If there is one thing that Japan does well it is train travel. While the locals take it for granted that trains will be clean, safe and punctual, many of us know that this is not necessarily the norm in other nations. Another fantastic aspect of Japanese travel is the fact that, at certain times of the year, for a mere JPY 2370 a day you can travel as much as you want, for as long as you want, wherever you want.
The Seishun 18 Kippu is a ‘norihodai‘ (travel as much as you like) pass that allows the carrier unlimited JR travel throughout the country for five full days. Unlike the JR Japan Rail pass which is limited to travelers possessing a tourist visa, this pass can be used by absolutely anyone, whether they are residents or just passing through.
First created in 1982 to encourage students to travel during extended holiday periods, despite the inferences of the ticket’s name (it is literally translated as Youth 18 Ticket), there are no age restrictions, so whether you are an elementary school student off to visit grandma for New Year, or a retiree wanting to explore areas of the country you are yet to see, for JPY 11,850 you can travel all over the country for five whole days (midnight to midnight).
Another way in which the Seishun 18 Kippu differs from the JR Rail Pass is that it can be shared among a group and used on non-consecutive days. In this way, you can travel somewhere and hang around for a few days before heading off without losing travel time. If you are in a group of five, you can share it for one day’s travel, or any combination in between.
The Seishun 18 Kippu can be used on any JR local (futsū) and rapid (kaisoku) trains, but not the faster Express, Limited Express or Shinkansen bullet trains. While this means that it may not be the ideal way of getting to an important meeting on the other side of the country, it is perfect for relaxing travel and, from Hokkaido to Kyushu, you can watch Japan’s bountiful nature slip past you. Other than the faster express and bullet trains, you are completely unfettered in your JR travel options, even including the JR ferry to Miyajima, home of the famed Itsukushima shrine. The only additional limit you may find is there are only 24 hours within one day, though this can be minimized by taking “Moonlight” overnight trains. While many of these are classified as express an unavailable, some are not and these must be reserved at additional cost.
The Seishun 18 Kippu is sold three times in a year, in the winter, spring, and summer and are valid for approximately one month only (see chart below) . They can be purchased over the counter at all JR stations. When entering a platform via a manned turnstile, show your ticket to the officer who will stamp your ticket. The tickets cannot be used in the automated turnstiles. For help with planning your trip, you can call the JR East Infoline (03 0423 0111) and speak to an English speaking customer service assistant who should be able to answer any of your questions.
Spring Seishun 18 Kippu
Valid – March 1 to April 10
On Sale – February 20 to March 31
Summer Seishun 18 Kippu
Valid – July 20 to September 10
On Sale – July 1 to August 31
Winter Seishun 18 Kippu
Valid – December 10 to January 10
On Sale – December 1 to December 31
So, if you have some extra time over this winter vacation and want to see the country at a leisurely pace, meet interesting people and do so in a cost-efficient way, why not grab that book you have been meaning to tackle, charge up that sense of adventure, and get out and see parts of this beautiful country away from the oft-beaten shinkansen track. This winter, slow is the new fast.
By Mark Guthrie