Daniel, a guy I trained muay Thai in Bangkok with, looked at me in disbelief when I told him I wasn’t going to buy a JR Pass. “But it’s expensive,” he said nicely, referring to the train fares in Japan.
To show my gratitude for his concern, I smiled and said, “How about this. If on the first three days, the train tickets are draining my funds, I’ll get a pass.”
“But you can’t get one when you’re already in Japan.”
I didn’t want to sound like a defensive know-it-all to someone I just met, and especially not to someone who is so nice and who has already been to Japan. So again, I gave him a smile, but this time, it came with a shrug, which was a code for “I’ll just wing it.”
Actually, you can buy a JR Pass even when you’re already in Japan.
But in fairness to Daniel, he wasn’t wrong. Maybe he just missed it because this service was introduced only last March 8, 2017, and it’s on a trial basis that runs until March 31, 2018. Also, it’s offered only in select sales offices. Updates have yet to be announced if they’re extending beyond March 31st.
So… did I buy a JR Pass? From the title of this post, obviously, I didn’t.
Was it a good decision? YES.
First, here are some numbers.
A 7-day ordinary pass costs 29,110 JPY. If bought in Japan, it comes with a 33,000 JPY price tag. On the other hand, a 7-day green-type pass is 38,880 JPY. If bought at any ticket sales office in Japan, expect to pay 44,000 JPY.
For my 12-day trip, I spent a total of 23, 890 JPY for ALL of my train, subway, and bus tickets including non-JR lines.
For your reference, here’s where I went in Japan:
- Osaka – Yuasa – Harie – Kyoto – Nagoya – Mt. Fuji – Tokyo
And here’s a list of my train and bus expenses. All are quoted in Japanese yen.
- Kansai Airport to Umeda: 1,190
- Umeda to Asiyagawa: 280
- Arima Onsen to Umeda: 1,030
- Umeda to Namba: 270
- Namba to Umeda: 270
- Umeda to Yuasa: 1,940
- Yuasa to Umeda: 1,940
- Osaka to Kyoto: 560
- Kyoto to Shin Asahi: 970
- Shin Asahi to Kyoto: 970
- Kyoto to Inari: 140
- Inari to Kyoto: 140
- Bus to Arashiyama: 230
- Shijo-Omiya to Arashiyama: 210
- Arashiyama to Shijo-Omiya: 210
- Kyoto to Nagoya (bus): 2,550
- Nagoya to Atsuta: 190
- Temma-cho to Shiyakusho: 270
- Shiyakusho to Nagoya: 240
- Nagoya to Kawaguchiko (bus): 4,110
- Kawaguchiko to Fifth Station (two-way): 2,110
- Kawaguchiko to Tokyo (bus): 1,800
- Tokyo to Shin-Okubo: 200
- Shin-Okubo to Harajuko: 140
- Harajuko to Shin-Okubo: 170
- Shin-Okubo to Tokyo: 200
- Tokyo to Shibuya: 200
- Shibuya to Shin-Okubo: 160
- Shin-Okubo to Tokyo: 200
- Tokyo to Narita Airport (bus): 1,000
- TOTAL: 23,890 JPY
1. If we make a calculation, you can see that I was able to save at least 5,210 JPY. Note that some of these transfers are not covered by the pass, so I was spared from spending more money.
2. Except for my Nagoya-Kawaguchiko bus ticket, I didn’t make any purchases in advance. I showed up at the station, bought a ticket, and hopped on the correct train. It was smooth and effortless.
3. Remember that the pass is valid only for 7 days, so even if I have one, I’ll still be spending on fares out of my pocket during the remaining 4 or 5 days of my 12-day trip in Japan. On a side note, there is a 14-day JR Pass, and it costs at least 46,390 JPY.
Here’s the takeaway.