Tips on making full use of the JR Pass

The Japan Rail (JR) Pass is really meant for long distance travelling so you see most websites ultimately recommending that you finish local sightseeing on your first stop using local passes or prepaid cards like ICOCA and only activate the pass when you start travelling across cities.

But if you have already activated your JR Pass, why not make full use of it for local travel and sightseeing too?

Below are my personal experiences when I was trying to make full use of my JR Pass to visit popular areas in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Feel free to follow if it helps your planning. And lastly, the usual disclaimer is here.

ICOCA card

There are a few local JR lines in Tokyo that you can use the JR Pass with. The main line you will be using most is the JR Yamanote Line (山手線). It is a circular line that stops at Tokyo station and goes to popular destinations like:
  • Shinjuku (新宿)
  • Shibuya (渋谷)
  • Harajuku (原宿)
  • Akihabara (秋葉原)
  • Ikebukuro (池袋)
  • Ueno (上野)

The interesting areas to visit in Kyoto are towards the East and best served using the subways and private rails. Some also suggest using the bus network which I do not have much good experience with and will keep to another post. 

You can use the JR Sagano Line (嵯峨野線) to reach:
  • Arashiyama (嵐山) area and sights via SagaArashiyama (嵯峨嵐山) station
  • Nijo Castle (二条城) via Nijo (二条) station
You can also use the JR Nara Line to reach interesting places located towards Southern Kyoto like:
  • Tofukuji Temple (東福寺) via Tofukuji station
  • Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) via Inari station

The JR Osaka Loop Line (大阪環状線) is not as good as the subways but it stops at Osaka station where you can make a transfer to Shin-Osaka where the Shinkansen trains stops at. 

You can also reach places of interest like: 
  • Universal Studios station (UniversalCity) via a transfer at Nishikujo (西九条) station to the JR Yumesaki Line (ゆめ咲線)
  • Shitennoji Temple (四天王寺) via Tennoji (天王寺) station
  • Osaka Castle (大坂城) via Osakajo-koen (大阪城公園) station
You can use the Yamatoji Line (大和路線) to reach places like:
  • Shinsekai (新世界) and Den Den Town (でんでんタウン) via Shin-Imamiya (新今宮) station
  • Shitennoji Temple (四天王寺) via Tennoji (天王寺) station
  • Namba area via JR Namba (JR 難波) station