Japan rail pass: Is it worth the money?

MY WIFE AND I AND TWO ADULT CHILDREN ARE PLANNING A TRIP TO JAPAN IN OCTOBER. WE INTEND USING TRAINS FROM TOKYO TO KYOTO AND ON TO HIROSHIMA WITH SIDE TRIPS TO SEE THE MOUNTAINS. FRIENDS WHO HAVE VISITED JAPAN ADVISE AGAINST THE JAPAN RAIL PASS, SAYING IT IS EASIER AND CHEAPER TO BOOK SEATS AS NEEDED. ANY ADVICE?

G. LOFTS, KANWAL

Rail fares are rather pricey in Japan but the Japan Rail Pass is a money saver, provided you're not staying in one place for more than a few days.

The regular one way fare from Tokyo to Kyoto is ¥13,080. Kyoto to  Hiroshima is ¥10,570, Tokyo to Hiroshima is ¥18,040, for a total of ¥41,690 , about $460. A seven-day Japan Rail Pass in regular class costs $310. If you were able to complete this journey within that time frame you'd be well ahead.

The 14-day ticket costs $493, so even with that purchase, you would have to make just a couple of side trips to come out in front. Obviously, the more you travel within the validity period of your pass, the more you're ahead. The JR Pass is valid for rail services throughout Japan, so it wins out for convenience as well.