Navigating Japan - Part 2 "Discount train tickets"
Last time we introduced you to the public transportation options available to help you navigate your way through Japan. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend you check it out here (Navigating Japan - Part 1). In this post we will be expanding on more aspects of navigating Japan. More specifically, we will introduce you to a few discounted tickets available to make your travels a bit cheaper and easier.
The JR Pass
The most well known discount ticket available to foreigners is the JR Pass. With several versions for you to purchase, you can save quite a bit of money if you plan to do a lot of traveling. To acquire this pass, you need to purchase an exchange order while in your own country. You can purchase an order for a 7-day, 14-day or 21-day pass. This order must be exchanged for a JR Pass within 3 months of the date it was issued.
Once obtained, your pass is good for a consecutive number of days which you purchased. If you bought a 14-day pass, then it is good for 14 consecutive days from the day you first use it. There are also some limitations on which lines and services you can or cannot use it, so do your research and plan your trip to get the best value from your purchase.
Pricing and use
The Pass ranges in price from 14550 yen to 81870 yen, depending on the type, duration, and whether it is for a child or adult. These prices may of course vary over time, be affected by exchange rates, or vary based on where you buy the exchange voucher.
Finally, the JR Pass does you absolutely NO good if you are living in Japan. It is only valid for people on a standard tourist visa. If this is ok for your trip, then I highly recommend it as a good way to save a lot of money on travel. Check their website for details and how to purchase. However, if you live in Japan as a student, English teacher, or for whatever reason do not meet the qualifications of the JR Pass, then all is not lost. For the rest of us, there is the Seishun Juhachi Kippu.
Seishun 18 Kippu (Youth 18 Ticket)
Don't let the name of the ticket fool you, it is definitely valid for anyone of any age. The Seishun Juhachi Kippu, Youth 18 Ticket, was originally a campaign by the JR rail company to encourage younger Japanese to travel more in their summer vacations and other times off from school and college. The ticket offers affordable travel on any local train across Japan. Sorry, no Shinkansen or express trains.
Even without allowing access to Shinkansen services, the Youth 18 Ticket is much more flexible than the JR Pass, although being more limited. When you purchase the ticket, you actually receive five separate tickets. Each one is good for one day of unlimited travel on all JR local lines across Japan. This means like the JR Pass, you can get on and off the train as many times as you want to explore and hop back on as you continue your journey. A really fantastic way to experience more of Japan. Unlike the JR Pass though, these five tickets do not need to be used consecutively. Use one on a Monday, stay in a new place for a few days, then use the next ticket on a Thursday to travel more, and you still have three more days left of traveling.
Pricing and use
These tickets are relatively cheap, only 11850 yen. You can also purchase two sets of the tickets to give yourself 10 days of travel if you really need to. Or you can share the five tickets you receive. For example, If you have five people traveling together, you can give each person one of the five tickets so everyone can enjoy unlimited travel for one day. Or, if you want to travel with someone else from Tokyo to Hiroshima with a short stay in Kyoto, you can each use one of the tickets to get to Kyoto, then another ticket each to get to Hiroshima and you will still have one extra ticket left when you arrive. Really you are a lot more flexible here, just don't lose the tickets.
*Bonus: tickets also valid on the JR ferry to Miyajima!
When and where to buy
These discount tickets are unfortunately limited as to when you can purchase and use them. They go on sale three times a year and have a period during which they need to be used. Typically these periods will coincide with most students vacations so they are usually during some pretty great times to travel anyway. For details, please refer to their website (English version) http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/seishun18.html
Tickets go on sale:
Spring Tuesday, February 20 to Saturday, March 31, 2018
Summer Sunday, July 1 to Friday, August 31, 2018
Winter Saturday, December 1 to Monday, December 31, 2018
You can purchase the Seishun 18 Ticket from any JR Ticket Office or Travel Service Center at most JR stations, I don't believe the small stations can do it.
For more information, here is their website:
If you are visiting Japan and want to explore as much of the country as possible, then definitely get the JR Pass. But if you live here, are a Japanese national, or are a student here, then get the Seishun 18 Ticket. Both are great ways to save a bit of money when you plan to explore or get lost in this beautiful country.
Speaking from experience, the opportunity to hop on and off the train anywhere is really nice. I used the Seishun 18 tickets during my summer break as a student at Hiroshima University. I traveled from Hiroshima to Kyoto, stayed in Kyoto for a few days and then went from Kyoto to Tokyo and back. Stopping all along the way to hop off the train and explore the areas and try the local cuisine. The trip was by far one of the best experiences of my travels in Japan and I will definitely buy that ticket again. The only down side was that my butt was a little sore from the trip since it was all on local trains. Nothing a little rest and then exploration couldn't fix though.
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