Indeed, one common rule of thumb for the seven-day pass is that it essentially pays for itself after a single Tokyo-Kyoto round trip. For motivated travelers, a pass can mean savings in the thousands of dollars.
In April, the JR Group, which operates the expansive network of shinkansen as well as local and regional lines, announced that prices for an ordinary class, seven-day rail pass will jump to 50,000 yen (about $342) from 29,650 yen (about $203), while Green Car class seven-day passes will increase to 70,000 yen from 39,600 yen. The 14- and 21-day passes will see similar increases in the 65 percent to 71 percent range.
In an email, a spokesman for the JR Group noted that despite improvements to its services — including extending shinkansen lines and increasing the coverage area, updating reservation systems and adding automatic ticket gates — it has not increased prices since the company’s establishment. “As a result, the actual benefits greatly exceed the product price,” he wrote. Now, he added, “we have decided to revise the price to an appropriate level.”
The changes, however, are not all bad news for travelers.
A notable limit on the rail pass was its exclusion of Nozomi and Mizuho trains on the Tokaido and Sanyo shinkansen lines, which combine to offer service between Tokyo and Fukuoka; functionally identical to other shinkansen, these trains are more convenient with faster, direct routes between major stations.
Come October, for a supplemental fee, rail pass holders will now have access to a Nozomi-Mizuho add-on, providing additional travel options for visitors and easing the recent severe crowding on the popular Tokaido shinkansen most frequently used by tourists between Tokyo and Osaka.