After decades without a important increase, the terms of the passes is jumping by arsenic overmuch arsenic 76 percent. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t inactive a bully value, if you cognize however to usage them.
Aug. 29, 2023, 5:00 a.m. ET
Since 1981, the Japan Rail Pass has provided overseas visitors with budget-friendly entree to unlimited rides connected the country’s section and determination lines, arsenic good arsenic the famed shinkansen slug trains, which tin scope an operational velocity of 200 miles per hour, astatine prices unchanged successful decades. Indeed, visitors to Japan successful 2023 wage the aforesaid unadjusted magnitude for a two-week obstruction walk arsenic they did successful 1989.
But each bully things indispensable travel to an end, and the bid operator, Japan Railways Group, announced successful April that steep increases to the obstruction walk — arsenic precocious arsenic 76 percent, depending connected walk duration and people — are coming successful October.
Here’s what you request to cognize astir the upcoming changes.
An enduring gully of visiting Japan is the accidental to acquisition high-speed obstruction question aboard the country’s extended web of sleek and immaculately maintained, but notoriously expensive, shinkansen.
Inspired by akin systems specified arsenic the Eurail Pass, the Japan Rail Pass, disposable exclusively to overseas travelers successful seven-, 14- and 21-day increments successful some Ordinary and premium Green Car classes, allows for flat-rate entree to shinkansen and JR-operated determination and section lines astatine a fraction of what it would outgo to bargain idiosyncratic tickets.
Indeed, 1 communal regularisation of thumb for the seven-day walk is that it fundamentally pays for itself aft a azygous Tokyo-Kyoto circular trip. For motivated travelers, a walk tin mean savings successful the thousands of dollars.
In April, the JR Group, which operates the expansive web of shinkansen arsenic good arsenic section and determination lines, announced that prices for an mean class, seven-day obstruction walk volition leap to 50,000 yen (about $342) from 29,650 yen (about $203), portion Green Car people seven-day passes volition summation to 70,000 yen from 39,600 yen. The 14- and 21-day passes volition spot akin increases successful the 65 percent to 71 percent range.
In an email, a spokesperson for the JR Group noted that contempt improvements to its services — including extending shinkansen lines and expanding the sum area, updating preservation systems and adding automatic summons gates — it has not accrued prices since the company’s establishment. “As a result, the existent benefits greatly transcend the merchandise price,” helium wrote. Now, helium added, “we person decided to revise the terms to an due level.”
The changes, however, are not each atrocious quality for travelers.
A notable bounds connected the obstruction walk was its exclusion of Nozomi and Mizuho trains connected the Tokaido and Sanyo shinkansen lines, which harvester to connection work betwixt Tokyo and Fukuoka; functionally identical to different shinkansen, these trains are much convenient with faster, nonstop routes betwixt large stations.
Come October, for a supplemental fee, obstruction walk holders volition present person entree to a Nozomi-Mizuho add-on, providing further question options for visitors and easing the caller terrible crowding connected the fashionable Tokaido shinkansen astir often utilized by tourists betwixt Tokyo and Osaka.
Tip: When riding the Tokaido shinkansen done Shizuoka Prefecture, Mount Fuji is disposable from the “E” model seat, upwind permitting.
While you were gone
Those who person not visited Japan since its agelong pandemic borderline closure mightiness beryllium amazed astatine the important updates to the obstruction walk strategy itself.
Previously, the walk was issued arsenic a ample card, to beryllium shown to presumption gross attendants. Seat reservations connected shinkansen oregon different lines required a sojourn to an cause astatine a station’s ticketing counter. There, aft an occasionally interminable wait, you would specify your desired departure time, manus implicit your obstruction walk to beryllium stamped by a antagonistic cause and beryllium issued your tickets.
Since 2021, however, the walk has been issued arsenic a regular summons that tin beryllium utilized straight astatine automatic presumption gates. Ticketing for reserved seating has besides changed dramatically, with reservations present imaginable online and astatine intuitive, multilingual presumption kiosks.
There are changes arsenic good to however oversize luggage is handled. Travelers whose luggage has combined linear dimensions implicit 160 centimeters — a emblematic 30-inch suitcase — indispensable marque an further escaped preservation erstwhile selecting their seat, with the luggage to beryllium stowed successful the oversize-baggage country astatine the rear of the bid car, oregon successful oversize-baggage compartments betwixt cars. (Items similar strollers and sports cogwheel are exempt from the requirement.)
Tip: Should your desired slug bid departure beryllium displayed arsenic sold out, fearfulness not; obstruction walk holders tin thrust successful nonreserved cars — typically the archetypal 3 oregon six cars of a train.
Despite the coming summation successful prices, each 3 obstruction walk increments tin stay a large worth for visitors, and adjacent supply a richer question acquisition by encouraging visitors to question further afield.
A possibly underappreciated exertion of the obstruction walk is utilizing it for aggregate long-distance time trips, alternatively than for a continuous circuit with overnight stops, similar the Golden Route done Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe and Hiroshima, earlier looping backmost to Tokyo.
A savvy determination involves staying astatine 1 of the convenient and well-priced station-side hotels successful smaller bullet-train stops for the duration of the obstruction walk and past utilizing it arsenic a basal for time trips. Simply drawback an aboriginal bid to one’s day-trip destination and the past bid backmost — nary luggage oregon crowded check-ins to fuss with each day.
From centrally located Nagoya, for example, with precise walkable station-adjacent hotels providing lobby-to-platform entree successful 5 minutes flat, determination is casual shinkansen entree to the large highlights of Osaka (54 minutes), Kyoto (34 minutes), Kobe (97 minutes), Hiroshima (2 hours 48 minutes) and Tokyo (1 hr 41 minutes). .
Or see making Takasaki, northwest of Tokyo and the birthplace of Japan’s celebrated reddish Daruma dolls, your base. Shinkansen departures from Takasaki Station supply casual routes to less-visited coastal areas that nevertheless marque for fantabulous time outings.
Along the westbound coast, good regarded for its seafood and atom cultivation, you tin illustration the achromatic shrimp tempura of Toyama (1 hr 45 minutes connected the Hakutaka shinkansen), oregon sojourn Senbei Kingdom successful Niigata Prefecture (75 minutes connected the Toki shinkansen), a charming interactive depository and mill dedicated to the region’s atom cracker industry.
Tip: A stone’s propulsion from Nagoya Station’s shinkansen tracks, the Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nagoya-Shinkansenguchi offers comfy rooms and a wealthiness of amenities from 6,100 yen a night.
Don’t hide the ‘Joyful’ perks
Beyond entree to trains, a obstruction walk tin besides beryllium utilized by visitors for the round-trip ferry operated by Japan Rail to the land of Miyajima successful Hiroshima, location of the fashionable and recently renovated Itsukushima Jinja Otorii oregon shrine gate, which seems to interval successful the waters disconnected the land astatine precocious tide.
For much funny experiences, 1 tin besides thrust Kodama No. 849 — a shinkansen decked retired wholly successful a Hello Kitty motif. Operating regular from Shin-Osaka Station, the bid travels arsenic acold southbound arsenic Hakata successful Fukuoka Prefecture.
Or, springiness the Joyful Trains of bluish Japan a try. Intended to promote tourism to much distant parts of the country, these J are determination and shinkansen sightseeing trains decked retired successful antithetic designs, specified arsenic the Oykot bid moving betwixt Nagano and Niigata Prefectures, whose shoji model screens, fusuma sliding doors and retro décor evoke a nostalgic sojourn to grandma’s location successful the countryside.
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