As a foreigner living in Japan, some of the best travel deals are occasionally just out of our reach. While missing out on WiFi package deals and discounted meals can be a mild annoyance, the biggest missed opportunity is the JR Rail Pass. For those who don’t know, the JR Rail Pass allows those traveling within Japan on a short-term visa to purchase a pass that provides them unlimited rides on trains and Shinkansen operated by the six companies of the Japan Railways Group (JR Group). As the pass is only available for those traveling to Japan on a short term visa, it has been unobtainable for foreign passport-holders already living in Japan.
Enter the JR East Welcome Rail Pass
For the first time – and for a limited time – the JR East Welcome Rail Pass will be available to foreigners living in Japan. This pass allows anyone with a foreign passport unlimited rides on Tohoku JR East trains traveling in the areas of Tokyo, Tohoku, Nagano and Niigata, including the Shinkansen, for the unbelievable price of ¥12,000.
The pass is valid for three days. During that time the whole of Tohoku is basically at your fingertips. For those with little Shinkansen riding experience, the price point of ¥12,000 may seem a little steep, but considering a return trip from Tokyo Station to Sendai Station is approximately ¥22,000, one might begin to understand just how insane this deal really is.
For the time being, only the JR East Rail Pass is available to foreigners living in Japan, meaning while we can access the whole of Tohoku for a three-day adventure of our choosing, the rest of the JR passes are still unavailable to us. The pass lasts for three consecutive days, an important thing to mention, as one cannot pick and choose three random days for travel they must be concurrent.
The JR East ,Rail Pass will be available for purchase from October 16, 2020 through February 26, 2021, and can be used until February 28, 2021. Multiple passes can also be bought as long as the dates don’t overlap, so a 6-day unlimited Shikansen riding extravaganza is possible for ¥24,000. Still cheaper than a return ticket to Akita.
How to buy tickets
The JR East Rail Pass can be purchased between October 16 and February 26 here at the JR East website, or at JR East Travel Service Centers. When booking your tickets there are a few things you’ll need to bring with you – your passport, form of payment, and most importantly, knowledge of the three days you’ll be traveling. When booking you’ll need to know in advance what dates you’ll be traveling between October and February as they must be placed on the ticket at the time of booking.
It wouldn’t be Japan without a few rules. When it comes to the JR East Rail Pass you cannot buy them for other people or travel together on one pass. The pass is one per person and can only be used by the person who bought the pass. The passes also cannot be transferred from person to person. A refund can be issued if applied for before the date of scheduled travel.
Unfamiliar with Tohoku
For most, Tohoku isn’t the first place they visit in Japan. Those trophies are saved for Tokyo, Osaka, and the other major cities. However, to skip out on exploring Tohoku is to skip out on a core part of Japanese history and culture. While Tokyo and Osaka may have that city aesthetic we all love the northen prefectures have an aesthetic unlike anything else in Japan. Need inspiration for your own upcoming Tohoku adventure? Check out some of our articles on Aomori and their world-famous apples, Akita, Fukushima and our other Tohoku adventures.
JR East Rail Pass
Dates: Valid from October 16, 2020–February, 28 2021