Hi there everyone! I’m Yoojin, one of the editors. I think a lot of the Japan Hoppers readers out there are probably aware of the “Japan Rail Pass” which lets you ride all the JR Shinkansen and JR local lines in Japan as much as you want, but do you know about the “JR West Rail Pass” which can only be used on the JR West lines? In this article we’re going to cover the convenient “Kansai WIDE Area Pass” for traveling from Kansai to Okayama, as well as the “Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass” for traveling all the way to Hiroshima and Yamaguchi ☺
What’s the JR West Rail Pass?
The JR West Rail Pass is an all-you-can-ride railway pass issued by the West Japan Railway Company, intended for overseas visitors to Japan. Within the all-you-can-ride area, you can ride the JR West Shinkansen trains or JR local lines, including lines such as the express train “Haruka-go” which connects Kansai International Airport to the Osaka/Kyoto areas.
In this article, we’ll be introducing the “Kansai WIDE Area Pass” which is convenient for trips from Kansai to Okayama, as well as the “Kansai - Hiroshima Area Pass” which allows you to go all the way to Hiroshima and Yamaguchi. However, within the range covered by the JR West Rail Pass, there are 14 types of passes covering various ranges of use. (The image below shows a few of them. Click on the image to open the JR West homepage⇗)
Let’s check out sightseeing spots that you can visit using the passes!
To help you figure out which pass is perfect for your trip, let’s first have a look at things to see in the areas covered by the passes. The pass validity range includes places such as the Kansai area, which includes popular tourist destinations like Osaka and Kyoto, the Okayama area which contains Okayama Koraku-en and the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter. It also includes the Hiroshima area which includes the National Heritage Site of Itsukushima and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome.) Click on the pictures to take a look at areas and spots you’re interested in.
Kansai Recommended Sightseeing Areas
Okayama Area Recommended Sightseeing Spots
Hiroshima Area Recommended Sightseeing Spots
Decided on where you want to go? Next, here’s a general explanation of things you’ll want to know for when you actually purchase your pass.
（１）Kansai WIDE Area Pass
The Kansai WIDE Area Pass is an all-you-can-ride pass that offers you the freedom to ride the Sanyo Shinkansen (including NOZOMI and MIZUHO between Shin-Osaka and Okayama), Rapid, Special Rapid, and local trains within the included areas of Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Shiga, Okayama, Kurashiki, Wakayama, Shirahama, Kinosaki Onsen, and Takamatsu. This pass is recommended for people who perhaps would like to go a little out of their way and visit Okayama.
In addition to the valid range of the Kansai WIDE Area Pass, the Kansai – Hiroshima Area Pass is an all-you-can-ride pass that offers you the freedom to ride the Sanyo Shinkansen), Rapid, Special Rapid, and local trains within the included areas of Hiroshima and Yamaguchi. This pass is all you need to see all of Hiroshima’s iconic sightseeing spots, as it also includes usage of the “JR West Miyajima Ferry” which connects JR Miyajimaguchi Station and Miyajima.
*You cannot use the Tokaido Shinkansen running between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto with this pass. (This is because the Tokaido Shinkansen is operated by the Central Japan Railway Company.) If you would like to travel between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto using the pass, the most convenient method is via the Kyoto line (~24 minutes to arrival)
How do I buy the pass?
This pass is a service that can be purchased ONLY by travelers possessing a passport from a government other than Japan and whose residency status falls under the category of “short-term stay.” There are three methods of purchase: you can make purchase arrangements yourself via the internet, via a travel agency, or purchase directly from a JR station where they are sold. Please consider the following in order to help yourself find the way that suits you.
-Purchasing from outside Japan
If you will be purchasing from outside Japan, you can reserve via the dedicated site(www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/pass/kansai_wide/#prices), or via an overseas travel agency (click to open a list of travel agencies that handle the pass⇗.) After your reservation is complete a confirmation number will be issued. You can exchange this number for your pass by presenting it at the following designated stations (Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, or Kansai International Airport stations.)
-Purchasing inside Japan
For purchasing after you’ve arrived in Japan, visit the ticket window of any of the following JR stations. When purchasing, you will have to present your passport and fill out a form with required information such as the starting date of your trip, etc.
Kansai WIDE Area Pass
|Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Osaka, Kobe, Shin-Kobe, Sannomiya, Himeji, Nijo, Uji, Saga-Arashiyama, Kyobashi, Tsuruhashi, Tennoji, Shin-Imamiya, Benten-cho, Nishikujo, Kansai International Airport, Nara, JR Namba, Wakayama, Toyooka, Kinosaki Onsen, Okayama, Tsuruga, Fukuchiyama, Ayabe, Nishi-Maizuru, Higashi-Maizuru stations|
|Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Osaka, Kobe, Shin-Kobe, Sannomiya, Himeji, Nijo, Uji, Saga-Arashiyama, Kyobashi, Tsuruhashi, Tennoji, Shin-Imamiya, Benten-cho, Nishikujo, Kansai International Airport, Nara, JR Namba, Wakayama, Toyooka, Kinosaki Onsen, Okayama, Tsuruga, Fukuchiyama, Ayabe, Nishi-Maizuru, Higashi-Maizuru, Hiroshima stations|
*When buying from one of JR West’s main stations or via internet, sales are limited to 1 item per sale per person staying within Japan.
Regarding pass fees
Similar to how purchase methods differ whether you are inside or outside Japan, the fees differ as well. By the way, for all of the passes, purchasing outside Japan gets you the best deal.
Kansai WIDE Area Pass
|Buying Outside Japan||12 y.o. or older||9,000 JPY|
|6-11 y.o.||4,500 JPY|
|Buying Within Japan||12 y.o. or older||9,500 JPY|
|6-11 y.o.||4,750 JPY|
|Buying Outside Japan||12 y.o. or older||13,500 JPY|
|6-11 y.o.||6,750 JPY|
|Buying Within Japan||12 y.o. or older||14,500 JPY|
|6-11 y.o.||7,250 JPY|
Is the pass a good deal?
For those of you visiting Japan for the first time, you’re probably not sure if this price is really a good deal, right? How good of a deal are you really getting? First of all, if you were to take a roundtrip between Shin-Osaka and Okayama Stations via the Sanyo Shinkansen without using a pass, you would pay 11,000JPY (*as of March 2018.) On the other hand, the pass is 9,000JPY for five days of all-you-can-ride. Even if you were to take just one roundtrip, using the pass keeps your costs down. What about a trip between Shin-Osaka Station and Hiroshima Station via the Sanyo Shinkansen? That roundtrip would cost 19,420JPY (*as of March 2018) so again, using the pass is definitely the better deal.
Use the affordable and convenient JR West Rail Pass!
There are tons of charming areas within the Kansai area, and if you’ve come all the way to stay in Japan, why not try this convenient pass to go a little out of your way and visit Okayama or Hiroshima? For more detailed information regarding the pass, please have a look at JR West’s official website(English、繁體中文、簡体中文、한국어).