Your Japan Rail Pass Map: Choosing the Right JR Pass for your Next Adventure
Japan is a country that never ceases to surprise, mesmerize and leave visitors speechless. Unique experiences and rich cultural traditions can be found anywhere you travel. Deciding which area you want to explore can sometimes be an overwhelming prospect.
The Japan Rail (JR) Pass is the ideal solution to this conundrum, as it enables you to travel on your own terms and at your own pace. If you want to explore a particular region in depth, there are regional passes covering all four islands. Or if you want the freedom to explore everything that Japan has to offer, there is a nationwide pass for that too. In this article, we look at the different JR Passes available and the kinds of adventures you can have whilst using them.
JR East Pass
The JR East Pass is your ticket to the diverse eastern part of Honshu which stretches from the neon capital of Tokyo in the south to the verdant forests of the Shirakamisanchi region in the north. You may be familiar with the rich cultural offerings of Tokyo, from the Meiji-jingk shrine to the Tsukiji Market with its renowned tuna auctions.
However, there are other eastern cities that are well worth visiting if youre the type of traveller who likes to stray from the tourism trail and immerse yourself in culture and history.
The forest city of Sendai boasts many beautiful temples and shrines. If you have time to do a day trip you won't be disappointed by the spectacular views from the 7th century Yamadera temple located in the mountains northeast of Yamagata City.
The port city of Niigata or Nagano is famous for its rich culture, majestic mountains and largely untouched nature.
The host city for the 1998 winter Olympics, Nagano is a great place to visit if you love winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding.
There are also many examples of impressive historical architecture to be witnessed such as the enchanting Zenko-ji temple whose history spans 1,400 years.
The East Pass also presents the opportunity to explore the Easts beautiful coastlines to the north and south of Tokyo. To the north, Ibaraki prefecture offers fishing, waterfalls, and Kairakuen, which is one of Japans great gardens.
To the south, the tranquil prefecture of Izu is famous for its hot springs and pristine beaches which are calm enough for swimming.
JR Kansai Wide Area Rail Pass
Kansai is the Western region of Japan and encompasses some of the countrys most significant historical and cultural sites. The JR Kansai Wide Area Rail Pass covers the key cities of Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Kobe as well as famed cultural destinations like the transcendental Ise Shrine, the Himeji Castle, and the town of Yoshino, famous for its beautiful Spring cherry blossom display.
Nara was the capital city of Japan for much of the 8th century, and a decade later Kyoto became the capital in 794.
As a result, there is still plenty of grandeur and beauty to be found in the temples, palaces, gardens and shrines built for the illustrious emperors, monks and shoguns that once called these cities home.
Both Kyoto and Nara are littered with UNESCO world heritage sites and Kyoto is particularly famous for its geisha quarters of Gion and Pontocho where you can still catch a glimpse of these ornate women who so perfectly typify the elegance and unique beauty of Japan.
The Western cities are also famous for their love of food and distinct cuisine. In fact, the phrase kuidaore or eat until you drop was supposedly created to describe the food culture of Osaka. Teppanyaki and okonomiyake are just two of the many cooking styles to emerge from this region. For those looking to step off the beaten track, the Kumano region has plenty to offer in terms of unspoilt coastal landscapes and a gentle, bucolic lifestyle.
JR Northern Kyushu Pass
The island of Kyushu is a diverse region and there are plenty of attractions in the north to make a dedicated trip to this area well worth your while.
The JR Northern Kyushu Pass gives you access to a number of the islands key natural attractions including the hot springs of Beppu and the untamed volcanic landscape of Mt Aso.
This Pass also enables you to see some of the islands famous cultural sites like the city of Nagasaki which has played a key role throughout Japans naval and military history. Another city of interest is Kumamoto, famous for its imposing castle which was the site of the samurai rebels last stand against the Meiji government in 1877.
JR Kyushu Rail Pass
For those who want to experience the delights of southern cities like Kagoshima and Dazaifu, the JR Kyushu Rail Pass is the way to go. With one of these island wide passes in hand, you can visit Dazaifu Tenman-gu, an important Shinto shrine built in 905. This shrine lies over the grave of Sugaware no Michzane, who became deified as Tenman Tenjin, a god of scholars and culture.
This pass also enables you to visit Kagoshima, known as the Naples of the Eastern World for its scenic bay location, watched over by a majestic volcano.
This city is famous for its cuisine, unique festivals and events including the spider fighting event in June and the umbrella burning festival in July.
There are also numerous attractions surrounding the region like the hot sand baths of Ibusuki, and the UNESCO World Heritage listed Yakushima Island which is famous for its unique natural attractions including Yaku monkeys and deer.
JR All Shikoku Rail Pass
Shikoku is famous for its natural beauty and is a significant religious site for Buddhists. Life on this small island runs at a slower pace than the rest of Japan and is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The JR All Shikoku Rail Pass gives you access to over 1,100 km of rail as well as the trains and trams of numerous other local companies in the region.
This pass is the ideal way to explore Shikoku and discover the mystical Muroto-misaki cape, deserted white sands of Ohkinohama, and the holy mountain of Ishizuchi-san which attracts pilgrims and climbers during the months of July and August.
In the western part of Tokushima, close to the center of Shikoku, the Iya area is one of the most unexplored regions of Japan. The vine-made suspension bridge over the Iya River is called Iya no Kazurabashi and is one of Japans three rare bridges.
JR Hokkaido Pass
The snowy island of Hokkaido is a step away from the picturesque, ordered landscape which characterises Honshu and offers something wilder, freer, and deeply inspiring.
The JR Hokkaido pass is the best way to see this untamed landscape which for centuries, has been a source of inspiration for some of Japans greatest writers and artists.
Hokkaido is famous for its winter, which brings lashings of soft, powdery snow that coats the landscape in an ethereal, crystalline veil. Top places to visit are Sapporo, Otaru and Niseko. Discover Sapporo with the JR Hokkaido Pass
But whether you go in winter or summertime, you'll be met with breathtakingly rugged landscapes that defy description. Your Pass will connect you to all of the islands key cities and towns as well as iconic natural attractions like Lake Mashu and Daisetsuzan National Park.
Japan Rail Pass
For those who want to experience everything that the land of the rising sun has to offer, the Japan Rail Pass is great value for money as it gives you access to almost all of the JR trains around the country as well as buses, local trains, and ferries. This pass is your key to the wonders of Japan. Use it to marvel at snow capped Mount Fuji, stroll through the gardens of Kenroku-en, see the sweeping turrets of Nagoya Castle, relax in the hot springs of Gero, eat a teppanyaki banquet in Osaka, or go off the beaten track and forge your own adventure.
Book your Japan Rail pass today with Rail Plus or get in touch with our Japan rail experts on 1300 555 003.