One of Japan’s greatest bullet train travel bargains just got shot full of holes.

For many years now, the Japan Rail Pass has been one of the best way for visitors to Japan to see the country. Starting soon, though, it’s going to take a lot more number-crunching to figure out if it’s worth it, as the pass is going to be seeing massive price increases.

Also called the JR Pass, the Japan Rail Pass gives you unlimited rides on trains operated by Japan Railways Group (JR). Not only does JR usually manage the most convenient local lines for getting to and around Japan’s major sightseeing areas, the JR Pass also lets you use the Shinkansen bullet train network. Currently, a 7-day pass costs 29,640 yen (US$226), and since an ordinary round-trip Shinkansen fare from Tokyo to Kyoto and back alone is around 26,000 yen, buying the pass is a no-brainer if you’re planning to visit both Japan’s current and former capital cities on your trip, and if you’re throwing in a stop in, for instance, Osaka, Hiroshima, or Nagano, you can save a huge amount of money.

But the outlay is going to be harder to justify following JR’s announcement that prices for the standard JR Pass will be rising by nearly 70 percent (prices shown for adult passes, passes for children 6-11 years old half of adult price).

● JR Pass price increases
7-day pass: 29,640 yen → 50,000 yen (69 percent increase)
14-day pass: 47,250 yen → 80,000 yen (69 percent increase)
21-day pass: 60,450 yen → 100,000 yen (65 percent increase)

If you’re a high-roller looking to buy a JR Pass that lets you ride in the Shinkansen’s Green Cars, the bullet trains’ premium class carriages, you’re looking at an even bigger proportional increase.

● JR Green Car Pass price increases
7-day pass: 39,600 yen → 70,000 yen (77 percent increase)
14-day pass: 64,120 yen → 110,000 yen (72 percent increase)
21-day pass: 83,390 yen → 140,000 yen (68 percent increase)

▼ Some people might be perfectly happy skipping the Green Car experience, though.

In its announcement, JR touts that concurrent with the new prices is an expansion of the JR Pass privileges, as pass holders will be able to use the Nozomi and Mizuho-class trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines. Previously not usable with the JR Pass, the Nozomi and Mizuho trains are the fastest express trains on their lines, getting you to your destination as quickly as possible, so finally getting access to them is something for pass holders to smile about. Don’t let that smile get too big, though, because JR says that in order for pass holders to ride a Nozomi or Mizuho train, they’ll also have to purchase an upgrade ticket, with pricing details for the required add-ons yet to be announced.

All in all, it’s going to be a kidney punch-painful hit to the wallets of budget-minded travelers coming to Japan, although depending on the sort of itinerary you’ve got, you might still be able to get some value out of the JR Pass. JR hasn’t revealed exactly when the price hike is going to take place, but says that it’s time target for the increase is around October of this year, so if you’re looking to take advantage of the pass while it’s still a bona fide bargain, now’s the time.

Source: JR via Impress Watch
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