For decades, the JR Rail Pass has been the best way for independent travelers to explore Japan. However, in late 2023, the JR railroad companies increased the price of the pass by 60 to 70 percent, making it less attractive for most first or second-time travelers. For well-planned 7, 14, and 21-day itineraries, purchasing individual tickets or regional passes is often more cost-effective. Typically, the Rail Pass ends up being at least 20% more expensive. If your trip is less than 7 days, the Rail Pass is not worth considering, as there are better options. You can use online calculators to compare costs accurately (e.g., [Daisuki Calculator](https://www.daisuki.com.br/jrpass_calculator.html) or [Japan Guide Calculator](https://www.japan-guide.com/railpass/)). Note that you must purchase the JR Rail Pass before leaving for Japan, as it is not sold locally.

Despite the price hike, some travelers might still opt for the Rail Pass due to its benefits:

Convenience: Unlimited access to JR train lines (excluding the fastest Shinkansen Bullet Trains) without needing separate tickets for each leg.

Local Transportation: Includes some Tokyo transportation like the Yamanote commuter trains, the Tokyo monorail, and certain local bus lines.

Hiroshima Travel: The JR ferry to Miyajima is included.

Bullet Trains: Super-fast Nozomi and Mizuho bullet trains can now be used with a supplemental fee.

Seat Reservations: Both regular and Green Car Rail Passes allow seat reservations via vending machines, though they are not required.

Flexibility: If you miss a reserved train, you can board the next one with an unreserved seat.

First-Class Experience: The Green Car Rail Pass offers maximum comfort and convenience at a higher cost.

Pricing (in YEN):

The strong US Dollar against the Yen means that, despite the price increase, the out-of-pocket cost today is lower than a few years ago. However, individual ticket prices have also benefited from the strong dollar and have not risen as much. If you are flying in and out of Tokyo but traveling as far as Hiroshima, consider the cost of a return ticket. In short, previously the motivation for buying the Rail Pass was money savings and convenience. Now it’s primarily for convenience.

The basics of activating and using the Rail Pass remain unchanged. For more details on alternative regional passes, buses, and discount airlines, refer to “More Japan for Less.”