Can I just say how convenient this is? I got the famous Railpass Japan from Japan Experience and before I did I was always a bit unsure whether or not it would be a good option. There is always the experience of using slowpoky buses and maybe saving a dime here or there, but ultimately it is really worth it. Not only do you save money on train transport as such, you also get to ride in the super fancy Shinkansen and feel really posh (especially in the Sakura trains) and you are super flexible. I always underestimate how important that is to me.
For instance, I was thinking back and forth when to use it. Should I do it for the area around Tokyo, such as Nikko, Yokohama and Fuji? Or Maybe explore Kansai? Or Kyushu with all its temples and rural areas? The choice, in the end, fell on the large area around Osaka and I went to get my tickets sorted in advance. You never know what will happen. Especially with me and my travels.
At the JR station, I easily exchanged my voucher for the real deal with my date of choice on it. From that point on, it’s set, no more changing. I had a 7 day ticket and the clock was ticking. Well, not yet, only from the date mentioned onwards. I chose March 2. That done, I hopped in next door to the ticket sales and the clerk was the most patient and nicest person ever. I had it all mapped out. 7 days full of adventure and Shinkansen hopping with nearly every day having a back and forth trip. He scribbled it all down diligently and presented me with the itinerary and tickets. And I got the window seat every time. Easy peasy.
Another thing I liked was that even in case I changed my mind (which I then actually did) or lost a ticket (which might have happened), there would be no harm done. As long as I clung to my Railpass I could take JR trains without worries. I didn’t even need tickets as there are wagons for non reservers. Super flexibility right there. And that I definitely made full use of when I spontaneously decided whether I should go from Nara to Ise or Hiroshima instead. It turned out the train routes were a bit silly (keep in mind you can take only JR trains and not all of them either) and the overall time would have amounted to be the same. Do you remember, I let you guys decide which of those two you would like to read about. You chose Hiroshima.
Flash the Magic Card
Speaking of Hiroshima, that is the perfect example for what your Railpass can do. I had reserved a seat for both the train to Hiroshima and Ise, to make sure I was prepared for your decision and all I needed was to hop on the right train. The itinerary was yet again handed to me, there was no problem within me ‘missing’ the train to Ise and after 150 minutes I arrived in Hiroshima.
I had to change once, from the local JR line to the Shinkansen in Kyoto but that, again, is the easiest thing in the world. Instead of going through the gates with your card, you walk past the ticket control booth, nodding politely, flashing your railpass and you’re fine. No one ever looked closer or stopped me (especially when I was in a hurry.). Then you follow the signs to the Shinkansen and again flash your railpass. While you’re at it, ask for the right platform and the 10 minutes changing time that seemed so daunting aren’t really.
In Hiroshima, the first thing I did, which is normal for me, is to pay a visit to the tourist information, ask for a map and recommendations. It turned out, the local hop on hop off sightseeing bus accepted the railpass! Hurray! And so I casually saw the main attractions just in time to catch my local train and ferry to Miyajima. Both were owned by the train company JR and so I was covered by my pass as well! Good times for my wallet, I can tell you.
The Hiroshima Hurricane Hopping
Now, all of this Railpass Japan experience sounds super laid back and it is. But then again, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t spice it up a bit. It not being enough for me to just see the major sights, I had to chase around the castle, hop on the bus, pay my tribute to the War Memorial and stroll through the whole park, use the city wifi to keep you updated, hop on the bus, find the best okonomiyaki in Hiroshima ‘s foodie district, stroll through a shopping mile, hop on the bus to drive past museums and the manga library (sorry, I couldn’t visit this time but I got one at home. Sorta.) and on the local train and ferry.
Can I just say how amazed by the quaint little island Miyajima I was? Completely enchanted. Absolutely intrigued. All of the long hours on the train were so worth it and even so, I don’t mind train rides. After Australia, nothing seems quite long anymore and this way you can see more of the countryside and cities. I am a firm believer that trains are a great helper in getting to know a country. Forget dbothomestic air rides.
Since it was awfully hard to tear me away from my new-found paradise (I had just discovered a garden of tiny gods with woollen hats in all colours of the rainbow. I mean, how superb is that?!), I had to chase through town, over bridges and past hungry deer eagerly eyeing my cookie bag to get to the ferry in time. Once the ferry had landed, I ran away like Speedy Gonzales to the train station and just caught both that train as well as the connecting Shinkansen 1 minute before departure. Actually, it was 3 but I jumped onto the wrong one and walked my way to the right carriage before I noticed my mistake. But even if my scatterbrain hadn’t noticed, my railpass would have made everything alright. What will I do now that you’re expired?
Final note: You should know one important thing: the Railpass Japan is only valid for people on a tourist visa. Right now I am, but after my next trip, I will be on a Working Holiday Visa and wouldn’t be able to use it. Always be aware of that!
Extras on Top of the Railpass Japan
If either the flexibility of the Railpass Japan is not enough or you are more the type to enjoy guided tours and everything arranged, Japan Experience has a range of other services you might want to check out. For instance, you can rent a car to feel the rush of driving around and getting to places hard to reach with public transport, perfect for those wanting to get into remoter areas or head out for a hike in the many mountainous regions. After all, Japan is a huge volcano. Even the flights can be sorted out as well as house rentals.
For those wanting some activity and to meet like-minded Japan enthusiasts while travelling with the Railpass Japan, city day tours and small group tours are other options. They can take you along up to three weeks long trips to the best places throughout the country while you can rest your head in typical Japanese accommodation to complete the experience with bilingual tour guides, which is a big bonus because the Japanese do not speak English that well and I could use a translator every now and then myself. OR if a day trip more for you, you could for instance take a night walk through the traditional Kyoto or explore Tokyo with a knowledgable guide. For questions there is always a helpful hotline ready to answer your calls in different countries.
As always, the choice is completely up to you and you can choose and combine the way you like your Railpass Japan. Whether the whole package with flights, accommodation, transport and activities or selected bits and pieces or just the railpass like me, you are your own boss at travel and I am super curious to hear how you imagine your Japan travels to look like. Let’s get you travel dreaming.
Contact for your Railpass Japan
Paris: + 33 (0) 1 42 61 60 83
London: + 44 (0) 20 3514 6932
Milan: + 44 (0) 20 7205 4155
Frankfurt: +49 (0)69 967 59219
Los Angeles: +1 800 835 6135
Kyoto: + 81 (0) 75 752 3518
Disclaimer: My special thanks goes to Japan Experience, who arranged for my Railpass Japan in exchange for me scurrying around the countryside to show you what it can do. As always, I wouldn’t recommend anything to you, which I honestly wouldn’t recommend. Full stop.