Now that JR Pass prices have increased by more than 30%, it might not be worth it… Fortunately, other budget alternatives like single Shinkansen tickets and regional passes exist!

Hokkaido JR Pass Train - Transportation alternatives for sightseeing in Japan

It’s no secret that we love Japan — we’ve actually been there more than 20 times! And on many occasions, using the Japan Rail (JR) Pass has been really cost-effective for us. On a previous trip, we saved S$100 with the 7-day Whole JR Pass 😎

But now that the cost of the JR Passes has increased, travellers might find it harder to maximise the value of the JR Pass.

Thankfully, there are more budget-friendly alternatives to getting around Japan!

Read also: JR Pass Guide — 9 Things You Need To Know Before Getting Your First Japan Rail Pass

Changes to the Japan Rail Pass

Whole Japan JR Pass - JR Pass Alternatives

For the unfamiliar, the Japan Rail Pass comes in the form of 7, 14, and 21-day passes — covering the whole of Japan from the Hokkaido (northern) to Kyushu (southern) region.

From October 2023, these are the changes in prices:

Table showing price changes of the JR Pass after October 2023

The price hike aside, there are some added perks like:

– Being able to board the Mizuho and Nozomi Shinkansen (previously you needed a separate ticket)
– Additional discounted prices for selected tourist attractions (e.g. 10% off entry fee to Osaka Castle)

*Note: To ride the Mizuho and Nozomi Shinkansen trains, you’ll still need to upgrade your ticket at an additional cost. Here is a brief price breakdown:

RouteAdditional cost
Tokyo – Nagoya¥4,180 (~S$38)
Tokyo – Kyoto¥4,960 (~S$45)
Tokyo – Shin Osaka¥4,960 (~S$45)
Tokyo – Shin Kobe¥4,960 (~S$45)
Tokyo – Himeji¥5,390 (~S$49)
Tokyo – Okayama¥5,930 (~S$49)
Tokyo – Hiroshima¥6,500 (~S$59)
Tokyo – Hakata¥8,140 (~S$74)

Find the full list here.

What then, are the JR Pass alternatives?

Kansai Wide Area JR Pass Train Station - Japan Itinerary

Besides the Japan Rail Pass, there are other alternatives to choose from when travelling around Japan! Here’s a summary before we go into more details:

1) Single Shinkansen Tickets — For travelling between cities (point-to-point single trips)
2) JR Regional Passes For travelling within a certain region (unlimited travel)
3) Non-JR Passes For travelling within cities on lines not operated by the Japan Railways Group (e.g. Tokyo or Osaka Metro)

Single Shinkansen Tickets

Train Conductor at Shinkansen South Tohoku - JR Pass Guide

Compared to a Japan Rail Pass which grants you unlimited travel on trains, single Shinkansen tickets are meant for travelling from point to point. 

So if you’re only planning to stay in a few cities or prefer to explore one area more extensively rather than hopping on and off trains around Japan — consider these point-to-point bullet train tickets! 

You can then add on regional passes or non-JR passes for travelling within the area or city. The total cost might still be more affordable than getting a JR Pass, so do plan your trip carefully. 

Here are some popular routes via the bullet train:

Tokyo – Kyoto~S$120
Tokyo – Shin Osaka~S$125
Narita Airport Terminal 1 – Shibuya~S$30
Shinjuku – Kawaguchiko~S$37
Sapporo – Aasahikawa~S$42
Sapporo – Hakodate~S$81

*Pro-tip: Book your single Shinkansen tickets via Klook in advance to secure seats! It’s pretty easy, just enter your trip details and it’ll show you the available timings, as well as seat options.

Klook Shinkansen Ticket - JR Pass Alternatives

Regional Passes

JR Regional Pass - JR Pass Alternatives

Unlike the Japan Rail Pass which covers the whole of Japan, regional passes only cover a certain well.. region. This refers to specific areas in Japan like Kanto, Kansai, Kyushu, Hokkaido, and more.

The upside is that they’re all under S$300 (vs. JR Passes which start from ~S$450). If the route is planned well, you can definitely maximise it for a lot more savings.


Unfortunately, selected regional passes have also increased in price from 1 October 2023. Here’s a quick update:

Regional Japan JR Passes - JR Pass Alternatives

Regional passes are split into six regions — JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Kyushu, JR Shikoku — and vary in days and areas covered. We’ve rounded up the passes for each in an easy table so you can decide which best suits your Japan itinerary!

1) JR Hokkaido

Otaru Canal Landscape - JR Pass Alternatives

Popular cities: Sapporo, Asahikawa, Hakodate, Otaru
Highlights: Sapporo TV Tower, Niseko Ski Resort, Otaru Canal
Recommended pass: Hokkaido Rail Pass

Hokkaido is one of Japan’s most famous regions ― known for its volcanoes, hot springs and ski resorts! There are plenty of adventurous activities here like hiking up Mount Asahidake (Hokkaido’s highest mountain at 2,290m) or snowboarding at Niseko Ski Resort.

As Japan’s second largest island (after Honshu), there are also many things to do in the cities. Some of our favourites include visiting the iconic Sapporo TV Tower, hopping on a boat ride along the Otaru Canal, and feasting on Asahikawa’s soy-based ramen (the noodles are chewier than Sapporo ramen)!

Sapporo TV Tower During Autumn - Hokkaido Itinerary

While Hokkaido is better explored by car, the Hokkaido Rail Pass is a useful alternative for non-drivers to visit popular cities like Sapporo, Otaru, Asahikawa, Furano and Niseko. With the pass, you’ll be entitled to reserved seats too so you don’t have to fight for seats in the non-reserved areas!

There are also a couple of passes to consider for touring Hokkaido and beyond:

Transport PassPriceCoverageValidity
Sapporo-Noboribetsu Area Pass~S$81Sapporo, Otaru, Shiraoi, Noboribetsu4 days
Hokkaido Sapporo-Furano Area Pass~S$90Sapporo, Otaru, Asahikawa, Furano4 days
Hokkaido Rail PassFrom ~S$181Sapporo, Otaru, Asahikawa, Furano, Niseko, Hakodate, Nemuro, Abashiri5, 7 or 10 days (consecutive)
Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass~S$268Sapporo, Akita, Morioka, Yamagata, Karuizawa, Tokyo6 days
JR East Area & South Hokkaido Rail Pass~S$319Sapporo, Hirosaki, Yamagata, Nikko, Tokyo6 days

Suggested itineraries and guides:
Hokkaido Budget Guide: 11 Tips to Save on Transport, Accommodation, Food and Activities
6D5N First Timer’s Hokkaido Itinerary — A Relaxing Getaway for S$1.2k
6D Hokkaido Itinerary for Under S$1k — Must-Eat, See and Dos in Sapporo, Otaru, Asahikawa and Biei
Hokkaido Food Guide — 9 Must-Eats on Your Next Japan Itinerary
The Ultimate Sapporo City Guide: 18 Things To Do-See-Eat In The Gateway To Hokkaido

2) JR East

Popular cities: Tokyo, Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate, Aomori, Akita, Niigata, Nagano 
Highlights: Tokyo Disneyland/DisneySea, Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo, Nagano Snow Monkey Park, Genbikei Gorge, Lake Tazawa
Recommended pass: Tokyo Wide Pass

Railway lines of JR East mainly cover Japan’s Kanto and Tohoku regions, as well as other areas like Niigata, Nagano, Yamanashi, and Shizuoka.

In case you didn’t already know, Japan’s capital city Tokyo is in the Kanto region! Most people would head here on their first trip to Japan. After all, it’s known for popular landmarks like the Tokyo Tower, Shibuya Crossing and of course, Tokyo Disneyland.

On the other hand, the Tohoku region is filled with scenic landscapes and unique festivals. Check out the Daito-Ohara Water Throwing Festival in February — where men in loincloths run along the streets while passersby splash them with ice-cold water.

Men in Loincloth Running Under Water - Tohoku Region

Photo credit: Tohoku Tourism

For first-timers to the Land of the Rising Sun, get the Tokyo Wide Pass to see what Japan’s main city has to offer. Plus, it also gives you access to tourist locations such as Mt. Fuji, Izu, Nikko, Karuizawa, or GALA Yuzawa ski resort!

But for those who prefer less touristy areas like Tohoku, Niigata, Nagano and Hokuriku, check out these other Japan Rail passes:

Transport PassPriceCoverageValidity
Tokyo Wide Pass~S$135Tokyo, Shinjuku, Kamakura, Akihabara, Mt. Fuji, Karuizawa, Kusatsu, Nikko, Yokohama and more3 days
Hokuriku Arch Pass~S$223Osaka, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Fukui, Hokuriku, Nagano, Tokyo7 days
Nagano/Niigata Area Pass~S$247Nagano, Niigata, Karuizawa, Tokyo5 days
Tohoku Area Pass~S$274Tokyo, Fukushima, Yamagata, Sendai, Akita, Morioka, Hachinohe, Aomori5 days

Suggested itineraries and guides:
7D6N Japan Itinerary Under S$1.5k — Road Trip from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji and Beyond
10-Day Japan Itinerary For First Timers Under S$900 — Tokyo to Osaka
5D4N Japan Itinerary — A First Timer’s Experience in Niigata and the Remote Sado Island
Iwate Prefecture: 9 One-of-a-kind Experiences to Try in Japan’s Tohoku Region
6D5N Nagano Itinerary — The Romantic Getaway 3 Hours from Tokyo (Kamikochi, Norikura and Matsumoto)

3) JR Central

Climbing Mount Fuji - JR Pass Alternatives

Popular cities: Nagoya, Takayama, Kanazawa, Mt Fuji, Shizuoka, Hokuriku, Shirakawa-go
Highlights: Mt Fuji, FujiQ Highland, Shirakawa Village, Toyama Port Observation Tower
Recommended pass: Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Area Tourist Pass Mini OR Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass

One of the must-visit places in the JR Central region is undoubtedly Shizuoka, where you’ll find the elusive Mt Fuji — Japan’s highest mountain at 3,776m! We previously did a road trip from Tokyo to Mt Fuji but for non-drivers, the Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Area Tourist Pass Mini includes various transportation routes to easily get around the area too.

*Pro-tip: Check the 24/7 Mt Fuji live stream before going as the weather can be unpredictable.

Read also: 9 Best Mt Fuji Viewing Spots — Must-visits and Lesser Known Guide to the Best Photo Spots

Gassho Zukiri Houses in Shirakawa-go - Japan Winter Itinerary

Or if you’ve already checked Fuji-san off your list, go for the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass! The pass covers transport to Shirakawa-go, known for its unique gassho-zukuri (thatched roof) traditional villages, as well as the underrated Hokuriku area — drop by Toyama Port Observation Tower to catch panoramic views of the Japan Alps.

Transport PassPriceCoverageValidityPerks/Remarks
Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Area Tourist Pass Mini~S$60Mt Fuji, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka3 days (consecutive)
Osaka – Nagoya ‘Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Pass~S$147Ise, Kumano, Wakayama5 days (consecutive)– Free Ekirin bike rentals at Wakayama, Kii-Tanabe, Shirahama stations
– 4 reserved rides on JR lines (incl. Wide View Nanki, Kuroshio, Mie Express)
Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass~S$182Kanazawa, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Gero, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Fukui, Toyama5 days (consecutive)– 4 reserved rides on Limited Express Wide View Hida, Limited Express Thunderbird
Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Pass~S$194Takayama, Matsumoto, Gero, Nagoya, Kiso Fukushima, Toyama, Shinano Omachi5 days (consecutive)– The pass is only available during a certain season (check online for more details)

Suggested itineraries and guides:
Day Trips from Nagoya — Gateway to the Hidden Gems of Mie and Gifu Prefectures
13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It’s Not Winter Ski Season — Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura
17 Things to Do in Hokuriku, Japan — First Timer’s Guide to Fukui, Ishikawa and Toyama
13 Unforgettable Things to do in Central Japan with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area JR Tourist Pass

4) JR West

Kyoto Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike - Japan Itinerary

Popular cities: Himeji, Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Okayama, Hiroshima, Miyajima
Highlights: Kiyomizudera Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Nara Park, Dotonbori, Okayama Castle
Recommended pass: Kansai WIDE Area Pass

Aside from Tokyo, places like Kyoto, Osaka and Nara are really popular with tourists too! These cities are located in the Kansai region which is covered by the JR West rail lines.

Iconic attractions include Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine (a temple with over 1,000 torii gates), Osaka’s Dotonbori Street (delicious street food and the famous Glico running man sign), as well as Nara’s Deer Park (adorable wild deers)!

Okayama Castle Near River - Things to do in Okayama

On our last trip travelling around Osaka and surrounds, we managed to save ~S$72 with the Kansai WIDE Area Pass. With the pass, we could head out further to new places like Okayama and Kurashiki too.

Hello Kitty Airport Train - Japan Itinerary

P.S. Some passes include rides on the adorable Hello Kitty Shinkansen!!

Alternatively, choose the JR West All Area Pass to not only explore familiar favourites in the Kansai region but also lesser-known gems in the Hokuriku, Sanyo and San’in areas!

Transport PassPriceCoverageValidityPerks/Remarks
Kansai PassFrom ~S$26Osaka, Kyoto, Himeji, Kobe, Nara and more1, 2, 3 or 4 days (consecutive)
San’in Okayama Area Pass~S$41San’in, Okayama4 days (consecutive)
Hokuriku Area Pass~S$46Fukui, Komatsu, Kanazawa, Toyama4 days (consecutive)
Kansai WIDE Area PassFrom ~S$110Osaka, Kyoto, Himeji, Kobe, Nara and more5 days (consecutive)– Hello Kitty Shinkansen
– Reserved seats on Express Trains (Haruka, Kuroshio, Thunderbird, Kounotori, Super Hakuto, Super Inaba)
Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass
(currently unavailable)
~S$136Hiroshima, Miyajima, Onomichi, Hagi, Yamaguchi5 days (consecutive)– Hello Kitty Shinkansen
Okayama-Hiroshima-Yamaguchi Area Rail Pass~S$153Okayama, Hiroshima, Kurashiki, Yamaguchi5 days (consecutive)– Free Ekirin bike rentals
– Hello Kitty Shinkansen
Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass~S$156Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Wakayama, Okayama, Miyajima, Hiroshima5 days (consecutive)
Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass~S$156Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Wakayama, Kanazawa, Joetsu-Myoko7 days (consecutive)

Setouchi Area Pass
~S$202Hakata, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Matsuyama, Takamatsu, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara7 days (consecutive)– Hello Kitty Shinkansen
Sanyo-San’in Area Pass~S$210Hiroshima, Takamtsu, Tottori, Himeji, Osaka7 days (consecutive)
JR West All Area Pass~S$234Kansai, Hokuriku, Sanyo, San’in, Hakata7 days (consecutive)– Hello Kitty Shinkansen

Suggested itineraries and guides:
8-Day Japan Itinerary: 9 Cities in Kansai for Under S$900
7D Japan Itinerary Under S$1.3k — Osaka and Other Epic Cities in the Kansai Region
6D5N Kyoto-Based Japan Itinerary — Things to do Beyond Fushimi Inari Shrine and Nara Deer Park
13 Best Things to Do in Osaka — New and Must-visit Attractions in 2022
Osaka Transport Guide — Maximising Your Transport Passes for Travelling In And Around Osaka

5) JR Kyushu

YUfuin Kinrinko lake - JR Pass Alternatives

Popular cities: Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Oita, Beppu, Kagoshima, Miyazaki
Highlights: Mount Aso, Beppu Jigoku Onsen, Kyushu National Museum, Sengan-en Garden
Recommended pass: Kyushu Pass

Fun fact: Did you know that the largest active volcano in Japan, Mount Aso, can be found in South Kyushu?

Besides volcanoes, Kyushu is also famous for its hot springs! Visit Beppu City in the North for its Jigoku Meguri tour or Hells of Beppu — featuring eight unique hot springs. Some include Chinoike Jigoku (blood red pond) and even Oniyama Jigoku (where crocodiles are kept) 😱

Beppu Hells Blood Pond Hell - Japan Kyushu Itinerary

With the Kyushu Rail Pass, you can choose between getting the South, North or All Kyushu option depending on which cities you want to visit.

Thinking of travelling from Kyushu to explore other regions? Then opt for the Sanyo-San’in-Northern Kyushu Area Pass, it’ll cover hidden gems like the Tottori Sand Dunes and the Akiyoshido Cave (made of limestones).

Transport PassPriceCoverageValidityPerks/Remarks
South Kyushu Rail PassFrom ~S$91Southern Kyushu areas and Kumamoto, Misumi, Hitoyoshi, Kirishima-onsen, Kirishima-jingū, Kagoshima, Ibusuki, Nishi-Ōyama, Miyazaki, Obi, Nangō, Nobeoka3 days
North Kyushu Rail PassFrom ~S$110Shimonoseki, Mojikō, Kokura, Hakata, Yufuin, Beppu, Oita, Kumamoto, Aso, Saga, Nagasaki, Huis Ten Bosch, and Sasebo3 or 5 days
All Kyushu Rail PassFrom ~S$184Northern Kyushu areas and Misumi, Hitoyoshi, Yoshimatsu, Kagoshima-Chuo, Kirishima, Ibusuki, Miyazaki, Miyazaki Airport3, 5 or 7 days
Sanyo-San’in-Northern Kyushu Area Pass~S$237Tottori, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and more7 days
– Free Ekirin bike rentals

Suggested itineraries and guides:
6-Day Kyushu Itinerary — Chasing Autumn in a Quieter Side of Japan (Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Beppu)
Oita Prefecture: 9 Unique Experiences in one of Japan’s Most Famous Onsen Towns
11 Things to Do in San’in and Sanyo — Japan’s Hidden Gems For Road Trippers

6) JR Shikoku

Outlook Point for Unkai Sea of Clouds in Miyashi City in Tokushima Prefecture - Unique Experiences in Shikoku Japan

Popular cities: Matsuyama, Takamatsu, Kochi, Tokushima, Miyoshi
Highlights: Dogo Onsen, 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Shikoku Aquarium, Otsuka Museum of Art
Recommended pass: All Shikoku Rail Pass

Shikoku is made up of four prefectures — Ehime, Kagawa, Tokushima and Kochi — each with its own charm. For example, Ehime is home to Dogo Onsen, one of the oldest bathhouses in Japan (since 1894). While Miyoshi boasts a magical sea of clouds from various viewpoints in the city!

For those up for a challenge (and self-reflection along the way), try the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. It’s a 1,200km route which circles Shikoku island with 88 temples in between. It’s said to have been established by Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism.

People on Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage

Photo credit: Visit Kochi Japan via Facebook

Whether you’re here to sightsee or go on a temple pilgrimage, we recommend getting the All Shikoku Rail Pass. It’s one of the most convenient ways to travel around Shikoku, covering all four prefectures for up to seven days — more than enough time to discover this lesser-known island!

Transport PassPriceCoverageValidityPerks/Remarks
All Shikoku Rail PassFrom ~S$110Ehime, Kochi, Kagawa, Tokushima Prefectures 3, 4, 5 or 7 days
Discounts on JR Shikoku bus, Nankai ferry and other attractions

Suggested itineraries and guides:
15 Unique Experiences in Shikoku — The Laidback Island of Japan Undiscovered By Most Tourists
Ehime Prefecture — 9 Reasons to Visit This Lesser-known Gem in Japan

Non-JR Passes

Local Trains - JR Pass Alternatives

Photo credit: Klook

Japan has a very complex transport system with many railway lines operated by different companies. So non-JR passes can be used to travel on other lines apart from the Japan Railways Group, such as the Tokyo or Osaka Metro. But take note that different passes only cover certain train lines (stated in the table below).

People with Deers at Nara Park - Things to do in Nara

Some of these passes might even be a better option than JR passes, in terms of convenience! For instance, the Kintetsu Rail Pass is great for getting around Nara’s top attractions as the Kintetsu-Nara Station is only a 5-minute walk to Nara Park. Whereas if you drop off at JR Nara Line, you’ll still need to take a 15-minute bus ride to Nara Park.

Plus, certain passes also come with perks like exclusive offers and deals — the Kansai Thru Pass has a 20% discount for entry to Sakai City Museum. So be sure to do some research and check out other alternatives to the Japan Rail passes too!

Transport PassPriceCoverageValidityPerks/Remarks
Hanshin Tourist Pass~S$5Osaka, Kobe1 day– Free WiFi access at all Hanshin Electric Railway stations
Exclusive discounts for some restaurants and attractions
Hankyu Tourist PassFrom ~S$6Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe1 or 2 days (non-consecutive)Exclusive discounts for some restaurants and attractions
Tokyu Line 1-Day Pass~S$7Tokyo, Kanagawa1 day
Kintetsu Rail PassFrom ~S$13Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Mie, Nagoya1, 2, 5 or 5 days plus (consecutive)
Kansai Thru Pass From ~S$40Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara and more2 or 3 days (non-consecutive)Discounts at certain shops and attractions
Nankai Tokushima Free Pass~S$81Tokushima5 days
– Nankai Electric Railway passes (valid for 2 non-consecutive days within the period)

Choosing the right travel pass for getting around Japan

JR East Travel Service Center - JR Pass Japan Budget Guide (Tokyo to Osaka)

While the Japan Rail Pass can be useful for travelling across different regions and cities, is it worth ¥50,000 (~S$450)?

Well, it really depends on your itinerary. For us, we prefer to dig deeper into a location as the best gems are found when you give yourself the time to explore beyond the usual tourist path. In this case, both the single Shinkansen tickets and regional passes are useful for getting around!

However, if you’re planning to visit at least three far-away destinations on the same trip (e.g. Osaka-Tokyo-Hokkaido or Shikoku-Osaka-Tokyo), then the JR Pass could be something worth considering.

Still not sure? Here’s a simple chart to help with your decision 👇

Japan Train Pass Chart - JR Pass Alternatives

Additionally, use the JR Pass calculator to check if it’s worth getting the Whole Japan JR pass! Just add your trip itinerary and it’ll show you the estimated cost.

PSA: All these passes are available via Klook at a discounted price, plus you get to skip the queues when booking online instead of onsite!

Tips for Getting Around Japan

People in the Train - Travel Around Osaka

1) Check the train schedule beforehand. Trains in Japan are super punctual so download the Japan Travel by Navitime app to check the train timings and avoid missing your ride! If you’re unfamiliar with the station, allow yourself some buffer to locate the right platform. The last thing you want is to catch the wrong train!

2) Pre-book your seat reservation. Trains can be pretty packed during peak hours or at popular stations like Tokyo and Kyoto. Secure your seats by reserving them at least a day in advance from the automated machines or service counters. Alternatively, if you purchase single Shinkansen tickets via Klook, reserved seats are automatically assigned and you’re good to go!

3) Purchase Suica/ICOCA cards. Local metro and buses are not covered by the JR/regional passes. The best way to pay for rides is via the IC cards (each prefecture has its own but can be used all around Japan). These are rechargeable transport cards (similar to our EZ-link cards).

Know of any other useful JR pass alternatives? Let us know in the comments below!

This post was brought to you by Klook.

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