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Japan Rail PassJR West Pass

JR West Pass | Your All-Access Ticket to Western Japan 

Whether you're a spiritual person wanting to wander ancient Kyoto temples, a history lover wanting to visit Hiroshima,  or a nature lover seeking solace in the Japanese Alps, Western Japan offers this and much more within its borders. However, navigating the region efficiently can be a challenge. The JR West Pass is your key to unlocking the wonders of this region with ease and affordability! JR West, or Japan Rail West, offers this convenient pass that allows you to hop on unlimited rides on their vast network of trains and buses throughout the designated area.  Imagine exploring more for less. 

Read on to learn about what’s the JR West Pass, what you can unlock with it, the best ways to buy it, and other essentials to complete your adventure. 

Navigate your JR West Pass guide

  1. What is the JR West Pass?
  2. Why get the JR West Pass?
  3. Things to know before booking your JR West Pass
  4. Your JR West Pass Options
  5. JR West Pass: Region covered
  6. Areas covered with the JR West Pass
  7. How to buy & activate a JR West Pass
  8. Top sights & things to do in West Japan
  9. Frequently asked questions about your JR West Pass

What is the JR West Pass?

JR West, also known as Japan Rail West, offers the JR West Pass, a regional rail pass designed specifically for foreign tourists. It grants you unlimited travel on JR West trains and buses within a designated area for a set period. This cost-effective solution simplifies exploring western Japan's must-see destinations, from bustling Osaka to Hiroshima and beyond, letting you focus on creating unforgettable memories. Like all JR Passes, the JR West Pass can only be purchased by temporary visitors to Japan, that is, people with a non-Japanese passport. 

You can choose between 6 types of West JR Passes ranging from 1 to 5 days, allowing you ample time to hit all the destinations on your itinerary. Choose between the Kansai area, and the Kansai Wide area, or pair Kansai with other popular destinations like Hiroshima or Hokuriku. If you want to explore further, you can also go for the Hiroshima-Yamaguchi option or the Okayama-Hiroshima-Yamaguchi area pass.

Things to know before booking your JR West Pass

  • Consider your travel timeframe and desired destinations. JR West offers various passes with specific regional coverage. Choose the pass that best aligns with your exploration plans.
  • Take advantage of cost-effective exploration with unlimited travel in standard class. Most JR West trains offer free seat reservations.
  •  JR West Pass is valid in areas such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima on JR West trains, select buses, and ferries, and excludes Nozomi and Mizuho, two shinkansen.
  • This pass is intended for holders of non-Japanese passports who are granted a "Temporary Visitor" visa, usually for travel purposes.
  • JR West passes cover JR West trains. For local transportation beyond JR lines, factor in additional costs when budgeting.
  • You can use the ticket for the reserved seat up to six times. If there are more rides than reserved seats, the original ticket can be used to board the unreserved train directly.
  • The passes do not apply to trains, buses, ferries, or any other form of transportation that JR West Pass does not run.

Your JR West Pass options

Group of friends at railway station - JR West Pass

JR West Kansai Area Rail Pass 

This  1/2/3 day pass grants you unlimited rides on JR West trains, including Rapid and Special Rapid Services and express services like the Haruka Limited Express connecting Kansai International Airport directly to Kyoto.

  • Validity: 1/2/3 day 
  • All areas covered: Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Wakayama and Otsu
  • Shinkansen Access: No
  • JR train access: Trains in Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Wakayama, and Otsu, including the Express Haruka train, the Special Rapid Services train, the Rapid Services train, and local trains on JR-West Conventional Lines. Plus, Kyoto JR buses.
  • Major junctions: Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station
Asian female tourist with sitting in Train - JR West Pass

5-Day JR Kansai Wide Area Pass

This 5-day pass grants you unlimited rides on JR West trains, Rapid Services, Sanyo Shinkansen, and buses within the Kansai region, including express services like the Haruka Limited Express.

  • Validity: 5 days
  • All areas covered: This pass includes coverage for the entire region, including the cities of Tottori, Himeji, and Shingu, in addition to all areas covered by the JR West Kansai Area Rail Pass.
  • Shinkansen Access: Yes. Shinkansen services from Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.
  • JR train access:  Express Trains Haruka, Kuroshio, Thunderbird, Kounotori, and Super Hakuto (Kyoto to/from Kamigori), Kyoto Tango Railway, Wakayama Electric Railway, the Sanin Main Line between Hamasaka and Tottori, and West JR Bus services within the area, Non-reserved seats on the Hello Kitty Shinkansen, non-reserved seats on Express Trains, Special Rapid Services, Rapid Services, local trains on JR-West Conventional lines, and JR Buses.
  • Major junctions: Kyoto Station, Osaka Station, and Okayama Station for line changes.
JR West Miyajima ferry

JR Pass: Kansai with Hiroshima or Hokuriku

This flexible 4-day JR West Pass offers the perfect solution! Explore Kansai's captivating cultural and historical tapestry, and then venture west to see either Hiroshima or Hokuriku – the choice is yours.

  • Validity: 4-7 days
  • All areas covered: Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Fukui, Toyama, Wakayama and Otsu
  • Shinkansen Access: Yes. Sanyo Shinkansen (Shin-Osaka ↔ Hiroshima), Hokuriku shinkansen (Kanazawa-Joetsu-Myoko)
  • JR train access:  Hokuriku Shinkansen, Sanyo Shinkansen, Haruka, Kuroshio, Thunderbird, Kuonotori, Super Hakuto Express Trains, JR West special rapid services and local trains, Kyoto Tango Railway, Wakayama Electric Railway, & the Sanin Line. West JR & Chugoken JR buses, and the JR West Miyajima ferry.
  • Major junctions: Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station for line changes for both Hiroshima and Hokuriku
A Japanese station master on the Bullet train station platform

7 Days Kansai-Hokuriku Area Pass

Enjoy all of Kansai — from Osaka, and Kyoto, to Nara. Then, visit Hokuriku, known for the magnificent Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Explore via the Sanyo Shinkansen, Hokuriku Shinkansen, express trains, and local trains. 

  • Validity: 7 days 
  • All areas covered: Kansai region, featuring Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, and Himeji, as well as the Hokuriku region, covering cities like Kanazawa and Toyama.
  • Shinkansen Access: Yes. Shinkansen services from Kyoto to Kanazawa and Toyama.
  • JR train access: Bullet Train Sanyo Shinkansen (Shin-Osaka-Okayama), Bullet Train Hokuriku Shinkansen (Kanazawa-Joetsu-Myoko), Express Trains (Haruka, Thunderbird, Kuroshio, Kounotori, Super Hakuto), Special Rapid Services, Rapid Services, and Local trains on JR-West Conventional lines and West Japan JR Bus route buses within the valid area.
  • Major junctions: Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station for line changes.
Thunderbird train at station with JR Pass

5-Day JR Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass

Hop on the Sanyo Shinkansen (Mihara - Hakata) and even the Hello Kitty Shinkansen, local trains, express trains, and buses. The JR Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass comes with benefits including 6 times of reserved seating, unlimited travel, and trips on the Chugoku bus route, West Miyajima Ferry, and Rapid Services, among other things.

  • Validity: 5 days 
  • All areas covered: Hiroshima, Onomichi, Hagi, Miyajima, and Yamaguchi.
  • Shinkansen Access: Yes. Sanyo Shinkansen (Mihara - Hakata)
  • JR train access: Bullet Train Sanyo Shinkansen (Mihara - Hakata), Hello Kitty Shinkansen, Haruka, Kuroshio, Thunderbird, Kounotori, and Super Hakuto Express trains, Special Rapid Services & Rapid Services, Local trains on JR-West Conventional lines, JR West Miyajima ferry (Miyajimaguch i↔ Miyajima), Chugoku JR route buses.
  • Major junctions: Hiroshima Station for line changes.
Haruka - Kansai Airport Express train - JR West Pass

5-Day JR Okayama-Hiroshima-Yamaguchi Area Pass

This pass unlocks unlimited rides on JR West trains and buses. Travel on the renowned Sanyo Shinkansen bullet train and benefit from up to six reserved seats without having to bother about making reservations. Don't miss the Hello Kitty Shinkansen, Chugoku JR route buses, special rapid services, and even the JR West Miyajima Ferry. 

  • Validity: 5 days 
  • All areas covered: Okayama and its surroundings, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi prefecture.
  • Shinkansen Access: Yes. Shinkansen services from Okayama to Hiroshima.
  • JR train access: Sanyo Shinkansen bullet train, unlimited rides on express trains, special rapid services, local trains on the JR West Conventional lines, Chugoku JR route buses, and the luxurious Hello Kitty Shinkansen, JR West Miyajima ferry (Miyajimaguchi - Miyajima), access to some Chugoku JR route buses.
  • Major junctions: Okayama Station and Hiroshima Station for line transfers

JR West Pass: Region covered

Areas covered with the JR West Pass

Dotonbori Commercial District in Osaka, Japan - JR West Pass

Osaka

Japan's energetic second city, Osaka, is famous for its lively nightlife, street food (takoyaki!), and Dotombori district.

Don’t Miss:

  • Dotonbori district
  • Takoyaki
Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto - JR West Pass

Kyoto

Kyoto is a city steeped in tradition and history,  considered the cultural capital of Japan. It was the imperial capital of Japan for over a thousand years, from 794 to 1868.

Don’t Miss:

  • Kiyomizu-dera temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Traditional Geisha performance in the Gion district
A view of the Kobe Bay Area - JR West Pass

Kobe

Kobe is a renowned cosmopolitan harbor city famous for its delicious Kobe beef and scenic harbor views.

Don’t Miss:

  • Kobe Harbor Cruise
  • Kobe beef
A deer at the entrance of Todai-ji Temple - JR West Pass

Nara

Nara is home to playful sika deer and the Todai-ji temple with its colossal bronze Buddha statue.

Don’t Miss:

  • Todai-ji temple
  • Nara Park
Koyasan cable car on Mt. Koya, Japan - JR West Pass

Wakayama

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Mount Koya and Koyasan cable car in Wakayama, or unwind in Shirahama's beach resorts.

Don’t Miss:

  • Mount Koya and Koyasan cable car
  • Shirahama ramen
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Japan - JR West Pass

Hokuriku

The Hokuriku region is known for its picturesque countryside, serene hot springs, and the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

Don’t Miss:

  • Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Japan
  • Hokuriku black beef
Tourists at The Hiroshima Victims Memorial Cenotaph with a view of Atomic Bomb Dome - JR West Pass

Hiroshima

Hiroshima, a city of historical significance, is known for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum.

Don’t Miss:

  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum
  • Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki
Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima island, Hiroshima - JR West Pass

Miyajima Island

Home to Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima Island is a captivating vermilion gate floating on the water.

Don’t Miss:

  • Itsukushima Shrine
  • Traditional Japanese meal at a ryokan (inn)
Kenrokuen Garden - JR West Pass

Kanazawa

Nicknamed "Little Kyoto" for its geisha districts, Kanazawa boasts traditional gardens, and Kenroku-en, one of Japan's Three Great Gardens.

Don’t Miss:

  • Kenroku-en Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Traditional tea ceremony in a serene teahouse
A mountain and a lake on Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Toyama

Explore the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, visit the Amahare Gassho-style village, or see the magnificent Tateyama Caldera while visiting Toyama.

Don’t Miss:

  • Amahare Gassho-style village
  • Toyama black curry
Eiheiji Temple  - JR West Pass

Fukui

Visit the serene Eiheiji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, of Fukui, or hike the Echizen Cape for stunning coastal views.

Don’t Miss:

  • Eiheiji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Echizen soba noodles
Kikko Park, Japan on a Sunny day - JR West Pass

Yamaguchi City

Discover hidden gems in Yamaguchi City, like samurai districts and beautifully preserved historical sites.

Don’t Miss:

  • Kikko Park
  • Yamaguchi's Kawara soba
Korakuen Garden - JR West Pass

Okayama

Explore the captivating Korakuen Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site showcasing Japanese garden design in Okayama.

Don’t Miss:

  • Korakuen Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Kibi dango, sweet rice dumplings made with millet flour

How to buy & activate a JR West Pass

Excited to explore western Japan with the JR West Pass? Here's a breakdown of the purchasing and activation process:

Senior woman booking online tickets - JR West Pass

Purchasing your JR West Pass

  • Consider factors like duration and specific areas you want to explore before selecting your JR West Pass. Purchase your preferred JR West Pass online well in advance. 
  • Upon successful purchase, you'll receive a confirmation email with a voucher or exchange order. Print or save a digital copy of this document for easy access.
A attendant at the station - JR West Pass

Activating your JR West Pass

  • You can only activate your JR West Pass once you arrive in Japan. Head to any JR West office located in major train stations across western Japan, or visit a designated JR West ticket office within a JR West train station.
  • Show your passport (immigration stamp required) and your JR West Pass voucher/exchange order to the staff.
  • Inform the staff of your desired activation date. You can activate your pass up to 30 days after the exchange date, allowing you some flexibility in planning your exploration.
A woman at a ticket counter

Collect your JR West Pass

  • To exchange the voucher for a physical pass, please present it on your phone at the correct ticket counter along with a legitimate photo ID.
  • JR West staff will verify your documents and activate your pass. You'll then receive your physical JR West Pass, ready to unlock your Western Japan adventure!

Additional information for booking your JR West Pass

  •  Non-Japanese passport holders only: Only non-Japanese passport-holders may use this pass. Please do not forget to bring your passports and ID cards with current visas with you when you depart.
  • Details matter: Submit accurate personal data and details about yourself, such as your name and residential address, that can be validated with your passport. For a seamless exchange, make sure you have both your passport and Temporary Visitor Stamp.
  • Activate when in Japan: The JR West Pass can only be activated once while in Japan, so keep that in mind. Choose an activation date that fits your travel schedule to maximize the validity period.
  • Unlimited rides: You are free to use the pass as frequently as you would like, as long as it is still valid. All you need to do is turn it on once. It doesn't need to be stamped at every station.
  • Connectivity: For convenient access to maps and timetables, Japan offers free Wi-Fi in public spaces, such as train stations. Familiarize yourself with the JR West train and bus network within the designated area covered by your chosen pass. This ensures you're maximizing the reach and value of your JR West Pass.

Frequently asked questions about your JR West Pass

Is the JR West Pass really worth it?

The JR West Pass is absolutely worth it, especially if you plan on doing a lot of traveling between cities in western Japan. Consider the cost of individual tickets for your planned journeys compared to the fixed price of the JR West Pass. Additionally, factor in the convenience of unlimited rides within the designated area.

My chosen JR West Pass covers the Shinkansen. Does it automatically include reserved seating, or do I need to make separate reservations?

No, the JR West Pass itself does not include reserved seating on Shinkansen bullet trains. While the JR West Pass grants unlimited rides, some trains, particularly express services, require reserved seating. To secure your spot, especially during peak seasons,  make separate reservations online or at JR stations.

Does the JR West Pass cover any local JR buses or other modes of transport?

Yes, depending on the specific JR West Pass you choose. Some passes grant unlimited rides on JR West local buses within the designated area, allowing you to explore charming towns and hidden gems beyond major train stations.

Can I use the JR West Pass on non-consecutive days?

Unfortunately, JR West Passes cannot be used on non-consecutive days. Once activated, the pass is valid for unlimited travel within the designated area for the consecutive number of days purchased.

Is there a way to extend the pass or purchase additional days?

No, there is currently no option to extend the validity period of your JR West Pass or purchase additional days once you've purchased your chosen pass. However, JR West offers various pass durations, so consider selecting the one that best aligns with your travel timeframe.

Are there any scenic train rides included with the JR West Pass?

Absolutely! The JR West Pass grants access to many scenic train rides, including sections of the Sanyo Shinkansen line, offering breathtaking views of Mount Fuji on clear days. Consider a ride on the Sagano Scenic Railway for a slower, more relaxed journey through stunning gorges and vibrant scenery.

What’s not covered by the JR West Pass?

The JR West Pass does not cover reserved seating on Shinkansen bullet trains, express surcharges on limited express trains, private train lines not operated by JR West, highway buses, airplane tickets, ferry tickets, or any additional transportation fees outside the designated JR West Pass area.

What happens if I lose my JR West Pass?

Unfortunately, lost JR West passes cannot be replaced or refunded. It's highly recommended to keep your pass safe and readily accessible throughout your trip. Consider taking a picture of your pass as a backup in case of emergencies.