Here’s another itinerary I have done using a 14 day JR Pass. As I’ve said previously, it can be very worthwhile if used in the right way and the first trip I wrote about used a 7 day JR Pass. This trip is particularly nice in autumn, which is when I did it, but it could be done at other times of the year too. You can check when the trees change colour here.
Day 1 Tokyo to Karuizawa
Take a morning shinkansen to Karuizawa, and you’ll have the rest of the day to explore. Kuroba Pond is a famous spot for autumn colour. Wander around the tree lined streets of the older part of town, or go to the Sezon Art Museum followed by the onsen at the Hoshino Resort.
Day 2 Karuizawa to Kanazawa
Take a morning shinkansen to Kanazawa and you’ll be there in time for lunch at the Omicho market. Oyado shrine nearby looks beautiful in the autumn.
In the afternoon possible options are the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, or the Nagamachi samurai district.
Day 3 Kanazawa
Kenrokuen is one of Japan’s three greatest gardens, and it’s beautiful in all seasons. It’s easy to spend the morning there with perhaps a visit to Kanazawa castle or Seisonkaku villa.
Afterwards enjoy a stroll around the traditional streets of the Higashi Chaya district.
Day 4 Kanazawa to Kyoto
Take the Thunderbird Express train to Kyoto in the morning. You’ll get to Kyoto before midday, leaving the afternoon free for sightseeing.
Days 5 to 8 Kyoto
Four full days are available for sightseeing in and around Kyoto. The JR Pass could be used for day trips to Osaka, Arashiyama, or Nara.
Day 9 Kyoto to Hiroshima
Take a morning train from Kyoto to Himeji, and visit the castle. The Kokoen garden next door is also worth seeing. Continue on to Hiroshima in the afternoon.
Day 10 Hiroshima
A full day is available for sightseeing. Miyajima is particularly beautiful in autumn, while in Hiroshima, trees in the Peace Park and surrounding area will be turning gold.
Day 11 Hiroshima to Okayama
There’s time for more sightseeing in Hiroshima if needed, and then take the train to Okayama. Depending on the time you arrive, there may be time to see Korakuen, another of Japan’s three greatest gardens, or this can wait until one of the following days.
Days 12 to 13 Okayama
It’s worth doing a day trip to Kurashiki to see the historic canal district, and the Ohara Museum of Art. The other day could be spent in Okayama, seeing Korakuen, Okayama Castle, and local museums. A second day trip is an option, to Takamatsu to see Ritsurin garden, or to Naoshima, the art island.
Day 14 Okayama- Tokyo
On the final day of the JR Pass, return to Tokyo. There are Hikari shinkansen that go all the way from Okayama to Tokyo without needing to change trains.
The important details
A 14 day JR Pass costs 46,390 yen and includes free reservations. The fares for Tokyo-Karuizawa, Karuizawa – Kanazawa, Kanazawa-Kyoto, Kyoto-Hiroshima, Hiroshima-Okayama, and Okayama-Tokyo add up to 60,650 yen including reserved seats (non-reserved seats would be a few thousand yen less). Day trips to Arashiyama, Osaka, Miyajima and Kurashiki add over 4000 yen of train and ferry fares.
I’ve indicated some additional optional trips that you could use the JR Pass for, but I recommend avoiding the temptation to make as many trips as possible to ‘make it pay’. This can mean spending a lot of time travelling which makes for a tiring and less satisfying trip. Used wisely, the JR Pass will save money and allow you to enjoy your trip.
This is the second instalment in an occasional series about using the JR Pass effectively. The first trip is here. Do you have any questions about using the JR Pass? Or suggestions about what you’d like me to cover? Please feel free to contact me.
Would you like to receive my quarterly newsletter with the latest news for visitors, plus useful seasonal information? When you sign up, your email address will only be used to send you the newsletter.
For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.