Japan and Their Confusing Passes

There are many things to be be prepped before your travel: tickets, itinerary, visa, what clothes to wear, what accessories should be brought, what lipstick color should be packed. 😛 Traveling to Japan is unexceptional, BUT, it has one more thing that  you need to consider carefully before planning a trip to Japan. It’s the Transportation Pass!!

Counters at Kansai International Airport.

Transportation Pass is a pass, can be in the form of a card or ticket, that let you use the mass transport it covers. The use of it varies based on the time (one day, two day) and/or based on the transportation system used (MRT only, bus only). The thing about Japan transportation pass is that, they have so many and each is different based on the system used. I didn’t think it’s that confusing at first, but when I wanted to decide if I need to order JR Pass (which can only be ordered prior to the trip and from outside Japan), I needed to learn about the whole pass thing. And that’s how I realize, Japan might  be so effective and efficient in some part of their culture, but very BLAH on their transportation pass system. LOL.

We went to three cities along two regions for our Japan Trip. Osaka and Kyoto in Kansai Region and Tokyo in Kanto Region. So if possible, I wanted to have one pass that can be used in all three cities. Here’s what I got from reading a book called ‘Best of Japan – Tokyo Osaka Kyoto’.

Kansai Region Pass Options:

  • Osaka Amazing Pass: This is the funniest (if not the most confusing) pass. If you buy the One Day Pass, you get unlimited use for Subway, City Bus, Hankyu – Hanshin – Nankai – Keihan – Kintetsu Line Train in Osaka BUT if you buy the Two Day Pass, suddenly the card can’t be used for train! HAHAHA..
  • ICOCA: This card can be used for JR Train, City Bus, and Tram – which I didn’t find throughout my five days staying in Osaka, btw – along Kansai Region; EXCEPT Shinkansen and City Bus in Kyoto. Hmmm.. Sounds like good enough but I need to use City Bus in Kyoto.
  • Surutto Kansai Card: This card can’t be topped up. It can be used for Subway and City Bus in Osaka, and SOME train routes in Kansai (the ‘some’ is not defined, nor did I want to find out more. LOL). This card can’t be used for JR Train and Shinkansen.
  • Kyoto One Day Pass for City Bus: As the name suggested, it can be used ONLY for city bus in Kyoto. If you have days in Kyoto and actually stays there, this card is a perfect fit to go around Kyoto. I didn’t get a hotel in Kyoto (THANKS PEAK SEASON!) so I was commuting Osaka – Kyoto for three days and didn’t have much time in Kyoto, hence I need to mix bus and also subway to reach the destination faster so this pass is a no.

Those cards confuse you already?

I haven’t even mention other pass like Pitapa, Pasmo, Suica, JR Pass, blabla and blabla!

And I haven’t even get to what pass can be used in Tokyo – Kanto Region! Haha!

Hmmm.. Which one which one?

This pass thing is so confusing I even made a dedicated post on my Path. Finally, the ever-so-lovely Gaby succeeded in making me calm by finding out that ICOCA can actually be used for Tokyo Metro! HALELUYA!

> Oh ya, not trying to add the confusion but Japan has JR Train, Private Lines, Subway, Metro, and Tram. Goodluck in finding which one is which and which one to use. LOL. <

Thing is, even Japanese are confuse with this pass thingy. When I want to confirm if our ICOCA can be used in Tokyo, our hotel receptionist in Osaka looked a bit unsure and then he googled and read the coverage carefully before finally saying ‘Yes’ with a vague face. And the girl inside the JR Counter in Osaki Station also showed some confusion when I want to confirm if my ICOCA can be used for that JR Train (mind you, they have West JR – East JR, like everybody understands which one is east which one is west); she kept saying ‘SUICA..SUICA..’ and I kept saying ‘ICOCA..ICOCA..’ and that’s how we didn’t manage to be bestfriend. 🙁

Case closed.

Mom with the Kansai Area Pass. Our first Japan Pass!

Why I need to be sure if my pass can be used and not just trying it out? Because people move fast in Japan and if I’m in the line and then suddenly my pass can’t be used, I block people in the line behind me. That’s not a nice thing to do, no? Plus, if I use the wrong pass for a wrong train, I might not be able to go out at my destined station. Or I can go out but I have to pay the adjustment – which I did, once, cus I bought the wrong ticket. :)))

And why didn’t I just order a JR Pass?

Because I didn’t use JR Train only. I mixed JR Train, Subway, Bus, and City Bus according to which one is closer to hotel/destination. Not to mention, JR Pass is quite pricey. Hehehe.

Osaka Kyoto Tokyo: Kansai and East? $259? No, thanks! Pic taken from here.

So what pass did I finally use?

For the arrival day, I used One Day Kansai Area Pass (shocker! it’s not even on the list!) bought at the airport and Kyoto Sightseeing Two Day Pass (used for day 1 and day 2). Why didn’t I buy the Two Day Kansai Train Pass?

Because it  was sold out.


I bought Osaka – Kyoto return ticket directly at the station for the second day and keep using the remaining the Kyoto Sightseeing Two Day Pass.

For subway in Osaka and Tokyo, I used ICOCA. For train going to Saga Arashiyama and Inari, I bought return ticket at the vending machine in Kyoto Station.

And that’s about it. Only three passes used during my nine days Japan trip.

One Day Kansai Area Pass was 2300 yen.

Kyoto Sightseeing Two Day Pass was 2000 yen.

Osaka – Kyoto Return Ticket bought at Shin-Imamiya Station was 1860 yen.

ICOCA was 2000 yen (incl. 500 yen deposit) and then I topped it up 1000 yen on the last day to get us to Haneda International Airport.

PS: Although ICOCA can be used to get me to Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, but the pass can’t be refunded at the airport. Hahaha. The guy told me it’s because of the different train system (most likely JR and non-JR kinda thing). That’s fine, I have my ICOCA with me now and I can use it again later when I go back to Japan.

At the end of the trip, I tried to calculate all of the transportation expense. Turns out, I didn’t actually spend a lot in that sector. It is far below the price of a one JR Pass. So I guess I’m quite cool with the pass, aye? Hihihi.

Senyum dulu ah.. 🙂

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6 Responses
  1. Waktu itu juga bingung mau beli yang mana. Untungnya pas ke TIC, dapet staf yang helpful banget bantuin milih sesuai itinerary dengan budget seminim mungkin.
    Osaka Amazing Pass yang 2 Day bisa buat kereta juga kok, aku beli yang itu soalnya. Emang line-nya sedikit beda sama yang 1 Day pass. Tapi staf TIC bilang kalo mayoritas tempat yang di-cover bisa dicapai dengan batasan line kereta itu.
    Salam kenal, Mbak 😀

    1. Haha. Aku juga gitu, datang ke TIC di KIX trus kasih itinerary ke dia untuk dia cek harus pakai pass apa aja. Hihi. Terima kasih sudah mampir, Kamoe! 😀

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