into the exit ticket gate.
  • This time, you can walk right through (your ticket stays in the machine).

The general rule is: If you haven’t left a station yet, you should still have your ticket on you.

Warning: If you get to the end of your journey and you’ve lost your ticket, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to pay for the entire journey again.

Another reason you shouldn’t lose your ticket: Train attendants may ask to see your ticket while you’re on the train, so keep it handy.

Tip 2: Deal With Multiple Tickets

This is something that probably won’t make sense to you until you get to Japan … and then you’ll see what we mean!

For many long-distance journeys — for example, on the shinkansen or limited express trains — you’ll be provided with more than one ticket.

One of them is a joshaken (乗車券), or “base fare ticket,” which is essentially the basic fare from point A to point B. The other is a tokkyuken (特急券), or “special fare ticket,” which tells the ticket machine or agent that you’ve paid for the privilege of riding an extra-fast train, such as a bullet train or an express train.

You need both tickets!

The counterintuitive part for most travelers is what to do when passing through the ticket gates. Which ticket do you insert? The answer is both, simultaneously.

Simply insert both tickets into the gate at the same time. The machine will automatically process the tickets, and one or both will pop out at the other end. Retrieve the ticket(s) and proceed to your train.

Then remember tip 1 above. When you reach your destination, you’ll once more put the ticket(s) into the exit ticket gate to be on your merry way.

If you’re ever in doubt, simply ask a station attendant for help!

Tip 3: Know Your Train Number

Your train ticket contains a plethora of information, and much of it may be undecipherable if you don’t read Japanese. But you’ll also find plenty of useful information here, including travel times, plus your train and seat number.

After reaching your departure train’s platform, you’ll want to go ahead and make your way to the proper boarding point. Train and bullet train doors always open at the right place on the platform, and you’ll see car numbers labeled clearly on signs above and on the floor in front of the train doors.

When it comes to shinkansen platforms, keep in mind that they’re extremely long, so it’s not a bad idea to head to your boarding spot a little early … walking from one end of the platform to the other can take as long as 10 minutes or more.

Once you reach your spot, enjoy the delightfully orderly queues before boarding the train and finding your seat.

Shinkansen (bullet train) passing Mount Fuji, Japan

Of course, the easiest way to plan your travels is by asking an expert: whether a friend in Japan, a ticket agent, or a company such as Boutique Japan.

But if you prefer to do all the legwork yourself, there are some really helpful travel apps we recommend.

Useful Train Travel Apps for Japan

HyperDia is an essential transport app if you’re visiting Japan. It can take a little while to get used to the interface, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll find virtually everything you need within this app. Search routes, look up hyper-accurate train timetables, and plan away!

Like HyperDia, Jorudan is a super-powerful transport app, with a slightly more intuitive interface.

Google Maps

While not quite as robust as HyperDia or Jorudan when it comes to detailed routes and timetables, Google Maps is still a handy reference tool. It’s also ideal for navigating within a city, as you can compare train times versus estimated travel times via other means (such as taxi or walking).

If you plan to use travel apps, make sure you have reliable Wi-Fi in Japan , too!

Navigating the Subway and Local Trains

The apps mentioned above are great for planning, but what if you’re already at the station — and don’t have Wi-Fi? The best thing to do is probably ask a station attendant, but if you want to map out your own trip, here are some basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Determine whether your destination station is a local-only stop, or whether express trains stop there. Train maps will have a color-coded legend, and you can tell which trains (local versus express) stop at which stations.
  • Make your way to the departure platform, and consult the signs above to ensure you board the correct type of train. If you’re not sure, ask someone! Most people will be happy to help.
  • When the train arrives, make sure it is the train you want. Again, if you’re not sure, don’t hesitate to ask a stranger!

tokyo metro marunouchi line Ochanomizu Tokyo Japan

In addition to the famous Japan Rail Pass (mentioned above), many cities and regions in Japan have their own rail and transport passes local to their own area.

They vary by pass, providing unlimited travel over a set period of time in a given region, and might include a round trip to a particular station.

There are too many to list in detail here, but we like the following passes for their ease and convenience in their respective areas.

Tokyo Transport Passes

  • Tokyo Metro 24-hour Ticket (600 JPY): Unlimited rides for 24 hours on the Tokyo Metro underground. You’ll recoup the cost with three or four rides on the subway.
  • Common One-Day Ticket for Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway (900 JPY): Unlimited rides on both subway lines for 24 hours.
  • Tokyo Combination Ticket (1,590 JPY): Unlimited rides on Tokyo Metro, Toei Subway, and JR Lines. Valid only on the same day. If you’re traveling extensively around central Tokyo in a single day, this is a good pass to get.

Kansai (Kyoto and Osaka) Transport Passes

  • Kyoto City Bus and Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass : With only two subway lines in Kyoto, there’s much in the city that’s accessible only by bus. Most people who rely on public transportation will ride the city buses. At 230 JPY per ride, you recoup the 600 JPY pass in just three rides.
  • Subway, Bus One-Day (Two-Day) Pass : Gives you unlimited bus and subway rides within the central Kyoto area. Available in one- or two-day versions.
  • Osaka 1-day or 2-day pass: Gives you unlimited rides on the Osaka Metro and Osaka City Bus for one or two days.

Other Destinations

  • Hakone Freepass : Whether you choose the 2-day or 3-day pass, this gives you unlimited rides throughout the Hakone area on almost any mode of transport: trains, cable cars, buses, and even the sightseeing cruise boat. You can choose to include a round-trip ticket from Shinjuku Station to Odawara Station.
  • Koyasan World Heritage Pass : Valid for two consecutive calendar days, this rail pass gives you a round trip to Mount Koya from one of Osaka’s Nankai Railway stations (such as Namba Station), along with unlimited bus travel on Mount Koya.

Ibusuki Makurazaki Line in Ibusuki, Japan

While Japan does have an extensive train network, other forms of public transportation aren’t too shabby either. You’ll find buses in most major cities, and some more remote areas in rural Japan are accessible only by bus.

When in major cities, it is incredibly easy to hail a cab. Find a main road rather than a quiet side street, and chances are that a taxi will come drifting past.

Don’t bet on always being able to use ride-sharing apps such as Uber in Japan — due to a strong taxi industry lobby, these companies haven’t made significant inroads into the country. But given the quality of Japanese taxi services — the cars are clean, and the drivers unfailingly polite — we don’t miss ride-sharing apps in cities here. Much.

You can go to most places in Japan by train. Sometimes, though, the travel time and number of transfers make it more trouble than it’s worth.

A good rule: If your train journey looks like it’s going to be more than four to six hours and isn’t a direct train, and you have the option to take a domestic flight, just do it.

Ferries are a more unorthodox but fun way to travel in Japan. It’s an interesting option to look into if you’re keen on traveling to more remote parts of the country — especially if you like slow travel, and have good sea legs!

Need more reasons to get excited about exploring Japan by train? Don’t miss our article on the best time of year to visit Japan .

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Train travel in Japan: a complete guide

July 31, 2023

Shinkansen train on the Tohoku line

If you are planning a trip with the Japan Rail Pass, better be prepared! You will be riding Japanese trains quite often.

In Japan, railroads are the primary mode of passenger transportation , and they have been ever since the first passenger steam locomotives debuted in Japan during the Meiji Restoration in 1872.

There is 30,625 km of rail lines all over Japan and they carry more than 9 billion passengers per year. Due to the country’s extensive use of its rail system, 46 of the top 50 busiest stations in the world are located in Japan.

Most Japanese rail lines have a unique name, normally taken from one of the cities or regions along the route, which means that the system is incredibly easy to navigate (the line names are even indicated on the tickets!).

Even so, figuring out how to manage the Japanese transportation system might be somewhat of a challenge for some. With that in mind, we’ve created this complete guide to the train system in Japan to help solve any doubts regarding riding the densha (how you say train in Japanese!).

The Japanese train system

The railway system in Japan is so well developed, punctual, extensive and diverse that you can simply assume that wherever you plan to go – there is a train that will take you there.

The very first thing to know is that railway lines in Japan are not operated by a single company. Japanese National Railways , a government-owned company, used to be in charge of the entire rail network in Japan as well as everything associated with it.

However, In 1987, the JNR underwent privatization and was split into six independent rail companies:

  • Hokkaido Railway Company
  • East Japan Railway Company
  • Central Japan Railway Company
  • West Japan Railway Company
  • Shikoku Railway Company
  • Kyushu Railway Company

Together, they make up the Japan Railways Group, or JR Group. JR Group owns roughly 80% of the railroads , but the rest are privately owned companies.

Due to this, when reading the visual maps above any ticket-vending machine around Japan you will notice that some lines headed in the same direction have different prices. This is so because each company has its own price list.

You are free to select the company you wish. The Japan Rail Pass multi-use ticket is part of the National JR Group and the JR Pass can be used on the vast majority of main services!

For more information about the national, regional and local lines, please check our maps page.

Privately owned rail companies

There are dozens of private railway companies in Japan . Some operate just a single line, while others manage larger networks.

According to the Japan Private Railway Association, these are the major private railway companies currently operating in the country:

Greater Tokyo

  • Keikyu – connects Tokyo with Yokohama and southern Kanagawa Prefecture
  • Keio – manages a network of railway lines west of central Tokyo
  • Keisei – operates lines from Tokyo to Chiba Prefecture, including one to Narita Airport
  • Odakyu – runs 3 three lines from central Tokyo to the west and Kanagawa Prefecture
  • Seibu – runs a network of lines in the suburbs west of central Tokyo
  • Tobu – operates lines in Tokyo’s suburbs and prefectures to the north of the city
  • Tokyu – oversees a network of lines in southern Tokyo

Greater Nagoya

  • Meitetsu – runs a rail network around Nagoya that includes access to Central Japan Airport

Greater Osaka

  • Hankyu – oversees lines in northern Osaka, connects Osaka with Kobe and Kyoto
  • Hanshin – runs a line between Osaka and Kobe, as well as a few shorter branch lines
  • Keihan – operates a main line that connects Osaka and Kyoto
  • Kintetsu – manages the largest non-JR rail network, connecting Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Ise, and Nagoya
  • Nankai – runs lines in southern Osaka and Wakayama Prefecture, facilitates access to Kansai Airport

Greater Fukuoka

  • Nishitetsu – in charge of a network of lines in Fukuoka Prefecture

Combined, these companies operate over 2,870.1 kilometers of railways across Japan. However, remember that the JR Group controls over 20,135 km of lines in Japan , a far greater number, and that you can use the JR Pass on the majority of these services.

Types of trains in Japan

Following are the intercity and suburban Japanese train categories explained:

Shinkansen (Super Express)

Also known as bullet trains , these are the fastest transportation modes in Japan with very few stops (if any) in comparison to the rapid or local ones.

The Shinkansen run on separate tracks and platforms since their track gauge is completely different from the others. This is due to the line’s high-speed capabilities and overall construction.

A Super Express fee is required when boarding any of the bullet trains, in addition to the regular base fee. The price is usually between 800 and 8,000 yen, depending on your final destination.

Note : Shinkansen bullet trains are included in the Japan Rail Pass , which means that JR holders will not have to make any extra payments* when boarding this train during the validity of their pass.

*A surcharge and a special complementary ticket to the JR Pass are required to use the “Nozomi” and “Mizuho” train services (from October 1, 2023).

Japanese bullet train - Shinkansen

Limited Express trains

There are over a 100 different types of Limited Express trains, with a limited number of stops, so they only go to major Japanese stations. Similar to the Shinkansen, the Limited Express also requires an additional fee to be paid. The Japan Rail Pass does cover some of those trains, however not all of them. The extra cost can vary between 400 and 4,000 yens.

Express trains

Many of the Japanese Express trains have been stopped and upgraded to Limited Express or downgraded to Rapid. The JR Group operates the current Express trains, which means Japan Rail Pass holders can use them free of charge. All other passengers will be charged an additional fee.

The JR Pass also covers the main airport transfers , which are usually operated by express or limited express trains : Haneda International Airport ( Tokyo Monorail ), Narita International Airport ( Narita Express ), and Kansai International Airport ( Haruka Express ).

Rapid trains

Passengers will not be charged any extra fees when boarding a rapid train. A single train ride costs equally to one local train ride. The only difference is that rapid trains skip a few stops in comparison to the local one, which makes their time of arrival notably shorter.

Local trains

To ride a local train you will need to buy a regular ticket. No extra fee will be required. Local trains can either go from point A to point B or run at loop lines in both directions (like the Yamanote line in Tokyo or the Osaka loop line ), stopping at all stations. It is recommended not to take these trains for long distances as they are some of the slowest and least spacious in Japan.

Special trains

While most trains are geared toward commuting or business travel, there are many trains that are designed for tourists. In Japan, this type of train is broadly referred to as joyful trains .

The most popular trains are the various steam trains that run on more scenic lines. These mostly run on weekends and holidays and many operate only in the summer months. Many of them called character trains have been given unique designs to attract visitors to scenic locations.

This started with trains featuring characters popular with children, but more recently, prominent industrial designers have been recruited to design unique trains more appealing to adults.

One of the most recent tourist trains to debut in Japan is Kyushu’s 3.5- hour Coto Coto rolling restaurant train, launched in 2019.

Train tickets in Japan

Before explaining the ticket-buying process, let us focus on the train ticket options you will have with the different companies and services (you can also read our article about Train tickets in Japan for more detailed information):

The Japan Rail Pass

With the JR Pass , you can choose between a 7, 14 and 21-day pass, giving you access to all Japan Railways Group (JR) trains, buses, and ferry services available throughout Japan.

Japan rail passes

Book your Japan Rail Pass now

Standard train tickets

These are the regular tickets that will take you from point A to point B. For short distances, it is easier to purchase them from the ticket machines, which you can find easily on any platform.

IC cards  are prepaid rechargeable transportation cards, which can be used to pay your train or bus fare – similar to the London Oyster card, for example. Pasmo and Suica are the most popular transportation cards in Tokyo.

What is more, there is an increasing number of shops and restaurants where travelers can use an IC card to make a contactless payment.

Note : Please keep in mind that each Japanese city has its own prepaid travel card. The good news is that they are interchangeable, which means you can use your Tokyo Suica card on the Kyoto metro.

City passes

Many Japanese cities offer city passes that grant 24h unlimited access to any of the city transportation means such as trains, trams, buses, and metro. Such passes are also referred to as Day Pass. You can purchase them at a ticket counter in any of Japan’s big cities: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo, Nagoya, Hiroshima and more.

How to buy individual train tickets

Tickets for short-distance trips are sold at vending machines, whereas tickets for long-distance trips can be purchased at ticket counters.

First-timers might be puzzled by the typical Japanese ticket machines as grasping how to buy a ticket right from the beginning is not always easy. Don’t be scared! Here is our step-by-step guide to managing the Japanese ticket vending machines:

How to use the ticket vending machines

  • Locate the ticket vending area at your station. Typically there will be a big map above it.
  • Take a look at the map and find the name of your final destination. Tip :  The station you are currently at will be written with larger letters (usually red) and in some occasions indicated by a red arrow (“You are here” style). The map displays the names of the stations in both Japanese and English together with the price to get to each destination.
  • Once you know how much your trip will cost you, take a look at the machine screen.
  • Tap the “English” button on the top right corner of the screen for an English translation of the process.
  • One the left hand-side of the screen select the number of passengers.
  • If your final destination costs 200 ¥ (for example), select 200 on the screen (usually, you don’t choose the name of your destination but the price to get there).
  • You can also insert coins/notes first. If you have added 200 (¥), the screen will highlight in green the options for this amount.
  • Once you have selected the amount and inserted it, your ticket will be immediately printed and you will be given your  change (if any).

Even though it might seem complicated or too unfamiliar at first, don’t be discouraged. The second try will already be easier!

Note : Keep your ticket with you until the end of your trip. You will need it to get out at your destination station.

How to reserve train seats on Japanese trains

All Japan Rail Pass holders are entitled to free seat reservations . If you are a JR Pass holder, you can simply go to any of the ticket offices located at the stations, specify which train you are planning to take and that is all. You will be given a confirmation of your seat reservation within seconds.

The procedure is the same for passengers with no Japan Rail Passes. However, they will have to pay an extra fee. The exact amount depends on the selected type of train and class.

Note : Always remember that Japanese trains are punctual to the second. If you have a seat reservation, make sure to be at the station in advance.

Getting around Japanese train stations

Japan Rail Pass holders enter the train platforms at the station from a different gate than those with standard train tickets. To enter, JR Pass travelers should go to the glass booth located next to the gates  and show their JR Pass (and passport, if required) to the staff.

JR station ticket gate

When at the station waiting for your train, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  • Follow the queue like the Japanese do.
  • Make sure to check which is your track before boarding, as sometimes more than one train leaves from the same platform.
  • All the indications you need will be displayed on the monitors in both Japanese and English.
  • Stand in a straight line. Personal space and waiting behavior matter to the Japanese!
  • Follow the example of the Japanese when entering the train by first letting everyone get out.

Note : for more information about stations, please refer to our complete guide about Japanese train stations .

Where to store your luggage

Riding the trains with large suitcases is not recommended as there is little storage space provided on most trains. This excludes the Narita Express, which will take you to and from Narita Airport to central Tokyo, and the Haruka train. Both are well equipped for large luggage, however, the rest of the trains are not.

Shinkansen trains offer overhead storage compartments for regular luggage. Also,  there is space behind the last row of seats of each car. However, this space is limited, and there is no guarantee it will be available.

Check the Japan Railways regulations for Shinkansen luggage for full specifications.

Note : for more information about transporting luggage, please refer to our guide about  luggage forwarding and coin lockers .

Interior of a shinkansen bullet train

Other travel tips

It is important to understand that the Japanese follow a strict etiquette in public and especially when riding a train or taking a bus. Always bear in mind that speaking on the phone is not accepted, as you are disturbing those who surround you.

Listening to loud music, placing your bags on the seat next to you or not giving it up to the elderly, sick or pregnant is practically forbidden.

A final recommendation will be to enjoy to the fullest your time in Japan but always to be mindful of those around you.

Cover photo – Local train next to Ueno Station (Tokyo) – By @chucknado (Flickr)

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Hi! This information is great for first time travelers. However, I just want to clarify something. If we are carrying a JR pass and will ride a local train, do we have to buy a regular ticket? Is the local train not covered by the JR pass? Thanks!

Hi Inna, the Japan Rail Pass covers all JR Group limited express trains, express trains, rapid and local ones. Shinkansen bullet trains are also covered, except of NOZOMI and MIZUHO. However, you have access to the ‘Hikari’ or ‘Sakura’ Shinkansen that cover the same routes. The Hikari and Sakura bullet trains reach the same top speed as the Nozomi and Mizuho trains and use the same type of actual train, but have more stops along each route. For example, from Tokyo to Kyoto, the Hikari takes 15mins more than the equivalent Nozomi. Happy travels!

Hi: Which JR train can I take from Haneda airport to Shinagawa Station in Tokyo. I need to go to shinagawa to take the JR train to kyoto. How do I reserve seats on the same day if I am exchanging the JR pass when I arrive?

From Haneda Airport you can take the Tokyo Monorail, which is included in your Japan Rail Pass . Hamamatsucho Station (first station on the Yamanote Line , which will take you straight to Shinagawa Station) is reached in as little as 13 minutes.

Japan Rail Pass holders are entitled to book a seat on all Japan Railways trains free of charge. All seats should be booked before boarding the train. The JR Group does not allow to change to a reserved seat once you have boarded the train. Here’s how to book a seat :

1. Please take your Japan Rail Pass to the JR Ticket Office. 2. Once at the ticket office, you will be asked about your destination and preferred departure time. 3. You will be handed your reserved seat ticket, stating departure time, arrival time, train name, car and seat.

Happy travels!

Kristy, my daughter is studying in Tokyo right now. My other daughter and I will be traveling over to see her in a few weeks. We want to buy the JR Pass as we will be traveling down to Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima. I have read she is not eligible 🙁 but can she still reserve a seat with us if we all go to reserve together? I don’t want her to have to sit alone?? Any suggestions for us?

Hi, thank you for all the helpful information. Is 24 inch luggage OK to bring into trains or too big? I prefer to have my luggage with me when travelling from city to city, but worry my 24 inch luggage may be too big to bring into the trains.

Hi Angela! Travellers are allowed luggage on board of Shinkansen bullet trains for no additional cost. However, there is a limitation of two pieces of luggage, both of which should have a maximum weight of 60kg and a total of 250 cm in height, length and width. There is a delivery service option.

Hi, I will be arriving and departing from Chubu Centrair International Airport. Does the Japan Rail Pass cover the μ Sky Limited Express?

Thank you for any information.

Hi LaToya! Unfortunately there is no Japan Rail Pass access to Chubu International Airport. Happy travels!

Hi! Traveling in March 2019. we arrive at Narita at 3:00 pm and would like to travel to Kyoto on our arrival date. Planning to purchase the jrailpass… having a difficult time locating the train schedule. We want to make sure we don’t spend to much time waiting or miss the last train to Kyoto… any help is appreciated. Also, is it safe to arrive at night? Thank you!

Hi R! We sstrongly recommend you to check Hyperdia , the number 1 Japanese online transportation planning tool. Hyperdia offers detailed timetables, platform information, trip duration and exact distance, which will help you greatly in organizing your trips in Japan. You will even be able of filtering transportation included in your Japan Rail Pass 😉

Does the JR pass cover the Romancecar? If not, is there a list of all the services which are covered by the JR pass?

Hi Jacob! Do you mean the Sagano Scenic Railway , Kyoto’s romantic train? The Japan Rail Pass won’t cover this ride, however you will be entitled to travel to Saga-Arashiyama Station with it – the journey starts from that station!

Dear JL Pass,

We are planning to visit Japan in April for 2 weeks as below: Tokyo (6 days), Kyoto (4 day so), Osaka (2 days), Hiroshima (2 days). We would like to use JLPass but I wonder if it covers all the bullet trains from the city to city such as from Tokyo to Kyoto, from Kyoto to Osaka, from Osaka to Hiroshima OR from Hiroshima back to Tokyo? Thank you in advance for your time and looking forward to hearing your advice/ recommendation! By the way, I do appreciate your effort to answer all the concerned questions! ??

Yes, the Japan Rail Pass will cover all yur mentioned city-to-city trips. We recommend you to check our related articles for further detail:

Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka with the JR Pass How to go from Osaka to Kyoto Discover Hiroshima with the JR Pass

Hi, We’re visiting Japan in April and will be visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Hiroshima, Takayama and Kanazawa before returning to Tokyo. As our travel dates and times are fixed can we book all our tickets in one go or do you recommend that we book each separately the day before we travel? We plan on using the 21 day JR Green pass. Thanks

Hi Glyn! All Japan Rail Pass holders are entitled to reserve seats on the trains they plan to ride. This can be done from the moment you exchange your pass in Japan. Happy travels!

Hi, I will be visiting Japan from 5th to 11th February. I will be arriving at Narita Airport. Would like to check if the 7-day Japan Rail Pass covers the following destinations I intend to visit:

Tokyo -> Osaka Osaka -> Kobe Osake -> Hiroshima

Yes, the Japan Rail Pass covers them all:

– Tokyo and Osaka are connected by the Tokaido Shinkansen line. – You have two options when traveling from Osaka to Kobe using the JR Pass. You may take the Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Shin-Kobe Station. This trip lasts approximately 15 minutes. Alternatively, you may take a JR Special Rapid Train from Osaka Station to the Kobe Sannomiya Station, with a trip duration of around 20 minutes. – To get to Hiroshima from Osaka city center, take the JR Haruka Express to Shin-Osaka Station, then transfer to the Sanyo Shinkansen line (westbound, Hikari trains). This trip takes approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Hello, Four of us will be arriving in Haneda, international flight, on a Saturday afternoon, 3:40 PM, then wish to take the fastest bullet train to Kyoto; coming back to Tokyo no rush so we would use the JR rail pass. In your opinion, would we find seats on Nozomi on a Saturday afternoon/evening? Alternatively, we could take the Hikari to Kyoto(2 hr 40 min?), would we find seats on a Saturday afternoon/evening? Also, does the JR rail pass include train travel between Tokyo and Hitachi seaside park? Thank you!

Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen bullet trains (both reserved and non-reserved) are not included with the JR Pass . However, there are Nozomi and Mizuho alternatives which passengers can access with the JR Pass. Typically, Hikari and Sakura trains only make a few more stops than Nozomi or Mizuho trains so they do not take too much longer to reach Osaka or Kyoto from Tokyo . For example, traveling to Osaka from Tokyo takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes by Nozomi, or just over 3 hours by Hikari.

Hello, I’ve found a place to stay near Tokyo. But it is located near Station IkebukuroーOhyama. The address is in Itabashi-ku. Can I use my JRPass up to Yamanote Line using only my Pass. Anh how long with the travel take? Thanj you so very much. Please answer me quickly. Cristina from Canada

Hi Cristina!

There are five Tokyo railway lines that travelers can use with their JR Pass: Yamanote line , Chuo line, Keihin-Tohoku line, Sobu line and Saikyo line. Besides, the Tokaido Shinkansen trains stop at Tokyo, Ueno, and Shinagawa stations. These are the only lines you can take at no additional cost with your Japan Rail Pass .

Hi there! If we use the JR pass for Narita Express, is it counted as DAY 1 of the pass usage already? Thank you!

Hi Karen! Yes, the first time you use the Japan Rail Pass already counts as the first day. Happy travels!

Good morning, I have JR Pass and I plan to go to Sapporo Hokkaido by Shinkansen. is there a direct Shinkansen from Tokyo to Sapporo or I will need to change trains? Would you kindly show me how and where to make transfer easier and how many transfer do I need to do? Please also kindly show me what website I can find shinkansen timetable for Tokyo to Sapporo. …. Thank you so much. Euro from USA

Hi Eurosong! Travel to Sapporo by train is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass. This is an affordable option with the added bonus of views of much of the Japanese countryside. From Tokyo Station, take the JR Tohoku / Hokkaido Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate Station. From there, you will take the Hokuto limited express or Super Hokuto trains to Sapporo Station. Both are covered by the Japan Rail Pass . Happy travels!

Hi, I will be arriving in Narita Intl airport on 1st Dec, morning. I plan to visit Kyoto and Hakone. My trip starts on saturday morning and ends on Monday evening in Yokohama. Effectively I have got 3 days. How do i plan out? Will the JR pass make sense? Thanks

Hi Junaid! The JR Pass gives you unlimited access to all Japan Rail National trains, JR bus services, ferry services, and airport transfers. A 7-day JR Pass only costs ¥29.110 which is actually cheaper than a return ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto on a Shinkansen bullet train. This means that if you make just one long-distance trip you can already save money. If you make multiple trips then you start saving thousands of yen.

Thank you for such detailed and informative article. We are planning a trip to Japan next summer for 10 days. This will be our first time there and I would really appreciate all the information that I can get in regards to the transportation system. We will be spending the first half of our trip in Tokyo (Shinjuku is where we’re going to stay) flying into Narita Airport. Then, we wanted to take a bullet train to visit Kyoto for about 3 days. We would need to go back to Tokyo again for our last night because our departing flight will be at Haneda Airport. We plan on getting around using the public transportations (trains, buses, etc) that Japan offers, but I am pretty confused on what would be more cost efficient to purchase. Would it make sense to purchase the Japan Rail Pass for our last 7 days and then just individually buy subway tickets for the first couple of days we’re there? If I do buy the Japan Rail Pass, do I need to purchase it way ahead of time or can I purchase it when we get to Japan? How much is a two-way trip bullet train trip from Tokyo-Kyoto? I tried searching for that information, but haven’t had luck on finding it.

Again, any information would be very helpful. Please advise. Thank you so much!

Hi, We are 2 adults and 2 children (6 and 1 year old) traveling in Japan in December. We’ll be arriving in Osaka, then we will visit: Nara Koya-San Kumano Kodo Hiroshima Kyoto Tokyo We’ll spend 14 days. Do you suggest to buy 14 days JRPass? Does it cover all these destinations? Thank you very much

Hi, I am going to Japan for the first time. I will be arriving in KIX and staying in Osaka for a few days before moving to Kyoto, then Kanazawa, then Takayama, then Nagoya, then Nara and finally back to Osaka for flight via KIX.

As I am travelling with my family, can I carry luggages on the train when I travel between Osaka – Kyoto – Kanazawa – Takayama – Nagoya – Nara – Osaka.

Thanks Tom, Malaysia

Hi Tom! Travellers are allowed luggage on board of Shinkansen bullet trains at no additional cost. However, there is a limitation of two pieces of luggage, both of which should have a maximum weight of 60kg and a total of 250 cm in height, length and width. There is a delivery service option. Happy travels!

hi there, Firstly thanks for this blog, very useful info to understand the basic info on there train systems! We are travelling in japan in January 2019. Just wanting to know if JR pass will be suitable for all the following? 4-7: Osaka local travel (staying in dontoburi, travel to universal studios) 6: – day trip to kyoto (shrines, temples, etc.) 7:- travel osaka to hakuba (looks like osaka to kyoto, and nagayo to either nagano or matsumoto is covered by JR. However kyoto to nagayo is shinkansen nozumi which is not included in JR?) 12 – travel Hakuba to Shibuyu, Tokyo (possibly bus to nagano then shinkansen to tokyo) 12-14: local tokyo travel (i.e. shinjuku) 15 – shibuyu to narita (need to be at airport prior to 9am, is this peak hour?)

Also we will be travelling with our snowboard bags and suitcase each – is that too much luggage for train travel?

Thanks in advance!

Dear JRail Pass team,

we will arrive on 24th October to Tokyo. Our JRPass ordered and we plant to pick up it in Tokyo Main station. We would like to visit Kyoto (on 26th October) and Mt. Fuji (on 27th of October). Would you be so kind as to give me a suggested itinerary for these routes?

Many thanks in advance.

best regards, Géza

Sure – please find below our best suggestions for those locations:

Things to do in Kyoto: travel guide Mount Fuji from Tokyo: Day trip itinerary

We hope you enjoy your stay!

I’ll be travelling to japan in December for 2 weeks, our itinerary would be :

11th- 17th : Tokyo (Shin-okubo) 17th- 19th: Tokyo > Kyoto (Otsu) 19th – 21th: Kyoto > Osaka 21th- 24th: Osaka > Tokyo

There will be 5 of us and we will reach HND airport at 5am in the morning on the 11th. However i am unsure if i should get the JR Railway pass for 7days ( for kyoto and osaka) or would it be more cost-efficient if i get it for the full 14 days? Will travelling around tokyo be sufficient if i just purchased the subway pass? Please advice!

Hi Angelina! For the time you will be staying in Tokyo, if you are not travelling to the outskirts an IC Prepaid card should be sufficient. Regarding the days you will be travelling between cities, the 7-day Japan Rail Pass should be a perfect fit.

Hello JRailPass Team,

We are going to travel from Sendai to Aomori. When we checked on Hyperdia, it shows the route as follows: (Sendai – Morioka – Hachinohe – Aomori)

From Morioka to Hachinohe, it uses Iwate Galaxy/Aoimori Railway for Hachinohe. Meanwhile, from Hachinohe to Aomori, it uses Aomori Railway for Aomori.

We understand that there is a statement in JR pass brochure saying the below: The JR Pass covers Aomori Railway between Hachinohe and Aomori, Aomori and Noheji, or Hachinohe and Noheji (valid only for use on ordinary trains.)

Therefore, we would like to confirm with you if JR pass holder is able to take Iwate Galaxy/Aoimori Railway for Hachinohe and Aomori Railway for Aomori.

Yes the Japan Rail Pass should cover these local and limited express trains. Please check with the seat reservation counters in case you might have to pay an extra fee.

have a good time for olympic games I am very sorry that you all having it in place of the big croud of people in toyko olympics again thank you trains for invites for the team on the trains

wishing very well jr train mission travel and good night.

from gillian

Hi we are travelling to Japan arriving at Narita. When we arrive we have to travel to Yokohama for our first night. We then cruise for 8 days and on our return we would like to go to Kyoto for two nights. Is purchasing the Japan railway pass our cheapest option or should we just pay for the individual travel to Yokohama from Narita then Yokohama to Kyoto return?

Hi Jodi! The Japan Rail Pass may not be the best option for you since the scope of validity of the pass are 7 consecutive days. Considering you will be spending 8 days on a cruise and need to use it before and after it, it wouldn’t pay off.

Hello there 🙂

We’re first time travellers to Jap and will be covering these areas – We’ll land in Osaka stay for 6days with day trips to Kyoto and Nara, followed by Tokyo for 5days. We’re not likely to travel out from Tokyo.

I would like to check: 1. is JR Pass is necessary for us? 2. does the JR pass include the airport train Narita express if we were to travel from Osaka to Tokyo?

thanks and hope to hear from u soon!

You can always buy individual train tickets but the JR Pass would save you costs! It does include the Narita Express at any time, the trains from Osaka to Kyoto and Nara, the Osaka loop line and other local JR lines, and the Tokyo Yamanote loop line and other JR lines, and most importantly the bullet train Osaka-Tokyo (which would be the most expensive ticket). With that in mind, is up to you where to choose the 14-day pass or to choose the 7-day pass and activate it before leaving for Tokyo.

Have a nice trip!

Hi JRailPass Team, Appreciate the effort you take in answering all the questions of us.

I will be travelling to Japan on November 10th to 19th 2018 and will be purchasing the JR pass. I need your help in guiding me on how do i travel from Tokyo-Shinjuku to Mount Fuji, and from Mount Fuji to Osaka

Hi Desmond! Thank you for your nice words 🙂 Please check our article Mount Fuji from Tokyo: Day trip itinerary to get further insight on this magical location. We hope you like it!

I will be travelling to Japan on October 24 and staying until November 3. I will be purchasing a JR pass but would like some help. My plan is to visit several cities/prefectures but I am a little confused what are the limitations are to use of the pass. I understand not all trains will be available to me as well as not all buses. But can can you give me some information:

1. Where can I find schedules for the different trains/buses? I prefer to be travelling at night when going from 1 place to another to save up on time.

The plan is: Nagoya > Kyoto Kyoto > Osaka Osaka > Tokyo

2. Are there overnight trains/buses that I can use the JR Pass?

Can you provide some information on this please. Thank you

Hi Dionne! The most updated schedules can be found at Hyperdia , the number 1 Japanese online transportation planning tool. Regarding sleeper trains, the Japan Rail Pass will generally cover the base fare on overnight trains .

Hello With my partner, I will be travelling to Japan this October. It’s our first trip and we’d like to know whether Japan Rail operates on all of the lines we want to travel, and so whether a JP pass would be a good idea for us. We will stay for a week in Tokyo, then set off to Yakushima island for a few days, then on to Naoshima island, then Kyoto, and finally back to Tokyo. Does a travel pass with JP cover all connections? Thanks Niels

To get from Tokyo to Yakushima island you can take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Kagoshima. The trip will last approximately 8 hours and requires several train transfers, but is completely covered by the JR Pass . From Kagoshima, you can take a boat or ferry to the island. To get to Naoshima island you will first need to reach Okayama, which is easy with your pass. From Okayama Station , take the JR Uno Line to Uno Station. From Uno Station, walk across the street to the ferry terminal. Please not that the ferry passage is not included in the JR Pass and costs ¥290 one way.

Naoshima is easily connected to Kyoto. You will just need to walk back all the path to Okayama Stations and once there you will just need to take the Hikari train on the JR Tokaido / Sanyo Shinkansen Line to Kyoto Station .

We are leaving Kyoto for Kanazawa on Sept. 29th. How long will that trip take? How often do these trains run? Also are are trains starting 9AM – 11AM. We would also like to know the same for the trip from Kanazawa to Takayama on Oct. 1st. and Takayama to Hakone on Oct. 3rd. Thank you.

The Limited Express Thunderbird, included in your Japan Rail Pass , connects Kyoto Staton to JR Kanazawa Station. Regarding Takayama and Kanazawa, there is no direct train line between them. Take an early Wide View Hida Limited Express Train from Takayama to JR Toyama Station, and then make your way to the Hokuriku Shinkansen which will take you all the way to JR Kanazawa Station.

Regarding the duration and time of trips in concrete days, please make sure to check Hyperdia . Hyperdia offers detailed timetables, platform information, trip duration and exact distance, which will help you greatly in organizing your trips in Japan.

Hi, If i buy jr pass for trip from tokyo to osaka, am I entitle for free ride from haneda airport to shinjuku as well as from osaka to kansai airport? Or it is just a one way free ride

Hi Wawanadjwa! The Japan Rail Pass is a multi-use all-you-can-ride discounted rail ticket. It gives you unlimited access to all Japan Rail National trains, as well as JR bus services, ferry services, and airport transfers during the time the pass is valid. Unlimited trips are valid with this pass, both one way and return trips. Enjoy your stay!

We plan on coming to Japan but the train is confusing to me can you tell me if JR rail pass will cover the below? Can you also tell me which train line we have to take?

a. our train ride from NRT to Shinjuku b. Our train ride around the city of Tokyo c. Our train ride from Tokyo to Osaka d. our train ride from Osaka to Nara e. Our train ride from Nara to Kyoto f. Our train ride from Kyoto to Tokyo

Hi Satwinder!

The Japan Rail Pass will fully cover all your itinerary:

– To go from Narita Airport to Shinjuku please take the Narita Express . – When in Tokyo, the JR Pass affords access to five main Tokyo railway lines: the Yamanote Line , the Keihin-Tohoku Line , the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keio line, JR Musashino line, JR Nambu line and JR Yokohama line. – Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are connected with by the Tokaido Shinkansen line, included with the Japan Rail Pass. – In order to get from Kyoto to Nara , begin at Kyoto Station. Take the Miyakoji Rapid Train, on the JR Nara line to JR Nara Station. – Begin your trip from Osaka to Nara at the JR Osaka Station. Take the Yamatoji Rapid Train to JR Nara Station.

I have some questions on getting from Narita to Tokyo. I will be landing July 1st at 9pm in Narita and would need to get to Nippori to the hotel, would the Narita Express not work? Or would I have to take the JR Line? If so, how exactly does that line work?

Also: 1. I will be traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto what is the best way to get around Kyoto? 2. I will be traveling to Kyoto, back to Tokyo, staying there for a couple of days and then heading to Osaka, what is the best pass to get? I know there are separate Kansai passes but they are CONFUSING, since I also want to use the JR pass WITHIN Tokyo? What is the specific name of the pass I should get?

Thank you so much!

I have a client who would like to take a train from Kyoto to Sapporo and a few days later take a train from Sapporo to Tokyo. Can you tell me how long those train rides would take and would he have to change trains. Also can he make reservations in advance and if so how can he do that?

To get from Tokyo to Sapporo he will need to take the JR Tohoku / Hokkaido Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate Station from Tokyo Station . From Shin-Hakodate Station, he will take the Hokuto limited express or Super Hokuto trains to Sapporo Station. Both are covered by the Japan Rail Pass and the whole journey will take 8 hours.

The journey by train from Kyoto to Sapporo takes around 11 hours. From Kyoto Station , take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Tokyo Station. Then, proceed from Tokyo Station as described above. This is a great use of your JR Pass , as a one-week pass costs several thousand yen less than would the individual train fares.

Hi, we arrive in Haneda airport at 1730 on Tuesday March 27th. Will we have enough time to get to JR office to exchange our vouchers? I checked and they close at 1830. I looked on HYPERDIA what train to take from Haneda airport to Kyoto. It gave me different options with three to 6 transfers! I picked 3 transfer option which was the least transfer option: Walk from terminal 1 to the domestic terminal at the airport Take bus, Fare: 580 Yokohama track #4 JR Keihin-Tohoku/Negishi line local for Minami-Urawa Higashi-Kanagawa JR Yokohama line local for Hachioji Shin-Yokohama Shinkansen Hikari 533 Kyoto So do I have to take a bus before taking the train and do I need to pay for the bus or is that included in the JR pass? What time do JR trains start running from Tokyo to Kyoto and from Kyoto to Tokyo and what’s the latest time they stop running? I can’t find this information on HYPERDIA. Is it easier to go from Haneda airport to Kyoto in the evening or from Kyoto to Nareta airport very early in the morning?

If travelling with a Japan Rail Pass , from Haneda Airport you can easily reach central Tokyo at no additional cost in the Tokyo Monorail . It will take you straight to Monorail Hamamatsucho Station which facilitates transfer to the JR Keihin-Tohoku line. Then you just need to get off at Shinagawa Station and there you will be able to take the Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line that will take you all straight to Kyoto. All is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

The most updated information on timetables, tracks and trains can always be found at Hyperdia – the number 1 Japanese online transportation planning tool.

We hope you enjoy your trip!

Hi, I will come to Japan on April 2018 I need to buy a Rail Pass but I don’t understand after pay online how or where I receive an Exchange Order if is a printable Email or is send to me in a regular postal mail or I need to take from a JR office in the airport thanks chris

The Japan Rail Pass cannot be emailed nor scanned or photographed. Due to the strict regulations of the Japanese Government, it is required to present the physical Exchange Order at any of the exchange offices in Japan.

Hi, i am travelling fr kansei to kyoto, then internal travel to see sights iwthin kyoto, then travel to osaka, and back to kansei airport. Which is the best pass to get? Or which combination is best?

The Japan Rail Pass works nation-wide and thus you would be able to use it in your whole mentioned itinerary:

– From Kansai Airport you can easily reach Kyoto in the Haruka Express . – From Kyoto to Osaka just take the Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. – While in Osaka, you will be entitled to make full use of the Osaka Loop Line . – From Osaka to Kansai Airport you can also take the Haruka Express.

Hello, we will arrive at Narita Mar 29, leaving Narita Apr 09. We plan to stay in Tokyo (2 of us, my husband and I) from Mar 29 – Apr 02 and then to travel to Osaka Apr 02 – 08 where we will do several day trips for example to Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima. We will then come back to Tokyo Apr 08 for our last night, leaving the evening of Apr 09. We are wondering if it is better to buy a 72-hour Tokyo Metro Pass, then a 7-day JR Pass, then a 24-hour Tokyo pass? Or if a 14-day JR Pass would make more sense?

Also, if we are not activating/using the JR Pass until Apr 02, does that mean we cannot reserve seats until that activation date for our day trips?

Last, if we need to go from Narita to Tokyo Shinjuku Station and the reverse, but during the dates do not have the JR Pass active, how do we do that on the trains and what is the cost? N’Ex, is it included in the 72-hour or 24-hour Tokyo passes?

Thank you!!

To assess which is the ticket option that makes more sense in your case, we think the best would be to check the individual prices of each ticket at Hyperdia and compare them to the price of the Japan Rail Pass . Depending on the amount of trips and the distance you want to travel, even the longest validity pass could be cost-effective.

To book a seat it is essential to have your actual Japan Rail Pass (exchanged). However, should you have already exchanged your trip you will be able to book your seats in advance before its activation date . What this implies is that if you already have your itinerary mapped out, you can make seat reservations for your entire stay in Japan.

There is no limitation to the number of times a JR holder can use Narita Express , whereas other transportation cards like SUICA, are not valid for the service. A single ticket in N’EX from Narita Airport to Shinjuku Station costs 3,190¥ (standard class) or 4,730¥ (first class).

I will be travelling to Tokyo from 13-21 April,I will be landing on 14 April 8am+ and my flight return will be on 21st 11am+. So if I choose JR pass 7 days pass,it is able to cover?7-8 days…then first and last day will need to take NEX train back and forth from the Narita airport.

Secondly,if I buy the JR pass online,then I need to exchange the ticket at Narita Airport?where to exchange?

Thanks and look forward to your reply

Regards Keiyee

Hi Kei Yee!

The Japan Rail Pass validity period is calculated in days, not in hours. Therefore, if you have purchased a 7-day pass and your activation date (when you first use the pass) is the 14th of April, the exact expiration time will be midnight on April 20.

To activate your Japan Rail Pass , please go to any JR Exchange Office . They are spread through most Japanese Airports, such as Narita and Haneda. You can also find them at all the main train stations, located across the country.

Thanks for your reply.

Do you have any recommendations on the suggestion itinerary for 3 days two nights at Kyoto/Osaka? We will be staying at Kyoto, what’s Isa the better way to travel around there in order to save time/cost?

Thanks Kei yee

We recommend you to check our recommended itineraries thorughout the whole country and adapt them to the time you have available, specially the last days described in our 10 days in Japan: Travel itinerary article.

We hope you enjoy Japan!

Could you please advise, whether the JR Yamanote line goes in both directions or would I need to make a whole circle if I would need to go to the previous station?

The Yamanote is a circular line that connects Tokyo’s major city centers. Trains run in both directions.

Enjoy your trip.

Thanks very much for the very helpful article. I just wanted to confirm something with you since I was having a hard time finding a clear indication of the policy on this. I will be landing in Osaka-Kansai airport, and was planning to spend a few days around Osaka/Kyoto before heading to Tokyo. If I purchase a ticket from Kansai airport to Osaka (LTD-Express Haruka 54), Then a Shinkansen Nozomi to Tokyo(stopping at Kyoto) would I be able to do the following: Saturday: Land (at evening) at Kansai, take Haruka to Osaka Sunday evening or Monday morning: Train to Kyoto (Shinkansen Nozomi) Tuesday evening: Shinkansen Nozomi from Kyoto to Tokyo, without purchasing another ticket

ie, the question is, can I ‘separate’ a Shinkansen Nozomi single-fare train ticket from Osaka to Tokyo by a day or two in Kyoto, using the several days’ worth validity on it given the distance between Osaka and Tokyo?

Would this be possible? And, would it be what you recommend or do you have a better alternative in mind?

The Japan Rail Pass is valid on the Kodama, Hikari and Sakura types of Shinkansen, but is not valid on the Nozomi and Mizuho classes. You will not have access to the ‘Nozomi’ and ‘Mizuho’ Shinkansen that are the fastest trains on the Tokaido and Sanyo lines. However, you have access to the ‘Hikari’ or ‘Sakura’ Shinkansen that cover the same routes. The Hikari and Sakura bullet trains reach the same top speed as the Nozomi and Mizuho trains and use the same type of actual train, but have more stops along each route. For example, from Tokyo to Kyoto, the Hikari takes 15mins more than the equivalent Nozomi.

I will be going to Tokyo over the marathon weekend, and then leave to Kyoto straight after the marathon. From Kyoto I will visit Nara and Osaka over the course of 3 days and will then fly to Hokkaido from Osaka. Since I will only be travelling by train over the course of those 4 days (I will be renting a car in Hokkaido) I am unsure which rail pass to buy. Buying the 7-day pass seems excessive, so I thought of buying the Kansai Pass and then separately buy a one way ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto – does this make sense economically? Or would it be cheaper to actually buy the 7-day pass for those 4 days?

To assess if the Japan Rail Pass is the most cost effective ticket for your trip, we recommend you to check at Hyperdia which would be the cost of the individual ticket. When you have this detail you will be able to compare this price to the nation-wide pass price.

Information on your page entitled “Where to Store Your Luggage” is CONFUSING! We are a family of 9 planning to use the Shinkansen Hikari to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto in October of 2018. We will have large piece of luggage, but your information about large luggage on the Shinkansen seems to conflict with each other. One part says “Riding the trains with large suitcases is not recommended as there is little storage provided on most trains…..” Then it says, “Shinkansen trains offer overhead compartments for regular luggage….” Well, what is considered “regular” luggage. Then the same article continues with “The Japan Railways regulations state the following: each passenger can carry 2 pieces of large luggage….each suitcase should not exceed 30 kg in total…..the total of the luggage’s dimensions should add up to 250 cm. maximum…..” I am confused: so does this mean that the Shinkansen WILL ACCEPT large luggage? And if so, where will they store it?

Travellers are allowed luggage on board of Shinkansen bullet trains at no additional cost. However, there is a limitation of two pieces of luggage, both of which should have a maximum weight of 60kg and a total of 250 cm in height, length and width.

Hello Im from Malaysia and will travel to Japan this coming october a few questions to ask if you dont mind.. 1) If i wish to travel in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, which JR pass that suits my trip ? Or any better recommendation other than JR pass?

2) If i Buy the JR East pass, is It possible to ride on shinkansen from Tokyo to hokkaido which means direct to Hakodate? Is It includedbin jr east pass?

3) how about going to osaka from Tokyo or to Kyoto?is It possible to use jr east pass ?

4) which pass jr offer to use in osaka and kyoto? Or any better recommendation other than jr pass?

Thank you in advance

The Japan Rail Pass would cover all your itinerary:

– Transfers from main airports to Japan’s biggest cities (it covers Narita Express from Narita Airport, Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport and Haruka Express from Kansai Airport). – During your stay in Tokyo, the JR Pass affords access to five different local railway lines: the Yamanote Line , the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines. – Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are connected with by the Tokaido Shinkansen line, included with the Japan Rail Pass. – In Osaka you will be entitled to fully use the Osaka Loop Line . – Sapporo, capital of the northern island of Hokkaido, is fully reachable with your Japan Rail Pass. Visit our guide to check the route depending on the city you are travelling from.

Please note that none JR East Pass covers both Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka.

Hello, we are going to Tokyo Narita on 23rd April and we will stay for 10 days in Japan. We will also stay in Kyoto for two nights, then return to Tokyo and fly back home from Narita. I was thinking of getting a Japan Rail Pass (or activate it) after we have been three days in Tokyo, to explore the city first and then use it on the last 7 days. We plan to visit Mount Fuji with one of the Azusa Trains (limited express) to Otsuki (and then with Suica Card to the rest of the Fujikyko Line) and also Matsumoto from Tokyo. For Kyoto and back, we’d choose the Hikari bullet Train. In my opinion, the JR Pass would already save us some money on the mentioned routes. As the JR Pass does not cover all tracks, I wanted to get a Suica Card for like Tokyo or Kyoto Metro and the main private lines. Do you think this makes sense to combine JR Pass and Suica?

Hi Sabrina!

It makes perfect sense to combine a nation-wide Japan Rail Pass and a SUICA/PASMO Card for local transportation. The Japan Rail Pass tends to be more cost effective the more you travel and the longer the distance. A round trip between Tokyo and Kyoto could cost between 26,000 and 27,000 yen. Given that the 7-day standard Japan Rail Pass has a cost of 29,110 yen, adding very few rides you are already saving money. In your case you will also be entitled to use:

– The Narita Express between Narita Airport and Tokyo city center (which already costs between 3,020 and 6,160 yen depending on the station you want to travel). – The trip to Mount Fuji through the Gotemba trail is almost fully covered. – You will also be able to travel to Matsumoto at no additional cost: from Tokyo Station, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station or Ueno Station to Nagano (the fastest train is called Kagayaki). From there you can easily reach Matsumoto by train on the JR Shinonoi Line.

If you want to plan your itinerary taking into account times and costs of each trip we recommend you to check Hyperdia , the number 1 Japanese online transportation planning tool.

Enjoy your trip!

Hello, we are a party of 4 and will be planning to travel to Tokyo to Kyoto and then Osaka. We will each have one full size luggage and one hand-carry. Will we be able to bring it with us on the Hikari train from Tokyo to Kyoto station?

Travellers are allowed luggage on board for no additional cost in Shinkansen bullet trains . However, there is a limitation of two pieces of luggage, both of which should have a maximum weight of 60kg and a total of 250 cm in height, length and width. There is a delivery service option. Please note the Japan Rail Pass you be enough to travel between Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka .

Very happy travels!

Greetings jrailpass My name is franky and there is a lot of question that i want to ask (I already buy 7 days JR pass for my trip at 5-12 december 2017) I have make ittenary for 8 day 5-7 december at tokyo stay near Uguisudani Station 7-8 december at takayama (stay there) and seeight seeing at shirakawa 8-10 december stay at osaka (hotel diamond Taishi, Nishinari Ward, Osaka)

Question 1. Would you tell me what is the name of the station are for these spot ( i hope nearest the JR pass station) – Tokyo : tokyo imperial palace, tokyo skytree, asakusa, sensojji temple, ueno park, meiji shrine, odaiba (diver city), mount fuji, rainbow bridge – Takayama / Shirakawa go : hida no sato, old house, samurai statue, observatroy point, ogimachi village – Kyoto : kinkakuji temple, fushimi inari taisha, gion, the sagano bamboo forest, – Osaka : osaka castle, universal studio, shinsekai, shinsaibashihsuji street, dotonburi, umeda sky building, tempozan feris wheel 2. I will arrive at narita international airport terminal 1, how do i get to Uguisudani Station from narita (use JR pass) 3. Please give me advised about my trip, is there is a change i visit those spot (no 1) 4. Is JR pass can use for night train ? Thank you very much for your attention

Find below the answers to your questions:

– To move around the city of Tokyo the JR Pass affords access to five different Tokyo railway lines: the Yamanote Line , the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines. – Takayama is easy to access using your Japan Rail Pass, you can read all the details in our article Takayama and the Japanese Alps: Travel guide with the JR Pass . – Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are connected with by the Tokaido Shinkansen line, included with the Japan Rail Pass. – When in Osaka, you will be granted full, unlimited access to the Osaka Loop Line . – From Narita airport you will be able to take the Narita Express to central Tokyo.

Should you want to discover more spots to visit we strongly recommend you to surf through our blog 🙂

We are planning a 6 days trip to Japan. We will fly in at Kansai Airport and fly out from Narita airport. We will stay in Kansai area for 4 days, station at Osaka and make days trips to Kyoto, Nara, Kobe. Then we will take the Hikari Shinkansen (one way) to Tokyo and stay there for 2 days. We are thinking of buying a 4 days JR West Kansai area pass. Will the JR West pass be good enough for the stay? or should we purchase a JR pass instead. Does this JR West Kansai pass cover the Hikari Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo?

Thx and regards Cindy

The JR West Kansai Pass won’t cover your whole trip. Should you travel with this pass you wouldn’t be entitled to take the Hikari Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo, Tokyo’s internal lines or the final transfer from Tokyo to Narita Airport. We would recommend you to check which would be the individual cost of those trips at Hyperdia and compare it to the cost of the nation-wide Japan Rail Pass .

The Japan Rail Pass would definately allow you to make all the mentioned trips:

– From Kansai Airport you will be entitled to travel in the Haruka Express straight to Osaka. – While in Osaka, you will have full acess to the Osaka Loop Line which “loops,” or circles, through downtown Osaka. – Travelling between Kyoto and Osaka is as easy as pie with the Japan Rail Pass: just take the Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. You will get between Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station in less than 30 minutes. – Begin your trip from Osaka to Nara at the JR Osaka Station. Take the Yamatoji Rapid Train to JR Nara Station. These trains run once per hour; the trip lasts around 45 minutes and is covered by the JR Pass. – When traveling from Osaka to Kobe using the JR Pass, you may take the Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Shin-Kobe Station. – To get from Osaka to Toyko, you will need to take either the Hikari bullet train or Kodama from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo or Shinagawa stations in central Tokyo. Both run on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. – When in Tokyo, the JR Pass affords access to five different Tokyo railway lines: the Yamanote Line , the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines. – And last but not least, you will be entitled to take the Narita Express from central Tokyo to Narita Airport.

We hope you enjoy your visit!

Hello,. We are having trip to Japan on Nov 26 to Dec 4 and we are planning to purchase the JR pass. we will be staying in Hilton Tokyo bay in Maihama which is quite far from the Tokyo center. Can you guide us what train to take if we are going to shinjuku graciery hotel?how about to tsukiji market? Shibuya stn? and if we want to go to lake lake kawaguchi from Maihama tokyo bay? And froM Maihama to Kyoto station? Thanks

We strongly recommend to check all these routes at Hyperdia – a website, iOS app and Android app, that can be used as a guide to any city/town/village in Japan. Alternatively please check our article 7 best apps for traveling in Japan which is dedicated to the most useful apps to check while traveling in Japan.

Traveling to Japan. Our itinerary is Fly into Narita then travel to Osaka.

From Osaka, we are planning day trips to Kyoto and Hiroshima.

Then return back to Tokyo. Our total trip is 7 days.

Questions: – Should we buy a 7 day rail pass? – Is there a train from Narita airport down to Osaka or do we need to travel from the airport west to Tokyo to grab the train to Osaka.

First, we would recommend you to take the 7-day pass since you are planning to go to Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo as well, so you would be making savings. To compare the prices of all the alternatives, check Hyperdia app or website. Also, the best way to get from Narita Airport to Osaka is to take the Narita Express to Tokyo station, from where you can board the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka. This is the bullet train station for Osaka.

Hope this helps. Kind regards

Good Day, I will buy a JR Pass so that I can see all the stadiums for the rugby world cup in advance. I wish arrive in late May 2018 and visit each of them within 21 days. What is the best itinerary arriving from Hong Kong and leaving for Hong Kong. I guess arrive Fukuoka and leave from Sapporo – what rail routes should I take within the time available? Thank you. Alex

The Japan Rail Pass will easily allow you to have the unique opportunity to discover the whole country, which will be specially useful for you since all venues are spread through the country. In the Rugby World Cup official website you will find the exact location of all the venues. Having that it should be as easy as cake to draw the best itinerary with Hyperdia ‘s help!

Wish you an amazing trip!

Hi Japan Rail Team,

Will I be able to use my JR Pass from Tokyo to Nikko?

Regards, Charisse

Hi Charisse!

Yes – you will be able to travel from Tokyo to Nikko with your Japan Rail Pass. The trip is fully included in the pass. To get from Tokyo to Nikko, simply take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen (“Yamabiko” or “Nasuno Trains”) from Tokyo Station or Ueno Station to Utsunomiya; then, take the JR Nikko Line to Nikko Station.

This is Kathy, I am coming to Tokyo with my daughter and grand-duaghter on 1st November. My jusband will join us on the night of 8th and we want to go straight to Kyoto next morning as quickly as we can – then we will all return to Narita on 15th November. I am thinking of buying either the 7 day JR pass or the Japanican E-voucher for Nozomi Tokyo/Kyoto/Tokyo for all of us. My question is whether I will be able to buy our tickets to Kyoto on either Nozomi or Hikari before my husband arrives. I will have his E-voucher or JR pass with me but not his passport of course. I am concenred that in mid-November these trains will be busy and he doesn’t get in until quite late on 8th.

To exchange the voucher all passengers are required to go to any of the JR offices in person, and to bring their passport together with the Japan Rail Pass exchange order. In our FAQ section you will be able to see all the JR Exchange Offices and their service hours to check if any of them would work for your husband.

Thanks for the reply about the JP pass. I am still unclear about the Haruka Express to Shin Osaka (as opposed to Osaka city). It looks like from KIX that it goes first to Tennoji. Do we stay on the train or do we need to transfer to get to Shin Osaka (for instance, to catch the Tokaido Shinkasen line to Tokyo.

The Haruka Express stops at Tennoji Station before getting to Shin-Osaka as you state. However you won’t need any transfer to get to Shin-Osaka as it will take you there directly. Should you want to go to Osaka city center, once you get to Shin-Osaka Station you may want to transfer to a local train to Osaka Station. The trip from Shin-Osaka to Osaka takes only three to four minutes.

This is Henry–There will be 5 of us travelling. We will fly into KIX and have reservations at the Remm Shin Osaka. We plan to spend 3 days in Osaka, then travel on the Shenkansen to Tokyo for a couple of days, then to Narita to fly back to the USA. I’m unclear about the Japan Rail Pass and costs. Can I buy 5 tickets for a seven day period and make all these trips with no additional costs. Or do I also have to purchase separate rail tickets. Can I do what needs to be done when I arrive at KIX or do I need to purchase passes in advance?

The JR Pass can be purchased online or through specialized agents, like this website . However, since March 8, 2017, and on a trial basis, the pass is also sold at selected stations inside Japan, at an increased cost. While you are now able to purchase the JR Pass in Japan, please keep in mind that it is only sold in particular stations, at a higher price and you are required to pay in Yens, as no other currency will be accepted.

If travelling with a Japan Rail Pass, you can make the following trips at no additional cost: – Travel from KIX to Osaka city with the Haruka Express . – Travel from Osaka to Tokyo in either the Hikari bullet train or Kodama: both run on the Tokaido Shinkansen line and will take you to Tokyo or Shinagawa stations in central Tokyo. – From central Tokyo you will be able to easily reach Narita Airport through the Narita Express at no additional charge.

Hello Japan Rail Team,

I am Prudence and I will be visiting Japan in December 2017 with my family. We will arrive in Haneda and stay in Tokyo for a few days and sightseeing around in Tokyo city. On 27 Dec we are planning to go from Tokyo to Osaka by bullet train and stay there for 3 nights. But we will also make a day trip to Kyoto (from Osaka) and do sight seeing. What do you recommend i should buy? JR pass or JR pass plus Kansai Pass ? Thank you

Hi Prudence!

The Japan Rail Pass will already cover all the mentioned trips.

– The Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport will take you straight to Hamamatsucho Station in central Tokyo, on the Yamanote line . – To get from Tokyo to Osaka , you will need to take either the Hikari bullet train or Kodama from Tokyo or Shinagawa stations in central Tokyo. Both run on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, connecting the two cities. – To travel between Kyoto and Osaka just take the Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. You will get between Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station in less than 30 minutes.

I will be arriving and departing at Narita Airport and will be staying at Shibuya for 4 days explore around Tokyo and Disneyland and am planning to go to USJ, Kyoto, and Mt. Fuji for 2 days. My stay will be 6 days in total, can I use the JR Rail Pass for all of my trips? Also, may I have the detailed stations and trains to ride? Thank you! 🙂

Yes – the Japan Rail Pass mainly covers all your scheduled trips.

– While in Tokyo you can use the Yamanote Line , included in the pass, to discover the city. Since you will be staying at Shibuya and one of the stops of this line is there, it can be a great starting point for exploring Tokyo. – To go to Tokyo Disneyland, use your JR Pass to travel from Tokyo Station to Maihama Station, on the JR Keiyo line. Travel time is 20 minutes and the park is a mere five-minute walk from the station. – Universal Studio Japan is located nearby Osaka. To get there, from Osaka Station, take the Osaka loop line to Universal City Station. From Nishikujo Station, you can also take the JR Sakurajima line (also called Yumesaki line). The park is a five-minute walk from the station. – Getting from Tokyo to Kyoto with the Japan Rail Pass is easy. You should take the Shinkansen Hikari train from either Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station in central Tokyo, and arrive at Kyoto Station. – And last but not least, to go from Tokyo to Mount Fuji take JR Tokaido line for Kozu from Tokyo Station, using your JR Pass; once at Kozu (Kanagawa), take the JR Gotemba Line for Numazu and get off at Gotemba Station.

We hope you have an amazing experience in Japan!

I am going to Osaka in October, I will be travelling from Kansai airport to Osaka, and planning to do one or two Kyoto day trips, along with a weekend in Tokyo. I would prefer to go via Shinsaken as it’s quicker.

Would the JR 7 day pass be worth this?

Hi Natalie!

All the mentioned trips are included in the Japan Rail Pass:

– To travel from the Kansai Airport to the city of Osaka, board the Limited Express Haruka at the Kansai Airport Station using your Japan Rail Pass. – There are many day trips you can make from Kyoto . Among our favorites are Nara, Kobe and Himeji Castle, all of them included in the pass. – To go from Osaka to Tokyo , you can either take Hikari bullet train or Kodama to Tokyo or Shinagawa stations in central Tokyo. TTo go back you can just travel the other way around. – While in Tokyo, you are entitled to use some local lines such as JR Yamanote one.

If you did all the mentioned trips travelling with the Japan Rail Pass would for sure be cost effective.

Have an amazing vacation!

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Guide to Japanese Train Tickets

Below is a list of the various railway tickets available in Japan:

Regular tickets simply get you from A to B. Our page about regular train tickets provides an introduction to the various fares and fees, such as the base fare and limited express fee, and the rules for using tickets. Read more...

IC cards are prepaid rechargeable stored value cards that can be used to pay the fare for trains and buses. There are ten major IC cards, including Suica and Icoca, that are interchangeably usable in most major cities in Japan. Furthermore, there are several minor IC cards whose usability is limited to local areas. IC cards can also be used for making purchases at many shops and restaurants across Japan. Read more...

Rail passes entitle their holders to unlimited usage of trains in a designated area. There is a variety of nationwide and regional rail passes available in Japan. The most famous of them all is the nationwide Japan Rail Pass , but other rail passes can be more suitable, depending on your itinerary. View a list of rail passes...

Passes for unlimited city travel on subways, trams, trains and buses on one day and similar tickets are offered in many cities across Japan . Take a look at the "Passes and Tickets" section at the bottom of the following city pages:

Tour packages combine transportation and accommodation at big discounts to individual or group travelers. They are offered by travel agencies inside and outside of Japan, including the railway companies themselves.

Discount ticket shops purchase large amounts of discounted tickets and re-sell them to individual shoppers at prices which are typically around five percent below the cost of regular tickets. Discount ticket shops can be found around major railway stations.

Questions? Ask in our forum .

best train journey in japan

best train journey in japan

Unforgettable 7 Day Japan Itinerary (2024)

R eady to dive into a whirlwind 7 day Japan itinerary that promises a blend of tradition, modernity, and breathtaking landscapes? From the electrifying streets of Tokyo to the serene temples of Kyoto and the gastronomic delights of Osaka, I have crafted a journey based on my personal experience that packs the essence of Japan into one unforgettable week.

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something we have recommended. Please check out our  disclosure policy  for more details. Thank you for your support!

Your 7 Day Japan Itinerary

This itinerary isn’t just about ticking off the sights. It’s about immersing yourself in the rhythm of Japanese life. From samurai stories to the future of technology, and yes, lots of sushi, get ready for a truly unique adventure.

Day 1: Tokyo – Urban Exploration and Neon Lights

How to travel to tokyo.

Your 7 day Japan itinerary will likely start at Narita International Airport. From the airport, the quickest way to central Tokyo is the Narita Express train (N’EX), which takes about an hour. Just ask anyone at the airport train station for directions.

Another easy option is the Limousine Bus service that runs both to and from Narita and Haneda airports.

Best places to stay in Tokyo

Choosing where to stay in Tokyo offers a glimpse into the city’s diverse character. Shibuya and Shinjuku offer vibrant nightlife and bustling streets, making them perfect for those looking to dive into Tokyo’s dynamic energy.

For a more serene atmosphere with a touch of traditional charm, Asakusa hosts cozy stays near historical sites. Alternatively, Roppongi stands out for art lovers and night owls, offering upscale accommodations and a lively scene. Here are some of our favorite Tokyo hotels for families .

Things to do in Tokyo on Day 1

  • Visit Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa: Start your exploration in the tranquil surroundings of Tokyo’s oldest temple, Senso-ji. Walking through the iconic Kaminarimon Gate and browsing the stalls of Nakamise Street is a wonderful introduction to Japanese culture.
  • Cross Shibuya Crossing: Witness the organized chaos of Shibuya Crossing, one of the most photographed spots in Tokyo. The nearby statue of Hachiko, the loyal dog, adds a bit of nostalgia to this bustling area.
  • Explore Harajuku: Dive into the heart of Tokyo’s youth and fashion culture in Harajuku. Takeshita Street is a kaleidoscope of trendy shops, cafes, and colorful street food. It reflects the vibrant and eccentric styles that define the area.
  • Enjoy the Views from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: Head to Shinjuku to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Its observation decks offer stunning panoramic views of the city. This is a perfect spot to watch the sunset over Tokyo. (This is a great option if you don’t want to pay for Shibuya Sky , Tokyo Tower, or Tokyo Skytree ).
  • Dine in Omoide Yokocho: Conclude your day in the nostalgic alleys of Omoide Yokocho. This cozy corner of Shinjuku is famous for its tiny yakitori stalls and izakayas. These offer a taste of Tokyo’s culinary traditions in an intimate setting.

Day 2: Tokyo – Cultural Dive and Tech Wonders

On Day 2, we delve deeper into Tokyo’s fascinating blend of tradition and futuristic innovation. This day is about experiencing the culture and technology that defines this city.

Things to do in Tokyo on Day 2

  • Meiji Shrine Morning Visit: Start with a peaceful visit to the Meiji Shrine, nestled in a lush forest. This shrine offers a tranquil contrast to Tokyo’s urban energy, perfect for a reflective morning.
  • Harajuku’s Takeshita Street: After the shrine, head back to Harajuku to explore Takeshita Street more leisurely. This street buzzes with youthful fashion, unique shops, and colorful treats, showcasing Tokyo’s vibrant pop culture.
  • Imperial Palace East Gardens: Midday, visit the Imperial Palace East Gardens . These gardens offer a quiet retreat with well-kept lawns, scenic paths, and historical sites, in the city center.
  • Akihabara’s Tech and Anime Hub: Spend your afternoon in Akihabara, Tokyo’s electric town. Here you can immerse yourself in its world of electronics, anime, and manga. This is one of the best things to do in Tokyo with kids . It’s a must-visit for tech lovers and fans of Japanese pop culture.
  • Evening in Odaiba: Conclude your day in Odaiba, enjoying its futuristic vibe, entertainment options, and bay views. The island is a perfect spot for an evening stroll, dining, and enjoying panoramic views of Tokyo’s skyline.

Day 3: Hakone and Mount Fuji – Nature’s Majesty

How to get to hakone.

No 7 day Japan itinerary is complete without seeing Mt Fuji! While it is a popular day trip from Tokyo , we recommend making time for an overnight in the area. Your gateway to Hakone begins aboard the Odakyu Limited Express “Romancecar” from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. This comfortable and direct route takes you to Hakone-Yumoto in approximately 85 minutes, offering picturesque views along the way. 

Investing in the Hakone Free Pass is recommended for those planning extensive exploration. This pass not only covers your round trip between Tokyo and Hakone but also grants unlimited access to various forms of transportation within Hakone. It includes buses, ropeways, and boats, making your travels within this scenic area both easy and cost-effective.

Best places to stay in Hakone

Choosing to stay in Hakone will allow you more time to explore this enchanting region. Hakone Yumoto, serving as the gateway to the area, is renowned for its welcoming hot spring hotels and ease of access. This makes it a popular choice for many visitors. 

For a touch of luxury nestled in nature, Gora offers upscale ryokan with private onsen and breathtaking mountain vistas.

Alternatively, the area around Lake Ashi is a peaceful getaway. Some accommodations boast views of Mount Fuji, making for a picturesque retreat. 

Things to do in Hakone and Mount Fuji

  • Visit Owakudani Valley to see its active sulfur vents and enjoy the unique experience of eating eggs boiled in its naturally hot waters, said to extend one’s life.
  • Take the Hakone Ropeway for stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and a chance to see Mount Fuji on clear days.
  • Enjoy a Lake Ashi Cruise aboard a pirate ship, offering a unique perspective of Hakone’s natural beauty and, weather permitting, views of Mount Fuji.
  • Explore the Hakone Shrine, nestled on the shores of Lake Ashi. Its iconic torii gate offers one of Hakone’s most picturesque scenes, seemingly floating on the water.
  • If time allows, visit the Hakone Open Air Museum, where art and nature merge beautifully, featuring impressive sculptures and artwork in an outdoor setting that highlights the area’s scenic landscapes.

Our Favorite

Mt fuji and hakone tours.

  • Full Day Trip to Hakone with Lake Ashi Cruise via Context Travel
  • Mt Fuji, Hakone, and Lake Ashi Private Day Tour via Viator
  • Private Mt Fuji Charter with Driver via GetYourGuide
  • Mt Fuji and Hakone Private Day Tour via Tours By Locals

Day 4: Kyoto – Time Travel to Ancient Japan

How to get to kyoto.

The journey from Hakone to Kyoto can be seamlessly made by Shinkansen (bullet train). First, take a train from Hakone-Yumoto to Odawara Station, and from there, board the Shinkansen to Kyoto.

The total travel time is approximately 2 to 3 hours, allowing you to transition smoothly from the natural landscapes of Hakone to the historic ambiance of Kyoto.

Best Places To Stay in Kyoto

Gion, the city’s geisha district, offers a stay right in the heart of traditional Japan, where the evening streets are lit by paper lanterns and wooden machiya houses.

For those who prefer the hustle and bustle of the city with a modern twist, the Downtown Kyoto area around Shijo-Kawaramachi is perfect, with its convenient access to shops, restaurants, and major sightseeing spots. 

Alternatively, Arashiyama in the western part of the city is a haven for nature lovers. This area offers a more secluded stay close to the famous Bamboo Grove and other natural sites. 

Things To Do in Kyoto on the First Day

  • Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates that trail through the mountain, creating a mesmerizing path that’s both spiritual and photogenic.
  • Explore Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), a Zen Buddhist temple that is one of Kyoto’s most iconic sights, with its top two floors covered in gold leaf shining over a reflecting pond.
  • Stroll through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, an otherworldly forest that offers a tranquil and awe-inspiring walking experience. (Arashiyama was one of our favorite places to visit in Kyoto with teens ).
  • Experience the tranquility of Ryoan-ji, known for its karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden, which embodies the essence of Zen Buddhism.
  • Wander around Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district, in the evening. The area’s traditional wooden machiya houses and exclusive ochaya (teahouses) provide a glimpse into the old Kyoto lifestyle.

Day 5: Kyoto – The Heart of Tradition

Things to do in kyoto on your second day.

  • Kiyomizu-dera Temple: Start your day with a visit to this historic temple, famous for its wooden stage that offers stunning views of the cherry and maple trees below, as well as the city of Kyoto.
  • Nijo Castle: Explore the opulent Nijo Castle, renowned for its beautiful architecture, intricate interiors, and the Nightingale Floors designed to sing at the slightest touch to warn of intruders.
  • Philosopher’s Path: Take a stroll along the Philosopher’s Path, a cherry tree-lined canal that provides a peaceful setting for reflection and is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season.
  • Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion): Visit Ginkaku-ji, a Zen temple that, despite its name, is not adorned in silver but is renowned for its beautiful sand gardens and moss-covered grounds.
  • Pontocho Alley: Conclude your day with an evening wander through Pontocho Alley, one of Kyoto’s most atmospheric dining areas. This narrow lane is filled with traditional tea houses, restaurants, and bars offering a glimpse into Kyoto’s vibrant nightlife. A must do for any 7 day Japan itinerary.

Day 6: Nara – Amongst Deer and Temples

How to get to nara.

You can take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station directly to Nara Station, with the journey taking about 45 minutes to an hour.

Alternatively, the Kintetsu Kyoto Line offers a slightly faster route from Kyoto to Kintetsu Nara Station, taking about 35 to 50 minutes. Both options drop you near Nara’s main attractions.

Best Places To Stay in Nara

Nara’s accommodations provide traditional and modern options, primarily located around Nara Station and Naramachi, the old merchant district.

Staying near Nara Park offers easy access to many of the city’s historical sites and the chance to wake up close to the serene natural beauty and the deer that call it home.

Things To Do in Nara

  • Todai-ji Temple: Visit this iconic temple, home to the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), one of the largest bronze statues in the world. The temple complex and its massive gate are impressive sights that showcase the grandeur of ancient Nara.
  • Nara Park: Wander through Nara Park, famous for its hundreds of freely roaming deer. Considered messengers of the gods in Shinto religion, these deer have become a symbol of the city and a must-see for visitors.
  • Kasuga-taisha Shrine: Explore the serene Kasuga-taisha Shrine, known for its thousands of stone lanterns that line the path to the shrine, as well as the hundreds of bronze lanterns within. The shrine is a beautiful example of Shinto architecture and tradition.
  • Naramachi: Stroll through the historic Naramachi district, where you can explore traditional merchant houses, quaint shops, and cafes. This area provides a glimpse into old Nara’s daily life and culture.
  • Isuien Garden: End your day with a visit to Isuien Garden, a beautiful example of Japanese landscape gardening. With its carefully designed ponds, bridges, and tea houses, Isuien offers a peaceful retreat and a perfect spot for contemplation and relaxation.

Day 7: Osaka – Culinary Adventure and Urban Excitement

How to get to osaka.

From Nara, you can take the JR Yamatoji Line directly from JR Nara Station to JR Osaka Station, with the journey taking about 50 minutes to an hour.

Alternatively, the Kintetsu Nara Line offers service from Kintetsu Nara Station to Osaka’s Namba Station, a trip that also takes around 40 minutes. Both routes provide a seamless transition to the lively atmosphere of Osaka.

Best Places To Stay in Osaka

  • Namba/Dotonbori: For those looking to dive straight into the heart of Osaka’s renowned food scene and nightlife, staying in the Namba or Dotonbori area is ideal. This district is bustling with energy, offering easy access to street food, restaurants, and entertainment options.
  • Umeda: Situated around Osaka Station, Umeda is another great area to stay, known for its shopping, dining, and modern architecture. It’s conveniently located for exploring the city and offers a range of accommodation options.
  • Shin-Osaka: For travelers needing quick access to the Shinkansen for day trips or onward travel, Shin-Osaka is practical. It provides efficient connections without sacrificing the convenience of city amenities.

Things To Do in Osaka

  • Osaka Castle: Start your day with a visit to Osaka Castle, one of Japan’s most famous landmarks. The castle park is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season, and it is sure to be a hit if you’re visiting Osaka with kids . The museum inside offers a deep dive into Osaka’s history.
  • Dotonbori: This vibrant area is famous for its neon lights, extravagant signage, and diverse street food options, including takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes).
  • Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade: Explore the Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade, a covered shopping street that stretches for several blocks and offers everything from high-end fashion to unique souvenirs.
  • Umeda Sky Building: For panoramic views of Osaka, visit the Umeda Sky Building. The floating garden observatory on the 39th floor offers a 360-degree view of the city, making it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.
  • Kuromon Ichiba Market: End your day at the Kuromon Ichiba Market, where you can sample fresh seafood, street food, and local specialties. It’s an ideal place to enjoy the flavors of Osaka and pick up some last-minute gifts or souvenirs.

The Quickest And Cheapest Way To Travel In Japan: The Bullet Train

Japan’s Shinkansen, or bullet train, is the epitome of fast and efficient travel, offering an unmatched combination of speed, economy, and comfort. It is even faster and more cost-effective than flying. The network stretches across the country, linking major cities and tourist destinations with speed. 

With trains departing frequently and stations centrally located, the Shinkansen is an ideal choice for transportation during your 7 day Japan itinerary.

The JR Pass

The Japan Rail (JR) Pass is a powerful tool for tourists, offering unlimited travel on most Shinkansen trains and other JR services for a fixed period (7, 14, or 21 days). This pass not only simplifies travel across Japan but also significantly reduces costs for those looking to explore multiple regions. 

Purchasable exclusively by foreign tourists BEFORE arriving in Japan, the JR Pass is an investment that pays dividends in both convenience and savings.

Its benefits extend beyond the Shinkansen, covering local trains, buses, and even some ferries, ensuring a comprehensive travel solution across Japan’s diverse landscapes.

Best Time Book Your 7 Day Japan Itinerary

The ideal times to embark on your 7 day Japan adventure are during the spring (March to May) for the cherry blossoms and autumn (September to November) for the vibrant fall colors. These seasons offer stunning natural backdrops and pleasant weather, enhancing your travel experience.

  • Spring is famous for its cherry blossoms, creating picturesque scenes across cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. Due to its popularity, it’s wise to book accommodations and travel arrangements well in advance.
  • Autumn impresses with its cool weather and colorful foliage, perfect for outdoor activities and temple visits.

For fewer crowds and potential savings, consider late spring or early autumn. Planning your trip 3-6 months ahead can secure better deals and ensure a smoother experience, regardless of the season you choose.

Tips For Traveling In Japan

  • Public Transportation Mastery: Japan’s public transport system is world-class, punctual, and extensive. Familiarize yourself with local train and bus schedules, and consider purchasing a PASMO or SUICA card for convenient tap-and-go travel in major cities. You can find more information about this in our Japan travel tips .
  • Respect Local Customs: Japanese culture values etiquette highly. Simple gestures like removing your shoes before entering someone’s home or a temple, bowing as a greeting, and being mindful of noise levels on trains can go a long way in showing respect.
  • Language Barrier: While major cities often have English signs and speakers, venturing off the beaten path might present language challenges. Learning a few basic Japanese phrases or having a translation app can enhance your experience and interactions.
  • Connectivity: Stay connected with a portable Wi-Fi router or a Japanese SIM card , especially useful for navigating, translating, and accessing timetables on the go.
  • Mind the Seasons: Weather can significantly impact your travel experience. From the humid summers to the snowy winters, pack accordingly. Be aware of seasonal variations that might affect your plans, such as typhoon season in late summer and early autumn.
  • Exploration Beyond the Cities: While cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are must-visits, Japan’s charm also lies in its rural landscapes, onsen towns, and mountain retreats. Allow time to explore beyond the urban environments.
  • Cash is King: Despite its high-tech reputation, many places in Japan still prefer cash transactions. This is especially common in rural areas, smaller establishments, and temples. Always carry a sufficient amount of yen to cover your expenses.

Budget For Your 7 Day Japan Itinerary

Planning your budget for a 7-day trip to Japan will involve considering various expenses to ensure an enjoyable yet affordable experience. Here’s a brief overview:

Accommodation: Choose from a range of budget-friendly options, including hostels, guesthouses, and capsule hotels. Prices typically range from ¥3,000 to ¥8,000 per night.

Transportation: Consider investing in a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) for unlimited travel between cities. A JR Pass will cost about ¥50,000 for 7 days of unlimited travel.

Food: Enjoy affordable meals at local eateries like izakayas and noodle shops. We recommend budgeting around ¥3,000 to ¥6,000 per day for food.

Activities: Budget for additional expenses such as entrance fees to attractions and cultural experiences based on your interests.

Miscellaneous: Allocate funds for souvenirs, snacks, and unforeseen expenses to ensure a stress-free journey.

Total Spend:

Depending on your preferences and travel style, budgeting approximately ¥90,000 to ¥150,000 per person for the entire 7-day itinerary should cover accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and miscellaneous expenses. Adjustments may be needed based on individual preferences and priorities.

FAQs: 7 Day Japan Itinerary

Is 7 days enough for japan.

While 7 days may seem short, it’s sufficient to experience the highlights of Japan, especially if you focus on specific regions or cities. Consider prioritizing your must-see attractions to make the most of your time.

What is better, Osaka or Kyoto?

Both Osaka and Kyoto offer unique experiences. Osaka is known for its lively food scene, modern architecture, and vibrant nightlife. Kyoto is renowned for its historical temples, traditional tea houses, and serene gardens. Consider visiting both cities to enjoy the contrast between modernity and tradition.

Can I get around without speaking Japanese?

It is possible to navigate Japan without speaking Japanese, especially in major tourist areas and transportation hubs. Here you will find English signage and English-speaking staff are common.

Learning a few basic Japanese phrases such as greetings and polite expressions can enhance your travel experience and interactions with locals.

Is Japan very expensive to visit?

Japan can be relatively expensive, especially in major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. However, there are plenty of budget-friendly options available, including affordable accommodations, inexpensive dining options like ramen shops and convenience stores, and economical transportation passes such as the Japan Rail Pass. With careful planning and budgeting, you can enjoy Japan without breaking the bank.

Do I need a visa to enter Japan?

Citizens of many countries can enter Japan for tourism purposes without a visa for short stays (usually up to 90 days). However, visa requirements vary depending on your nationality and the purpose of your visit.

Check the visa requirements for your country on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan before traveling to Japan.

What are the best seasons to visit Japan?

The best seasons to visit Japan are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). Spring offers cherry blossoms (sakura) in full bloom, mild temperatures, and vibrant festivals such as hanami (flower viewing) celebrations.

Autumn boasts stunning fall foliage (koyo), pleasant temperatures, and fewer crowds, making it ideal for outdoor activities and scenic hikes.

What are the top 5 things to do in Japan?

  • Explore the historic temples, shrines, and gardens of Kyoto, including Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Fushimi Inari Taisha.
  • Experience the bustling streets and lively markets of Tokyo, including Shibuya Crossing, Tsukiji Outer Market, and Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa.
  • Visit Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum to learn about the city’s tragic history and promote peace and reconciliation.
  • Discover the natural beauty of Hakone and soak in an onsen (hot spring) while enjoying views of Mount Fuji.
  • Indulge in Osaka’s culinary delights, including okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake), takoyaki (octopus balls), and street food in Dotonbori.

Conclusion: 7 Day Japan Itinerary

Crafting this 7 day Japan itinerary reminded me of how amazing it was to experience the country’s rich culture, history, and natural beauty. Whether we were exploring Tokyo’s streets, immersing in Kyoto’s ancient traditions, or savoring Osaka’s culinary delights, each day brought new unbelievable adventures.

Embrace the serene moments in temples, marvel at Mount Fuji’s beauty, and indulge in urban energy. With 7 days, create lasting memories amid cherry blossoms in spring, fiery autumn foliage, or unique festivals.

As you bid farewell, carry Japan’s warmth, traditions, and unforgettable experiences with you. You will find yourself planning your second trip to Japan not long after, just like we did!

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About the author: Warren Morelli is a seasoned traveler, digital nomad, and the creative mind behind The Nomad Hive . Together with his partner Natasha, they have been exploring the world for over 8 years, documenting their adventures and sharing valuable insights with their audience. With a passion for discovering hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations, Warren and Natasha offer practical tips, honest advice, and captivating stories to inspire fellow travelers to embark on their own journeys.

Planning a trip to Japan? Let this one week Japan itinerary help you cover the highlights! Everything you need for the perfect Japan trip.


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    Sagano Scenic Railway in Kyoto. The Sagano Scenic Railway near Kyoto runs from Arashiyama to Kameoka. The train hugs the banks of the Hozugawa River and its accompanying ravine. The track is a mere seven kilometers in length, but the train operates at a purposeful, leisurely pace. The journey takes around 25 minutes one-way.

  4. How to plan a train journey around Japan in 2024

    4. Choose how much time you want to actually be on a train. Separate passes for different legs can make things easier. Though the value of a rail pass increases the more you use it, it will constitute a big chunk of your travel budget. For me, the pass will typically cost about a third of the total outlay of a trip.

  5. The essential guide to train travel in Japan

    Japan has a wide variety of rail passes available to overseas visitors, from the JR Pass valid across the JR network (with a few exceptions like the very fastest trains west of Tokyo) to regional and commuter passes. The most useful is the Japan Rail Pass in its six variants: 7/14/21 days and standard car or Green Car business-class versions ...

  6. Guide to the Most Luxurious Train Journeys in Japan

    The Aru Ressha is a luxury train in Japan that had its name revived back in 2015 after over one hundred in the shadows. This luxurious train operates between the port town of Hakata and Yufuin, offering travellers one round trip daily. Boasting two stunning rail cars that combine two and four-seat configurations, using maple wood in car one to ...

  7. 10 Most Scenic Train Rides in Japan

    5. Gono Line (Akita, Aomori) Located in one of Honshu's (Japan's main island) northernmost corners, the JR Gono line follows the coastline of Aomori and Akita. Depending on which season you ride, you can see the beautiful rugged coast either surrounded with green trees or a snowy landscape.


    A 7-day Japan Rail Pass costs ¥50,000 = £268 or $340. The normal return fare from Tokyo to Kyoto is ¥27,940 = £150 or $190. The normal return fare from Tokyo to Hiroshima is ¥39,120 = £210 or $270. The normal return fare from Tokyo to Nagasaki is ¥52,620 = £290 or $360.

  9. 8 Japan's Most Scenic Railway Journeys You Can Take

    It's a must if you're into your sightseeing. 2. Ōigawa Main Line. Ōigawa Main Line. The Ōigawa Main Line is also owned by a private rail company and is situated in the Shizuoka Prefecture. It's a line that links Shimada and Kawanehon and offers beautiful views of the river, countryside, and mountains.

  10. Scenic Journeys in Japan with the Japan Rail Pass

    The route is only open between April and late November and always depends on the weather but offers possibly one of the best journeys in Japan in terms of scenery. ... Anna Udagawa is the co-author of 'Japan by Rail', an extensive Japan railway travel guide. Search. Categories. All; Life in Japan (111) Media (110) Nature (96) Tradition (85 ...

  11. The Ultimate Japan Two-Week Itinerary Using the Japan Rail Pass

    The current price for a 14-day adult pass purchased outside of Japan is ¥47,250 (£275, $341); ¥52,960 (£302; $380) if purchased inside Japan. Note that the price will rise in October 2023 to ...

  12. The Best Railway Train Trips in Japan

    All aboard for our railway-themed tribute to the world's coolest train journeys. Japan celebrated 150 years of its railway network in 2022, and to mark the occasion, we're taking a look at its ...

  13. The 10 Best Scenic Train Journeys In Japan

    6. Gono line (Akita Prefecture to Aomori Prefecture) The Gono Line, which is a railway line managed by the JR East, connects Akita Prefecture and Aomori Prefecture, two of Japan's northernmost prefectures. Measuring 147.2 kilometers in length, it runs along the coast of the Sea of Japan, and offers beautiful views of the waters and the horizon.

  14. 8 Incredible Scenic Train Journeys in Japan

    Here are the best scenic train journeys in Japan: 1. Kurobe Gorge Railway. Kurobe gorge is beautiful in autumn. Photo Credit: 黒部峡谷鉄道. Kurobe Gorge is a treasure of the Northern Japanese Alps. It is one of the deepest gorges in Japan. Rather than just rigged rock cut by the Kurobe River, it is heavily forested.

  15. Scenic Railway Journeys

    Find your Perfect Train Journey to Any Corner of Japan. The many scenic railways throughout Japan are your ticket to the natural beauty and essence of each region. Hop on and journey into a haven of local highlights - take your pick from the wide choice of areas below! Furano Biei Norokko Train (JR Hokkaido) Rural scenery is the backdrop as the ...

  16. Train Travel in Japan: A Comprehensive Guide

    Japan's railway system, including its world-renowned shinkansen (bullet train), is famously clean, safe, modern, and efficient. But to a first-time visitor, getting around Japan can also seem a bit confusing — especially at first. Don't worry if the idea of navigating Japan by train feels a little overwhelming to you now.

  17. These 7 scenic trains offer the best views of Japan

    Twilight Express Mizukaze. One of Japan's most luxurious trains, the 10-cabin Twilight Express Mizukaze (also referred to simply as Mizukaze) rides some of the most breathtaking routes on the western side of the country. Five different itineraries take passengers along the coastline of the Seto inland sea, making stops in Osaka, Setonaikai ...

  18. Train travel in Japan: a complete guide

    A complete guide to Japanese train travel: how the Japanese train system works, different types of trains, and how to use a Japan Rail Pass! +34 93 547 88 66 ... The Japan Rail Pass may not be the best option for you since the scope of validity of the pass are 7 consecutive days. Considering you will be spending 8 days on a cruise and need to ...

  19. GUIDE Traveling by Rail

    To break it down, there are three main types of railway systems in Japan, with differing advantages and options. Japan's leading railway company, Japan Railways (JR), has a well-organized and well-established railway network throughout the country. Among its comprehensive network, the JR-operated Shinkansen, also known as the Bullet Train ...

  20. Japan Rail Planner

    Japan Rail Planner is free to use! Your trip to Japan won't cost anything extra. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your Japan rail trip now! Plan your Trip! Plan your Japan rail trip with Japan Rail Planner. Easily create your route on a map, search for accommodation, estimate costs, and more!

  21. 10 Best Train & Rail Tours in Japan

    Travel Japan by train. Find the best Japan Train & Rail tours with TourRadar. Choose from 17 train holiday packages with 435 tour reviews. Book now and save with! ... Relax and admire breathtaking views in Japan only accessible by train journey. With 17 Japan train tours lasting from 7 days up to 16 days, you're sure to find a ...

  22. Guide to Japanese train tickets and rail passes

    Guide to Japanese Train Tickets. Below is a list of the various railway tickets available in Japan: Regular tickets. Regular tickets simply get you from A to B. Our page about regular train tickets provides an introduction to the various fares and fees, such as the base fare and limited express fee, and the rules for using tickets.

  23. The 10 Best Scenic Train Journeys In Japan

    10. Chuo Main Line (Tokyo to Aichi Prefecture) About 425 kilometers long, the Chuo Main Line is one of Japan's major trunk railway lines. It links Tokyo and Nagoya, starting at Tokyo Station and ending at Nagoya Station. It passes through several scenic places, through the countrysides of Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano, and Gifu.

  24. Unforgettable 7 Day Japan Itinerary (2024)

    The Japan Rail (JR) Pass is a powerful tool for tourists, offering unlimited travel on most Shinkansen trains and other JR services for a fixed period (7, 14, or 21 days). This pass not only ...

  25. The grand Nikko Tokyo diaba travel advice

    We arrive in Tokyo from Kyoto via bullet train late afternoon. What is the best way to get to the Nikko Tokyo Diaba as I understand it is not in the centre of Tokyo. Also we have two free days to visit Tokyo from this hotel so what transport ticket would you recommend.

  26. Explore Japan by Luxury Train

    The ultra-smooth journey takes visitors through Japan's rural heartlands while serving the finest cuisine and stopping at key sightseeing spots. East Japan's TRAIN SUITE SHIKI-SHIMA transports guests around Tohoku and South Hokkaido in carriages painted in the key of champagne-gold and offers an exquisite dining menu and comfortable suites.

  27. The Perfect 7-Day Japan Itinerary (Updated 2024)

    (Note: If you purchased a Japan Rail Pass, activate it on arrival. That way, you can take advantage of the free JR trains throughout the city.) Table of Contents. Japan Itinerary Day 1: Tokyo; ... Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think they ...