Chureito Pagoda And Mount Fuji

Japan: How to save on transportation in Japan?

To the point Here are my tips to save on your transportation during a trip in Japan: Japan Rail Pass, regional or local passes, airports.
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Japan is a very popular destination, especially for a first trip that will take you a little out of your comfort zone. The arrival of direct flights between Montreal and Tokyo has only facilitated access(see milesopedia’s report on this flight).

A trip to Japan will be expensive, especially in terms of transportation. On the other hand, there are ways to save money by taking everything apart.

National and regional passes in Japan

Japan Rail Pass

Is it worth buying a Japan Rail Pass (JRP)?

This question arises very often. The answer is very simple: yes and no, depending on your ability to make it profitable, because it’s quite expensive!

Since October 2023, Japan Rail Pass prices have increased significantly:

Duration Old Standard Price (¥) New Standard Price (¥) Old Green Pass price (¥) New Green Pass price (¥) Increase
7 days 29 650 50 000 39 600 70 000 69% – 77%
14 days 47 250 80 000 64 120 110 000 69% – 72%
21 days 60 450 100 000 83 390 140 000 65% – 68%

If you are planning to visit Japan in the near future, you can still take advantage of the current rates by purchasing your JR Passes before the price increase:

  • JR Passes can be activated up to 3 months after the issue date.
  • When you activate your pass in Japan, you can choose a start date up to 30 days in advance. This means you could potentially travel to Japan with the pass until the end of January, depending on when you order.
  • When ordering, keep in mind the 3-month activation window, as well as the date on which you will exchange your voucher for the pass in Japan.

If you plan to activate the pass in Japan on December 20 (so it will be valid for the next 30 days), you should buy it on or after September 21.

Advantages of the Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass has many advantages:

  • valid throughout the country
  • valid on Narita Express routes between Narita airport and Tokyo
  • valid on Haruka Express or Kansai Airport Rapid routes between Kansai airport and Osaka
  • flexibility (no need for tickets with reserved seats in unreserved carriages)
  • possibility to book tickets with unlimited free seats
  • ease of use (simply show it to the ticket inspector at the ticket office and on the train)
  • very profitable over long distances
Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing
Not worth it

If you’re thinking of using it to cover the cost of your transportation in Tokyo only for your 7 days, you’ll be losing out big time!

I advise you to draw up a rough itinerary and then calculate the cost of your trip. For example, the cost-effectiveness of the JRP is maximized with this fairly popular route:

Day Destination Duration Cost
1 Tokyo-Osaka 174 min. ¥ 13,870
2 Osaka
3 Osaka-Kyoto 13 min. ¥ 1,440
4 Kyoto
5 Kyoto-Hiroshima (et Himeji Castle) 56 min. /59 min. ¥ 4,840/¥ 7,910
6 Hiroshima et Miyajima (Ferry) 10 min. ¥360 round trip
7 Hiroshima-Narita 363 min. ¥ 20,970 with 2 transfers

If you buy the JRP at a cost of ¥50,000, you get a value of at least ¥49,390. So you’re even.

These prices are for unreserved seats which can be purchased as cheaper à la carte tickets. If you take reserved seats and use the JRP to travel to Osaka and Kyoto as well, you save more money.

On the other hand, in the case of a multi-city itinerary with a flight arriving in Tokyo and departing from Osaka, it’s best to take an à la carte long-distance ticket and combine it with local passes to save money.

High season

It is advisable to buy tickets with reserved seats, especially during the peak tourist season (March-April), as the unreserved carriages fill up fast! The Golden Week (early May) and holiday periods are also very busy.

I recommend you do the same exercise regardless of the length of your trip, and determine whether long-distance journeys can be condensed into 7, 14 or 21 days.

A two-week trip to Japan may require only a 7-day pass instead of 14 days, depending on the routes you have planned.

An online calculator is available here.

Calculateur Japan Rail Pass
3 months

JRP should not be purchased more than 3 months before the intended date of use!

Disadvantages of the Japan Rail Pass

Although it makes organizing a trip to Japan much easier, it is not without its drawbacks:

  • must be used for consecutive days only
  • must be purchased BEFORE arriving in Japan
  • only valid on JR train and bus lines
  • not valid on the faster Nozomi trains
  • not cost-effective for local use
  • it’s very easy to buy JR or non-JR à la carte tickets at stations

Some destinations are not served by a JR line, or rather, you can get there much more quickly and cheaply by metro.

Night bus

Finally, night buses are also available for long-distance travel between major cities. This method is less expensive than all the others, and saves you the cost of a night in a hotel.

The JR Regional Pass

Then, to visit certain regions, one must also consider the JR Regional Pass. I usually go to this site to see exactly what region is covered by each pass.

Here are a few of them:

JR Regional Pass Zone Duration Cost
JR Kansai Pass Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji, Nara, Kansai Airport 1 – 4 days ¥2,300 – ¥6,600
JR Hokkaido Pass Hokkaido, Sapporo 3 – 4 days (flexible) ¥17,400 – ¥23,480
JR West Sanyo San’in Pass Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kansai Airport,Wakayama, Kobe, Himeji, Okayama, Kurashiki,
Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Tottori, Matsue, Hakata (Fukuoka)
7 days ¥19,400
JR Central Takayama Hokuriku Pass Hokuriku, Shirakawa-go, Takayama, Kanazawa 5 days ¥14,260
JR East-South Hokkaido Pass Sapporo, Sendai, Miyagi, Yamanashi, Nagano, Niigata, Kanto 6 days (flexible) ¥26,900
JR Kyushu Pass Kyushu 3 or 5 days ¥15,280 – ¥18,330
JR Shikoku Pass Shikoku 3 – 7 days ¥9,000 – ¥13,000

You should not purchase a JRP blindly. You should take care to break down the costs specific to your trip. However, the JR Regional Pass is worth it in the vast majority of cases!

The best sites to calculate the cost of your trips

Tokyo google maps 9073
Tokyo google maps 9074
Tokyo google maps 9075

The unreserved cars are clearly marked on the platform floor.

Websites to purchase a JRP or regional passes

Day passes in Japanese cities

A trip to Osaka or Tokyo? I hope you won’t go to Japan just to spend a few days in Tokyo! However, it’s an excellent strategy to combine these daily passes with JRP.

For example, for a 10-day trip:

  • pay for transportation from the airport to Tokyo à la carte (¥1050; see below for details)
  • 3 days in Tokyo (3 days Pass ¥1,500)
  • 7 days touring the rest of Japan (JRP ¥50,000)

In this situation, the total cost of transport is ¥52.550, instead of buying the 14-day JRP of ¥80.00 to cover the whole trip. A saving of ¥27,450 or $255 CAD!

There’s a whole range of them, but I’m going to talk about the most useful passes.

Points of sale

All the following passes can be purchased on site. Points of sale are varied and mostly cash-only: hotel reception, tourist information office, automated machine at the resort, counter at the resort, etc.

Tokyo Area

Tokyo Metro Pass

Most of Tokyo ‘s tourist attractions are served by the subway, so I recommend the Tokyo Metro Pass, which includes the Tokyo Metro and Toei lines.

It is valid for a number of hours, not days. The expiry date and time will be printed on the back of the ticket after the first use:

  • ¥800 (24h)
  • ¥1,200 (48h)
  • ¥1,500 (72h)
Tokyo Metro Pass

In my opinion, this is the best option to visit Tokyo.

If you don’t need to use Toei lines, you can buy a 24-hour pass for ¥600.

Example of use for sightseeing to monetize a 48-hour Tokyo Metro pass (value ¥1,200):

Day 1 Metro Line Attractions Cost of a one-way ticket
Asakusa to Higashi Ginza Asakusa Line Kabuki Theater, Ginza window shopping ¥220.00
Higashi Ginza to Tsukijishijo (walking) Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukijishijo to Ryogoku Oedo Line Edo Tokyo Museum, Sumo Museum ¥220.00
Ryogoku to Kasuga Oedo Line Tokyo Dome City ¥220.00
Kasuga to Tochomae Oedo Line Metropolitan Government Building Observatory ¥220.00
Tochomae to Shinjuki (walking) Shopping, Kabuki-cho
Shinjuku to Roppongi Oedo Line Roppongi Hills, Bars & Clubs, Mori Museum ¥220.00
Roppongi to Asakusa Oedo & Asakusa Line ¥280.00
    Subtotal ¥1,380.00
Day 2 Metro Line Attractions Cost of a one-way ticket
Asakusa to Shibuya Ginza line Shibuya crossing, Shopping ¥250.00
Shibuya to Meiji-jingumae Fukutoshin Line Harajuku, Takeshita street, Omotesando, Meiji Shrine ¥170.00
Omotesando to Akabanebashi Hanzomon & Oedo Line Tokyo Tower ¥280.00
Onarimon to Akihabara Mita & Hibiya Line Akihabara ¥280.00
Akihabara to Ueno Hibiya Line Ueno zoo ¥170.00
Ueno to Asakusa Oedo Line ¥170.00
Subtotal ¥1,320.00
Total ¥2,700.00

Tokyo Free Kippu One-day Pass

The Tokyo Free Kippu One-day Pass is valid on all Tokyo Metro lines and JR lines within Tokyo‘s 23 districts.

Cost: ¥1,600

Tokyo Metropolitan District Pass (Tokunai Pass)

The Tokyo Metropolitan District Pass (Tokunai Pass) is valid on all JR lines within Tokyo‘s 23 districts.

Cost: ¥760

Yurikamome One-day Pass

The Yurikamome One-day Pass is valid only on the Yurikamome line.

Odaiba is only accessible by this line, and since it’s a private company, one-way tickets can be expensive (¥400) when booked à la carte.

Cost: ¥820

Tokyu Line Minatomirai Ticket

The Tokyu Line Minatomirai Ticket is valid on Minatomirai trains as well as several stations between Tokyo and Yokohama.

Cost: ¥630 – ¥1100 (price depends on departure and arrival stations)

Kaisen Don
Kaisen Don

Odakyu Railway Hakone Freepass

The Odakyu Railway Hakone Freepass lets you visit the Hakone area from Tokyo.

Cost: ¥5,700 (2 days), ¥6,100 (3 days)

Mt Fuji Pass

The Mt Fuji Pass lets you visit the area of Mt Fuji and Fuji Five Lakes from Tokyo.

Cost: ¥5,500 (1 day), ¥8,000 (2 days), ¥10,000 (3 days)

Nikko Pass

The Nikko Pass allows you to visit the Nikko region from Tokyo; there are two variants, depending on the extent of the region you wish to visit.

There is a supplement to pay separately from the pass to use the limited express trains, which make fewer stops between Tokyo and Nikko.


  • World Heritage Area Pass ¥2000 (2 days),
  • All Area Pass ¥4,500 (4 days),
  • Limited express free ~¥1,200 one-way.

Osaka and Kyoto Area

Kansai Thru Pass

The Kansai Thru Pass is valid for the entire region and allows you to visit Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Wakayama, Koyasan, Himeji for 2 or 3 days which can be non-consecutive.

Also valid on the KIX and ITM airport connections.


  • ¥4,400 (2 days)
  • ¥5,500 (3 days)
Geisha in Kyoto
Geisha in Kyoto

Hankyu Tourist Pass

The Hankyu Tourist Pass is valid on all Hankyu Railways lines, allowing you to visit Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto for 1 or 2 days, which may be non-consecutive.


  • ¥700 (1 day)
  • ¥1,200 (2 days)

Kyoto Subway & Bus Pass

The Kyoto Subway & Bus Pass: you need to take a bus to get to the majority of the tourist sites.


  • ¥900 (1 day),
  • ¥1,700 (2 days)
  • or ¥600 for bus pass only
The best pass for you

How do you select the best pass for your needs? First, draw up a list of the places to visit, the days required and determine the stations that serve these places.

Then check if these stations are covered on the pass you want to buy. You can find a map of the stations specific to each pass with a quick Google search.

Payment cards (IC Cards)

In Japan, there are a number of cards that make it easy to pay for your short trips (one-off journeys).

Having lived in Tokyo, you’ll understand that I didn’t visit 3-4 tourist sites in the same day! I used an IC Card daily as a local, but I was always calculating whether I should buy a day pass or just go à la carte.

For example, if the only activity was to go picnicking under the sakura trees and spend the day with friends at Shinjuku Gyoen Park, I’d get out my IC Card to go there.

Picnic in Shinjuku Gyoen
Picnic in Shinjuku Gyoen
IC Card

The name of the card is specific to each city and company, but they are used in the same way throughout Japan as IC Cards. So you don’t have to buy a new card for each region:

  • Suica (Tokyo)
  • Pasmo (Tokyo)
  • Icoca (Osaka)
  • Kitaca (Sapporo)
  • Sugoca (Fukuoka)
Suica Cards Tourist and Local Version
Suica Cards Tourist and Local Version

What you need to know about the IC Card :

  • It can be reloaded, in cash, at any station.
  • It is available on Apple Pay as well as Google Pay and reloadable by credit card. Remember to use your Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card to avoid currency conversion fees!
  • Swipe your card or phone over the reader as you enter and exit a station (or bus).
  • Since prices for one-way trips are based on the distance travelled, the exact amount will be deducted from your card.
  • This saves you from having to look up the price to pay for a ticket; sometimes, on a board just in Japanese!
  • There are sometimes discounts on certain routes and companies when you pay with one of these cards.
  • It can be used in vending machines, convenience stores, most restaurant chains, some retail outlets, etc.
  • One per person is required.
  • Expiration of physical card: 10 years (so you can keep it for your next visit to Japan!)
Tokyo suica card 8229
Tokyo suica card 8230
Tokyo suica card 8958
Tokyo suica card 9070

Transportation to/from Japanese airports

Narita (NRT) to Tokyo

The Narita Express is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to Tokyo from Narita Airport (NRT). However, there are ways to save on this trip if you’re prepared to make transfers.

Time to Tokyo

(main stations)

Cost Frequency
NEX (Narita Express) 60 – 75 min.

¥3,070 or ¥4,070 return

(if the return is within 14 days)

30-60 min.
Keisei Sky Liner

45 min.

then a transfer to Nippori

¥2,200 20-40 min.
Keisei Limited Express

75 min.

then a transfer to Nippori

¥1,050 20 min.
Keisei Narita Sky Access 60 min. ¥1,200 20 -40 min.
JR Sobu Line 90 min. ¥1,340 60 min.

Limousine Bus

goes to several hotels as well

100 min. ¥2,800 or ¥4,500 return 15-20 min.
Airport Bus TYO-NRT 90 min. ¥1,050 by day or ¥2,100 by night fairly frequent
Short stopover

It is therefore not advisable to visit Tokyo on a short stopover at NRT (less than 8 hours). Here again, I think it’s a lot of trouble for so little time in Tokyo. I recommend a visit to Narita if you really want to get out of the airport during your stopover.

Haneda (HND) to Tokyo

Although there are direct flights between Montreal and Tokyo Narita, Haneda International Airport (served from Toronto) is much closer to the city.

Time to Tokyo

(main stations)

Cost Frequency
Tokyo Monorail 30 min. ¥660 fairly frequent
Keykyu Railways 35 min. ¥470 fairly frequent
Limousine bus 40-55 min. ¥1,000 30 -60 min.
All Nippon Airways

Positive experience with All Nippon Airways: following a delay to an OKA-HND flight, the company offered ¥25,000 in cash per person to cover the cost of a cab from Haneda to Tokyo.

The delay meant landing too late to take public transport into town.

Haneda (HND) to Narita (NRT)

Do you have an unavoidable airport transfer to make?

Duration Cost Frequency
Keikyu Airport Line 90 min. ¥176 0 40 min.
Limousine bus 65-90 min. ¥3200 15-20 min.

Kansai (KIX) to Osaka

Do you have an unavoidable airport transfer to make?

Duration Cost Frequency

JR Haruka

goes to Kyoto

50-75 min.

¥2,380 – ¥3,000

(covered by JRP)

30 min.
JR Airport Rapid 70 min.


(covered by JRP)

20-30 min.
Nankai Express 90 min. ¥93 0 15 min.
Nankai Rapid 35 min. ¥145 0 30 min.

Limousine bus

to several hotels in Osaka or Kyoto

45-100 min. ¥1,100 – ¥2 600 fairly frequent

Itami (ITM) to Osaka

Do you have an unavoidable airport transfer to make?

Duration Cost Frequency
Bus 25 min. ¥500 – ¥640 fairly frequent
Osaka Monorail + Hankyu Line 20-25 min. ¥420 fairly frequent

How to choose your transport to/from the airport?

How do you choose THE best way (efficiency, cost, comfort, etc.) to get from the airport to the city?

This will depend on your final destination and the number of transfers you are prepared to make. The final cost of the journey also depends on the location of your hotel.

In short, if you’re willing to take out the calculator, the savings can be considerable. Japan has put a multitude of deals at our disposal, so it’s up to us to take advantage of them!

ありがとう! Arigatou!

Bottom Line

Please know that all prices for this article are approximate. I’ve tried to find the most accurate prices possible, but they are subject to change. However, the order of magnitude of the prices is correct.

Other tips and tricks about transportation in Japan :

  • long journeys on board Shinkansen trains can be paid by credit card.
  • it’s impolite to talk on the phone in train and subway cars.
  • pay attention to cars that are solely reserved for women during peak hours (indicated on the platform floor and on the doors)
  • there’s always someone who speaks English at major train stations and tourist attractions

If you want to follow my adventures on Instagram, my account is @wanderingaline!

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
4.7 Milesopedia Rating
I'm Aline, an experienced traveller, a foodie at heart, an Avgeek, a photography enthusiast and an expert on credit card programs. I use Reward Points to travel on a budget and to save money on everyday life; writing about these topics allows me to share my passion and help you. ~ 7 continents and 75 countries ~

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