Written by Hilary Keyes
Japan Rail Pass Or Discount One-Day Tickets? Why You Should Use Both
There are various convenient options for traveling around Japan. While Japan Rail Pass offers unlimited travel within the country, there are several other discount passes available exclusively in the Tokyo area!
Taking the train is unarguably the most convenient way to travel around Japan. You may have heard of the extremely convenient Japan Rail Pass, which helps you save a lot on transportation when traveling around the country.
But did you know that there are various other discount tickets you can use specifically in the Tokyo area?
In this article, we'll examine the differences between the Japan Rail Pass and other convenient discount tickets, and discuss why it would be wise to consider using both! We'll also explain what a Suica IC card is, and why it is different from discount passes.
Japan Rail Pass - the Best Choice for Traveling Around Japan!
The Japan Rail Pass is a special railway pass offered by Japan Railways, Japan's leading railway company with networks in all of Japan's regions (JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Shikoku, and JR Kyushu). The Japan Rail Pass is best for you if you want to travel around Japan and visit multiple cities using mainly local trains and the shinkansen (bullet train).
Japan Rail Passes can be purchased for 7 days (1st class - 38,889 yen, 2nd class - 29,110 yen), 14 days (1st class - 62,950 yen, 2nd class - 46,390 yen) and 21 days (1st class - 81,870 yen, 2nd class - 59,350 yen).
With your Japan Rail Pass, you can freely board all the trains and buses run by the JR Group lines (*you will have to purchase separate tickets to ride on any other lines).
The service center at JR Haneda Airport Station. Image from: Tailor-Made Holidays In Japan With Japan Rail Pass
Please keep in mind that the Japan Rail Pass must be purchased overseas - you cannot purchase one after arriving in Japan. In order to get a Japan Rail Pass, you will first need to purchase an exchange order from a travel agency in your home country, then take this order (along with your passport showing your temporary travel visa to Japan) to the JR Travel Service Center at the airport to get your actual Japan Rail Pass.
For more information on eligibility and purchasing instructions, please take a look at this article: Tailor-Made Holidays In Japan With Japan Rail Pass.
Tokyo Metro 24-Hour Ticket - Great for Traveling in Tokyo
On the other hand, the Tokyo Metro 24-Hour Ticket can be purchased at any Tokyo Metro ticket gate (some exceptions apply) or from any Tokyo Metro ticket machine, either in advance or on the same day, and can be used on any Tokyo Metro line train. You will need to purchase a ticket to use any other train lines or buses.
*Please keep in mind that Tokyo Metro is a different railway company than Japan Railways (JR).
You don't need to show your passport to buy a 24-Hour Ticket; this pass is available to anyone and everyone in Japan. One of the biggest perks of this ticket is that it can be used for 24 hours; if you start using it at 10 AM, you may continue to use it until 10 AM the next day.
There are slight differences between the advance and same-day tickets that you should be aware of. Advance 24-Hour Tickets must be used within 6 months, and you can choose when you want to use the ticket. These tickets are valid for 24 hours from their first use as long as those 24 hours fall within the 6 month validity period.
On the other hand, same-day purchase tickets can be bought directly from the automatic ticket machines at the station and are valid for 24 hours following their time of purchase. If you do not use them during this time, the ticket will expire and become invalid and are non-refundable, so please be careful!
For more details about the pass itself, please visit the Tokyo Metro English information page, and our article, Useful For Everyone! The Tokyo Metro 24-Hour All-You-Can Ride Ticket.
Tokyo Subway Ticket - Usable on All the Metro and Subway Lines!
The Tokyo Subway Ticket can be used for all nine of the Tokyo Metro lines and the four routes of the Toei Subway. You will need to purchase separate tickets for all other train and bus lines. These tickets come in 1, 2, and 3-day varieties, which offer convenient discounts that depend entirely on how long you will be in the Tokyo area, and how often you will be using the Tokyo Metro and Toei subway lines. They can be purchased while already in Japan, and do not require a passport to purchase them.
There are various ways to purchase tickets, but the most straightforward option is to purchase them at the airport - if you are planning to arrive at either Haneda Airport or Narita Airport. At Haneda Airport, you can purchase the Tokyo Subway Ticket at the arrival lobby's Tourist Information Center on level 2 of the International Terminal, while at Narita Airport, you can buy them in the arrival lobby's Keisei Bus Ticket Counter (available in both terminals 1 and 2). For more information on prices and other locations where you can purchase the Tokyo Subway Ticket, take a look at Unlimited Traveling With The Tokyo Subway Ticket!
Please note that private railway lines also have their own special discount passes and tickets. If you are interested in any of these routes specifically or want more information on train tickets in general, please see Getting The Most Out Of One-Day Transport Passes In Tokyo, and for more information on the trains themselves, check out Tokyo's Railway Network Explained - Trains, Subway and Discount Passes.
Bonus! The Difference Between the Japan Rail Pass and Suica Cards
The Suica is a prepaid travel IC card issued by JR East Railways. This IC card allows you to travel on all the train lines (above ground and underground) both in and around Tokyo, and as of 2015, can be used all across Japan, from Kansai to Tohoku and beyond.
Not only that, but it can also be used to make purchases at station kiosks, convenience stores and even at vending machines within train stations.
If you are going to be traveling extensively in Japan on a wide variety of train lines and buses, you may consider combining the above discount passes and tickets with your own Suica card. You can easily charge it in large amounts, or in 10 yen increments, use it outside of Tokyo, reissue it if lost or stolen, and even get a refund on it if you have money left over on your card after your travels in Japan.
If you'll be spending several days in the Tokyo area, you might consider using the very convenient one-day discount passes issued by Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway. But if you plan to travel extensively in Japan, then do consider using a Japan Rail Pass. You'll be saving a lot of money you can use on something else!
Traveling in Japan by train is only scary and expensive if you head into your journey without being prepared. Make sure to carefully check out your travel destinations in advance, plot out the best routes to take, and find the right tickets or discount passes to suit your plans. You're sure to have an even better time in Japan if you aren't worried about transportation!