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Travel passes for 3 month trip in Kansai? 2020/9/16 14:14
Obviously a lot of people on here are taking vacations to Japan, and can take advantage of rail passes and such with high-density sight-seeing in mind. However, my situation is a bit different, so I figured I'd see if anyone has some resources to point me towards or personal experience with this.

My general schedule will be that I'm in the vicinity of Osaka/Kyoto for most of the week as my base of operations, and on weekends I plan to take day or multi-day trips. I want to go to Tokyo once or twice when we get a long weekend, and maybe Hiroshima on a normal weekend, but mostly I plan to stick around the Kansai region. Weekdays will likely consist of short trips in what I'm going to call the Osaka-Kyoto-Nara-Kobe arrowhead, if I travel meaningfully at all.

However, since most rail passes are only worth it if you travel throughout an entire week, what options are there for me? Do I just have to get an IC card and pay the regular fare, or is there a smarter way to go about this? If it helps, due to the duration of my trip (a couple months) I do still count as a "temporary visitor" for foreigner rail pass purposes.

Thank you!
by Serenroc  

Re: Travel passes for 3mo. work trip in Kansai? 2020/9/17 01:01
Japan has hundreds of rail pass if not thousands.
My Japanese friends will give you better info
However you can buy commuter rail pass cost 47970 yen from Osaka to Kyoto 43 km take 29 minutes by JR valid for 3 months. You can get on get off along the way.
by Jacob (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Travel passes for 3mo. work trip in Kansai? 2020/9/17 02:05

What sort of Visa will you have in your passport and what are your priorities in terms of travel? (ex: cheapest possible, most convenient, most comfortable?)

Assuming you meet the application requirements to get one...

The JR West 5 day Kansai-Hiroshima Pass will pay off with just one round trip between Osaka and Hiroshima within 5 days

You can probably get to Hiroshima cheaper by bus, but I'd probably get the pass since 1) it allows you to use any shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima and 2) It's going to be way faster than the bus giving you more time in the Hiroshima area. If you could fit in an additional long distance trip during that 5 day period to say Okayama or Himeji, you come out even better.

Most people I know who live in Japan and want to get between Tokyo and Osaka fly. It tends to be cheaper than the train. If you can get a good deal on Itami to Haneda, it's not even that inconvenient, though the best deals tend to be KIX to Narita which are both less convenient.

There are of course buses. Most of them are overnight. I personally wouldn't do it, but that is up to you.

JR Tokai Tours currently offers a slightly discounted round trip ticket between Shin-Osaka/Kyoto/Nagoya to Tokyo.

I believe the ticket does allow transport on the nozomi.

You can also just buy your tickets in advance from JR and I believe there is a discount. Assuming you are currently in Japan or plan to be soon, you can visit the "Go to Travel" and see if there are any other additional discounts currently being offered between Osaka/Kyoto and Tokyo.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Travel passes for 3mo. work trip in Kansai? 2020/9/17 03:50
I think an IC card is something you should get anyway. Youfll need it for your commute and short trips.

If youfll do a fixed commuting trip everyday, a monthly pass will pay off. But the monthly ticket is only for that specific train combination. Not the entire area. Normally they pay off if you commute to work every day.

Regarding rail passes there are many different ones. Here a summary.

As youfll be on a tourist visa you can use all of them.

Now the cheapest for travel between Osaka and Kyoto is bicycle 🤗


by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: Travel passes for 3mo. work trip in Kansai? 2020/9/17 04:42

Thank you for all of the info! My title's a bit misleading--I ended up changing it to fix the character limit and forgot to clarify in my post. It's not employment, but a study abroad--work was just a shorter term that I felt conveyed the timing of the situation well! As such I'll be on a "tourist" visa.

As far as travel priorities, I don't really care about comfort at all: a balance of speed and cost are what's most important to me. I'm not rich, but I also have comparatively limited time to get to and from each destination, since I'm working with weekends. I did actually want to visit Himeji castle--I hadn't realized it was on the way to Hiroshima, so it looks like I could get some decent use from the pass even on just a long weekend. Thank you for the tip!

I also hadn't thought about flights at all, and I'll definitely look more into that. I would've assumed they'd be more expensive, but I suppose since I need just a round-trip, it makes more sense than getting the railpass. Would it be difficult to navigate intra-country flights with limited Japanese? The flex rail ticket looks promising as well since any travel I make is going to be round-trip, pretty much. Thank you!



That's a good point. I'm not sure of my exact commute yet, so I'll have to see if it'd pay off. For all I know, I'll be close enough to not need a regular train route at all!

I'll have to comb through that blog--I do like biking, so honestly that could be an option for my shorter travel options. I know I've seen that getting a bike for a couple months in Japan can be cheap by just buying from other temporary residents. I think I'd be too nervous about messing up or going too close to pedestrians though, haha! Thank you for the info!
by Serenroc rate this post as useful

Re: Travel passes for 3mo. work trip in Kansai? 2020/9/17 14:07

Some of my friends who live in Japan do take trains long distance, they tend to be comfier, but my friends who use to go from Tokyo to Osaka a lot to visit one another and lived in Japan tended to fly. If you want to be as cheap as possible you can get low fare flights for like 4000 to 5000 each way on Peach or one of the other discount airlines and do KIX to NRT. You can take a bus from downtown Osaka to KIX for like 1000 yen and there are 1000 yen buses from NRT to Tokyo. There are discounted fares on JAL and ANA as well.

Since I am old and can't sleep on the bus, I prefer not to do overnight buses. I do have friends who were studying at Kansai Gaidai, who used the overnight bus. I think it was hard to get in all the touring we had planned for when they arrived. But that really depends on you, I'm old and now travel with a kid, so I like fast and comfortable.

Itami is a great airport. I flew into it from NRT once. I did NYC to NRT to ITM. The transfer was easy and I had way too much time. I should have gotten more snack before going through security. Haneda, Narita, and KIX get a lot of flights from overseas, or at least did pre Covid so they all have a lot of English. If you've flown before, flying in Japan is not all that different. There is a lot of English signage at least at all the airports I've used in Japan.

Me, I would prob just take the train, I might do the Tokai offer or just buy in advance or see which was cheaper. A JRP is great if you are doing enough travel or just want the freedom to go where ever but one disadvantage is they do not cover Nozomi, just Hikari and Kodama. There are on average 6 Nozomi an hour from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka, 2 Hikari, and 1 Kodama. Nozomi are not only the fastest trains, but they are the most frequent. If you have a lot of other travel planned, then they can be worth it, but since you're only planning week ends it doesn't seem worth it.

Assuming you are arriving into KIX, this is a good deal and gives you a refillable IC card.: https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/icoca-haruka/

The Welcome IC card currently being offered by JR East is not a good deal for you since it is only valid for 28 days. I got one my last trip because I had lost my old IC cards and then just ran it down buying snacks at Narita before I left.

There are lots of smaller passes you can get, some in Japan for not that much money, that could be worth it depending on your exact plans, since paying a little more, but having the flexibility to not use a pass might save you in the long term. I love most of the JR West passes since they include the Nozomi. I've also used the various JR East passes which are a great deal but since Tokyo is not your departure point, they're not so useful.

If you're coming from the USA, I would look into what your phone plan here covers in terms of roaming. I am unsure how easy it is to get a phone for just a few months outside offers aimed at tourists and those tend to be more expensive. I know in my case, my roaming charges are a lot less than renting pocket WiFi or a Japanese SIM card, even on shorter trips like my last one. I do find sometimes my texts to Japanese numbers do not arrive. (I could be doing something wrong) I tend to use Line to contact friends in Japan and have yet to have any issues. I'm on Google Fi and use a Pixel.

I've not taken a bike from Osaka to Kyoto but there are lots of cheap and plentiful trains Whether you use JR, Keihan, or Hankyuu will depend on your starting and ending point.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Travel passes for 3 month trip in Kansai? 2020/9/19 23:19
In case you can read Japanese, I have always found the following to be a great source of information on passes. It is intended for Japanese residents, so deals for foreign tourists are not included, but there are a lot of regional and local specialty passes that can save you money on many excursions:
For your particular situation (looking for something more like a JR pass but without the consecutive-day limitations) it might not be of value, but I have found it to be a goldmine for years, and I am in awe of its webmaster.

I don't have much to offer about solutions for you to get to Tokyo or Hiroshima, but I will just say don't overlook the many tickets available for the Kansai area itself, if you will be sightseeing there. I have found the Keihan passes to be particularly good. To get real value out of them, you have to plan your sightseeing around these passes, and not plan your itinerary and then try to find a pass that covers everything on it. This latter approach will just make you crazy, and it is probably the reason why many people say that day passes don't pay off. But there have been plenty of times that I have saved many hundreds of yen in one day, and if you do that for a while it really adds up. (More importantly, you can have a great deal of fun.) Besides the Keihan passes, another pass I have used to great effect a couple of times is the Kyoto subway plus Randen day pass. This one is great if your starting point in Kyoto is near a subway station and you want to head out to Arashiyama.

One thing that I really like about day passes is that they tend to encourage a style of sightseeing where you might visit places that aren't on "top ten" lists. The usual approach to sightseeing is to make a list of all the famous places you want to see (and then try to find a pass to support your transit, which almost never works). If instead you look at all the places that are on the Keihan line (including Uji), for example, or extend that with the Eizan line, you will find some real treasures that aren't crammed with foreign tourists. The Osaka subway day pass is another one I've used occasionally. (I like to go out to Sakuya konohanakan, for example.) This approach to sightseeing is particularly suited for people like you who will be in the area for an extended period, as opposed to folks who are only in Kansai for a few days and want to hit as many ultra-famous places as they can in that time period.

Not all passes are worthwhile, of course. My personal NON-favorites are the Kyoto subway plus bus 1-day and 2-day passes...

Here are a few links. You can always check the individual transit company's English page listings of special tickets or tourist information. (Some are better than others...) Also, the Kansai Tourist Information Center has a selected list (of passes they sell, some not easily obtained elsewhere). Actually, it is worth a trip to one of their branches just to gather information on local sightseeing, including day passes. Not surprisingly it appears that they have closed some of their branches recently, but the one in Kyoto in the Tower Building (not the Kyoto Station TIC) seems to still be operating and is the best tourist information center I have found in Japan, bar none.

Sorry to go on and on (in my usual fashion). I just thought I'd share some information on Kansai area passes because I have found that a lot of it is missing from the usual sources of information, and some of the deals are not very well known. There are just too many special tickets, and they often change, so none of the tourist sites can realistically maintain a comprehensive list. It's worth doing your research.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Travel passes for 3 month trip in Kansai? 2020/9/22 05:20
rkold, Kim:

Thank you both so much! This is more info than I honestly could have hoped for.

My study abroad does cover a SIM card, but I don't have much hope for the data amount, so I'll definitely look into how my roaming compares to a pocket wi-fi, at least! And that's great news as far as most airports having good English signage--I'm planning on learning enough Japanese to get around, but airports in my home country are stressful enough, so having some assistance will be a relief. Also, I am arriving at KIX, so that IC card's discount ticket deal looks like it'll be a huge money-saver, thank you!

No worries on the long post! It's all great info.
I do have a friend who's alright at Japanese, so I should be able to read through that website well enough. And planning with the passes rather than around them is a fantastic idea--I was hoping to hit more than just the highlights, anyway, and this method will provide some great structure for that! I'm a little excited to look at all the various day passes, now. And I'll keep that in mind for the Kyoto pass--I'm guessing it's hard to get your money's worth? Luckily I'm someone who plans pretty far ahead (obviously, with this post, haha), so I should be able to figure out if something's worthwhile or not ahead of time. And thank you for all of the links!
by Serenroc rate this post as useful

Re: Travel passes for 3 month trip in Kansai? 2020/9/22 06:29
Loads of good information above.
Certainly for a trip to Hiroshima one of the JRWest passes makes sense.
If you do make the trip to Tokyo, you can fly - you should be eligible for the discounted flight sector deals - or use one of the LCC's. The likes of Peach using Narita does add to the cost of getting to the city. If you do get the train, register for the SmartEx service, you can do the round trip for 22.400 yen (a discount of 7,000 yen).
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Travel passes for 3 month trip in Kansai? 2020/9/22 07:17
My issues with the Kyoto subway+bus passes are that it is very hard to get your money's worth and that (more significantly) in order to do so you have to ride the bus (otherwise, just get a subway pass!). Generally speaking, buses in Kyoto (at least the ones covered by the combined passes) are a real drag.

I have had so many memorable days in Kyoto (and other parts of Kansai) with those transit-company day passes! The links I provided are just the tip of the iceberg, really. Unfortunately, the research can be time-consuming (for example picking the right pass to visit Hiezan can seem overwhelming even to me). Some people aren't up for it, especially those who only think in terms of monetary value. (The Top-Ten List types are genuinely better off with IC cards.) For me, the real value is that the passes tend to stimulate me to visit lesser-known places. That has led me to what I feel is the real essence of Kyoto.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

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