The new spring JR Passes 春の新しいJRレールパス
Discount travel options
From the 1st of April 2016, new regional JR passes are on sale, to the delight of foreign travelers. There are four in total.
What are Japan Rail Passes? Let's refresh our memories. They are special discount tickets - for foreign tourists - allowing you unlimited travel on the Japanese Railway Company network throughout the whole country or just a particular region, according to your travel needs.
The JR East Pass splits in two
On the 1st of April, the JR East Pass will end and be replaced by the JR East Tohoku Area Pass and JR East Nagano/Niigata Area Pass. These two passes can be used for 5 "flexible" days, meaning they can be used on 5 days of your choice within a set 14-day period.
Both will be valid on the Shinkansen, express trains and local trains on the JR East Network, as well as the Izu Kyuko and Tokyo Monorail trains.
There are also some express trains such as Tobu Direct Limited Express "Nikko", "Spacia Nikko", "Kinugawa" and "Spacia Kinugawa" that cane used, to get to Nikko and its surrounding area.
The JR East Tohoku Area Pass will cost 19,000 yen for adults and 9,500 yen for children abroad. In addition to the trains listed above, this pass will provide access to Aomori Railway, Iwate Galaxy Railway and Sendai Airport.
It's ideal if you want to visit the northern part of the main island of Honshu, the Matsushima region, or Sendai.
The JR East Nagano/Niigata Area Pass, costs 17,000 yen for adults and 8,500 yen for children abroad. This will allow you to use the Hokuetsu Express and Echigo Tokimeki Railway lines (between Naoetsu and Arai).
This pass, which is slightly less expensive than its competitor, will be ideal for those wishing to discover the Japanese Alps as well as the Niigata area overlooking the Sea of Japan and the island of Sado.
Please note that all JR East Passes bought prior to April 1, 2016 will be valid for up to three months after their issue date.
The JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass
To celebrate the opening of the Shinkansen line on the northern island of Hokkaido, JR East and JR Hokkaido have teamed up to offer this pass allowing you to take full advantage of the north and extreme north of Japan. This pass lets you explore not only all of Tohoku, but also the wonders of Hakodate and Sapporo.
With a validity of 6 "flexible" days, over a period of 14 days, it will cost 26,000 yen for adults and 13,000 yen for children.
The pass gives you unlimited access to the Shinkansen, JR East and Hokkaido express/local trains, Tokyo Monorail, Izu Kyuko, Aomori Railway, Iwate Galaxy Railway and Sendai Airport Transit.
Like the two JR East Passes, you will have access to the Tobu Direct Limited Express "Nikko", "Spacia Nikko", "Kinugawa" and "Spacia Kinugawa" to get to Nikko.
Osaka-Tokyo Hokuriku Arch Pass
This pass makes it possible to visit the two great regions that are in Kansai (Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto) and Kanto (Tokyo). It is the route covered that makes this pass ideal. Ordinarily, travelers between Tokyo and Osaka take the high-speed Shinkansen line along the coast and passing Mount Fuji.
The Osaka-Tokyo Hokuriku Arch Pass allows you to travel between these two cities via the Hokuriku (陸地方) route, along the inland sea. It's an opportunity to visit beautiful prefectures such as Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui, often overlooked by tourists despite being full of treasures.
The pass is valid for 7 days and will cost 24,000 yen for adults and 12,000 yen for children.