April 15, 2023

Giant Japan Rail Pass price hike in October

The great Japan Rail Pass is up for a giant price hike at “some point in October”. Prices will go up 65-69% for the ordinary class pass by then.


The great Japan Rail Pass is up for a giant price hike at “some point in October”. Prices will go up 65-69% for the ordinary class pass by then.

I’ve always been a big fan of the Japan Rail Pass, which is a great way to discover the country, and has an unbeatable price compared with regular tickets.

In the past the price was updated regularly, but moderately. When updating the rail pass information earlier this year, I was pleased that in spite of a small price increase the pass would actually be cheaper for me than in 2018, due to the weak yen.

New prices from October 2023

But now it’s goodbye to the moderate price increases: On April 14th JR group made a press release announcing a significant price increase from “some point in October 2023”.

Here are the numbers for the “ordinary” (2nd class) pass:

Validity Old price New price Increase
7 days ¥29,650 ¥50,000 69%
14 days ¥47,250 ¥80,000 69%
21 days ¥60,450 ¥100,000 65%

For a 14-days rail pass that is over €200 of difference (given the exchange rate at the time of the press release).

In the future there will be just one unified price for the rail pass, so it will always cost the same regardless of how you buy it.

What does it mean?

The press release says that “details of the price adaption may be changed”. However, unless there is a substantial redaction, the pass will become less attractive for the casual traveler and you’ll to travel quite a bit more to break even compared to regular tickets.

Currently travelers more or less break even on a 7-day pass with just a return trip to Osaka or Kyoto - so if that is your itiniarary, the pass will not make much sense any more.

On the other hand, if you make several shinkansen trips with your pass, it will still be cheaper than the regular tickets.

Regional rail passes may also become more attractive than in the past, and budget-conscious travelers may turn to alternatives such as overnight buses or flights even more.

Old prices for the coming season

There is on upside: The new pricing is announced for October, which means you still have an entire holiday season in which you can use the pass at the old price.

In practice, you can even use the old price up to the end of the year: A rail pass bought until October can be actived until 3 months after purchase, which means until December.

New: Access to top-tier trains

In the future, it will be possible to buy upgrade tickets to use Nozomi/Mizuho trains that were not included in the Rail Pass. As no pricing for those tickets has been announced, it isn’t clear if that will be attractive.

On the Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka the travel time isn’t that different between the top-tier Nozomi and the 2nd-tier Hikari. You would, however, have access to more frequent services.

“Sightseeing” discounts

The press release promised discounts on tourist attractions, but as nor the participating sites nor the discounts were announced, it remains open whether this will provide any extra value.

Still an attractive offer

Even after the price hike the Japan Rail Pass will be an attractive offer for those who want to explore the whole country and travel a lot.

For some more casual travelers it will make less sense.

JR group claims that the passes value has also increased in the pass, as the shinkansen network was extended and you can buy the pass and get reservations online.

It’s more likely, though, that they want to recoup some of the losses due to the pandemic, and offset increased energy and running costs.

Many services aimed at tourists have been significantly increased lately, and a price hike on a tourist pass is of course an easier sell than similar price hike for domestic customers would be.

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