Asia,  Japan,  Travel

Japan Rail Pass Itinerary for 1 week

The Japan Rail Pass is a pass that lets tourists ride any JR train or shinkansen within Japan. All reserved tickets made with the Japan Rail Pass are reserved seating so no need to go early to secure a seat. You can also hop on any shinkansen to the non-reserved seating. The Japan Rail Pass has 3 different durations tourists can buy, 7-day, 14-day, 21-day but we will be using the 7-day ordinary pass for our Japan Rail Pass Itinerary.

Japan Rail Pass routes
Where the JR Pass can take you!

A Japan Rail must be used on consecutive days within its allotted timeframe from the day of the first use. After the 7th day, it will no longer be valid. A Japan Rail pass can not be used on local buses, subways, and non-JR trains and these costs must be paid for out of pocket, so you should factor in those additional costs. Another important thing is that the JR pass Must be bought before arrival in Japan. More information can be found on their website. This is very important points to know before starting your Japan Rail Pass Itinerary.

The cost of the Japan Rail pass is 29,110 Yen (~$211 as of August 2022). The prices will fluctuate due to the exchange rate. With everything on this itinerary without using the Japan Rail Pass, it would cost 97270 yen (~$707 as of August 2022). That’s about $500 in savings!!

The current prices of the Japan Rail Pass
Japan Rail Pass Itinerary
The current prices of the Japan Rail Pass

In this Japan Rail Pass Itinerary, to make the most of the Pass, we will be in 6 cities in a week. This is also recommended for people who already have spent about a week in Tokyo since we will not be in Tokyo for long during these 7 days. The areas we will cover in this Japan Rail Pass itinerary include Hakodate, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Miyajima, and Hiroshima. This is an itinerary that took weeks to perfect and to put together so I hope this could help people out on their trip to Japan! I won’t be going into much in detail on what to do in these locations, but I will be giving general ideas, and what I did. I will also be listing alternative methods to get to a location in case you cant reserve the first option because sometimes reserved seatings can be all sold out.

When going onto the trains, be sure to arrive 10 mins early since the trains will move exactly at the stated time. If you miss a train, the schedule will be hard to follow and will get messy, so it is recommended to always keep track of time.

Day 1 – Tokyo to Hakodate (Hayabusa 1) Japan Rail Pass Itinerary

The Hayabusa is a great way to use the JR pass since a one-way trip is around 23,500 yen. The round trip will already be over what you paid for the JR pass, and this is the best way to get your money’s worth.

Hakodate is in the most northern part of Japan. Most tourists never have the chance to go up North since it’s such an inconvenience. Hakodate also has a lot of western influence as it was one of the few ports that were open while Japan was secluded. It’s very cool to see the influence of western mixed with Japan. The shinkansen ride is about 3 hours and 30 minutes and that’s not including having to transfer to the local train to Hakodate from shin-Hakodate. The entire journey is a little less than 5 hours.

We will get on the first Hayabusa shinkansen to Hokkaido, called Hayabusa 1. It leaves from Tokyo Station at 6:32am and arrived at Shin-Hakodate at 10:57. I recommend buying a bento box for the ride since you’re probably going to get hungry. After arriving at Shin-Hakodate, get off and transfer to the local train for the Hakodate liner. This is a local train so a reservation isn’t needed, just show your Japan Rail Pass to staff while transferring and hop on to the train. After a 10 minute ride, the train will arrive at Hakodate station. My Airbnb host was wonderful and picked me up from the train station.

There are many things to do in Hakodate. Some things I did the first day when I went was having shio (salt) ramen, which is a specialty in Hakodate and popular all over Japan. Theres multiple places to go eat Shio Ramen in Hakodate, but the location I went to was Ajisan and it was so delicious! It was right near the Bay Area so it was convenient and close to the shopping area. Other activities to do on the first day include shopping in the red brick warehouses. It’s a cute little area with many shops, souvenirs, food, home decor, and jewelry. A restaurant that I recommend eating dinner at is Hakodate lucky pierrot, it is Hakodate’s own fast-food chain, with a clown concept, sounds funky, but it’s pretty cool! During sunset time, be sure to visit Hakodate mountain, it is said to be one of the top 3 most beautiful views in Japan!

Japan Rail Pass Itinerary
Shio Ramen from Ajisan 
Hakodate
Shio Ramen from Ajisan

After a full day of exploring, spend the night at Hakodate to enjoy the area the next day too! It is recommended to get an Airbnb right around the Bay Area to avoid having to do too much transportation. The Airbnb I stayed in was really great and it was a room in a house where the host lived. He was very kind and helped me whenever was needed. Plus, the room I stayed in was a tatami so I was able to sleep in a futon which was so nice for a change, and felt very Japanese!

Hakodate red brick warehouses
Japan Rail Pass Itinerary
The red brick warehouses
Hachiman-zaka Slope
Hachiman-zaka Slope
Hakodate Mountain
Japan Rail Pass Itinerary
Hakodate Mountain

Different options of getting there:

[Hayabusa no.1] 
Tokyo Station 6:32am → Arrive Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station 10:57am
[Hakodate liner]
Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station → Hakodate Station
No reservation is needed, just show your pass and get on the next available train

OR 

[Hayabusa no.5] 
Tokyo station 8:20am → Arrive Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station 12:22pm
[Hakodate liner]
Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station → Hakodate Station
No reservation is needed, just show your pass and get on the next available train

OR 

[Yamabiko 41]
Tokyo Station 6:04am → sendai 8:00am
[Hayabusa no.5]
9:51 sendai → shin-hakodate
[Hakodate liner]
Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station → Hakodate Station
No reservation is needed, just show your pass and get on the next available train

Day 2 – Hakodate to Tokyo (Hayabusa 34) Japan Rail Pass Itinerary

On the second day, walk around the bay area and go to areas that you missed the day before. Then for the afternoon, I recommend heading over the other side of Hakodate which has the Goryokaku park and tower. The area is beautiful and so peaceful and has an insane amount of history. The tower itself has a 360 view of Hakodate and is a view not to miss!

Around Goryokaku there is another location of Lucky Pierrot so I went to try a menu. Every store of Lucky Pierrot has a different and unique concept that goes along with the clown concept so even though its the same chain, it feels completely different.

lucky pierrot
Lucky Pierrot

After spending a whole day outside, get on the local train back to Shin-Hakodate and get on the train at 4:17pm to get back to Tokyo by 8:32pm. I recommend getting a cheap Airbnb, hostel, or even a capsule hotel as you will just spend a night here to regain energy. The trains stop running at around 12:30 so if you want to, feel free to take about 4 hours to explore Tokyo! I recommend Shibuya or Shinjuku since a lot of stores are open until nighttime and it is very lively. If you go on JR lines, you can use your JR Pass, the Yamanote line is one of the lines that run the latest until around 12:45am.

goryokaku Japan Rail Pass
Goryokaku Tower

Different options of getting there:

[Hakodate liner]
Hakodate Station → Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station
No reservation is needed, just show your pass and get on the train
[Hayabusa 34
Hakodate 4:17pm → Tokyo Station 8:32pm

OR

[Hakodate liner]
Hakodate Station → Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station
No reservation is needed, just show your pass and get on the train
[Hayabusa 38]
Hakodate 5:21pm → Tokyo Station 9:23pm

Day 3 – Kyoto Japan Rail Pass Itinerary

After a nice sleep in Tokyo, get on the Hikari 467 which leaves Tokyo Station at 10:03 am. in a little less than 3 hours, you will be in Kyoto at 12:45! The Nozomi Shinkansen is actually 20 minutes faster, but can not be booked with the Japan Rail Pass.

Before getting on the train, buy a bento for the train ride! There’s really something special about eating on the train while seeing the beautiful countryside of Japan. There’s even a special word for the bento boxes bought on platforms or stations each on trains, called ekiben. A great bonus if you sit on the right side of the train; mt fuji can be seen beautifully and up close!

Bullet train Bento Box for Japan Rail Pass. Ekiben
Ekiben
Mt.Fuji seen from Shinkansen
Mt.Fuji seen from Shinkansen

Once arriving in Kyoto there’s so much to do in this city that used to be the capital and the 2nd biggest city in Japan. It is recommended to find a place to stay for 4 nights for the next few days. The cities are all very close so its easy to return to Kyoto every time.

The places I visited on the first day in Kyoto is Arashiyama to see the famous torii gates, and there was a little mountain on top of Arashiyama to hike. Be sure to walk around and explore the area. I found that the Kyoto Station is actually enormous and it was really fun to walk around and see all that it has to offer like viewing points, shopping areas, and restaurants. There’s also a great little ramen area in the train station that has many different flavors of ramen and I had the Shoyu-based Kyoto ramen. (Can you tell I love ramen?)

Fushimi Inari Shrine
Different options of getting there: 

[Hikari 467]
Tokyo Station 10:03am → Kyoto Station 12:45pm

OR

[Hikari 509]
Tokyo Station 10:33am → Kyoto Station 1:11pm

Day 4 – Kyoto Japan Rail Pass Itinerary

On the second day, spend another day in Kyoto! The JR pass will probably not be used and transportation will be local trains or buses. Kyoto its self is huge has so many different areas to discover so a day is not enough! I went to the bamboo forest, and to a little mountain to do some hiking. We also saw a zen garden and explored the underground shopping mall. It was more on the chill kind of day, but with this amount of traveling to be done in a week, its good not to push yourself too much.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Hozu valley

Day 5 – Nara Miyakoji kaisoku Japan Rail Pass Itinerary

Nara is famous for having the most polite deers who will bow their heads when you bow at them. Tourists can buy deer crackers to feed them, but they are known to be aggressive and at the sight of food, they might ram to you or nudge you and crowd around you.

Miyakoji Rapid Service is the fastest local train that is operated between Kyoto and Nara. The Miyakoji Rapid Service gets to Nara from Kyoto in 45 minutes and is covered by the JR pass. There is actually another line, Kintetsu that is more frequent but isn’t covered by the pass.

I recommend checking out Todaiji as it was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. There is also a temple, Kasuga-Taisa that is very famous and beautiful. A fun activity is definitely looking for and feeding deers. Other than that, walk around and enjoy a city full of deers and nature and relax. It has such a different vibe from the cities that we have visited before and is very relaxing. Be sure to not come home too late since it will take about an hour to get from Nara to Kyoto.

Deer in Nara deer park Japan Rail Pass
Deer in Nara deer park
Japan Rail Pass Itinerary 
Nara, deers
Deers in Nara
The way to get there:

[Miyakoji kaisoku]
No reservation is needed, just show your pass and get on the train
Kyoto -> Nara
Nara -> Kyoto

Day 6 – Osaka Japan Rail Pass Itinerary

Osaka is known to be one of the most lively places in Japan with some of the most delicious street food! In a little less than 20 minutes, one can go from Kyoto to Osaka! Its amazing how fast a Shinkansen is! You can reserve for the Kodama 695 to get there and Kodama 692. Both will go to Shin Osaka in which you can either get off and explore shin Osaka, or get on a Local JR train to Osaka Station. If you want to go a different time you can also hop on the JR Kyoto line to get you to Osaka station from Kyoto in 30 minutes.

I really recommend going to Osaka castle. It is so beautiful and the inside is a museum of the history of Osaka and the castle, with a nice view of the city from the top of the castle. I also found that Osaka station was grand and has a great rooftop view and garden. Towards the evening you can go explore dontonburi, and see the famous Glico sign, and eat famous Osaka food like takoyaki, yakisoba, or okonomiyaki. Be sure to go in and out of stores that interests you to shop, or just to window shop!

Osaka castle 
Japan Rail Pass Itinerary
Osaka castle
Dontonburi Japan Rail Pass
Dontonburi
Glico Ad

The different way to get there:

[Kodama 695]
Kyoto Station 8:52am → Shin-Osaka 9:06am
[Kodama 692]
Shin-osaka 8:43pm → 8:57pm Kyoto 

OR

[JR Kyoto Line]
No reservation is needed, just show your pass and get on the next available train
Kyoto Station → Osaka Station
Osaka Station → Kyoto Station

Day 7 – Miyajima/Hiroshima Japan Rail Pass Itinerary

Miyajima is a small island in Hiroshima Bay, and I personally thought this was the best part of the whole trip. Miyajima is said to be a power spot, and it definitely was and lived up to that name. Miyajima also has many deers roaming around like Nara and I found them to be not as aggressive and cuter than the ones in Nara. There are many alleyways and streets with food and shopping that it is easy to spend hours there! Be sure to eat Momiji Maju, a specially of Miyajima.

To get to Miyajima, we have to get to Hiroshima first so ride the Hikari 493 at 8:56 to Himeji from Kyoto, to transfer off to the Kodama 741 at 12:03 to get to Hiroshima at 1:54. The cost of this trip would usually cost 12,750 yen!
JR Sanyo line leads to the ferry to get to Miyajima depart from Hiroshima Station every 15 minutes. Get off at Miyajimaguchi where it is a 2-minute walk to the ferry bound for Miyajima. You can ride on the JR Ferry for free with the Japan Rail Pass and will take you 10 minutes to reach Miyajima.

After checking out all the shopping and restaurants, I actually spend a while just sitting off to the side to just relax and admire the view. Since its the last day of the whole trip, it was really nice just to sit and reflex on the past week. I happened to get really lucky and went on a day that was both high tides and low tide, so I was able to see the tori gate floating on the water, as well as going under and touching the gate.

Japan Rail Pass Itinerary 
Miyajima at high tide 
Hiroshima Japan
Miyajima at high tide
Japan Rail Pass Itinerary 
Miyajima at low tide 
Hiroshima Japan
Miyajima at low tide

On the way to the train station, back in Hiroshima, I was able to go visit and see the Hiroshima dome and eat dinner at Okonomimura, which is a building that houses about 25 okonomiyaki restaurants where locals and tourists come to enjoy this region’s signature dish.

Japan Rail Pass Atomic Bomb
Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb

The best way to get back to Tokyo is to go on Sunrise Seto, the overnight sleeper train. Because it is an overnight sleeper train, it would allow us to leave Hiroshima at around 9:00 pm which leaves us a good amount of time to discover Hiroshima. With the JR pass, you are able to book the cheapest option and get a little section to lie down and sleep. This might be uncomfortable for some people, so I have listed another way to get back to Tokyo, but Japan is very safe, and I had no problems with it. I was able to sleep fairly comfortably and slept all the way back to Tokyo.

Sunrise Seto with Japan Rail Pass
Sunrise Seto

Getting to Hiroshima/Miyajima

[Hikari 493]
Kyoto Station 8:00 am→ Hiroshima station 9:40 am
[JR Sanyo line]
Hiroshima Station -> Miyajimaguchi
No reservation is needed, just show your pass and get on the next available train
[JR Ferry]
Different options on going to Tokyo   
No reservation is needed, just show your pass and get on the next available train
[Hikari 495]
Kyoto Station 8:20am → Hiroshima station 10:00am

[sakura 572]
hiroshima 9:19pm → okayama 9:59
OR
[sakura 570]
hiroshima 8:52pm → okayama 10:02

[sunrise seto]
okayama 10:23pm → Tokyo Station 7:08am

If Sunrise Seto is sold out or you don’t want to ride it

[Hikari 482]
5:47pm Hiroshima→ 6:24 pm shin Osaka
7:43pm shin Osaka → 10:40pm Tokyo

I definitely recommend buying the Japan Rail Pass since it would really save you hundreds of dollars and help you travel and discover areas outside of Tokyo that you wouldn’t have had otherwise!


Email me at pennylesstravels@gmail.com for consultations to plan your trip to Japan or more!


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My Japan posts: Pennyless Travels Japan posts
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General Tourism information: Japan Travel Website
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