Japan has one of the best public transport system in the world. With a huge rail and bus network, most often, travellers like us can move around by ourselves, without having to take a tour-package except for some unreachable area.
Then, how is that so difficult that we would need a way to survive communitng in such country? Especially when we already have something as powerful as JR-Pass.
JR-Pass also has different coverage, depends on which coverage we are buying. There are JR-East coverage, JR-West coverage, North, etc. Since we are moving across multiple cities, we buy the national coverage JR-Pass. This covers any JR zone, and of course the Shinkansen.
There is also exception to JR-Pass, example: JR-Nozomi between Tokyo-Osaka is not valid for JR-Pass.
To tell the truth, JR-Pass even without some trains, and without using the Green Car, it has been very very useful. For travelling japan across cities, it has become a MUST! Just remember to make reservation whenever possible.
IC Card (Suica, Icoca, Sapica, etc.)
Another useful stuff that can be used cross cities are these cards called Suica. This card saved us from having to buy tickets for subway ride, from queueing, from having to keep a small (4x2cm) cards and fear of losing them, or destroying them by accidental folding.
Bad point is that for frequent travelling from one site to another site, it could end up becoming very costly. so would suggest using this as a backup.
This is also one of the good stuff for us, travellers. It is a pre-paid card which only need to buy/pay once, then can be used for some period of time, e.g. Whole day, 2 days, or 3 days. With this, it saves quite a lot of transport budget.
The problem with this kind of pass is that not only this pass is different between cities, worse, it may be different between transport providers.
So it is important to plan on the itinerary, so that you can utilize the day pass fully.
Based on our 14 days itinerary of journey to the north which involves these cities: Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, Hakodate, Sapporo, below is how we manage the transport. Note: The planning and choice is pretty much depends on the itinerary and what we already have. At that time, we already have JR-Pass for all areas.
Kyoto & Osaka
There are a few day-passes for Kansai area which covers Kyoto and Osaka. e.g. Kansai Thru Pass, Kyoto Sightseeing Pass, Kyoto one-day bus pass, Osaka etc etc.
- The pass that covers all (bus, subway, trains) are quite pricey considering the time (one-day/two-days/etc). starting from 1200 yen a day, and some of them can reach 2000 yen a day.
- There are one-day-pass for subway-only, however, subway has limited reach and there are many different lines.
- Take the one-day-bus-pass for only 500 Yen. Kyoto is big, but these pass is good enough to travel aroun.
- Bus can reach deeper area that is not reachable by subway/train. i.e. less walk.
- One bus ride is around 200 Yen, so as long as we take bus 3 times, it is already break-even.
- This card can be bought in Kyoto-Tourist-Information-Centre in Kyoto station.
- For us, we spent only 1 day in Osaka, and only going to Nissin-Cup-Noodle Museum and Dotonbori, buying one way ticket or using IC card worked well. Would have taken Enjoy-Eco-Card if we travelled more.
- The subway system is super complex
- Some Stations are extremely big. e.g. Shinjuku and Tokyo station. might lost the way inside. Google Map will be very helpful.
- JR Pass covers Yamanote Line, which is circling Tokyo
- The 24/48/72 hour Subway Pass covers all Subway lines (unlike Kyoto/Osaka which is limited). it is only 800 Yen per 24 hour
- Can survive with JR Pass alone, but Subway Pass can help in going to more specific places
- One passport can buy one Subway Pass.
- Need to buy at certain places. common one is BIC Camera.
Hakodate and Sapporo
Since we were only passing by Hakodate for a night, we just bought bus tickets to go Ropeway and back. JR Pass will help for the transport from Shinkansen station at Shin-Hakodate to Hakodate, as well as from Hakodate to Sapporo.
In Sapporo, though they have few Day Passes, the places we went were mostly accessible by JR-Pass, hence we did not buy those Passes. e.g.: Shiroi Koibito and Otaru Music Box Museum are accessible by JR-Pass. Only when we went to Susukino area, we purchased subway tickets.
It is a resort, all provided by Hoshino Tomamu resort except for the JR train from Sapporo to Tomamu station, which is covered by JR-Pass.
In the website, the resort only mentioned that there is a free shuttle from Tomamu station to the resort. They never say what is the shuttle frequency or schedule. BUT, need not worry, it is already timed according to the JR train schedule. Thus upon arrival at Tomamu Station, they are already there waiting for you and your luggages.
Remember to use small luggages. Why? On the way back from the resort to Tomamu station, be it going to Sapporo or other city, the shuttle will stop the guests at the arrival platform. It means, the guests have to climb the stairs of the overhead bridge to the other side to take the train to Sapporo/Chitose.
Only a very short night, as we utilized our time fully at Tomamu. That was our JR-Pass last day (the 14th day). Thus, we got AreaOne hotel that provided free shuttle bus to New Chitose Airport. The shuttle start from 0600hr in the morning.