JR Central’s “tourist passes” are a little different from other Japan Rail passes. Rather than covering the whole country, like the classic JR Pass, or part of the country, like the regional rail passes from JR East and JR West (and all the other JRs), JR Central’s passes cover transit (both trains and buses) for specific itineraries.

These passes don’t cover much ground but do hit some major destinations and sights, including: Mt. Fuji, the Kiso Valley, Matsumoto, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Kanazawa, Takayama, Shirakawa-gō, Ise, and the Kii Peninsula.

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Overview of JR Central passes

JR Central’s passes cover destinations in the region between Kantō and Kansai. Notably, a few passes cover transport around Japan’s Alpine region (in Nagano and Gifu prefectures). JR Central Passes are only available to foreign travelers on tourist visas.

JR Central tourist passes at a glance:

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PassKey destinationsShinkansenValidity periodPriceBooking link
Takayama–Hokuriku AreaGero Onsen, Takayama, Shirakawa-gō, Kanazawa, Kyoto & OsakaHokuriku Shinkansen between Toyama & Kanazawa5 consecutive days¥19,800Reserve online
Alpine–Takayama–Matsumoto Area PassGero Onsen, Takayama, Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Kiso Valley & Matsumoto 5 consecutive days¥19,600Reserve online
Ise–Kumano–Wakayama AreaIse, Kii Peninsula, Nara & Osaka 5 consecutive days¥16,500Reserve online
Mt. Fuji–Shizuoka Area PassAtami, Numazu, Gotemba Premium Outlets & Fuji Five Lakes 3 consecutive days¥6,500Reserve online

The biggest city and major transport hub in these parts is Nagoya, Japan’s fourth largest city (after Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka).

Note that while Nagoya is a stop on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, none of these passes cover travel on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen (the Shinkansen that connects Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka). The only rail pass that covers travel on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the national JR Pass. However, if you want to take your time sightseeing on the way from Tokyo to Kansai, one of these passes might be for you.

Takayama–Hokuriku Area Pass

shirakawago gifu japan
A traditional gasshō-zukuri farmhouse in Shirakawa-gō | Photo by iStock.com/LeeYiuTung

The Takayama–Hokuriku Area Pass covers travel between Nagoya and Kansai — but in a roundabout way via Kanazawa on the Japan Sea coast. It is a bit like the Hokuriku Arch Pass; except instead of traveling from Tokyo to Kanazawa via Nagano on the Hokuriku Shinkansen, you travel from Nagoya via Takayama on the JR Takayama line. (This goes all the way to Toyama, where you can pick up the Hokuriku Shinkasen to make the short journey to Kanazawa, which is covered by the pass).

There is also an option to travel from Takayama to Kanazawa by bus, via the the World Heritage sites of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama. Also included in this pass is travel to/from Kansai International Airport.

Alpine–Takayama–Matsumoto Area Pass

Kurobe river
The Kurobe River in Toyama prefecture. | Photo by Chris Kirkland

The Alpine–Takayama–Matsumoto Area Pass covers travel along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route — a stretch of spectacular alpine scenery traversed via a series of cable cars, ropeways, and buses — as well as round-trip travel to/from the route and Nagoya.

The pass allows you to do the whole thing as a loop, so there is no backtracking. Like with the Takayama–Hokuriku Area Pass, you’ll travel from Nagoya to Toyama via Gero and Takayama. After completing the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, you can return to Nagoya via Matsumoto and the Kiso Valley.

Important! The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is only open April 15 through November (because snow). Many people like to visit in April and May because that’s when you can experience the region’s famous snow wall. Other popular times to visit (in other words when crowds are likely) include Golden Week, Obon, and early October when the leaves change color.

Ise–Kumano–Wakayama Area Pass

Daimonzaka slope on Kumano Kodo
A stretch of the Kumano Kodō pilgrim trail in Kii. | Photo by Roger Shitaki

The Ise–Kumano–Wakayama Area Pass covers travel around the Kii Peninsula from Nagoya and Kansai, with a stop over in Ise, home of Ise Shrine — the most important shrine in all of Japan. Also included in this pass is travel to/from Kansai International Airport.

While several JR West passes include travel from Kansai to Kii, the Ise–Kumano–Wakayama Area Pass is the only one to cover select non-JR bus routes that allow you to get into the interior of the peninsula — where the onsen and pilgrim trails of the Kumado Kodō are located. (You can’t, however, use the pass to visit the mountain monastery Kōya-san). The pass also covers the local buses you need to get around Ise and other nearby sights.

Mt. Fuji–Shizuoka Area Pass

Fuji
Fuji Five Lakes is one of the best areas for Fuji-spotting. | Photo by iStock.com/kokoroyuki

The Mt. Fuji–Shizuoka Area Pass is a little different than the other three JR Central passes. For one, it’s not centered around travel from Nagoya. You’ve also only got three days to work with, meaning you have to be extra choose-y about where to visit and what to do.

What the pass covers is travel along the JR Tōkaidō Main Line between Izu Peninsula onsen destination Atami and Toyohashi, and the JR Gotemba line between Matsuda and Numazu. (There’s nothing particularly special about Toyohashi; this is just the section of track overseen by JR Central).

Plus side excursions — either by rail or by bus (or a combination of the two) — to Shuzenji, an onsen town in central Izu; the Mishima Sky Walk; Fuji Five Lakes; Shimobe Onsen in Yamanashi prefecture; FujiQ Highland; and the Gotemba Premium outlets. Among others: there are a whole host of minor attractions you can visit with this pass. It also covers a ferry between Izu and Shimizu.

JR Central passes FAQs

Who can use JR Central passes?

Only foreign passport holders visiting Japan on a tourist visa. For a short time in 2022, some JR Central Passes were available to foreign residents of Japan as well, but alas that promotion has now ended.

Where can I buy JR Central passes?

In Japan, passes can be purchased in Tokyo at the JR Central ticket office or branches of Tokai Tours at Tokyo and Shinagawa stations. They can also be purchased at major stations covered by the passes including Nagoya, Kyoto, and Shin-Osaka.

Can I use a JR Central pass on the Shinkansen?

Only one of the JR Central passes (Takayama–Hokuriku Area Pass) covers any Shinkansen travel, and that is only a small section of the Hokuriku Shinkansen between Toyama and Kanazawa.

If you want to zip around on the Shikansen, the classic JR Pass is probably the best pass for you.

Can I travel from Tokyo using a JR Central pass?

No. The Mt. Fuji–Shizuoka Area Pass covers travel from Matsuda, which is only 90 minutes from Shinjuku on the Odakyu line. All of the other passes require you to travel as far as Nagoya. From Tokyo Station, the Tōkaidō Shinkasen travels to Nagoya in 90 minutes (on the Nozomi), 2 hours (Hikari), or 2.5 hours (Kodama) and costs ¥11,090.

Can I travel from Kansai using a JR Central pass?

Two of the passes, the Takayama–Hokuriku Area and the Ise–Kumano–Wakayama Area Pass, include travel from Kansai (including travel to/from Kyoto, Osaka, and Kansai International Airport).

The Alpine–Takayama–Matsumoto Area Pass requires travelers in Kansai to first travel to Nagoya. The fare from Shin-Osaka to Nagoya is ¥6,470; from Kyoto it is ¥5,700.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in June 2022. Last updated in October 2023.

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