I made my very first trip to Japan in May 2004. We were there for 7 days, using the Japan Rail Pass throughout. Japan Rail Pass was a pass that gave you unlimited train rides on JR lines through Japan (except a few shinkansen lines such as the fastest Nozomi trains joining Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka). If it is the first time you’re using the Japan Rail Pass, I recommend reading this guide on japan-guide.com.
Back in 2004, getting the Japan Rail pass was quite a hassle. The Japan Rail Pass had to be bought OUTSIDE Japan prior to your travel. And back then, not many places in Singapore were selling it. We had to go down to JTB office just to buy it. But nowadays, you can easily purchase one online via travel booking platforms such as Klook.
Our favourite travel booking platform
This being my first trip to Japan, I don’t think it was the most well-planned trip. Our main priority was to minimise movement with luggage, since we were not familiar with Japan’s transport system. We stayed in the same hotel in Tokyo for the 1st night and 3rd to 6th night, and spent our 2nd night at Osaka. By staying in the same hotel before and after our side-trip to Osaka, we were able to leave our big luggage at the hotel, bringing only a small bag when we travelled West. This allowed us to be better able to navigate the many (confusing) train stations and shinkansen rides without having a big luggage case to lug around.
However on hindsight, I felt that we did not make good use of our Japan Rail Pass. We had two full days in central Tokyo, in which we didn’t really utilise the Japan Rail Pass much. So my advise is, if you are planning a trip with a 7-Days Japan Rail Pass, where you plan to spend say 2 days in central Tokyo, it would be better to do a 9-days trip. Use the 7 days fully to explore more of other parts of Japan and return to Tokyo on the 7th day of your rail pass. Then for those days back in central Tokyo, you can just buy single-trip train tickets. And if you are flying back from Narita Airport, there is no need to take the expensive Narita Express. Use the cheap Keisei Line instead.
In December 2007, we were back in Japan again on another trip with the Japan Rail Pass. And I felt in that trip, we made much better use of the pass.
7 Days Illuminations Travel using Japan Rail Pass
Day 1: Narita Airport – Tokyo via Narita Express (N’EX)
Day 2: Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka -> Click here for details
Nishijin Textile Centre:
Day 3: Osaka – Miyajima – Tokyo -> Click here for details
Day 4: Tokyo – Yokohama – Tokyo -> Click here for details
Minato Mirai 21:
Day 5: Tokyo – Nikko – Tokyo -> Click here for details
Asakusa Kannon Temple:
Day 6: Tokyo Disneyland
Day 7: Tokyo – Narita Airport -> Click here for details