There is a very useful website you can use to plan your route around Japan by rail. Hyperdia is an online timetable (available in Japanese and English) and will help you find information such as the following:
- Duration of journey (leg)
- Transfers (if any)
- Type of train (with train number)
- Departure/Arrival track (platform)
- Several route options (near your requested departure time)
It is also essential to help decide if a Japan Rail Pass is for you, providing:
- Price of ticket if bought separately
- Adjustment of price depending on Green Reserved, Ordinary Reserved or non reserved (non Japan Rail Pass users only)
This way you can work out if it makes sense to buy a Japan Rail Pass or if it actually makes sense to buy the individual tickets.
We recommend you spend a bit of time to work this out. If you don’t know enough about this type of pass, check out our Japan Rail Pass – The Basics article.
Setting Up Hyperdia To Search For Journeys Valid on the JR Pass
Although Hyperdia is very useful when looking into the Japan Rail Pass and itineraries, it isn’t uniquely designed for this. Before you search, you need to be aware of certain exclusions on the Japan Rail Pass – as you’ll need to adjust your search criteria first.
When you arrive at the Hyperdia website there is a simple search box on the home page, at this stage just enter your first journey (departure and arrival stations and the date) and submit. The search results will be displayed but at this stage, scroll right down to the bottom and you’ll see a search form similar to the below:
It is at this point you need to change the search criteria to filter results to only show journeys valid when using the Japan Rail Pass. We’ve highlighted the areas the change in red.
Follow the steps below to exclude them from the results:
- Uncheck ‘Airplane’ as it is excluded
- Uncheck the option for ‘NOZOMI / MIZUHO / HAYABUSA (SHINKANSEN)’ as these ‘express’ Shinkansen services are excluded on the Japan Rail Pass.
- Uncheck the option for ‘Private Railway’ as the Japan Rail Pass can only be used on Japan Rail (JR) Services.
And then search again to see results valid for the Japan Rail Pass.
The Hyperdia Search Results
When the results display, you can display several options departing shortly after your set departure time, in the example below we have just shown the first two results.
Here we can see lots of clear information which is really useful to have. Most train stations in Japan will show signs in English as well as Japanese – but stations can be very large with several platforms, as well as exceptionally busy in peak hours. Having this information in advance makes finding your train significantly easier.
Explaining Route 1:
Tokyo to Kyoto would be:
- On Shinkansen Hikari 469
- Leaving from platform 19 at 11:03
- Arriving at platform 13 in Kyoto 165 mins later at 13:48
- No transfers.
The cost shown on the right is the cost of buying the train ticket (i.e. not holding a Japan Rail Pass). Buying this separately the base fare is 7980YEN with an additional fee based on the type of seat (in this case a reserved seat costs 5040YEN so the total is 13020YEN (one way). Information like this will help you decide if it’s better for you to buy tickets separately or whether it would be better to buy a Japan Rail Pass. How Much Does A Japan Rail Pass Cost.
Let’s say you plan to just visit Tokyo and Kyoto. A return ticket would cost 26040¥, slightly less than a 7 day rail pass.
Therefore if you don’t plan to get on any other trains during your time in Japan, it’s best to just buy the return ticket.
However, the rail pass is also valid on some airport transfers, and local suburban lines in Tokyo and Kyoto. If you plan to take a day trip or two and take public transport to the airport then a 7 day rail pass will save you a small amount of money and give you more flexibility. This is just one example.
Our particular route when we visited Japan took in several different places over 14 days. We entered each leg of the journey, noted the price for each leg (including the seat reservation fee) and worked out the total if buying separately. It was a lot cheaper to buy the Japan Rail Pass in our scenario, and we reckon that most people planning to travel to two or three places in Japan would find the rail pass to be the cheapest option. However do check your itinerary on Hyperdia before purchasing a rail pass.
While doing this, keep a note of the information for each leg of your journey – it will come in extremely useful when you go to reserve seats on trains when you arrive in Japan.
You can also find more information on hyperdia.com in our video walkthrough.