We're traveling for 13 days in Japan, this is our itinerary ;
- Tokyo (4 nights) - probably inside Tokyo with one day trip to one of the 5 fuji lakes and to the pink moss festival
- Alpine route and then staying at Kanazawa (1 night)
- Shirakawago and Takayama (1 night)
- Kyoto (3 nights)
- Mount Koya ( maybe a drip trip maybe a night)
The last destination is not yet decided - it's either back to Tokyo for the last 3 nights or maybe 2 nights in Osaka, or somewhere else and then back to Tokyo.
Should we get the JR pass ?
If so where should we buy it ?
Yours sounds like an amazing trip! You are hitting all of the highlights and then some! When we were in Japan last November we purchased the JR Pass and we were glad we did. We figured if we used it for airport to Tokyo; then bullet train to/from Kyoto we would break even. But, we used it much more than that. There were many times around Tokyo that the JR pass worked (check out the Yamanote line which circles the city and is free with the JR Pass). In Tokyo we used a JR line to travel to Harajuku, Akihabara, Shibuya and part of the way to the Studio Ghibli Museum. We also used it to go from Kyototo Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. From the looks of your itinerary, you will use it more than we did, so I definitely think it is worth it for you.
We bought our JR Passes from the Japan Tourism Bureau (JTB USA). They were easy to communicate with and we received our passes in the mail easily.
Our trip included 3 nights Tokyo, 3 nights Kyoto and 3 more in Tokyo. Tokyo was fantastic and there was more for us to see than we could fit into the time there. I don't think you would be disappointed if you stayed the last few nights in Tokyo. Especially if you are flying home from there.
If you are heading to the Arashiyama bamboo forest and do not read Japanese, it is a little complicated to get to. I wrote an article about how to get there from the train station (with detailed directions and pictures) if you are interested.
Your basic trip is Tokyo to Kyoto return (via Kanazawa/Takayama) and the way you have it scheduled at the moment it doesn't look like it fits into 7-days - if it did, then get the 7-day national pass. With the non-JR travel you have, and time in Tokyo, the 14-day pass is more expensive that single tickets as well.
However, if you add time in Hiroshima (well worth a couple of nights), then the 14 day pass makes sense. (IMO Osaka is a double up as you already have time in Tokyo.) A day trip across to Nara is worthwhile too.
I usually buy my rail passes from Japan-Experience online - they FedEx them to me in three days. I have had good customer service from them as well. I'll be ordering another 20 passes from them next week.
Patrick, Japan Custom Tours