Subject: Re: Japan, JR
dear debbie and ziners,

you inquired re jr passes, and although i went to japan before i started keeping conscientious travel journals, thus can't give you exact prices, what i can tell you is once i bit the bullet and paid what felt like a shocking amount for transportation, it was fabulous. just the freedom it provided of being able to zip around the country--and i mean zip--was amazing. i don't remember if i was able to use it kyoto, i recall walking a lot and the occasional bus there, but although the city of tokyo has its own subway system that will not be covered by the jr pass, the jr also has a very substantial system in the city itself. you should be able to make the jr your primary source of transport in tokyo to get to many many major sites.

just an anecdote to share why i'm such a big fan of this system--and which also may clarify for your purposes if it would all be worth it to you--i was in japan over christmas break of 2002 to visit a friend who was teaching english up in a small city near sendai, rifu to be precise. it's several prefectures north of tokyo, and in the u.s., that distance would have been truly unrealistic, financially and time-wise to try to cover on a daily basis. however, with the jr pass, i would take a commuter train from rifu to sendai and then get on the bullet train to tokyo: the whole trip was 2.5 hours and incredibly simple. so, while she went to work, i would zip down to tokyo, have a full lunch and afternoon to explore a neighborhood of the city and see a museum, then head back to rifu for dinner and drinks with my friend and hostesse.

so, i felt like i got so much out of my time there and, moreover, had the freedom to explore very different places very quickly, due almost entirely to the facility of transport with the jr.

perhaps though, if you have a very set itinerary, it might not be the most useful--to temper what sounds like a pr campaign for jr.

all best, jeannine in sf.