On October 16, 2020, the East Japan Railway Company, also known as JR East released the time-limited "JR East Welcome Rail Pass 2020" specially for foreigners - including foreigners residing in Japan - holding a non-Japanese passport.
This incredible pass allows for unlimited rides for three consecutive days on trains under the jurisdiction of JR East. Yes, that means the Shinkansen bullet trains or other special express trains as well!
Making it worth the trip to the regions of Tohoku, Joetsu, or Hokuriku
The JR East Welcome Rail Pass 2020 will only be sold between Friday, October 16, 2020 to Friday, February 26, 2021, and usage of the pass is allowed for any three consecutive days between Friday, October 16, 2020 to Sunday, February 28, 2021. As earlier mentioned, this pass allows you to ride on any regular trains, Shinkansen bullet trains, or special express trains that are under the jurisdiction of JR East.
The pass will cover lines on the Tohoku, Yamagata, Akita, Joetsu, and Hokuriku Shinkansen (between Tokyo Station and Joetsumyoko Station), JR East (including BRT), Aoimori Railway Line, Iwate Galaxy Railway (IGR) Line, Sanriku Railway Line, Echigo TOKImeki Railway Line (between Myoko-Kogen and Naoetsu), and Shinano Railway Line. This not only opens up the way to various places of interest in the Tohoku, Joetsu, and Hokuriku areas, but allows you to ride for free on local railways in various regions around Japan as well!
Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. One adult pass costs 12,000 yen and one child pass costs 6,000 yen. Anyone holding a non-Japanese passport can purchase and use these passes. Since the regular fare for a one-way bullet train ride on the Tohoku Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Sendai is already a hefty 11,410 yen, getting a 12,000 yen pass that allows you to take unlimited rides on the Shinkansen for three days is going to be an absolute steal!
You may be wondering: What if my traveling group consists of family members who are local Japanese passport holders?
While they won't be able to use the same pass, you should definitely consider getting for them the "Osakini Tokudane Special (Ticket Included)" 50% discount ticket, an Eki Net member-only special offering that will make your family trip much more manageable budget-wise, especially when used in conjunction with the currently ongoing Go To Travel campaign!
How to buy the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass
There are two ways to purchase the JR East Welcome Rail Pass 2020.
1) JR East ticketing counters
The first way is to simply drop by any manned ticketing counters such as a JR East Travel Service Center or View Plaza. Specifically, you'll be able to find JR East Travel Service Centers at: Tokyo Station, Ueno Station, Shinjuku Station, Shinagawa Station, Shibuya Station, Ikebukuro Station, Hamamatsucho Station, Narita Airport Station, Airport Terminal 2 Station, Haneda Airport Terminal 3 Station on the Tokyo Monorail Line, at JR East Travel Service Centers between Tokyo and Sendai Station, Japan Rail Cafe in Tokyo Station, JR East Welcome Center Matsumoto in Matsumoto Station, and View Plazas located in Yokohama, Niigata, Nagano, Morioka, and Akita.
Please visit www.jreast.co.jp/e/ticketwindow/ for more details about purchasing locations.
2) Online purchase
Another way to buy the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass is through the WAmazing website.
Visit the website, then follow onscreen instructions to reserve or purchase a pass. After purchasing the pass, you will be issued a special QR code.
After that, you may redeem your pass personally from a special machine at Ueno Station using the QR code issued to you and your passport. Once you've collected your pass, you're free to use it any way you like!
Another really nice thing about this rail pass is that it can be used to reserve designated seats for free! Simply make your reservation at a station ticketing counter or seat reservation machine. As long as the stations you'll be using are under the areas covered by the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass, you'll be able to use the automatic ticket gates to access the trains.
Use the JR East Welcome Rail Pass 2020 to visit these breathtaking sightseeing spots in the upcoming seasons!
1) Ginzan Onsen (Yamagata) and its charming surroundings
2) Mount Zao's frozen winter trees (Yamagata / Miyagi)
From around 1500m up Zao Onsen Ski Resort to the summit, you can see rime frost on trees that's been affectionately nicknamed "Juhyo (snow monsters)." From late December until the end of February, they are lit up at night.
3) Sample Japanese sake and find your favorite at Ponshukan (Niigata)
Ponshukan is a fun shop that shares about the nature and food culture of Niigata with the concept of "talking about the drama of Echigo and Uonuma with food." You can enjoy tasting sake from various sake breweries in the region.
4) Matsumoto Castle, Japan's national treasure (Nagano)
The oldest castle in Japan among the existing five- and six-story castle towers. In addition to the magestic jet-black exterior, the breathtaking Northern Alps spreading behind is something you won't want to miss.
5) Ski to your heart's content at Hakuba Valley (Nagano)
The Tohoku, Joetsu, and Hokuriku areas accessible via the JR East Welcome Rail Pass 2020 is full of natural wonders, perfect view spots for autumn leaves admiration, and great places for winter snow sports - and it just so happens these are the upcoming seasons of the year! If you're more into rest and relaxation at famous hot spring resorts or traditional Japanese inns, then there's definitely something for you in these regions too. You can even use the pass to train-hop around regions to take in the sights from within the safety of your seat if you want - it's entirely up to you! This rail pass opens up a countless number of ways to enjoy Japan just the way you like it, but because it's only available for a limited period of time, best not to delay and start planning your trip today!
* The information in this article is as of October 2020.
English translation by: Huimin Pan
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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