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How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/2 14:08
I'm having a difficult time coming up with the best cost effective way to travel Japan based on my itinerary. I would love to get some input on what you would do with my current itinerary or even what you would do as a Japan first timer with 8 weeks.Thanks.

Fukoka-1 week
Osaka-2 week
Kyoto-2 week
Tokyo-3 week

Day trips from the following

- Nagasaki City.
- Yufuin Onsen.
- Beppu, Oita.
- Itoshima.
- Dazaifu.

- Kobe
- Nara
- Mount Koya
- Naoshima
- Himeji
- Okyahama
- Hiroshima
- Miyajima

- Kanazawa
- Uji
- Nagahama
- Enryukuji
- Shirakawa-go

- Kamakura
- Odawara City
- Ibaraki
- Enoshima
- Kawagoe
- Takasaki
- Nikko
- Atami
- Kawaguchiko
- Kusatsu
- Okutama
- Hakone
- Shizuoka
- Yokohama
- Chichibu
- Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
- Chiba
- Matsumoto
by Eddie Brown  

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/2 14:52
JR passes are good for short periods with lots of travel.

Your 8 week holiday will be the opposite.

Use local passes instead eg Kyushu Kansai Kanto. And use whatever option of travel suits you best in between eg bus ferry train plane.
by H (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/2 15:58

Some of your trips are going to be REALLY long day trips. Getting to Shirakawa Go from Kyoto and the Alpine Route from Tokyo seem particularly bad, though Naoshima will involve a lot of good timing from Ono to the ferry. I'm not opposed to long day trips, I've been to Fukuoka as a day trip from Kyoto. But I could just hop on a shinkansen vs in the case of Shirakawa Go you're looking at back tracking and adding to your cost and in the case of the Alpine Route it's also time and cost. I am not trying to say long day trips can't be awesome, but since you specifically are starting in Fukuoka and slowly heading to Tokyo it seems weird to day trip in the general direction you are headed when there will be a lot of back tracking otherwise.

Honestly, it would make more sense to do Kyoto to Kanazawa (overnight there) day trip to Shirakawa Go from Kanazawa (via bus) (then another overnight in Kanazawa or Toyama) then onwards to Toyama if you didn't stay there to start the Alpine Route end in Ogizawa and take the bus to ShinanoOmachi from there take the train to Matsumoto and from Matsumoto to Tokyo. You will need to more than likely over night 1 night in Kanazawa or Toyama before starting the route and 1 night in Ogizawa or Shinano Omachi or Matsumoto, once finishing. If you can pack light enough, you will probably save money going Kanazawa to Shirakawa Go Shirakawa Go to Toyama (overnight Toyama) since the amount you would save for purchasing a round trip bus fare doesn't make up for the amount of time and money you would be saving to go to Toyama from Shirakwa Go.

If your concern is luggage the 2000-3000 yen it will cost to takyubin a large suitcase between Kyoto and Tokyo is considerably less than doing a round trip Kyoto to Kanazawa and another trip to Shirakawa Go let alone the cost of a train between Tokyo and Toyama you'd be paying with your current plans.

You might also be able to save some money if you remove a day from Osaka or Fukuoka and visit Hiroshima and then Naoshima on the way to Osaka. I'd recommend Okayama for 1 night since you could do Fukuoka to Hiroshima and visit Hiroshima and then go to Okayama and stay there and the next morning start bright and early for Naoshima. There are ferries once an hour from Uno to Naoshima from 6:30-9:30, but then the next one is not until 11. Coming from Shin-Osaka Station you need to leave on a 7:15 am train to make the 9:22 am ferry.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/2 18:29
For places to stay and overnight.

I would add Beppu/Yufuin, Hiroshima, Okayama, Kanazawa, Shizuoka, Odawara/Kamakura and Takasaki.

This make most of you day trip less the 45 mins away. Only a few will be longer.

by H (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/2 18:36
Okutama and Chichibu? What do you plan on doing here? Surprized to see a first time visitor add these locations.
by H (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/2 20:54
Consider flying to your furthest destination and purchase the local regional pass to work your way back to Tokyo. Purchase the regional passes as you reach a new region. The National JR Pass is mainly for tourists who don't know much about travel in the country or aren't willing to research the intricacies of rail travel in Japan. I stopped using the JRP after my 3rd trip and have used flights/regional passes for the last 10 trips. Since you have lots of time before Japan opens its doors to tourists from America, you can research all the trains and lines you can use, along with the time it'll take to get from A to B. It'll be worth it. The JRP is for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days only and it only gets harder to justify the longer ones if you don't travel enough.
by John B digs Japan rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/2 23:14
- the view of the Ogouchi Reservoir looks really cool

- Hitsujiyama park looks nice

The 'problem' I think I have when I go on trips is that I try to see everything. 8 weeks is a long time but now I'm thinking if I just relax more and cut my day trips by a lot
by Eddie Brown rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/2 23:25
Or what about this? I can find a 21 day itinerary and buy that pass then pick a home base and stay for 5 weeks and maybe do a day trip or more depending on where I would be based
by Eddie Brown rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/2 23:35
I pretty much always get a nationwide JR pass of one kind or other, and I usually get about two times face value from it, sometimes more. But I always use it very strategically. And I generally use numerous other passes as well. One problem with JR passes is that there are a lot of good places that you can't get to on JR (or JR is too inconvenient). And when you have put down a lot of money for a JR pass, you don't want to then have to pay additional costs for tickets or passes on other transit systems.

My overall reaction is that you are trying to do too much. It looks like you have consulted various lists of the top places to visit in Japan and are trying to cram as many in as possible. That would be sort of like making a list of all the top Michelin-starred restaurants in a country and trying to eat at as many as possible in an 8-week period, including some days that feature both lunch and dinner in such places. Ignoring the cost and health implications, it simply doesn't make any sense in terms of the experience. FWIW, I have been to most of the places on your list, and I enjoyed many of them, but many of my favorite places in Japan are not on your list. I think you need to focus more on what kind of experiences you want to have, over an 8-week period, rather than how many places you can check off from a laundry list. If you are overly worried about missing the "best of Japan," you are likely to miss the real essence of Japan...

I would recommend two things: (1) cut back on the number of fixed destinations, and (2) look at a large number of passes other than the nationwide JR pass. Actually, I would make this an iterative process. Considering each pass, I would ask questions such as "Where can I go with this pass? How could I get particular value out of it? What would be a good "home base" as a place to stay in order to use this pass?" For me, this would all be an iterative (and very time-consuming) process. And it would include a lot of flexibility. I might eventually end up with a list somewhat like yours (actually considerably longer) as a menu of intriguing possibilities from which I could make choices somewhat spontaneously, depending on my mood, the weather, and various other considerations including the popularity of certain routes and the need (or lack thereof) for advance reservations. Of course I would make many decisions prior to leaving for my trip, but other decisions (including possibly even exactly when to actually activate a JR pass) might be made on the fly.

The nationwide JR pass can be tremendous value but it can also be somewhat constraining. It can be particularly strategic to use different regional passes or local day passes (and NOT have a nationwide JR pass) during extended stays in major cities like Kyoto, Osaka, or Tokyo. Look at many of these, and see what kind of itineraries they can support. My guess is you will probably want to get a nationwide JR pass of some duration at some point during your trip, but it will likely be just one piece of a fairly complicated package.

Good luck with your planning!
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/2 23:57
Whoops! I should have refreshed the window before posting the response I wrote earlier. I think you are making some great progress in your thinking about how to approach the trip. Even a 5-week trip is pretty long and takes an enormous amount of planning. But pacing is definitely important. I personally like long day trips (and I enjoy the train riding, rather than see it as a necessary evil) but I always balance them. Typically, I will do a number of long trips in a short period. Long round trips that use the shinkansen or limited express trains will bring incredible value from a JR pass. I can do maybe three or four in a week, plus include a longer trip to or from a major city. Then I take a break for a while and do local sightseeing or use other passes, or have low-key days when I don't go very far from the hotel or ryokan. Admittedly some of those days end up being a "waste" of my JR pass, but I make up for it during periods of more active travel. The JR pass is always good value for me...

It can make good sense to use a 21-day JR pass in the middle of a five-week trip, using some time at the beginning of the trip to get over jet lag and "culture shock" and some time at the end to do some local or possibly regional sightseeing without a JR pass. This is actually what I typically do (I tend to have trips that are about a month long). Tokyo lends itself well to such a plan and is typically where people fly in and out of. An open jaw (arriving Tokyo and departing Kansai) can be even better if you are trying to maximize value of a rail pass.

I would be inclined to get a 21-day pass (or possibly a 14-day pass) and focus on using it to get to many great places (and save money on transit), rather than first coming up with a list of places and trying to figure out how to get a JR pass to cover them. But many people seem to like to decide on a fixed itinerary first and then make the rail pass decisions. (Torture, if you ask me, but I seem to be in the minority.)
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/3 00:14
A couple more quick thoughts: (1) On a longer trip it's very hard to get value out of a 14-day JR pass. I don't know why I even mentioned it. I've considered them any times and almost always ended up getting a 21-day pass instead. (2) If you don't particularly enjoy train riding, then an itinerary that makes strategic use of domestic air travel (instead of getting a major rail pass) can be a good approach that can save you some money. With this approach you would tend to take fewer and shorter day trips, but you could still come up with a fabulous itinerary.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/3 00:19
I've always started my trips where I fly into but wanted to try something different this time around but now I'm liking the idea of doing

3 weeks Tokyo - no nationwide pass
1 weeks Fukuoka- activate rail pass
2 weeks Kyoto- until rail pass expires
2 weeks Osaka- regional if that
by Eddie Brown rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/3 00:22
Then fly from Osaka to Tokyo $50
I have to fly into and out of Tokyo because I'm splurging on either premium economy or business and that's the way to get the best price
by Eddie Brown rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/3 01:19
Feels like you're on the right track to me, with lots of room for tweaking. I would tend to split up the time in Tokyo, for example, and put some of it at the end. And if I were going to split up 4 weeks in Kansai into stays in Kyoto and Osaka I would tend to make the Kyoto part be the part without a JR pass because there is much to do there, and very little of it uses the JR pass. (There are some really great local passes to look into.) I might possibly spend a little more time exploring Kyushu (there are some awesome JR tourist trains there, although it can sometimes be hard to get reservations). And I might add Okayama or possibly Hiroshima or Himeji, maybe even other places, as additional home-base cities for day trips. In three weeks of pure leisure travel on a JR pass I could easily handle four to six hotel changes. But that's me.

I understand about the open jaw thing. I usually look at that option but then for various reasons I can't get the flights I want.

I usually start out sort of where you're at right now, with a rough idea of main areas I want to stay in and a basic assumption of a 3-week JR pass but not too many details. And then over considerable time I adjust and change things. Figuring out where to put the 3-week pass into the mix is always a major strategic consideration. (I tend to use it at the end to get back to Tokyo, but my trips are shorter than yours. Domestic air is indeed a cost-effective solution to that problem. It is painful to buy a 1-way shinkansen ticket, although there are some discounts. It's too long for a bus, at least for me, although I do sometimes use highway buses in Japan and they can be very effective.)
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/3 01:26
Thank you Kim! I'm planning for spring 2022 so a lot of time to map this thing out. I'll update this post when changes are made to continue to receive feedback
by Eddie Brown rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/3 03:03
The 'problem' I think I have when I go on trips is that I try to see everything. 8 weeks is a long time but now I'm thinking if I just relax more and cut my day trips by a lot

This is 100% it. For example have you noticed that for your three week (21 day) stay in the Tokyo area you have listed 18 destinations, and that only one of them is actually in Tokyo (though Okutama is miles away from the city proper. Assuming one location = one day, you leave yourself only three days in one of the best cities in the world, a city with so so many things to do, and with zero rest days. I'm not saying you should stay in Tokyo for three weeks, but I do know that you are going to miss out on a lot that the city has to offer.

You are setting yourself up for a rushed, and in my opinion what sounds like a miserable holiday. I understand wanting to see it all, but sacrificing precious time in the city to go visit some really, really random places which are hours away from any station in the city, and frankly not worth it unless you have some special specific reason for really wanting to see them. For example the view of the reservoir at Okutama IS nice, but it is probably going to be like a four hour round trip from any of the city centre stations. During your eight week stay in Japan do you really think that you are going to be that deprived of cool views that you will be able to justify four hours travelling just to see one cool but really not that amazing view? If you want to spend four hours travelling to a cool view, take flight from Haneda to Hakodate for something truly beautiful.

I travel to Japan frequently for relatively long periods of time (same as you, 2 months give or take), and I've also lived there. It's not a place you want to be rushing around or you will miss the best parts. My first trip there I had a very similar plan to you, two months, dozens of locations, rail journeys all over the country. That went out the window within a couple of weeks. I ended up cancelling hotel bookings all over the country and sending my rail pass back for a refund. I could feel myself losing really valuable experiences because I was always running off to the next destination on my list. So I told myself, I'm already in love with this country, I know I want to return many times, this isn't my last trip to Japan so I don't need to see everything or anywhere close to everything. I didn't leave the JR East area once on that two month trip. I have more amazing memories than I can list and I never once felt the bad kind of exhausted.

In my opinion you should re-evaluate and start again. Sorry to be so blunt but eight weeks in Japan really isn't that long at all with so much on your plate, and I know I would have regretted it if I had followed through on my initial plans.
by LIZ (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/3 03:21
There are very good local passes to use for day trips. You should check out the Northern Kyushu area pass for Fukuoka.

I live in Denton, Texas, and do travel to Dallas and Fort Worth for activities. So to me... Going for a 45 minute commute is perfectly normal for a day trip. I would consider staying a few days in Okayama for a while, and travel to Hiroshima, Miyajima, Naoshima, Himeji, and Kobe from there. I think this is better than taking these trips from Osaka. There are good business class hotels near Okayama Station.

You will find that the JR rail pass does little for you in several places. Kyoto comes to mind. The bus system is much better for getting around Kyoto. This means that even the golden and hallowed all-Japan JR pass will on some days will provide zero benefit for you.

If you are going in the spring, the Kintetsu pass can be used to get to Yushino, Nara, and even Kyoto from Osaka. If early enough, the Kintetsu Pass can also get you to Nagoya, to go see Nabana-no-Sato, which you might like.

I would also think about looking up the Nohi bus line, which is based in Takayama. It is possible to visit Kanazawa, The Alpine Route, and Shirahama-go from there. Consider taking the Nohi bus from Kyoto to Takayama, and when you are finished around Takayama, take a Nohi bus to Tokyo. The Nohi has a website in English, and I would suggest you visit it.

I would also think about when you want to be where. For instance, the illumination at Nabana-no-Sato usually ends in March, so that would be an early spring activity. If you want to visit the Phlox festival in Chichibu, that is a late April activity. The hanging Wisteria tunnels at Karachi Fuji gardens near Fukuoka normally blooms around golden week. There are also festivals, such as the Takayama spring festival in mid April. Going to that may mean trying to book your hotel room six months in advance.

In general, you have to pick and choose when to activate a JR pass to maximize itfs use, even the regional ones. Good luck, in planning your vacation.
by ebaychucky311 rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/3 04:59
@Eddie Brown I find the Regional JR Passes more "convenient" and "cheap" than the Nationwide JR pass. Perhaps, you should compare the passes. For example, the JR Sanyo Sanin Pass (that covers Chugoku and part of Kansai) is half the price of the regular JR pass and both are for 7 consecutive days. The JR Kansai Area Pass and the JR Kansai Wide Area pass are good deals too. Moreover, the regional also have some advantages as opposed to the Nationwide JR pass, ex. you can ride the Shinkansen Nozomi with JR Sanyo Saning Pass (you can't with a regular JR pass); you can catch the bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawago with JR Takayama-Hokuriku Pass (the regular JR pass don't cover the bus). There are websites with prices and the maps, so you can check them out and compare.

Also, I agree with other posters here about choosing cities for stay-over (make day trips from that "base"). Hotels in Hiroshima are cheap and it is a great city for you to stay in a hotel and do day trips (Miyajima for example). You also have Okayama (a great city between Hiroshima and Osaka, you can use Okayama for day trips such as Kurashiki, Himeji, Kobe). Kyoto is also a good place to as a "base" as you can do daytrips to Uji, Nara. Kanazawa as well.

Now I think you have to do is organize the places you want to visit and use the JR passes stratigically (the JR pass or JR regional passes don't cover some places such as Mt. Koya). For example, using the JR Sanyo Sanin Pass for Hiroshima, Miyajima, Okayama, Himeji, Kobe (also covers Fukuoka) in direction to Osaka or Kyoto for 7 days, then you can base yourself in Kyoto when the pass expires (you can explore Kyoto without a JR pass). Then after exploring Kyoto, you can activate the next JR pass (for example the JR Kansai Area Pass-you can choose the days from 1-4 consecutive days) and do day trips to Uji, Nara and Osaka for example...

These are only suggestions and examples. And I can only give advice for Chugoku and Kansai since these are the only regions I've been. I hope you will enjoy your stay in Japan! I am also planning a trip for 2022 ;)
by Sophia (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/4 16:05

Transportation wise I've come to a decision. I looked into regional passes and they just don't work out because of the limited amount of days. The only one that would work would be the 7 day Northern Kyushu at $100.

I did a rough calculation on buying individual tickets with airfare from Tokyo to Fukuoka and Fukuoka to Osaka and the total came out to $700 so....

I've decided to just spend as of now $1,007 on a 21 day pass and a 14 day pass. That will cover all of my travel before I get to Tokyo.

When I get to Tokyo my rough calculation has me spending around $100 in 3 weeks on trains.

I'm not going to do a million day trips like I first stated and that was also in the single use $700 calculation.
by Eddie Brown rate this post as useful

Re: How to use JR Pass during a 8 week visit? 2021/3/4 17:19
When I visited Japan for the first time it was truly an impressive impression. However, what made me return another eight times were the very small things. Strolling in alleys, frequenting an izakaya, visiting odd cafés etc. Giving myself time to experience something behind the obvious destinations is were I found the Japan that I love.

So, what I would recommend is flexibility. Unless this is a once only journey on a tight budget I would make a rough itinerary and deviate from it when need arises. Book hotels on the internet as you arrive on your destinations. Buy regional passes or one way tickets. I have bought JRP on numerous occasions to be used if I suddenly felt for a few long distance journeys. But since there is only a 10% cancellation fee I have also returned them on occasions (on site).

And finally. You know how you like to travel. Visit a lot or take your time.
by sullon rate this post as useful

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