A new version of the Japan Rail Pass restricted to the western part of Japan will go on sale this month, offered by Japan Railways to foreign visitors of Japan: The “San’yo-Shikoku-Kyushu Rail Pass”.
This new rail pass permits unlimited travel on main JR lines west of Osaka, all JR lines in Shikoku, and depending on what pass is purchased, all or part of Kyushu.
It is available as a 5 day consecutive pass for standard class travel, so if you want to travel in First Class (Green Car) then you would have to pay the appropriate surcharges.
The validity is as follows for the full version of the pass:
1) San’yo and Kyushu Shinkansen line between Shin-Osaka and the end of the line, Kagoshima-Chuo. You can use any bullet train: Nozomi, Mizuho, Sakura, Hikari, Tsubame or Kodama.
2) The main JR conventional rail line that runs along the San’yo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka into Kyushu, mainly referred to as the San’yo Line.
3) In the Kansai area: The JR Osaka Loop Line, Yumesaki Line spur to Sakurajima, JR Tozai Line from Kyobashi to Amagasaki, JR Hanwa Line from Tennoji to Hineno and Kansai Airport (where the Haruka service runs) and spur to Higashi-Hagoromo.
4) The JR Seto-Ohashi Line from Okayama south to the island of Shikoku.
5) All JR Trains in Shikoku.
6) All JR Trains in Kyushu.
7) JR’s ferry service to Miyajima island.
So as you can see, this pass packs a punch. It costs 25,000 yen for 5 consecutive days and you can make unlimited seat reservations within the area covered by the pass.
Another version of this pass covers just the northern part of Kyushu, and costs 22,000 yen for 5 consecutive days. You can use JR lines in Kyushu as far south as Kumamoto and Oita.
If you plan to travel extensively in western Japan, then this new rail pass will prove worthy. For example if you were to travel from Shin-Osaka into almost anywhere in Kyushu and back, then this rail pass is completely justified as it will work out to be a cheaper trip. Even a round-trip between Osaka and the historical city of Matsuyama in Shikoku would end up cheaper with the rail pass. As I have mentioned before, your goal would be to research the trains you’d want to take in advance (using an engine such as Hyperdia) and see if the cost of the trains you want to use would be more than the cost of the pass, in which case the pass is the way to go.
The advantages of this new rail pass is that you’d have access to all trains on the Shinkansen between Osaka and Kagoshima, including the Nozomi and Mizuho trains that are barred from use with the regular Japan Rail Pass. You also have the option of purchasing the rail pass while you are in Japan, in addition to purchasing an exchange order before entering the country.
Of course, the disadvantage is that the rail pass is not valid EAST of Osaka, i.e. the heavily-trafficked Tokaido Shinkansen that runs into Tokyo… in this case you will want to consider getting the regular Japan Rail Pass anyway. Another important thing you should note is that the rail pass is NOT valid for trains between Osaka and Kyoto, so you will have to pay separate fares to travel to Kyoto, either with JR or a private railway such as Hankyu or Keihan.
I would recommend this rail pass if you happen to land somewhere in western Japan and plan on doing extensive train travel within those specific regions.
Thanks for reading!