Japan Budget Travel: The Seishun 18 Ticket and Sample Itineraries

Timote

Japan Budget Travel
So you’ve been stuck in the big city for a while, beating your weary feet around the urban jungle while dreaming of an escape? Good news—Seishun 18 ticket season offering Japan budget travel options to the most frugal of travelers.

The Seishun 18 ticket, or Seishun Juuhachi Kippu, is a tri-annual discount ticket set that allows five (non-consecutive is OK) days of (almost) unlimited travel on JR lines (excluding limited express and bullet trains). One day’s ticket is valid for use by one traveler, meaning that you can split the Seishun 18 set with someone, as long as you travel together. Extreme couponers (yes, it’s a word now) take note: this is an opportunity to reach otherwise exorbitant destinations for just ¥11,850, which works out to ¥2,370 a day—now that’s cheap.

For details on where and when to buy this awesome rail pass, head over to our main post on the Seishun 18 ticket.

Discount Japan Rail Travel
The golden ticket.

5 easy escapes using the Seishun 18 ticket

Here are five recommended getaway routes from Tokyo, in no particular order. Bonus points if you check them all off the travel list!

Ishinomaki

Discount Japan Rail Travel
Welcome to Ishinomaki! It’s a quirky place. | Photo by inunami used under CC

Ishinomaki is a beautiful coastal city in Miyagi Prefecture, part of the Tōhoku region. In March 2011, this region was gravely affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunamis. Ishinomaki has been working hard at making a recovery, and supporting local tourism is one way you can help.

The Ishinomaki area has awesome vistas, beaches, parks, gardens, museums and even islands (including the sacred Kinkasan Island, home of the Koganeyama shrine). While wandering around, you’ve got to check out the Ishinomaki Mangattan Museum, dedicated to manga author Shōtarō Ishinomori (creator of Cyborg 009 and the Kamen Rider mangas). The San Juan Bautista Park is also pretty cool, as it features a full-sized replica of the 17thcentury Japanese sailing ship of the same name. From Ishinomaki (sticking to JR) you can also access Wakuya Castle, the remnants of a late 16th-century fortress.

Travel time: 8 hours, 20 minutes
Distance:
420km
Transfers:
5

Departure Time

Departure Station

Ride Time

Departure Train

10:45

Shinjuku

108 min

JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line Local

12:37

Utsunomiya

50 min

JR Utsunomiya Local

13:33

Kuroiso

64 min

JR Tohoku Line Local

15:37

Koriyama (Fukushima)

47 min

JR Tohoku Line Local

16:32

Fukushima (Fukushima)

81 min

JR Tohoku Line Local

17:58

Sendai (Miyagi/JR)

63 min

JR Tohoku/Ishinomaki Line Rapid

19:01

Arrive Ishinomaki

——-

————————

Takayama

Takayama is full of little old shops like this one.

Nestled deep in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture lies Takayama, an authentic old town with entire streets of buildings dating back to the 17th-century Edo period. The local specialty is sake, and you can spend the cash you saved on transport sampling it at the many traditional breweries. You might see big balls of cedar branches hanging above the doors, but don’t worry—they only fall on you when you don’t pay for your sake!

Takayama is a great destination for nature-loving cheapos, who are free to hike the various mountain trails in the area. There are also a bunch of museums, galleries, and those old Japanese houses we mentioned—some of which are open to the public.

Travel time: 10 hours, 30 minutes
Distance:
532km
Transfers:
5

Departure Time

Station

Ride Time

Departure Train

09:22

Tokyo

106 min

JR Tokaido Line Local

11:16

Atami

73 min

JR Tokaido Line Local

12:41

Shizuoka

70 min

JR Tokaido Line Local

14:02

Hamamatsu

34 min

JR Tokaido Line Local

14:51

Toyohashi

75 min

JR Tokaido Line New Rapid

16:15

Gifu

38 min

JR Takayama Line Local

16:58

Minoota

164 min

JR Takayama Line Local

19:42

Takayama

——–

——————–

Hiroshima

Hiroshima A-Dome
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is more relevant today than ever. | Photo by alq666 used under CC

Hiroshima is one of the farthest west destinations that can be reached in a day using the Seishun 18 pass. The city’s tragic history is well known, but its people have reached forward into the future by letting their story serve as a way to promote world peace. Three must-visit places are the Peace Memorial Park, and the Peace Memorial Museum and iconic A-Bomb Dome (a building that survived largely intact) within the park.

Other spots to check out include the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, the Garasu-no-sato glass museum, and Momijidani Park. The area is also not without castles and shrines, with Hiroshima Castle, Fukuyama Castle and Senko-ji temple worth a look. Miyajima Island and its famous Itsukushima Shrine (the one in the sea) are close by, and can be accessed with the Seishun 18 pass by hopping onto a ferry. Hiroshima is renowned for its food culture, so be sure not to leave without trying the okonomiyaki.

Travel time: 15 hours
Distance:
895 km
Transfers:
8

Time

Station

Ride Time

Departure Train

08:36

Tokyo

111 min

JR Tokaido Line Local

10:35

Atami

75 min

JR Tokaido Line Local

12:03

Shizuoka

72 min

JR Tokaido Line Local

13:21

Hamamatsu

34 min

JR Tokaido Line Local

14:03

Toyohashi

127 min

JR Tokaido Line Rapid

16:18

Maibara

54 min

JR Special Rapid

17:14

Kyoto

28 min

JR Special Rapid

17:45

Osaka

86 min

JR Special Rapid

19:29

Aioi (Hyogo)

65 min

JR Sanyo Line Local

20:35

Okayama

87 min

JR Sanyo Line Local

22:18

Itozaki

80 min

JR Sanyo Line Local

23:38

Hiroshima

———

—————–

Nagano

seishun 18
Defrosting in a hot spring.

Home of the 1998 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Nagano is a great spot for snowboarding and skiing (and chilled hiking in summer). The ski resorts of Hakuba, Shiga Kogen Heights and Nozawa Onsen are all popular. There are also so many hot springs that a traveler could legitimately go on a hot tubbing trip, with a little skiing and sightseeing on the side.

Nagano Prefecture is also home to the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, the (apparently) only place in the world where you can watch up-close (and sometimes a little too personal) Japan’s famous Snow Monkeys soaking in their own local onsen. Other cool attractions are the remains of the Ueda Castle, the 240-year-old Masuichi Sake Brewery, Zenkoji Buddhist Temple and the Olympic Memorial Arena in Nagano City.

Time: 7 hours
Distance:
298km
Number of Transfers:
2

Time

Station

Ride Time

Departure Train

08:40

Tokyo

71 min

JR Chuo Line Rapid

09:53

Takao (Tokyo)

107 min

JR Chou Line Local

12:01

Kofu

119 min

JR Chou Line Local

14:26

Matsumoto

75 min

JR Shinonoi Line Local

15:41

Nagano

——–

———————–

Kyoto

Discount Japan Rail Travel
Kiyomizu Temple is a top sightseeing spot. | Photo by Kristoffer Trolle used under CC

Japan’s cultural center and historical capital can be reached fairly easily using the Seishun 18 ticket. Kyoto has over a dozen UNESCO World Heritage properties and a whole lot of ancient charm. You can don a kimono (you know you want to) and visit Kiyomizu Temple, or perhaps stroll under the cherry blossom trees lining the Kamogawa River.

Kyoto is known for its green tea, yatsuhashi (delicious triangular sweets) and tofu, so be sure to try some while you’re there. If you have extra time, a random but interesting idea is to visit the Toei Uzumasa Eigamura Movie Museum, where you can explore the history of Japanese cinema.

Travel time: 8 hours, 6 minutes
Distance: 513km
Transfers: 6

Departure Time

Departure Station

Ride Time

Departure Train

08:36

Depart Tokyo Station

111 min

Tokaido Line Local

10:35

Atami

75 min

Tokaido Line Local

12:03

Shizuoka

72 min

Tokaido Line Local

13:21

Hamamatsu

34 min

Tokaido Line Local

14:03

Toyohashi

88 min

Tokaido Line Local

15:37

Ogaki

35 min

Tokaido Line Local

16:18

Maibara

54 min

JR Special Rapid

17:12

Arrive Kyoto

——-

——————-

What to keep in mind when planning your trip

First of all, if your route involves a non-JR line, you’ll be looking at extra fares. In addition, some JR trains require seat reservations (which you’ll have to cough up for too). Since you can’t take any of the super fast trains, the Seishun 18 ticket might make your travel times longer and your routes a little more challenging than they normally would be, but for the crazy low price, it’s worth it.

You might think traveling overnight is a good idea—and it can be, but the night trains you can use are limited too. Two you can, at least in theory, ride are the Moonlight Nagara, which runs on a Tokyo-Nagoya-Ogaki route, and the Moonlight Shinshu from Shinjuku to Matsumoto (one direction only). Current information on these seasonal trains is hard to come by, as are tickets. Speak to staff at a JR ticket office for information.

For a detailed breakdown of the intricacies of the Seishun 18 ticket, take a look at the Japan Rail East website. And for train timetable information in English when you’re plotting your trip, Hyperdia is useful. For other trip ideas, check out our main Seishun 18 article.

Note: The above schedules are intended as estimated guides only.

This post was originally published on March 14, 2014. Last updated August 15, 2017.


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3 Responses to “Japan Budget Travel: The Seishun 18 Ticket and Sample Itineraries”

  1. Sam Someone You

    Thats awesome

  2. freddyf

    “Kyoto, Japan’s cultural centre and original capital”

    Do wot? Wasn’t Nara the capital before Kyoto?

  3. Cheapo Editor
    Cheapo Editor

    Nara was indeed the capital for a time. So it should read “historical capital”, more accurately.


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