What’s not to love about Japan? Breathtaking scenery, intricate architecture, polite locals, pristine streets and oh, the FOOD. Don’t even get me started on the food! Yet, no matter how much one can wax lyrical about the place, it’s no secret that transport in Japan, like it or not, will take up the bulk of your holiday expenses. However, one of the best investments you can make for your trip is the JR Rail Pass – as unassuming as it may seem, the pass is a total godsend and will also save you tons of money.
All ready to explore Japan with our JR Rail Passes!
The trick is how to maximise it; the JR Rail Passes are valid for a consecutive number of days, meaning that they’re valid for a 7-, 14- or 21-day period counting from the day that you activate the pass. The JR Rail Pass will allow you unlimited travel, within a specific time frame, on the all shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) except the Nozomi and Mizuho ones, all JR lines, local JR buses, the Tokyo Monorail to/from Haneda Airport, the JR ferry to Miyajima and some non-JR trains that connect you to isolated JR lines. Use Hyperdia to plan your train routes, and to see how much each segment costs.
Besides the different duration, there are two types of JR Rail Pass – the Ordinary Car passes and the Green Car passes. The Green Car pass entitles you for travel in the ‘Green Car’, the skinkansen’s version of first-class. The Green Car will not only give you a large seat that can recline a cool forty degrees, it also gives you much more legroom! In addition, you’ll even be able to book private Green compartments on certain limited Express trains should you desire more privacy. The Green Cars are great for when you travel with families, as they’re generally less crowded.
Excited to ride on the shiny shinkansen!
It’s also cheaper to purchase the JR Rail Pass outside of Japan*; all you have to do is to buy a voucher from Singapore and exchange said voucher for the physical pass at any international airport or JR station in Japan. We got ours from Klook, which professes to have the lowest rate in town! Plus, we even got an extra S$20 off with the promo code “JR20”. The whole process is easy peasy, get your rail pass HERE! Do note that the JR Passes sold on Klook are available for SG, TW and HK users, but more user markets will be coming up soon.
*The JR Rail Pass will be available at select stations within Japan from March 2017 to March 2018, but these will be sold at a higher price. We hence recommend getting yours from Klook before you set foot in Japan! Klook offers convenient pick-up in central Singapore so you can avoid the hassle of scrambling for your order when you arrive.
If you’re unsure of how to even begin planning your holiday, these 4 one-week itineraries departing from the four major Japanese cities – Tokyo, Osaka, Hakata (Fukuoka) and Sapporo – will help you get started. These four cities are great places to kickstart your exploration of the country, and the itineraries are tailored to allow each traveller to see as much as possible.
For convenience sake, each of these itineraries start and end at the same place and all routes are covered by the JR Rail Pass unless otherwise stated.
Day 1 of JR Rail Pass: Narita Airport – Shinjuku
There are multiple ways to get to the city, but the Narita Express is the most efficient way to travel from Narita Airport to central Tokyo. We activated our JR Rail Pass at Narita Airport, and took the Narita Express to Shinjuku. After depositing our luggage at our hotel, we set out to explore the neighbouring districts of Shinjuku, Shibuya and Harajuku!
From left to right: Standing Sushi Bar in Shinjuku; the famous crossing in Shibuya; one of Harajuku’s famous Marion Crepes
We’ve heard so much about Tokyo’s quirky cafés and restaurants, hence visiting one was high up on our Japan #bucketlist. And where better to experience such wonderful Japanese bizarreness than at Tokyo’s very own Robot Restaurant?
We bought our entrance tickets from Klook, which gave instant confirmation in the form of a voucher sent right to our emails. This was really convenient as it gave us the freedom to explore without being constrained by a set show timing. All we had to do was to make our bookings online and we were all set! The Robot Restaurant has four performances at 4pm, 5.55pm, 7.50pm and 9.45pm, and do take note you have to be seated 30 minutes before the show starts.
Our Robot Restaurant experience was an explosion of neon lights and glitter, a fast-paced charade of dancers clad in shiny suits and mechanical creatures strutting about on stage. We recommend that you visit not so much for the food, but for the glimmering extravaganza that is truly a feast for the eyes.
How to get there: 85-minute journey from Narita Airport to Shinjuku station via Narita Express
Day 2 of JR Rail Pass: Tokyo – Zao Fox Village – Tokyo
How can anyone resist that foxy cuteness?
The next day, we woke up bright and early to take the shinkansen out of Tokyo for a day trip to the Zao Fox Village. We made our seat reservations for the ride the day before – if you know where you’re headed, we recommend that you reserve all of your seats at one go! Seat reservations are FREE with the JR Rail Pass, and are otherwise chargeable without. From Shiroishizao station, we took a 20-minute taxi ride up into the mountains to the village.
The Zao Fox Village is home to six different fox species, amounting to over 100 foxes living within the compound! Feeding is only permitted from a raised platform within the free-roaming area, and packets of food are available for purchase from the reception.
How to get there: 109-minute journey (one-way) from Tokyo station to Shiroishizao station via shinkansen
Day 3 of JR Rail Pass: Tokyo – Yokohama – Tokyo
From left to right: Taking photos at the Instant Noodles History Cube; us all dolled up in our aprons & trying out the noodles rolling machine at the Chicken Ramen Factory
Yokohama is a sleepy port town where we spent an interesting day at the Cup Noodles Museum. Besides customising your own cup of instant noodles, a really fun activity we did was to make ramen by hand at the Chicken Ramen Factory! The classes are conducted in Japanese, but english instructions are available for foreigners. We recommend that you make your reservations in advance; secure your spot by calling 072-751-0825 or via their website.
How to get there: 26-minute journey (one-way) from Tokyo station to Yokohama station via JR Tokaido Line
Day 4 of JR Rail Pass: Tokyo – Nikko – Tokyo
From left to right: One of Nikko’s shrines; us with a giant torii gate; the Shinkyo Bridge
Nikko is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is home to ornate temples nestled amidst a dense forest. It was unfortunately drizzling during our visit; however, the veil of fog that hung in the air only served to add an element of mystery to the place. Besides taking a mystical stroll through towering cedar trees, take the chance to visit Kegon Falls, Lake Chuzenji and the picturesque Shinkyo Bridge.
How to get there: 107-minute journey (one-way) from Tokyo station to Nikko station via shinkansen and JR Nikko Line
Day 5 of JR Rail Pass: Tokyo – Kamakura – Tokyo
From left to right: the giant Buddha at Kotoku-in temple; various monuments within the temple grounds
Kamakura can be reached under an hour from Tokyo, and is best known for its giant Buddha statue nestled within the grounds of the Kotoku-in Temple. Kamakura is a small yet charming city steeped in history; it’s filled with numerous temples, the most notable ones being Kotoku-in temple, Hase-dera Temple and Enkaku-ji Temple. We really liked how time seemed to slow to a crawl here; we even came across many Japanese who were crafting out sketches of the various temples.
How to get there: 56-minute journey (one-way) from Tokyo station to Kamakura station via JR Yokosuka Line
Day 6 & 7 of JR Rail Pass: Tokyo – Kanazawa – Tokyo (overnight in Kanazawa)
From left to right: Higashi Chaya (geisha) district; the paper steps of Myoritsu-ji (ninja) temple; Nagamachi (samurai district)
Kanazawa is known as the “Little Kyoto of Japan”, and is well worth spending a night or two in. One really unique thing that we did was to take a tour of the Myoritsu-ji (ninja) Temple! The 40-minute tour is conducted in Japanese, but we were provided with comprehensive English guidebooks. We were brought through hidden tunnels, concealed passageways and secret rooms. The picture above (in the middle) consists of stairs where the steps are made of paper, which allowed defenders to stab the ankles of intruders through the paper with swords!
From left to right: Kenroku-en Garden (one of Japan’s three most beautiful landscaped gardens); gold-leaf soft-serve cone
Interestingly, ninety-nine percent of Japan’s gold leaf production is made in Kanazawa. You’ll be able to find lots of gold-leaf products along the street, including an edible version wrapped around a soft-serve cone.
How to get there: 176-minute journey (one-way) from Tokyo station to Kanazawa station via shinkansen
|Breakdown of costs for above itinerary: 7-Day JR Rail Pass VS point-to-point tickets
Total cost savings : S$814 – S$344 = S$470 with the JR Rail Pass
If you can’t get enough of Tokyo, extend your trip and enjoy the city after your JR Rail Pass expires! Bring out your inner kid with the Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea 1-Day Pass, or take lots of Insta-worthy photos with the Tokyo kimono experience. There are lots of things to do in Tokyo, so take your pick!
We only had one objective to achieve in Osaka, and that was to visit UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN (USJ)! We’re huge diehard fans of Harry Potter, and the thought of being able to visit USJ’s Harry Potter World was enough to have us shivering with anticipation. We decided to make USJ our first stop in Osaka, and saved activation of our JR Rail Pass for the day after. From the airport, we took an express train that brought us right to Namba in central Osaka.
From left to right: the Hogwarts Express; Hogsmeade; us drinking butterbeer in front of the Forbidden Castle
Visiting Harry Potter World was indeed like a dream come true. The only thing is – not everyone is guaranteed entry into this magical wonderland. You’re only permitted to enter with a timed-entry ticket, which is available at a booth after you enter the park. Being the kiasu and desperate fans that we are, we opted for the Express Pass, which included a timed ticket for Harry Potter World, on top of the usual park entrance ticket. We booked both online, and all we had to do was turn up at the gates with our confirmation emails. Trust us – you’ll be thankful once you realise you escaped joining the back of a snaking queue with your heart on overdrive.
Minions galore at Universal Studios Japan!
Heck, why not make the most out of your USJ experience and get the USJ VIP Wristband? Not only will you get to enter the park and be first in line for any of the attractions before it opens, it also allows you to enjoy entry into Harukas 300 – the tallest building in Japan – for four pax as well as a special discounted rate of just ¥1000 (~S$12) per person at an accommodation in downtown Osaka. It’s super value for money!
Besides, USJ has BOTH Harry Potter World and Minion Park. Do you seriously need any more reason to visit?
Day 1 & 2 of JR Rail Pass: Osaka – Kyoto – Osaka (overnight in Kyoto)
From left to right: prancing along the streets in our kimonos; the streets of Higashiyama; Kiyomizudera temple
Kyoto is said to be the Japan of yesteryear, filled to the brim with a labyrinth of thatched houses and mesmerising sights. Our favourite part had to be the Higashiyama district, a preserved neighbourhood that contained lots of boutique shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants/cafés. We also rented a kimono, got our hair styled and pranced down the streets in true Japanese fashion.
Everything in Kyoto pretty much closes once night falls, but this Gion Night Tour kept us well occupied! We watched traditional Japanese dances, participated in a private candlelight tea ceremony and more.
From left to right: Fushimi Inari Shrine; Arashiyama Bamboo Grove; Kichi-kichi omurice
We recommend visiting the Fushimi Inari shrine early, as the passageway through the torii gates lined along the slopes of Mt. Inari does start to get crowded after 10am. Fans of the movie, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, would recognise this site as one of the movie’s filming locations! Stop by Kichi-Kichi for its famous omurice; we watched as the chef sliced open the famous fluffy omelette right in front of us. Absolutely delicious!
We also took a short 15-minute ride from Kyoto station to Saga-Arashiyama station to check out the tranquil Arashiyama Bamboo Forest as well as the Togetsukyo Bridge. To see more of Arashiyama, go on this half-day tour that will bring you to see the above sights on top of Tenryuji Temple and Nonomiya Shrine.
How to get there: 14-minute journey (one-way) from Shin-Osaka station to Kyoto station via shinkansen
Day 3 of JR Rail Pass: Osaka – Kobe – Osaka
From left to right: the famous Kobe beef; Kobe Motomachi shopping arcade; Chinatown
Cliché or not, we simply loved saying that we had Kobé beef in Kobé. Steakland is, by far, the most popular joint for that good old Kobé beef fix, however, this only results in long queues that may even last past an hour. We decided to treat ourselves and splurge on a teppanyaki Kobé beef meal at a nearby restaurant, and what can we say? It was so, so good but we probably won’t be able to look at another steak for quite a while.
How to get there: 21-minute journey (one-way) from Osaka station to Sannomiya station
Day 4 of JR Rail Pass: Osaka – Himeji – Osaka
From left to right: Himeji castle’s exterior; castle grounds; panoramic view from the top of Himeji Castle
Having just undergone a rigorous five-year long restoration process, Himeji Castle (otherwise known as White Heron Castle) is truly a sight to behold. We easily spent half a day here exploring the vast castle grounds and the interior of the castle itself. There are lots of shops lining the street leading up to the castle as well.
How to get there: 38-minute journey (one-way) from Shin-Osaka station to Himeji station via shinkansen
We got back to Osaka in the late afternoon and decided to visit the Osaka Aquarium, which is one of the largest in the world! The aquarium was lovely, where we spent the evening marvelling at whale sharks, seals, manta rays, turtles and possibly every fish species known to mankind.
Day 5 of JR Rail Pass: Osaka – Nara – Osaka
My evident love-hate relationship with the deer of Nara
We love animals, and we’ve always thought that the feeling was mutual. Apparently, we were wrong. We went to Nara expecting docile Bambis lounging around in a bubble of zen, but boy were the Nara deers frisky. They do tend to get a little aggressive when they’re lusting after that packet of food in your hand; some of them even bite your sleeves in an attempt to get you to drop the biscuit you’re holding. However, despite all this, it was quite an experience witnessing deer roaming freely about the streets. Interestingly, as with all Japanese, the deer here at Nara are exceedingly polite and bow back when you bow to them! Don’t believe us? Give it a try.
How to get there: 50-minute journey (one-way) from Osaka station to Nara station via JR Yamatoji Rapid Service
Day 6 of JR Rail Pass: Osaka – Hiroshima (overnight at Hiroshima)
From left to right: A-bomb dome; Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park; dressing up as a castle guard at Hiroshima Castle
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are both steeped in history, being the two sites of the atomic bombings back in World War II. A visit to Hiroshima was sombre and sobering to say the least; part of the Peace Memorial Park, the A-bomb Dome was the only building left standing near the bomb’s hypocenter. The building has been preserved till this very day and now serves as a stark symbol of peace. It’s easy to get around Hiroshima; the JR Rail Pass is valid on the city’s hop-on-hop-off bus, which will bring you to most of the city’s main attractions.
How to get there: 87-minute journey (one-way) from Shin-Osaka station to Hiroshima station via shinkansen
Day 7 of JR Rail Pass: Hiroshima – Miyajima – Hiroshima – Osaka
From left to right: floating torii gate; fresh oysters galore; getting up & personal with free-roaming deer
A trip to Hiroshima is not complete without a trip to the nearby island of Miyajima. The most famous icon of Miyajima, would be the torii gate that appears to be floating during high tide. During low tide, people can even walk right out to the torii gate! There are numerous oyster beds near Miyajima, making the island a heaven for all self-professed oyster fans.
And surprise surprise, Miyajima is also home to a herd of free-roaming deer! The JR Rail Pass can also be used on the JR ferry, which will take you to the island within a short ten-minute ride.
How to get there:
- Hiroshima – Miyajima: 50-minute journey (one-way) via JR Sanyo Line and JR ferry
- Hiroshima – Osaka: 86-minute journey via shinkansen
|Breakdown of costs for above itinerary: 7-Day JR Rail Pass VS point-to-point tickets
Total cost savings : S$464 – S$344 = S$120 with the JR Rail Pass
If you wish to stay in Osaka after your JR Rail Pass expires, do consider getting the Osaka Amazing Pass! This is an all-in sightseeing pass that covers most of Osaka’s main attractions, such as Osaka Castle Museum, Umeda Sky Garden Floating Observatory and more. This pass will also give you unlimited use of the city’s subway, tramway and bus system, as well as discounted prices in select food outlets. Don’t forget to end your trip with a jaunt along Dotonbori, a vibrant district that comes alive in the night with dozens of food establishments, souvenir shops and the like.
On this trip, we wanted to discover the hidden gems of Japan, to explore places that are more off-the-beaten-path. We hence decided to travel to Fukuoka, which is closer to the Southern region of Japan. We loved how close Fukuoka Airport is to the city centre; it took us only 5 minutes and 2 subway stops to get there!
From left to right: Canal City’s Moomin (anti-loneliness) café; Fukuro no Mise Owl Cafe; riding a water tricycle at Ohori Park
We spent the morning on the Hakata Alleyway tour, where we were brought on a tour of the intricate patchwork of small alleys and streets that line the city. Afterwards, we spent the rest of the day exploring Canal City, Kawabata Shopping Arcade and Ohori Park. For dinner, we headed to the nearby Naka River which was lined with many yatai (street stalls) that started coming to life in the evening. Each stall is cosy and can typically seat seven to eight people, serving fare such as yakitori (grilled skewers) and onden (hot pot).
Day 1 of JR Rail Pass: Hakata – Yanagawa – Hakata
From left to right: river punting down the network of canals; local specialty of bamboo steamed eel with egg and rice
We activated our JR Rail Pass at Hakata station and set off towards Yanagawa! Known as the Venice of Fukuoka, Yanagawa is a nostalgic town interlaced with a maze of canals. We went on a 70-minute river punting cruise, which had us floating gently under overlapping canopies of weeping willows. For lunch, try the local specialty of bamboo steamed eel with egg and rice.
How to get there: 80-minute journey (one-way) from Hakata station to Nishitetsu-Yanagawa station via JR Kagoshima Line
Day 2 of JR Rail Pass: Hakata – Okayama – Kurashiki – Okayama – Hakata
From left to right: Koraku-en Garden; one of Okayama’s tram stations
Having visited Kenroku-en Garden in Kanazawa during our previous trip to Japan, we were delighted to find out that another of Japan’s three most beautiful landscaped gardens – Koraku-en Garden in Okayama – could be easily visited on a day trip from Fukuoka! The garden didn’t disappoint, and was a magnificent flourish of flora and fauna. It’s recommended to take the tram whilst in Okayama; it passes by all of the city’s major attractions, such as the garden and Okayama Castle.
From left to right: trishaw ride through Bikan Historic District; drinking matcha tea in an antique tea house; Kurashiki’s iconic canal
We combined our Okayama trip with Kurashiki, a little city located just 16 minutes away. The highlight of the city is the Bikan Historic District, which consists of antique shophouses that line a canal. It was rare to witness how laidback life was here; punters slowly drifted along the canal and shopkeepers stared idly out of windows. We decided to go on a rickshaw sightseeing tour of the area; our guide not only manually pulled us behind him as he ran along the streets, he also gave a running commentary of Kurashiki’s culture and history.
How to get there:
- Hakata – Okayama: 106-minute journey (one-way) via shinkansen
- Okayama – Kurashiki: 16-minute journey via JR Sanyo Line
Day 3 of JR Rail Pass: Hakata – Kumamoto – Hakata
One thing that we realised about Japan was that there were castles EVERYWHERE! One of the largest and most complete lies in Kumamoto, which is less than an hour away from Fukuoka. There’s lots to do in Kumamoto besides the castle – soak in Kurokawa Onsen, have a picnic in Suizenji Park, and try raw horse sashimi (if you dare!).
How to get there: 38-minute journey (one-way) from Hakata station to Kumamoto station via Ltd Exp Train
Day 4 of JR Rail Pass: Hakata – Nagasaki – Hakata
Nagasaki was one of the two Japanese cities hit by the atomic bombs back in World War II, drawing hordes of history buffs to its shores. We visited the Nagasaki Peace Park and also took a cruise to Gunkanjima, an abandoned island off the shores of Nagasaki.
We took a 2pm tour with the Gunkanjima Concierge Company (travellers aren’t permitted to visit the island by themselves), and had a 1-hour long tour of the island. It was incredibly fascinating to wander among the ruins and see firsthand the level of urban decay that has consumed the buildings on the island!
How to get there: 113-minute journey from Hakata station to Nagasaki station via Ltd Exp Train
Day 5, 6 & 7 of JR Rail Pass: Hakata – Yefuin – Beppu – Hakata (overnight at Yefuin & Beppu)
We decided to pamper ourselves with a three-day spa holiday and hopped onboard the Yufuin no Mori train, a luxurious express sightseeing train that brought us to Yufuin and Beppu. The Yufuin no Mori is an experience in itself; it stops at various stations along the way and even has a special sightseeing lounge car fitted with spotless floor-to-ceiling windows. The train’s interior is decked out in warm shades of brown and green which, together with the surrounding forest scenery, aims to give passengers a calming and soothing experience.
We then spent the night at a ryokan in Yufuin, a delightful hot spring onsen resort.
In the morning, we took a languid stroll along Yufuin’s main walking route which led to the scenic Lake Kirinko. After spending some time at the lake as well as in the shops along the way, we journeyed onward to Beppu in the afternoon where more hot springs awaited.
A super cool (yet, also slightly alarming) sight awaited us when we arrived at Beppu’s Chinoike-Jigoku hot spring – the waters were a stark orange-red in colour! This particular onsen is colloquially known as the ‘Hells of Beppu’ and is claimed to be Japan’s oldest natural hot spring. It was great to just relax and unwind in the various onsens sand baths before heading back to Hakata the next day.
How to get there:
- 132-minute journey from Hakata station to Yefuin station via Yufuin no Mori
- 61-minute journey from Yefuin station to Beppu station via Ltd Exp Train
- 114-minute journey from Beppu station to Hakata station via Ltd Exp Train
|Breakdown of costs for above itinerary: 7-Day JR Rail Pass VS point-to-point tickets
Total cost savings : S$759 – S$344 = S$415 with the JR Rail Pass
If you wish to extend your trip in Fukuoka, there’s plenty more to see! If you’re more of a nature-lover, consider these Takachiho Gorge and Mt. Aso day tours that depart from Kumamoto. Before you return home, don’t forget to buy back lots of souvenirs for your family and friends! If you’ve always faced difficulty in deciding what to buy, why not embark on this Traditional Japanese Shopping tour where you’ll not only be able to hunt down unique souvenirs, you’ll also enjoy fresh seafood at Yanagibashi market and have a relaxing tea session at Rakusui Garden.
Hokkaido is widely known for its skiing, snow crabs and beer! This time round, we decided to give skiing a miss and visit during summer for the flowering season. Sapporo is the gateway to getting round Hokkaido; many embark on a self-drive but if you’re a navigation noob like us, you’d be much better off with the train. Besides, the train is really convenient and the stations are all located in the respective city centres! We took the JR Airport Express Train from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo station (37-minute journey, ¥1,070 (~S$13)).
From left to right: Sapporo Ramen Alley; the view from Mt. Moiwa; Susukino Entertainment District
We spent our first day exploring the sights of Sapporo. For a panoramic view of Sapporo city in the day, head up the Sapporo TV tower that offers unobstructed views of the Sea of Japan; for a splendid night view, head to Mt. Moiwa which has one of the best night views in Japan!
Day 1 of JR Rail Pass: Sapporo – Hakodate (overnight at Hakodate)
From left to right: famous Lucky Pierrot burger chain; one of the shops at the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
And our exploration of Hokkaido begins! We decided to go south to Hakodate before journeying North-east to ensure that we see as much as possible. We took an early 6+am train to Hakodate, and caught some much needed shut-eye on the long train ride. We reached in the morning, just in time for us to grab some brunch at the Lucky Pierrot, the famed Hakodate burger chain. We then spent the rest of the day emptying our wallets at Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse, which is home to an eclectic range of shops and cafés.
How to get there: 217-minute journey from Sapporo station to Hakodate station via Ltd Exp Train
Day 2 of JR Rail Pass: Hakodate – Lake Toya (overnight at Lake Toya)
Making a crabby friend and catching our own squid for lunch!
Don’t miss Hakodate Morning Market when you’re in the city! One of the highlights for us was catching our own squid for lunch, and indulging in fresh and succulent king crab.
From left to right: exploring the historic ruins of Usu Volcano Global Geopark; kaiseki dinner; fireworks at Lake Toya every Saturday
After breakfast, we took a train to Lake Toya where we would spend the night in a ryokan. Ryokans are traditional Japanese accommodations that offer tatami-mat rooms (where guests sleep on mattresses spread out on tatami mats on the floor) and traditional Japanese multi-course kaiseki dinners.
How to get there: 112-minute journey (one-way) from Hakodate station to Toya (JR-Muroran) station via Ltd Exp Train
Day 3 of JR Rail Pass: Lake Toya – Noboribetsu – Sapporo
From left to right: spamming yakuza photos; taking a spin in one of Lake Toya’s cute ‘duck boats’
Ryokans usually provide yukatas as well, so feel free to put them on for a stroll in the vicinity or for a unique photoshoot! Alternatively, rent a ‘duck boat’ or a paddle boat to enjoy a morning out on the lake.
Noboribetsu was truly, out-of-this-world!
Stepping into Noboribetsu’s Hell Valley (“Jigokudani”) was like stepping right into the belly of Hell’s kitchen; everywhere we turned, we were faced with steaming pools, curling wisps of smoke and the pungent smell of sulphur. We went for a hike along the various landforms, and there was even a natural hot spring for us to dip our weary feet into before making the journey back to Sapporo.
How to get there:
- Lake Toya – Noboribetsu: 38-minute journey (one-way) via Ltd Exp Train
- Noboribetsu – Sapporo: 70-minute journey via Ltd Exp Train
Day 4 of JR Rail Pass: Sapporo – Furano (overnight at Furano)
Farm Tomita’s flower fields & specialty lavender ice cream | Image credit: (left) James.Kirk
Furano is the place to go if you’re looking to frolic amongst a sea of flowers; Farm Tomita offers rolling lavender/rainbow flower fields and delicious lavender treats such as lavender ice cream, lavender tea and lavender biscuits. We just couldn’t get enough of the lavender ice cream! The best time to visit is in mid-July, when the flowers will be in full bloom.
How to get there: 191-minute journey from Sapporo station to Furano station via Ltd Exp Train
Day 5 of JR Rail Pass: Furano – Biei – Sapporo
Besides the dazzling Shikisai Hill that’s covered in a rainbow flower carpet, Biei is also known for its surreal Blue Pond and sunflower fields. The Blue Pond can be reached within a 20-minute bus ride from Biei Station (not included in the JR Pass) and costs ¥540 (~S$7) one-way. If you’re up for something different, opt for a tractor ride around the flower farms!
We recommend staying a night in Furano and taking the train to Biei in the morning, as it’s much too rushed to squeeze both Furano and Biei in a single day!
How to get there:
- Furano – Biei: 37-minute journey from Sapporo station to Furano station via Ltd Exp Train
- Biei – Sapporo: 135-minute journey from Biei station to Sapporo station via JR Furano Line and Ltd Exp Train
Day 6 of JR Rail Pass: Sapporo – Asahikawa – Sapporo
We visited Asahikawa for the main purpose of visiting Asahiyama Zoo, a zoo that is known world-wide for its innovative exhibits that allow guests to get up close and personal to the resident animals. We marvelled at the glass tunnels/domes that were present in the penguin/seal pools as well as the polar bear/wolf enclosures. Unfortunately, we were quite disappointed that the famous Penguin March – one where a group of penguins walk right by you – was only conducted in winter. We’ll definitely be back for that!
How to get there: 85-minute journey (one-way) from Sapporo station to Asahikawa station via Ltd Exp Train
Day 7 of JR Rail Pass: Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
From left to right: Sankaku morning market; the iconic Otaru canal
Most of Otaru’s attractions and landmarks are located within a 30-minute walk from the station, making it an easy day trip from Sapporo. Our first stop was the Sankaku Morning Market for a delish chirashi don (sashimi bowl) breakfast.
Being a harbour city, Otaru is an idyllic location to simply relax and enjoy the serene vibes. We took an afternoon stroll along the iconic Otaru canal and browsed through the various shops in the beautifully preserved Sakaimachi street. Our greatest find, however, was the ice cream shop “Kita-no-aisukurimu Yasan” that offered beer, melon, uni (sea urchin) and squid ink flavoured ice-cream! Alternatively, why not explore the streets of Otaru on a bumbling rickshaw tour? It doesn’t get any more authentic than that!
How to get there: 32-minute journey (one-way) via JR Rapid Airport Line
|Breakdown of costs for above itinerary: 7-Day JR Rail Pass VS point-to-point tickets
Total cost savings : S$563 – S$344 = S$219 with the JR Rail Pass
So there we have it, four awesome one-week itineraries that will help fully maximise your JR Rail Pass. Furthermore, a simple round trip from Tokyo to Osaka via shinkansen – the one-way 177-minute journey already costs ¥14,140 (~S$175) – will more than give you your money’s worth for the JR Rail Pass. Similarly, a round trip from Osaka to Fukuoka will also be more than worth it with the JR Rail Pass – the 158-minute journey will otherwise cost you ¥15,000 (~S$185) one-way.
If you’re looking for a longer trip, choose to combine both the Tokyo and Osaka itineraries with the 14-Day JR Rail Pass, which is going from just US397 (~S$561) on Klook! If you add in a one-way journey from Tokyo to Osaka, the 14-Day JR Rail Pass will save you a whopping S$765 based on a combination of the above two itineraries. We know, we almost can’t believe it either!
Alternatively, combine the Osaka and Fukuoka Itineraries with the 14-Day Rail Pass, which will save you a whopping S$720. In fact, why not go all out and combine the Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka itineraries with the 21-Day Rail Pass? You know what they say, you either go big or go home. There is unfortunately no train connection covered by the JR Rail Pass between Hokkaido and any of the other three cities; however, there are numerous domestic flight routes, some of which cost below S$100.
Either way, the JR Rail Pass is a TOTAL lifesaver! Here is a summary of JR Rail Pass’ benefits:
- It saves you tons of money
- Seat reservations are FREE
- All you have to do is to flash your pass at the gantry
- It gives you lots of flexibility; you can easily change train departure days and timings
- It can also be used to get around certain cities (e.g. JR Yamanote line in Tokyo, Hiroshima’s hop-on-hop-off bus or Kyoto’s city buses)
We bought our JR Rail Passes from Klook, which made everything super easy and convenient! All we had to do was to visit their office in Boat Quay, pick up the voucher and exchange the voucher at either a) any international airport in Japan, or b) any JR office in Japan. Each voucher is valid for a period of 3 months, so you can even buy your voucher ahead of time to avoid rushing around at the last minute in the days leading up to your trip. Even better, you’ll be able to get an extra S$20 off with the promo code “JR20”! Plus, did we mention that Klook’s rates for the JR Rail Pass are also the lowest in town?
Besides instant confirmation, the activities available on Klook are specially curated and handpicked with users in mind. If you need further reassurance, check out over 300,000 user reviews that will help you make an informed choice. In addition, Klook offers the BEST PRICE GUARANTEE! In fact, find anything better/cheaper and they’ll even refund you the difference. Talk about quality service!
Yep, you’re welcome. Start planning your Japan Trip today, and remember – the JR Rail Pass isn’t just a want, it’s pretty much a necessity if you’re planning on travelling to multiple places. Buy yours from Klook today!
Brought to you by Klook.