JR Rail Pass Prices Soar - 70% Hike!

snow action team 05.10.2023

Bad news for Japow lovers especially those planning to visit several destinations as popular JR Rail Pass prices soared this week with hikes of up to 70% in force from October in some categories.

We were checking rates for a February family trip just last week when the 7 day pass was still only AUD $319. Now that’s jumped to $532!

The most useful and popular 14 day pass has leapt from JPY 47,750 to 80,000 now, or to a fat AUD $851 (USD $673) from $510.

Yes, so the 7 day JR Pass now costs more then the 14 day pass used to!

Love those trains, but they will cost you more now © Carmen Price

Already the revamped all Japan, consecutive days passes were not really as useful for traveling skiers/boarders as the previous 5 days in 14 type passes pre-COVID. We had designed plenty of great itineraries to maximise snow time using those, which JR Rail have featured on their blogs. The only advantage of the new system was it became Japan wide, not the regional options that made combining certain areas difficult.

Now it’s back to the drawing board and a real toss up between whether to bother using the passes at all. Great domestic add-on airfares from ANA and JAL let you fly into one airport and out of another with just local transport required from those airports to your chosen resort areas.

Aomori, Akita, Sendai, Asahikawa, Obihiro, Fukushima, Toyama, Hakkodate etc – there are many different regional airport options to play with. Local trains, buses, transfers or car hire in conjunction may well work out cheaper than rail passes, especially for families and groups. For example, our extended family trip in February with 9 of us now has a $4,800 budget to work with as an alternative to 7 day rail passes, which were Plan A.

Using cost effective add on flights is looking more like a good idea after the JR Pass price hikes – source ANA

A quick check of Nippon Rent-A-Car gave us a Corolla Fielder Wagon with snow tyres, ECT toll card, CDW etc as shown into Haneda out of Narita for 2 weeks for less than 3 x 14 day rail passes. The equation is similar for a week vs 3 passes. Great little car for 2 or 3.

Of course there are extras like fuel and toll costs – you can check out freeway card passes with them on the link here too. But having a vehicle can be handy for getting around too vs taxis/whatever.

Whereas the old style rail passes were great value and allowed some fairly easy trip planning to use the included travel days to maximum now with the rate hikes alternatives are much more competitive.

From Narita the NEX express to Tokyo costs JPY 3070 each way, so the inclusion of it in JR Passes is still handy. Same goes for the Haneda Monorail & local line if you are flying in or out of there.

Long distance express bus options are coming back, but many are not yet showing timetables or current fares – like Alpico from Haneda or Narita to Hakuba for example.

View to Aomori from Hakkoda
Fly to Aomori for Hakkoda will work out cheaper than trains via Tokyo if you grab a good flight deal © Owain Price