JR West rail passes

NOTE: Since the cost of the JR West rail passes went up in October 2023 the prices quoted in the 5th edition of Japan by Rail and in the text below are no longer correct. Look at Updates and news for the current details.

JR West covers the whole of Honshu west from Joetsumyoko on the Hokuriku shinkansen and west from Maibara on the Tokaido shinkansen. On ordinary lines it includes travel on the Oito line from Itoigawa down to Nakatsuchi; on the Takayama line from Toyama down to Inotani; on the whole Johana line, on the Etsumi Hoko (Kuzuruyu) line east from Fukui, and west from Shingu on the Kisei Line.

Prices are fixed in yen, but the charge is payable in local currency. The prices in brackets are for rough guidance only and are for the exchange rates quoted in the 5th edition of Japan by Rail. However, the exact cost you pay depends on the rate used by the pass provider you go to at the time of purchase. It’s worth shopping around as travel agencies apply different exchange rates. Children aged 5 and under travel free providing they do not occupy a seat; those aged 6-11 pay half the adult rate.

For full details of all JR West’s passes (it also offers some in conjunction with JR Central/Tokai) as well as a full route map see JR West‘s website.

All Area Pass

As the name implies this is the most comprehensive pass as it includes unlimited travel on all train services, the JR ferry to Miyajima and JR West buses (but not expressway buses) in the whole JR West region – west to Hakata (Kyushu), east to Joetsu-myoko and south to Shingu (inc Kansai International Airport). Unlimited seat reservations but only up to six online reservations in advance. For a 14-day visit focusing on the central and western parts of Honshu two of these passes would cost a little less than a 14-day Japan Rail Pass.

      7-day             ¥23,000 (£152/$199)

The pass costs ¥2000 more if bought online or in Japan.

For itinerary suggestions see pp45-6 in Japan by Rail for details.

Sanyo Sanin Area Pass

Similar to the above pass but it is valid only as far east as Tsuruga and to Wakayama in Kansai. However, it does include travel to Takamatsu in Shikoku and Hakata (in Kyushu).

For a 14-day holiday in Japan this pass combined with the Hokuriku Arch Pass (see p33 in Japan by Rail) would cost about ¥3400 less than a 14-day Japan Rail Pass. However, the downside would be that you can’t see Kyushu beyond Hakata, nor can you spontaneously head off to Shikoku, both of which you could with a Japan Rail Pass.

      7-day                  ¥20,000 (£132/$173)

The pass costs ¥1500-2000 more if bought online or in Japan.

For itinerary suggestions see pp45-6 in Japan by Rail.

Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass

Valid on Sanyo shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Okayama, services to Shingu (inc Kansai International Airport) as well as on the Thunderbird LEX up to Kanazawa. The pass is also valid to Tottori and Kinosaki-onsen (but not from Okayama) and on some private lines as long as the pass-holder only stops at the stations that link with the JR lines.

It is important to note that the pass doesn’t include: travel to Takayama; the reserved seat fee for any shinkansen service; nor the Tokaido shinkansen between Kyoto/Maibara and Shin-Osaka.

For itinerary suggestions see p46 in Japan by Rail.

Another option is the Hokuriku Area Pass which is valid on Hokuriku shinkansen between Kurobe-Unazukionsen and Kanazawa, in non-reserved seats; also on conventional JR lines down to Johana, up to Himi/Wakura-onsen and west to Tsuruga.

      7-day                  Kansai-Hokuriku Area Pass               ¥17.000 (£112/$147)

      4-day                  Hokuriku Area Pass                           ¥5090 (£34/$44)

The pass costs ¥1500-2000 more if bought online or in Japan.

Kansai Wide Area Pass

The Hikari Rail Star is operated by JR West between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. These trains do not have Green Car seats but the seating in all carriages is 2 ≠ 2. Most Rail Star trains operate as a Kodama service (stopping at every station).
(© JRL)

This pass is valid for non-reserved seats on the Sanyo shinkansen (Shin-Osaka to Okayama) and also on several LEX trains in the Kansai region including south to Shingu, north-east to Tsuruga/Nagahama, west to Kurashiki and to Takamatsu on Shikoku, and north-west to Tottori and Kinosaki-onsen (also valid on the private Chizu Express Line for travel between Okayama and Tottori).

      5-day                  ¥10,000 (£66/$87)

The pass costs ¥800-1000 more if bought online or in Japan.

Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass

This has the same validity as the Wide Area Pass, but includes travel west to Hiroshima on the shinkansen and to Iwakuni on ordinary services. It also includes the JR West ferry to Miyajima.

      5-day            ¥15,000 (£99/$130)

The pass costs ¥800-1000 more if bought online or in Japan.

Hiroshima-Yamaguchi Area Pass and Okayama-Hiroshima-Yamaguchi Area Pass

Both include travel in non-reserved seats on the Sanyo shinkansen between Mihara and Hakata and mainline services west from Onomichi but also up to Tsuwano and Masuda. They also include JR West’s ferry to Miyajima.

The Okayama version also includes the shinkansen west from Okayama and travel to Takamatsu (Shikoku).

      5-day                  Hiroshima-Yamaguchi Area Pass      ¥13,000* (£86/$112)

      5-day                  Okayama-Hiroshima-Yamaguchi Area ¥15,000* (£99/$130)

Both cost ¥800-1000 more if bought online or in Japan.

Sanin-Okayama Area Pass

It is valid only for stops on JR lines between Okayama/Kurashiki and between Tottori and Masuda. One advantage is that this pass includes travel on the Chizu Express Line which means it is possible to go from Okayama to Tottori without paying an additional fare.

      4-day                  ¥4580 (£30/$40)

Both cost ¥810-1100 more if bought online or in Japan.

Kansai Area Pass

Useful if you’re spending only a few days in and around Kyoto or Osaka. It covers travel on local trains only between Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Himeji and Kansai International Airport; it is also valid for non-reserved seats on the Haruka LEX to Kansai Airport. The pass also includes one-day vouchers for both the Kyoto Municipal subway and Keihan Railways’ Kyoto Sightseeing Pass but only for the validity of the Kansai Area Pass. However, the Kansai Thru Pass (see p35 in Japan by Rail for details) includes all subway lines in this area.

      1-day/2-day        ¥2400 (£16/$21) / ¥4600 (£30/$40)

      3-day/4-day        ¥5600 (£37/$48) / ¥6800 (£45/$59)

JR East & JR West rail pass

Hokuriku Arch Pass  This pass is valid for travel between Tokyo (inc Narita & Haneda airports) and Osaka (inc Kansai International Airport) using the Hokuriku shinkansen (Tokyo to Kanazawa) and the Thunderbird Limited Express (from Kanazawa to Osaka). It is also valid on JR lines in the metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe as well as to Nara; and for some side trips from the Hokuriku shinkansen.

       If travelling for a week and only really wanting to visit Tokyo, Kanazawa and Kyoto/Osaka this provides better value than a 7-day Japan Rail Pass.

      7-day                  ¥25,500 (£168/$220)

The above is the cost if the pass is bought from JR East and online/in Japan from JR West, but ¥24,500 if bought from JR West outside Japan.