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JR News: Renewal of JR East Rail Passes, easier to use!

JR News: Renewal of JR East Rail Passes, easier to use!

Many of us will agree that travelling by rail is one of the most convenient and affordable ways to get around Japan. There are many rail passes that make this possible, and in the Eastern Japan area under JR East, foreign visitors can choose from six different rail passes to get around various parts of the region:

 

New, convenient changes

In order to provide customers with an even more seamless service, JR East will introduce several new features for its rail passes, which will be applicable from April 2021. This includes enabling rail pass users to go through automatic ticket gates, as well as offering a stress-free service that allows the purchase of rail passes and reservation of seats without having to wait in line at the ticket counter.

 

Use of automatic ticket gates

New rail passes can be used at automatic ticket gates instead of manned gates. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Firstly, rail passes will be upgraded from the current paper cards to machine-readable tickets, enabling customers to use automatic ticket gates instead of manned gates as previously required. This change was implemented in response to feedback from customers that there were some inconveniences having to show rail passes to the station staff at the ticket office or at the manned gates.

 

Rail passes will be upgraded from paper cards to machine-readable tickets. (Image credit: JR East)

 

The use of automatic ticket gates has already been available for the JR TOKYO Wide Pass and the Hokuriku Arch Pass since April 2020, and will be available for the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area), JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area), JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass and JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass from 1 April 2021.

 

Purchase rail passes directly from selected vending machines

Passport readers will be installed at selected Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Selected Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines will be installed with a passport reader, and customers will be able to directly purchase the rail passes from these machines. Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines with the applicable logos as shown above indicate that rail passes can be purchased from the machine.

 

Stations where a passport reader will be installed from April 2021: Tokyo, Ueno, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Hamamatsucho, Yokohama, Mito, Narita Airport, Narita Airport Terminal 2·3, Sendai, Yamagata, Fukushima, Morioka, Hachinohe, Aomori, Akita, Niigata, Nagano, and Matsumoto.

 

Queue at Narita Airport during peak hours. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Previously, customers had to queue at selected JR EAST Travel Service Centers in order to purchase the rail passes and make seat reservations, with queues at popular locations like Narita Airport often exceeding an hour during peak periods. From 1 April 2021, customers will have the option to purchase passes from either the selected Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines or JR EAST Travel Service Centers.

 

Make seat reservations from vending machines

Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines. (Image credit: JR East)

 

With the upgrade of tickets to machine-readable ones, inserting the rail pass ticket into the Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines enables customers to reserve seats for Shinkansen and local trains in the area that the pass is valid.

 

Check here for detailed English instructions on how to make seat reservations with the Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines.

 

Eligibility changes

(Image credit: illustAC)

 

Even more good news: JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) and JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) will become usable for foreign passport holders living in Japan! This means that when you visit Japan, you can travel with your family and friends living in Japan (who hold foreign passports), and they can enjoy the same discounted rail passes as you.

 

Currently, only foreign passport holders visiting Japan with a Temporary Visitor status can use these passes, but from 1 April 2021, foreign passport holders residing in Japan can also use these two rail passes. At the moment, foreign passport holders residing in Japan can only use the JR TOKYO Wide Pass; taking the shinkansen to further places will cost a pretty penny.

 

Pricing and validity changes from April 2021

In line with the addition of new features, there will also be a few changes in the validity and pricing of the rail passes. Please check each pass for their upcoming changes.

 

JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area)

Clockwise from top left: E5 series train, E6 series train, SL Ginga, Toreiyu Tsubasa—some of trains you can ride with the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area). (Image credit: JR East)

 

The JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) allows for unlimited rail travel on valid lines from Tokyo, the surrounding Kanto region, and all of Tohoku. It is recommended for travellers who wish to explore places in the Tohoku region like Matsushima and Naruko Gorge in Miyagi Prefecture, Snow Monsters in Yamagata, Kakunodate or Nyuto Onsen in Akita Prefecture, Oirase Keiryu in Aomori Prefecture, and more.

 

Valid area and lines covered by the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area). (Image credit: JR East)

 

Changes from 1 April 2021
Validity: Consecutive 5-day pass
Pricing: ¥20,000/adult and ¥10,000/child (6–11 years old), same price when purchased overseas and in Japan
Eligibility: Anyone who possesses a passport issued by a country other than Japan, including foreigners residing in Japan

 

JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area)

Clockwise from top left: E7 series train, E4 series train, KAIRI, HIGH RAIL 1375—some of trains you can ride with the JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area). (Image credit: JR East)

 

The JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) allows for unlimited rail travel on valid lines from Tokyo, the surrounding Kanto region, Niigata and Nagano. It is recommended for travellers who wish to explore places in the Shin’etsu region like Hakuba, Matsushiro, or Iiyama in Nagano Prefecture, Niigata City or Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, and more.

 

Valid area and lines covered by the JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area). (Image credit: JR East)

 

Changes from 1 April 2021
Validity: Consecutive 5-day pass
Pricing: ¥18,000/adult and ¥9,000/child (6–11 years old), same price when purchased overseas and in Japan
Eligibility: Anyone who possesses a passport issued by a country other than Japan, including foreigners residing in Japan

 

JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass

The H5 series train on the Hokkaido Shinkansen. (Image credit: JR East)

 

The JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass allows for unlimited rail travel on valid lines from Tokyo all the way to Sapporo, covering the Kanto, Tohoku, and south Hokkaido regions. It is recommended for travellers who wish to visit both Tokyo and Hokkaido.

 

Valid area and lines covered by the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Changes from 1 April 2021
Validity: Consecutive 6-day pass
Pricing: ¥27,000/adult and ¥13,500/child (6–11 years old), same price when purchased overseas and in Japan
Eligibility: No change. (Anyone who possesses a passport issued by a country other than Japan and enters Japan with the status of Temporary Visitor)

 

JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass

A Hokkaido Shinkansen train coming out of the Seikan Tunnel, which connects mainland Japan with Hokkaido. (Image credit: JR East)

 

The JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass allows for unlimited rail travel on valid lines from Fukushima all the way to Sapporo, covering the Tohoku and south Hokkaido regions. It is recommended for travellers who wish to explore both the Tohoku area and southern Hokkaido, but will not be visiting Tokyo.

 

Valid area and lines covered by the JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Changes from 1 April 2021
Validity: Consecutive 6-day pass
Pricing: ¥24,000/adult and ¥12,000/child (6–11 years old), same price when purchased overseas and in Japan
Eligibility: No change. (Anyone who possesses a passport issued by a country other than Japan and enters Japan with the status of Temporary Visitor)

 

Hokuriku Arch Pass

RailPass_E7Kagayaki.JPG (240 KB)

The E7 series train runs on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. (Image credit: JR East)

 

The Hokuriku Arch Pass allows for unlimited travel between Tokyo and Osaka via the Hokuriku Shinkansen and Thunderbird Express, and includes major cities like Omiya, Nagano, Toyama, Kanazawa, Fukui, Kyoto, Kobe and more. It is recommended for travellers who wish to explore the Hokuriku region.

 

Valid area and lines covered by the Hokuriku Arch Pass. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Changes from 1 April 2021
Validity: Reserved seating can be used on the limited express train Haruka. No change to number of days. (Consecutive 7-day pass)
Pricing:
     Price when purchased overseas: ¥24,500/adult and ¥12,250/child (6–11 years old)
     Price when purchased in Japan: ¥25,500/adult and ¥12,750/child (6–11 years old)
Eligibility: No change. (Anyone who possesses a passport issued by a country other than Japan and enters Japan with the status of Temporary Visitor)

 

JR TOKYO Wide Pass

Clockwise from top left: Arakurayama Sengen Park, Kawaguchiko, GALA Yuzawa, Hitachi Seaside Park—some of places you can visit with the JR TOKYO Wide Pass. (Image credit: JR East/Carissa Loh)

 

The JR TOKYO Wide Pass allows for unlimited rail travel on valid lines within the Kanto region and a slightly wider area, including Kawaguchiko, the Izu Peninsula, Karuizawa, Nikko, and GALA Yuzawa (winter only). It is recommended for travellers staying in Tokyo and wishing to make day trips out of the city.

 

Valid area and lines covered by the JR TOKYO Wide Pass. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Changes from 1 April 2021
Validity: No change. (Consecutive 3-day pass)
Pricing: No change. (Only sold in Japan, at ¥10,180/adult and ¥5,090/child (6–11 years old))
Eligibility: No change. (Anyone who possesses a passport issued by a country other than Japan, including foreigners residing in Japan)

 

Header image credit: JR East

 

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