Travel JR Trains on the Cheap

If you’re a foreign visitor on a tourist visa, the Japan Rail pass is a dream come true!
It offers unlimited travel on Japan’s super fast Shinkansen “Bullet Train” network. If you’re coming to Japan and plan to visit even 1 city outside of Tokyo, the pass is worth the money.

If you want an even cheaper option, have some free time or can’t use the Japan Rail pass because you’re a resident of Japan (work visa) then the Seishun 18 Ticket (青春18きっぷ) is the ticket for you!
Ticket URL (English): http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/seishun18.html

seishun18_ticket
A sample seishun 18 ticket with all 5 days stamped.

For only 11,500 yen, riders get 5 days of unlimited travel on local and many express trains. That comes down to only 2300 yen per day!
* You can find this ticket at an even cheaper price by heading to discount “bucket” ticket shops outside of major rail station.
* Riders can’t use the shinkansen

See Japan by local train is the best way to meet the people, see the lifestyle and check out the smaller station that are definitely off the beaten path.
It’s also a great way to learn Japanese kanji since knowing the station name is important.

The local JR Tokaido Line 東海道線 train connecting Tokyo with Shizuoka stops at Fuji Station in route.
The local TOKAIDO LINE train connecting Tokyo with Shizuoka stops at Fuji Station in route.

The pass is issued by JR 3 times a year (seasonal), on sale 10 days before the pass starts.
The yearly validity dates are:

Spring:
Use > March 1 to April 10
One Sale > February 20 to March 31

Summer:
Use > July 20 to September 10
On Sale > July 1 to August 31

Winter:
Use > December 10 to January 10
On Sale > December 1 to December 31

By the way, the ticket can be shared!
If you have 3 people, you can get 3 stamps on the pass (with 2 stamps remaining). Those 3 people can use the same pass for 24 hours.
If you had 5 people, you could get 5 stamps and fill the pass up — all 5 people can use the same pass.
It’s quite popular for young people and couples to travel this way — instead of buying their own pass, people share.

So, how exactly do we get around on the seishun 18 kippu [ki-ppu = “ticket” in Japanese] ?

1) After buying the pass, you have to get it stamped at the ticket gate at the start of the day. A day starts at the first train, usually around 5am.
2) After getting the stamp, you only need to show the ticket gate attendant the pass, and you can come and go from the station freely.
3) The ticket is limited to just JR (Japan Rail) tickets — not other rail networks like Kintetsu, Meitetsu, Odakyu, Keisei, Tokyu and so on.

JR Time Schedule Booklet
The book allows you to find your time schedule. 1) Find your train like and the page number on the map; 2) turn to that page and see the schedule. *Need to know the Japanese kanji characters for each city, but almost all good guide books have the city’s name written in Japanese.

You can check the schedule at the station or invest in a JR schedule / timetable book.
They usually cost 500 yen (more for a bigger size) and look like this.

Reading it takes a little getting used to, but on a long train ride, you’ll become a master.
Each book has a map showing the train line.
Each line has a number — that’s the page number for the schedule.
There are times from the line from point A to B and then from point B to A.

There are a lot of magazines that help you plan trips.
They’re available at book stores all over the country.

18ticket_magazine

So, when you’re in Japan and want to see more local areas, this is the ticket!

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Creator and Producer 「ONLY in JAPAN」
President of Weblish Media Ltd.
Reporter for NHK World "Tokyo Eye"
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