While planning your trip to Tokyo Disney Resort, Universal Studios Japan, and the rest of this wonderful country, one question that comes up is whether it’s worth buying the Japan Rail Pass for. The answer is “it depends”. I’ll help you decide whether it’s right for you and give you an ideal itinerary to make the most out of your pass.
There are a large number of articles out there already that go in-depth about the Japan Rail Pass, but I wanted to add my spin on it for those wanting to include Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan in their itinerary.
Table of Contents
What is the Japan Rail Pass?
The Japan Rail Pass allows short-term visitors (90-day tourist visa) unlimited travel across Japan using the world-renown Shinkansen (bullet train), JR Commuter trains, JR Buses, JR Ferries, and even the Narita Express.
Rail pass users are issued a paper pass the size of a small greeting card that you present to the staff at the train gates to gain access to the platforms (this is for ordinary trains). For the Shinkansen bullet train, you can book your tickets in person at a JR ticketing office (also known as a midori-no-madoguchi) and present your Japan Rail Pass when making your reservation.
The official website has a list of locations to book your tickets (in English), also how to use the ticket machines.
How to Buy the Japan Rail Pass
I highly recommend buying the Japan Rail Pass before you get to Japan (saves you time and money). Get your JR Rail Pass in advance through one of these trusted affiliates:
Choose the duration of your pass and you’ll have an “Exchange Order” mail to you. You’ll then exchange that for the JR Rail Pass. It’s simple, easy, and worry-free. You can choose the Standard Pass or the Green Pass First Class.
Japan Rail Pass Official Vendor Prices
|Standard (Adult)||Standard (Child)||Green Pass (Adult)||Green Pass (Child)|
|7 Days||¥29110 ($263USD)||¥14550 ($132USD)||¥38880 ($351USD)||¥19440 ($175USD)|
|14 Days||¥46390 ($420USD)||¥23190 ($210USD)||¥62950 ($569USD)||¥31470 ($285USD)|
|21 Days||¥59350 ($536USD)||¥29670 ($268USD)||¥81870 ($740USD)||¥40930 ($370USD)|
A child is considered ages 6 to 11. The Green Pass gets you access to seats in First Class which includes perks such as larger seats and luggage areas, onboard service, seat reservations, and separate train facilities.
Can I Buy the JR Rail Pass in Japan?
You can buy your JR Rail Pass when you arrive in Japan, but it’ll cost you extra (more on this below). Historically, you were only able to buy a Japan Rail Pass prior to arriving in Japan. However, JR Rail sells passes at select ticketing offices throughout the country.
Until March 31, 2021, you can buy the JR Rail Pass when you arrive in Japan. It starts at ¥33,610 (US$300) for the 7-Day Ordinary Pass. This is perfect if you forgot to buy it or made a last-minute trip.
Buying the JR Rail Pass Online
The easiest way is to buy from the trusted vendors listed above. However, starting Summer 2020, you’re able to buy the JR Rail Pass online officially through the Japan Rail website.
You’ll buy through the website and pick it up once you arrive in Japan.
Should I Buy the Japan Rail Pass?
If you’re only staying in the Tokyo area and/or Tokyo Disney Resort, then the simple answer is no. You’re best buying various day passes or Tokyo Wide Pass if you plan to do small trips within Tokyo. Most of these passes won’t cover transportation to/from Tokyo Disney Resort (as it’s outside the Tokyo Area) but are perfect for within the city.
- Tokyo Metro
- Tokyo Metropolitan District Pass (Tokunai Pass)
- Tokyo 1-Day Ticket (subways, trains, and buses)
- Other JR Day Passes
- JR Tokyo Wide Pass
I recommend buying a Suica or Pasmo Card which is a contactless payment card (IC Card) which you can use to pay for transit. It can be purchased from any ticket machine (press English to make it easier) for a ¥500 deposit, add money to the card (again this is done on the machine), then you can tap through the ticket gates without having to buy a ticket. The best part about this is, you don’t have to figure out how much your trip costs, it calculates it for you.
Travelling Beyond Tokyo
If you want to travel outside of Tokyo (Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Northern Japan) via Shinkansen, then the simple answer is yes – you will want a Japan Rail Pass. You can work this into your trip if you want to visit Tokyo Disney Resort, Universal Studios Japan, LEGOLAND Japan, or Huis Ten Bosch. Of course, experience plenty of other non-themed park-related aspects of Japan.
The cost of a round-trip Shinkansen Hikari from Tokyo Station to Shin-Osaka Station is ¥28,680 (~$260USD). While the cost of at the 7-day Japan Rail Pass is ¥29,110 (~$263USD). Which is a difference of ¥430 (~$4USD). You’ll make up the difference by taking local trains and taking the Shinkansen to/from Kyoto. Use Hyperdia to price out your trips.
Get your JR Rail Pass before you go:
Note: Japan Rail Pass doesn’t include the faster Shinkansen bullet trains which are the Nozomi and Mizuho. You can ride the slower Hikari, however.
14-Day Japan Itinerary
Here’s a suggested itinerary with the 7-Day Japan Rail Pass that includes Tokyo Disney Resort, Universal Studios Japan, and other popular tourist destinations. This is a 14-Day itinerary to get the most out of your 7-Day Japan Rail Pass and to experience the highlights of Japan (certainly not all of it but that means there’s more to see next time).
I suggest taking an Airport Limousine Bus (from either Narita or Haneda Airport) to Tokyo Disney Resort, that way you don’t have to activate your Japan Rail Pass until after you’re done at the parks. After Tokyo Disney Resort, head to Tokyo Station and exchange for your pass.
- 4 Days at Tokyo Disney Resort
- 2 Days in Osaka and Nara
- Activate your pass when travelling to Osaka and reserve your Shinkansen ticket
- Use Osaka as your home base
- 1 Day at Universal Studios Japan
- 1 Day in Hiroshima
- 1 Day in Kyoto
- 4 Days in Tokyo
- Take the Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo. You should be left with one full day left on your pass. Use this within Tokyo. For the rest of the days, use your Pasmo card or buy one of the days passes listed above.
- Last day make your way to the airport
Once you leave Tokyo, use Osaka as your home base and take the Shinkansen to Hiroshima and Kyoto as day trips (this is my preference). Then the local trains (JR Yamatoji Line) to Nara to make use of your pass. Afterward, head back to Tokyo for the rest of your trip.
Other Japan Rail Passes
There are a number of other passes that cover specific areas of Japan. Chances are you won’t need these, but it’s good to know if you do.
- Hokkaido Rail Pass
- JR Tokyo Wide Pass
- JR East Pass (Tohoku Area)
- JR East Pass (Nagano & Niigata Area)
- JR Central FLEX JAPAN Tourist Pass
- JR West Rail Pass
- ALL SHIKOKU Rail Pass
- JR Kyushu Rail Pass
In short, if your trips consist of only Tokyo Disney Resort and the greater Tokyo area then there is no need for the Japan Rail Pass. As soon as you want to do a single round-trip on the Shinkansen to another part of Japan, then it’s worth the money.
Have you used the Japan Rail Pass before? Share with us your itinerary in the comments!
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