The Japan Rail Pass, which has become almost a necessity for many tourists visiting Japan, has recently had its price increased by an average of 70% starting this month of October. 

The pass which allows travellers unlimited access to much of Japan’s rail network has always been a very attractive deal. However, the Japan Rail Pass price increase means that future visitors will have to think much more carefully if this is still worthwhile for their trip. 

On the face of it, this announcement will certainly be seen as outrageous to many. A spokesperson for Central Japan Railways reiterated this fact saying “We never raised the prices other than making slight adjustments during consumer-tax hikes”. They also go on to mention countless other upgrades and adjustments to the network over a 40 year period (since its introduction) that hasn’t been reflected in the price — until now.

The new price hike comes with a few adjustments to the pass as well; there is now an option to ride on the fastest Mizuho and Nozomi bullet trains — although this is extra — as well as discounts to certain attractions affiliated with the Japan Rail Pass, however there is currently little information on this. 

Take a look at the comparison table below for both the old and new prices.

Despite the substantial increase, the Japan rail pass can still be worthwhile; now however, it will depend on how far you are travelling, how often, and whether you value convenience over savings. The simple fact of the matter is, unless you will be doing a lot of travelling you may want to start to look at other options.

Alternate solutions

While the price increase is certainly not great news for holidaymakers, the fact that the JR Pass is no longer an automatic buy brings to light some alternatives that may actually work out better for your particular travel arrangements. 

For example: if you are planning a trip to specific areas such as Hokkaido or Kyushu, then a regional pass to access just those areas may be all you need — at a fraction of the cost. Are you wanting to visit the big three? Those being Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto; then there is an option for that too, one that offers a more scenic approach though the north-western areas of Honshu called the Osaka-Tokyo Hokuriku Arch Pass. These are some of the options available to you.

It may also be the case that overnight buses or domestic flights become more plausible depending on your itinerary and places you want to see, both of which are plentiful and reliable. Trains should still be very much on the table but you may find it cheaper to just buy the one or two you will need at the time rather than forking out for something you may not get the most use out of. 

This is one indirect consequence of the price rises: for good or bad, these travel arrangements may come to dictate your entire trip and possibly expose you to different experiences you may have not previously considered.