Survey: 70% Will Pass on Pricey New Japan Rail Pass

Survey: 70% Will Pass on Pricey New Japan Rail Pass

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JR Rail Pass
Picture: Nozomi / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
The famous Japan Rail Pass will be 70% more expensive, leading 70% of potential tourists to say they'll pass on the pass.

Japan Rail (JR) recently announced a significant price hike to its vaunted Japan Rail Pass. A new survey indicates that, rather than swallow the hike, many prospective travelers may just skip buying it entirely.

The extreme price hike

With inbound domestic tourism to Japan skyrocketing once again, many industries and even local governments are assessing how to charge and tax for services. For example, we reported recently on how many local governments are implementing lodging taxes to help fill government coffers.

JR is no exception. The company, which runs the country’s high-speed shinkansen trains service, has for years offered 7-day and 14-day unlimited ride passes. While not universally accepted, the pass is good on most JR lines and for travel with some subsidiary companies as well.

As UJ editor-in-chief Noah Oskow noted in his previous article on the JR Pass, its greatest value is the access it provides to the shinkansen. The JR Rail Pass grants cheap access to the rest of the country outside of tourist hotspots like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

However, the pass will now come at a premium. JR announced that, starting in October 2023, pass prices will increase by almost 70%. For example, a 7-day regular pass will go from 29,650 yen to an even 50,000 yen. The positive side of the price hike: the new ticket will allow access to the faster Nozomi and Mizuho services, which are excluded from the current ticket.

Survey says: no thanks

Shinkansen - Japan Rail Pass story
Picture: tarousite / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

There’s been fierce debate over whether the pass still remains a good deal. Practically speaking, it’ll now require taking multiple shinkansen trips for customers to see value from purchasing the pass versus buying tickets directly.

Most customers seem to realize that – and are saying they’ll pass on the pass.

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The English-language Japan travel site Japan Guide ran a survey on the price changes with 1,800 site users. When asked if they’d buy the Japan Rail Pass after the hike, out of 1,098 users, 36.1% said they absolutely wouldn’t, while 36.5% said they probably wouldn’t. Only around 12% said they’d still buy the pass.

Japan Rail Pass survey from Japan Guide: Will you buy the Rail Pass after the price hike? Out of 1,098 users, 36.1% said they absolutely wouldn't, while 36.5% said they probably wouldn't. Only around 12% said they'd still buy the pass.
Source: PRTimes

Japan Guide also asked users if they had ever used the Rail Pass before. Out of 697 respondents, 60% said they had. In other words, the price hike is dissuading past users of the pass from ever using it again.

JR Rail Pass survey from Japan Guide: have you everused the Rail Pass in the past? 60.7% say yes out of 697 respondents

Stefan Schauwecker, founder of Japan Guide, says this is a completely expected result. “If it had been a 10 to 20 percent increase, there’d be no problem.”

Many Japan Guide users voiced the same concern I have about the price hike. With more people opting out of buying the pass, that means fewer people will visit other great destinations and smaller cities around Japan. That means tourists will have a much more limited experience of the country.

It also means cities outside of Japan’s Big Three will reap far fewer benefits from the inbound tourism revival. Schauwecker says that, with the pass in hand, users felt free to stop at smaller towns and cities en route to their final destination. Without the pass, such opportunistic visits will disappear.

There are still some scenarios in which buying the pass is a good deal. But it’s clear that, for many would-be visitors to Japan, the new price exceeds the perceived value.

Get Ready, Japan Tourists – Here Comes the “Tourist Tax”

Sources

訪日予定の外国人1800人に聞いたJR Pass価格大幅改定についての影響調査. PRTimes

値上げ後のJRパス利用意向を調査「今後利用しない」が7割超。訪日客の地方誘致後退の懸念も. Yamatogokoro

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Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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