I’m so excited for this post! It was written the very next morning after I came back from my 7-day #CheesieConquersWestJapan trip.
Before I even start the post, I want to thank JR West for giving me this wonderful opportunity to travel through 10 different prefectures in 7 days, conquering 3 new prefectures, meeting many amazing people (and a couple of miracle encounters along the way), laughing a lot, and most importantly, feeling the love of Japan, more than ever.
I had such fun time planning the itinerary with JR West team (well, they planned most of it! I just told them the new places I wished to visit and they made it all come true), because I was really thrilled to be able to set foot on a few more prefectures I had yet to visit. When the itinerary was finally ready, I took a glance at the time schedule, couldn’t help but burst out laughing, and at the same time I felt my heart soften, deeply impressed.
On the itinerary, there’s a timetable stating the exact time of each train I will board, and the time it will arrive/depart, to the very minute.
9:05 Depart Hakata Station
9:31 Arrive at Shinshimonoseki Station – store luggage at the coin locker
9:59 Board Maru Maru No Hanashi Train from Shinsimonoseki Station
#OnlyInJapan, that you can follow a time schedule as exact and precise as this. I move about with local trains and shinkansen (and some buses and ferries) countless of times during my entire 7-day trip, not a single time have I missed any rides because… it’s Japan. You can be sure that when it says it will come at 9:59, it WILL. This is just one of the many beauty of Japan which I am way too eager to have it shared and known to the whole world.
I have been on quite a number of FAM trips to Japan, most of the time we (bloggers and media) get chauffeured in a private bus or car in exchange for time and schedule efficiency, but the downside of it is that it would be hard for me to explain how I actually get to a particular place. So I have always wanted to do a trip with me traveling using only public transport, just like a regular tourist. And this was it – the perfect opportunity for me to share my real experience using JR West Rail Pass conquering most of West Japan.
So today, I’ll be introducing two of the JR West Rail Passes so that you guys can have a better idea what they actually are.
I know, I know. I get asked so often!!!
“Which pass should I use??”
First of all, there are a total of 6 JR Railways and they are all different companies: JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Shikoku and JR Kyushu. Today I will be introducing passes from JR West in particular.
And JR West Rail Passes in total, cover the whole of Kansai and Chugoku, with extension to even parts of Kyushu, Shikoku and Chubu (if you are not familiar with Japan’s regional geography, read this blog post. ^^)
Here are all the passes available on JR West:
The ones with the Hello Kitty mark are passes that allow you to ride the Hello Kitty Shinkansen! More on that later!
Other than the above passes, there are also more!!
- Setouchi Area Pass
- Hokuriku Arch Pass
- Sanyo-San’in Northen Kyushu Pass
- Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass
- Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Tourist Pass
Are you ready? Let’s start!
Here’s the first pass I’d like to introduce:
Quick explanation: Chugoku Region is separated into two areas – Sanyo (山陽) and San’in(山陰).
Sanyo is made of southern prefectures facing the Seto Inland Sea – Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi.
San’in consists of northen prefectures facing the sea of Japan – Tottori and Shimane.
It is the pass that covers the widest area and also priced the highest at ¥19,000 for adults and ¥9,500 for children aged 6-11. Kids below 6 years old can ride for free for all the passes 😀 😀 :D. It’s time to bring your kids to travel in Japan before they turn 6! Hahaha. Junya has about 1 year plus for free rides. ^^
The complete map of areas it covers. You can ride Hello Kitty Shinkansen with this pass!
You can basically travel from Hakata (Fukuoka Prefecture) all the way to Osaka, the distance is more than 600km.
Did you know that a one-way regular ticket from Hakata to Osaka cost ¥14,480? (If you ride in Green Car it cost even more -about ¥20,000!) It’s so so worth it and I’m so thankful that I am able to use JR West Pass now before I relocate to Japan one day in the future! (Citizens and residents of Japan cannot enjoy this benefit unfortunately, so use your tourist advantage to the max now!)
If you have a whole week to spend, and conquering as many prefectures as possible is your priority, this would be a great pass for you to start your own #47PrefectureMission! Pro tip: Fly in to Fukuoka Airport (there are direct flights to Fukuoka from Kuala Lumpur by Air Asia starting 28 Feb!), and travel all the way up to Osaka (and catch the Hello Kitty Shinkansen along the way!) and fly out from Kansai International Airport. I’ll be sharing my itinerary in upcoming posts.
The second pass I’d like to introduce is
It is a 5-day pass and is significant a lot more affordable, priced at ¥9,000 for adults and ¥4,500 for children aged 6-11. (Below 6 is free! ^^)
It covers a wider area than the regular Kansai Area Pass, as it includes also Okayama, Takamatsu (Kagawa Prefecture), Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo Prefecture), Amanohashidate (Kyoto), Shirahama, Kishi & Kii-Katsuura (Wakayama Prefecture)!
This is the area it covers. You can also ride Hello Kitty Shinkansen with this pass!
If you are only in West Japan for 5 days or less and have to fly in and out Kansai International Airport, this may be a good, affordable option to maximize sight-seeing concentrated in the Kansai region. It’s possible to conquer 5-6 prefectures with this pass during the duration!
So! I thought you’d like to know some perks of using JR West Passes compared to other train passes.
1. Unlimited Shinkansen ride
Yes, everyone knows you can use this pass and ride the trains over and over again, but sometimes it comes with a catch or two. Last year, I was dying to visit Izumo Taisha Shrine in Shimane Prefecture AND travel to Nyuto Onsen in Akita just to check these two prefectures off my list (what was I thinking?! The two places are more than 1000km apart!!!!!), so I bought a JR Whole Japan Rail Pass since these two prefectures are basically at almost two extreme ends of Japan’s main island.
But did you know? That JR Whole Japan Pass does not include rides on NOZOMI and MIZUHO, two of the speediest shinkansen in Japan??? Well, I didn’t. In the end I had to use the local trains mostly and the entire journey took me one whole day. T__T.
So! My point is! All JR WEST Rail Passes (with the exception of Kansai Area Pass) allow you to get unlimited rides on the Sanyo Shinkansen line, including NOZOMI and MIZUHO!! Very very important! It will make your journey so much smoother and faster 🙂
2. Unlimited Limited Express & local train ride
Here’s one thing even an experienced Japan-traveler like me get very confused – the different types of express trains in Japan. Some of them are “Limited Express” (Tokkyu), which you will need to purchase a separate Limited Express ticket to ride the trains. The train masters are checking quite regularly these days because I think many tourists ride them without knowing – I don’t blame them, it is indeed quite confusing. So if you are riding on a regular ticket, please make sure that you purchase the Limited Express ticket as well.
So! My point is!! With just ONE JR West Rail Pass in your hand, you get to ride all varieties of limited express and local trains, including rapid and special rapid. I know, I know. (There’s even semi-express and others omg.) Just ignore it for now. Just rest assured that with this pass, you are able to be on most of the trains to your destinations 🙂 If you feel that it’s too daunting and you are unsure, you can check the website for more info.
3. Unlimited ride on seasonal and themed trains
JR has many interesting seasonal and character-themed trains, such as of course, the Hello Kitty Shinkansen (I LOVE IT!!!!), the scenic Maru Maru No Hanashi that runs along the coast of sea of Japan, and the very nostalgic SL Yamaguchi, etc. Sometimes you get on one without even knowing, what a nice surprise! You don’t have to pay anything extra for it. You can read my blog post on Hello Kitty Shinkansen here.
3. Unlimited rides on other railway companies
This is where things get interesting! Sometimes you will see a train that’s not run by JR West. But JR West has many special collaborations so certain passes allow you to even ride on other railway companys’ trains! For example on Kansai WIDE Area Pass you get to ride the super adorable Tama Densha run by Wakayama Electric Railway, to meet the famous super train master cat. You can read my blog post about Tama Densha here.
4. Unlimited rides on buses and ferries
You also get to ride some JR buses and ferries with this pass – such as the JR West Miyajima Ferry if you are planning to visit Itsukushima Shrine. ^^
5. Discounts and benefits
This pass also lets you enjoy lots of discounts and benefits such as restaurant discounts, shopping coupons, entrance ticket discounts and more. Did you know that you can get 10% off car rental fee, and even rent a bicycle for free with the special “Ekirin Kun” service?? In the above picture, I used my JR West Rail Pass for 10% off Kyoto Railway Museum admission ticket!
There are simply too many benefits to list down so you can refer to this page for more info!
In my next blog posts, I will be sharing two sample itineraries using these two JR West Rail Passes, so that you can enjoy what I did in West Japan!
For more information on JR West Rail Passes, visit their website:
Happy conquering West Japan!