No doubt you've heard of the famous All Japan Rail Pass. JR West rail passes are a similar deal, but are designed specifically for travel around Kansai and the western half of Honsh\u016b (Japan's main island). They're cheaper than the national rail pass, which means they could potentially save you even more money -- depending on where you plan to go. Jump to: Overview of JR West passes Kansai Area Pass Kansai WIDE Area Pass JR West All Area Pass Sany\u014d-San'in Northern Ky\u016bsh\u016b Pass Setouchi Area Pass JR West regional passes that include Kansai JR West regional passes that DO NOT include Kansai Sample Shinkansen and limited express train fares JR West passes FAQs Overview of JR West passes JR West covers the western half of Honsh\u016b: from Kansai to Shimonoseki (at the tip of Yamaguchi prefecture and right across the strait from Ky\u016bsh\u016b). This includes popular destintions like Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Himeji, Hiroshima, and Miyajima. The key Shinkansen route here is the Sany\u014d Shinkansen, which connects Osaka (Shin-Osaka Station) with Kobe (Shin-Kobe Station), Himeji, Okayama, and Hiroshima. A few of the passes also include Shinkansen travel all the way to Hakata (Fukuoka), the main entry point to Ky\u016bsh\u016b. So if you're thinking to focus on this part of the country, JR West has A LOT of options for you. Like, \u00b110 options. tl;dr If you're just interested in visiting the\u00a0major Kansai cities and tourist destinations of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe, you're best off with a Kansai Area Pass. However, if you're looking to travel within Kansai and then dip out to other major destinations, consider some of the other passes (like the Kansai\u2013Hiroshima Area Pass), or even purchasing two passes\u00a0(like the Kansai WIDE Area Pass\u00a0+ the San'in\u2013Okayama Area Pass). Unlike the country-wide JR Pass, JR West passes can be used on the fastest Nozomi and Mizuho trains on the Sany\u014d Shinkansen. Passes that include Miyajima cover the ride on the JR Miyajima ferry. Important! Only foreign passport holders entering on a temporary visitor visa are eligible for JR West passes. Kansai Area Pass The Kansai Area Pass covers travel on regular JR lines between the major cities of the Kansai region, which are also major tourist destinations: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Kobe. It also covers travel to\/from Kansai International Airport (on the limited express Haruka train), Universal Studios Japan, castle town Himeji, and points around Lake Biwa; travel on the Osaka Loop line and JR West buses in Kyoto (which travel from Kyoto Station to Takao). It does not cover any Shinkansen travel. Kansai Area Pass at a glance: Validity period Price Booking link 1 day Reserve online 2 days Reserve online 3 days Reserve online 4 days Reserve online *Passes for children 6\u201311 are half-price The Kansai Area Pass -- the most popular of the JR West passes -- is a bit different to other regional passes. Since\u00a0the cities and attractions in Kansai tend to be a bit more spread out than in the greater Tokyo area, the\u00a0pass actually makes more sense for daily travel than major intercity travel. Included with the pass is an additional 1-day pass that is good for unlimited rides on the Kyoto subway and Kyoto area Hanky\u016b and Keihin line trains. It must be used within the validity period of the Kansai Area Pass. The pass can currently be bought online in advance or from certain travel agents in Japan. The Kansai Area Pass is an excellent deal if you game it right. The cost of a one-way reserved seat ride on the Haruka limited express train from Kansai International Airport to Osaka costs -- almost as much as the one-day Kansai Area Pass. A one-way trip from Osaka to Himeji is , and the pass makes you eligible for a 20% admission discount at Himeji Castle. So if you plan on doing one or both of these trips, the pass will definitely save you money. Otherwise you might want to punch in your planned trips into a fare calculator like Jorudan or Hyperdia. For example, the one-way fare between Osaka and Kyoto is only on JR lines (and only on the Hanky\u016b line). There are also other Kansai area transport\/discount passes that aren't JR, like the Kansai Thru Pass, to consider. Kansai WIDE Area Pass The Kansai WIDE Area Pass covers everything that the Kansai Area Pass does, plus some other key destinations. Kansai WIDE Area Pass at a glance: Pass Regions covered Key destinations Shinkansen Validity period Price Booking link Kansai WIDE Area Pass Kansai west to Okayama + Takamatsu Kinosaki Onsen, Kii Peninsula, Tottori, Okayama, Kurashiki & Takamatsu Sany\u014d Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Okayama 5 consecutive days Reserve Online *Passes for children 6\u201311 are half-price Notably, it includes travel to Kansai's most popular hot spring town, Kinosaki Onsen; Tottori, which is known for its sand dunes; the Kii Peninsula, where the Kumano Kod\u014d pilgrim trails are located; Okayama, which has a famous garden and is also the jumping off point for exploring Naoshima and other islands in the Seto Inland Sea; pretty canal town Kurashiki; and Takamatsu, which is across the strait on the island of Shikoku. Round-trip travel between Kyoto and Kinosaki Onsen costs on the Kinosaki limited express train -- so this one excursion is three-quarters of the pass by itself. (Travel to Kinosaki Onsen on regular trains costs only one-way but the journey takes over 5 hours -- compared to 2.5 on the direct limited express train -- and requires several transfers). JR West All Area Pass The JR West All Area Pass is the most comprehensive of the JR West passes. It covers travel around Kansai and the Kii peninsula; journeys on the Sany\u014d Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Hakata (Fukuoka) via Okayama and Hiroshima; and limited express trains to Kinosaki Onsen and Kanazawa. JR West All Area Pass at a glance: Pass Regions covered Shinkansen Validity period Price Booking link JR West All Area Pass Hokuriku, Kansai & the rest of Honsh\u016b to the west + Fukuoka Sany\u014d Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Hakata (Fukuoka); Hokuriku Shinkansen between Kanazawa & J\u014detsu My\u014dk\u014d 7 consecutive days Reserve online *Passes for children 6\u201311 are half-price The pass also includes travel to the often overlooked destinations in the San'in region of western Honsh\u016b, including: castle town Matsue; Izumo, with its ancient grand shrine; and the well-preserved historical town Hagi. The JR West All Area Pass is good value if you are traveling extensively around this side of Japan. If you are focusing more on certain regions, one of JR West's regional passes might make more economical sense (more on those below). Pro tip: If you have a lot of luggage, or even one huge bag, consider sending it on ahead with a luggage delivery service. New Shinkansen luggage rules from May 2020 dictate that luggage with dimensions of over 160cm but under 250cm will require special reservations (at no extra cost), and bags over 250cm won't be allowed onboard the bullet train at all. Sany\u014d-San'in Northern Ky\u016bsh\u016b Pass The Sany\u014d-San'in Northern Kyushu Pass is a joint pass between JR West and JR Ky\u016bsh\u016b. It covers Kansai and all of western Honsh\u016b -- basically everything that the JR West All Area Pass covers except Hokuriku (i.e. Kanazawa) -- plus the northern half of Ky\u016bsh\u016b (the same area covered by the Northern Ky\u016bsh\u016b Pass). You can ride the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka all the way to Kumamoto, which would normally cost one-way! Sany\u014d-San'in Northern Kyushu Pass at a glance: Pass Regions covered Shinkansen Validity period Price Booking link Sany\u014d\u2013San'in Northern Ky\u016bsh\u016b Pass Kansai & the rest of Honsh\u016b to the west; Fukuoka to Kumamoto in Ky\u016bsh\u016b; Takamatsu in Shikoku Sany\u014d Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Hakata (Fukuoka); Ky\u016bsh\u016b Shinkasen between Hakata and Kumamoto 7 consecutive days Reserve Online *Passes for children 6\u201311 are half-price What is worth seeing in the northern half of Ky\u016bsh\u016b? A lot! The cosmopolitan and compact city of Fukuoka; the fascinating and moving historical sites of Nagasaki; castle town Kumamoto; volcanic hot spot Mt. Aso; and the onsen resorts of Beppu and Yufuin. Setouchi Area Pass The Setouchi Area Pass, a joint pass between JR West and JR Shikoku, covers travel between the major cities of Kansai, western Honsh\u016b's Sany\u014d coast (the southern stretch that runs along the Seto Inland Sea, including Okayama and Hiroshima), and both Takamatsu and Matsuyama in Shikoku. It is an interesting pass as it also covers travel on select ferries that cross the Seto Inland Sea -- the only pass to do so. You can travel by ferry from Okayama to Takamatsu, via the island of Shod\u014dshima, and from Matsuyama to Hiroshima. The pass also covers travel on the JR Miyajima Ferry to Miyajima and select local buses in Okayama and Hiroshima (including travel to the ferry ports). Setouchi Area Pass at a glance: Pass Shinkansen Ferries Eligibility Validity period Price Booking link Setouchi Area Pass Sany\u014d Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Hakata (Fukuoka) Okayama\u2013Shod\u014dshima; Shod\u014dshima\u2013Takamatsu; Hiroshima\u2013Matsuyama Foreign passport holders on a temporary visa 7 consecutive days Reserve online *Passes for children 6\u201311 are half-price Unfortunately, the Setouchi Area Pass does not cover all ferries to islands in the Seto Inland Sea. For example, you cannot use this pass to visit Naoshima. It also does not cover as wide an area of Kansai as many other JR West passes. The pass not cover travel to the Kii Peninsula or Kinosaki Onsen. But you can use it to travel on the Sany\u014d Shinkansen to Himeji, Hiroshima, and Hakata (Fukuoka). And with the addition of Matsuyama, you can visit one of Japan's most famous hot springs, D\u014dgo Onsen. In sum it's a pass for a very specific itinerary -- one that takes you to some major sights but also to some more off-the-beaten-track ones. JR West regional passes that include Kansai With JR West's extensive menu of regional passes, you can ideally find one that covers all the places you want to go (and none of the places you don't want to go). The following passes cover the same destinations\/regions as the Kansai Area Pass (including travel to\/from Kansai Airport) -- and then some. Pass Regions covered Key destinations Shinkansen Validity period Price Booking link Kansai\u2013Hiroshima Area Pass Kansai west to Hiroshima + Takamatsu Kinosaki Onsen, Kii Peninsula, Okayama, Kurashiki, Takamatsu, Hiroshima & Miyajima Sany\u014d Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima 5 consecutive days Reserve Online Kansai\u2013Hokuriku Area Pass Hokuriku & Kansai west to Okayama Kanazawa, Noto Peninsula, Kinosaki Onsen, Kii Peninsula, Okayama & Kurashiki Sany\u014d Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Okayama; Hokuriku Shinkansen between Kanazawa & J\u014detsu My\u014dk\u014d 7 consecutive days within Japan\/ outside of Japan Reserve Online Sany\u014d\u2013San'in Area Pass Kansai & the rest of Honsh\u016b to the west + Fukuoka Kinosaki Onsen, Okayama, Kurashiki, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Matsue, Izumo, Hagi & Fukuoka Sany\u014d Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Hakata (Fukuoka) 7 consecutive days Reserve Online *Passes for children 6\u201311 are half-price Note that for whatever reason the Sany\u014d\u2013San'in Area Pass does not cover JR trains on the Kii Peninsula, while the Kansai\u2013Hiroshima Area Pass and the Kansai\u2013Hokuriku Area Pass do. JR West regional passes that DO NOT include Kansai JR West also offers several passes that do not include transit around the Kansai area. These do cover some major destinations (like Hiroshima and Miyajima) but are mostly intended for travelers who want to do a deep dive of the less traveled areas of the country (like Shimane and Yamaguchi Prefectures). These passes don't cover the cost of getting to these regions from major Kansai-area hubs. So bear in mind you'll still be on the hook for a flight to a regional airport or train or bus fare. You can also consider stacking one of the passes below that includes Okayama with the Kansai Wide Area Pass (which covers travel as far west as Okayama). Pass Regions covered Key destinations Shinkansen Validity period Price Booking link Hokuriku Area Pass Hokuriku Kanazawa, Noto Peninsula Hokuriku Shinkansen between Kanazawa & Kurobe Unazaki Onsen 4 consecutive days within Japan\/ outside of Japan Reserve online Okayama\u2013Hiroshima\u2013Yamaguchi Area Pass Okayama, Hiroshima & Yamaguchi + Takamatsu & Fukuoka Okayama, Kurashiki, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Hagi & Fukuoka Sany\u014d Shinkansen between Okayama & Hakata (Fukuoka) 5 consecutive days Reserve online San'in\u2013Okayama Area Pass Okayama, Tottori & Shimane Okayama, Kurashiki, Matsue, Izumo & Hagi - 4 consecutive days within Japan\/ outside of Japan Reserve online Hiroshima\u2013Yamaguchi Area Pass Hiroshima & Yamaguchi + Hakata (Fukuoka) Hiroshima, Miyajima, Hagi & Fukuoka Sany\u014d Shinkansen between Hiroshima Airport Station and Hakata (Fukuoka) 5 consecutive days Reserve online *Passes for children 6\u201311 are half-price Sample train fares Just some handy reference tables so you can work out how much you'd save (or not) by using a JR West pass. Sany\u014d Shinkansen fares from Shin-Osaka Station: Destination Fare Travel Time Himeji 40 min Okayama 45 min Shin-Onomichi 2 hrs Hiroshima 1.5 hrs Shin-Yamaguchi 2 hrs Hakata 2.5 hrs *Fares for children 6\u201311 are half-price Note that only Kodama and Hikara trains stop at Himeji and only Kodama trains stop at Shin-Onomichi. Check other routes and destinations with our handy Shinkansen fare calculator. JR West limited express trains connect the Kansai region with destinations on the Kii Peninsula, in Hokuriku, and along the San'in Coast. Limited express train fares: Departure point Destination Fare Travel time Train name Via (select stops) Shin-Osaka Shing\u016b 4 hrs 15 min Kuroshio Tenn\u014dji, Kii-Tanabe, Shirahama Osaka Kanazawa 2 hrs 45 min Thunderbird Shin-Osaka, Kyoto, Kaga Onsen Kyoto Kinosaki Onsen 2.5 hrs K\u014dnotori Kyoto Tottori 3 hrs Super Hakuto Shin-Osaka, Osaka, Sannomiya (Kobe), Himeji Okayama Izumo-shi 3 hrs 15 min Yakumo Kurashiki, Matsue Okayama Tottori 2 hrs Super Inaba *Fares for children 6\u201311 are half-price JR West passes FAQs Who can use JR West passes? Only foreign passport holders entering Japan on a temporary (tourist) visa are eligible for JR West passes. Where can I buy JR West passes? The JR West All Area Pass can only be purchased from an overseas travel agency (this can be done online) or from the JR West Online Train Reservation portal. It cannot be purchased within Japan. Other passes can be bought through an overseas travel agency, the JR West portal, or certain Japanese travel agencies. In all cases, purchasing the pass through an overseas agency (which can be done online) gets you the best price. What is included in JR West passes? JR West passes cover travel on pretty much all JR trains within the regions covered by the pass. This may include travel on the Sany\u014d Shinkansen and sections of the Hokuriku Shinkansen. What no JR West passes include is travel on the T\u014dkaid\u014d Shinkansen, which is the one that travels between Tokyo and Osaka -- via Kyoto. So you cannot use any of the JR West passes to travel between Osaka and Kyoto on the Shinkansen (you can use it to travel on regular trains between the two, which takes only 30 minutes). Passes are also good for rides on local (but not intercity) JR West and JR Chugoku buses and for free bicycle rentals from JR West Ekirin rent-a-cycle shops within the scope of the pass. Passes that include Miyajima cover the ride on the JR Miyajima ferry. The only JR West pass that includes additional ferries is the Setouchi Area Pass. JR West passes do not cover travel on the privately operated Hanshin, Hanky\u016b, and Keihin rail lines in the Kansai area. Do JR West passes cover the subway? No. Munciple subway networks, like those in Osaka and Kyoto, are not covered by any JR passes. Only the JR Osaka Loop Line is covered, which connects Osaka Station with Namba (via Imamiya) and Tenn\u014dji stations (but generally isn't the best way to get around Osaka). The Kansai Area Pass comes with an additional 1-day travel pass for Kyoto that covers travel on the Kyoto subway. Can I use JR West passes to travel to or from Kansai International Airport? Yes! All JR West passes that cover Kansai area travel cover the journey between Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Osaka or Kyoto on the limited express Haruka train, a \u2013 value one-way. Can I use a JR West pass to travel from Tokyo to Osaka or Kyoto? Unfortunately, no. This is the big downside to these passes. The only JR passes that cover travel between Kant\u014d (Tokyo) and Kansai are the country-wide Japan Rail Pass and the JR East-West Hokuriku Arch Pass. The country-wide JR Pass covers travel on the Tokaid\u014d Shinkansen -- the only pass to do so. The Hokuriku Arch Pass covers travel between the two regions via Kanazawa. Get the lowdown on all the different ways to travel between Tokyo and Osaka and between Tokyo and Kyoto. Are JR West passes a good deal? If you plan to travel a fair amount around western Japan -- but are skipping eastern Japan -- then these passes are a good deal. The price for a one-way Shinkansen journey between Shin-Osaka and Hakata (Fukuoka), for example, is , so a round-trip journey more than covers the cost of, say, the Sany\u014d\u2013San'in Area Pass. JR West passes work best if you are flying into Kansai International Airport (KIX). Unfortunately, there are often fewer flight options to Kansai compared to Narita -- though it depends on your departure point. So if you can find a significantly cheaper flight to Narita, then a country-wide rail pass might work out to be a better deal. While we strive to make sure all details are correct, information is subject to change.\u00a0This post was first published in November 2016. Last updated in October 2023.