“Dream now, travel later.” You’ll likely have seen this phrase littered across social media this past year and a half. Discovering new favorite foods and exploring new-to-you destinations still feels far away to many of us. However, with vaccinations slowly but surely being rolled out, there’s hope for potential domestic travel later this year. Until then, instead of dreaming of your next destination, why not plan it? If you need inspiration, just head to JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO, next to Tokyo Station.

Plan Your Trip at the Travel Information Center

When I made my way to JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO on a Monday morning in early April, I knew I wanted to plan a trip to Tohoku and maybe visit three prefectures. I had some ideas about where to go but Tohoku is such a vast region that I wasn’t sure how to figure out the logistics. Thanks to the staff at the Travel Information Center — conveniently located inside the café — that was easily solved. 

After sharing my ideas and general interests (I’m a simple person: it’s always hot springs and shrines), we worked out some routes that would make the most of the new JR East Pass (Tohoku area). Staff members were knowledgeable and passionate about the region and eager to share their favorite tips. Bus timetables, hiking time estimates — you name it, they knew it (or found the information swiftly). I got so many great destination and experience suggestions I would need at least a month to explore them all. Maybe I could do it all, one day. But on this occasion, five days seemed like a good start. They also introduced me to one of the most fascinating hot springs I’ve ever seen.  (If you want to know more about this one, stay tuned for an article on it next month.)

After all the excitement of discovering more destinations in Tohoku than I knew what to do with, I decided to hang out at the café and plan my trip in detail. Should I need any more advice, staff would be close at hand to help. (And they were — I received some mini Tohoku guides compiled by JR-East staff filled with personal recommendations.) To keep me fueled, I opted for a caffeine fix with a twist — a DIY matcha set — in the café’s elegant Japanese-style corner, framed by lattice woodwork paneling. I felt like I was in a separate world from the people I watched hurry past outside the station.

I chose to have a quiet tea break while I worked, but JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO caters to those seeking mid-commute pit stops as well as those who want to work for hours, or just want a quick drink before heading home. They serve both breakfast and lunch, as well as parfaits and sweets. For an evening tipple, guests can choose between an extensive sake selection, whiskey, shochu or even green tea beer. The café also holds occasional events, which can inspire your wanderlust without leaving Tokyo.

If you’re not set on traveling yet, browse the Tohoku-origin souvenirs on sale. You can enjoy a taste of Tohoku at home and let the flavors inspire you as you plan future adventures up north.

How To Get Your Own JR-East Pass

So how are you going to make your magical trip come true? Get the JR East Pass (Tohoku area) or, if you prefer going west, the JR East Pass (Nagano and Niigata area) at one of the many sales points across the city, including JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO. The pass covers unlimited travel on Shinkansen and other JR-East trains for five consecutive days in the Tokyo and Tohoku areas. 

For Japan residents, it’s as easy as showing your passport (must be the original, not a copy), telling the staff the dates you plan on traveling, and you’re good to go. Starting June 27, you can buy the pass online via JR-East Train Reservation, then pick it up at a major station or airport when you’re ready to set off. (Link is inactive until June 27.)

If you’re wondering if it’s worth it or not, here’s a quick comparison. The JR East Pass (Tohoku area) costs ¥20,000 for a full five days, while a simple return trip between Tokyo and Sendai will set you back about ¥22,000. It’s a steal!

For more information about the JR East Pass (Tohoku area), click here

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