Japan’s popular Rail Pass price slated to increase 70 per cent

A Japanese bullet train speeding past a rice field with Mt Fuji in the background

A significant increase in the price of all Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) tickets is expected to take effect from October 2023, according to a JR Group media release

The cost of a JR Pass, which lets you travel across the country’s extensive JR Network, is set to rise by about 70%. 

The new price of the JR Pass will affect both Standard Class and Green Class (first class) passes, across seven, 14, and 21-day expiries.

JR Pass price increase October 2023 

The following table outlines the approximate price in AUD, converted from Japanese Yen on May 3, 2023. Data from Japan Guide.

Pass typeCurrent priceOctober price
Standard 7 days$327$551
Standard 14 days$521$882
Standard 21 days$666$1,102
Green 7 days$436$772
Green 14 days$707$1,223
Green 21 days$919$1,543

The October price rise leaves many wondering if the new cost is still worth it

Japan travel expert Yaseen Hijazi, founder of Have Ya Seen Japan, says travellers may struggle to squeeze enough value out of their JR Pass once the price goes up. 

“I believe many travellers to Japan will find that the JR Pass is no longer worth it after the price rise takes place,” he said. “This is because it generally takes about 3 long-distance trips to make a 7-day JR Pass worth it.

“Given the price is almost doubling, you can now expect to do at least 5 long-distance trips just to break even. That's a lot of trips in just 7 days!

“First-time visitors to Japan typically only do around 3 long-distance trips to cover the major cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo.” 

Hijazi believes that budget-conscious travellers may be better off looking for alternative ways to get around Japan, like flights. 

“Personally, I found domestic flights to be a surprisingly cost-effective option in many cases compared to using the Shinkansen,” he said. 

According to Japan Guide, discount airline tickets for foreign visitors range from about 10,000 to 16,000 yen – roughly $110 to $175 AUD. But these types of tickets are subject to seasonal availability and often need to be purchased before you arrive in Japan. 

Ordinary 7-day JR Rail pass and JR train ticket from Sapporo station to Kushiro and assorted travel documents

How to make the most of your JR Pass, according to an expert

While Hijazi recommends purchasing your JR Pass before October, he says there are still ways to maximise your train pass, even if you buy it post-increase, whether it’s using a JR Pass calculator, or taking advantage of other public transport modes included with the Pass.

“The best way to ensure you are getting the most out of your JR Pass is to use the JR Pass calculator,” he said. “There are many websites that offer this tool, but I like the one at Japan Guide the best.

“That being said, getting the most out of your JR Pass isn't just about bullet trains, as you will find JR commuter trains, JR buses, and even JR ferries that are accessible with the pass.

“Incorporating all of these modes of transport into a ‘Shinkansen-heavy’ trip and you'll be well on your way to making your JR Pass a worthwhile purchase, even after the ridiculous jump in price.”

Hijazi says it’s also worth considering if a JR Regional Pass is better suited to your needs and budget, as they “could help you bring costs down, as they are significantly cheaper than the JR Pass.”

These regional passes are much like the usual JR Pass, but they’re only valid for travel within a certain area, such as the Kanto or Kansai regions.

What happens if you lose your JR Pass?

Unfortunately, if you lose your JR Pass you won’t be able to get a refund or have your pass reissued. However, having travel insurance for Japan might prove helpful in recovering some of the costs.

Some comprehensive travel insurance policies include benefits that cover travel documents – like passports, for example. They may also provide coverage for rail passes like the JR Pass if it’s lost or stolen.

However, it’s always worth double-checking with a travel insurance provider how they treat rail passes, especially considering the JR Pass is a physical paper document.

If you’re looking for a policy, but aren’t sure where to start, check out the best travel insurance policies in Australia, or have a browse through the ones featured below.

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