After jealously coveting the Japan Rail Pass enjoyed by tourists for so long, foreign residents can finally get their hands on a decent rail pass. The brand-new ¥12,000 JR East Welcome Pass 2020 allows three consecutive days of travel on all JR East trains, including Shinkansen, valid from the 16th of October 2020 to the 28th of February 2021.

Where can I go with the JR East Welcome Pass 2020?

From Atami to Aomori, the special rail pass covers the entire JR East rail network—the eastern half of Honshu (the main island of Japan). The area extends from Tokyo/Kanto, across the country though Yamanashi on the Chuo Line to Niigata, Nagano and north through Tohoku to Aomori. As you can use the pass to ride the Shinkansen, it allows you to plan a trip covering several spots in this large area.

Sample itineraries

A view from the top of a slope at Gala Yuzawa
Photo by Chris Kirkland

You could head to Niigata and Nagano, using the rail pass to hop between some familiar snowboarding and skiing destinations like Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen and Yuzawa.

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If you like slow travel, you could take the three-and-a-half-hour Shinkansen journey all the way north from Tokyo to Aomori, and see Hirosaki Castle or the tallest seated Buddha in Japan, Aomori Showa Daibutsu.

Other ideas are exploring some Tohoku nature, hiking Mount Iwate, seeing the Genbikei Gorge or visiting the Zao Fox village in Miyagi.

Check out our guide for some more ideas on the Tohoku region.

Where can I buy the JR East Welcome Pass?

You can purchase the pass easily online, or from JR Travel Centers (at most major JR stations).

How much does the Welcome Pass cost?

The price is a round ¥12,000 for adults and ¥6,000 for children. The pass is only valid for three consecutive days, so make sure your plans bring you back home before the end of the third day.

Other rail passes available to foreign residents of Japan

While we’re on the subject of bargain rail passes, in case you didn’t know, there are a plethora of rail passes available in Japan—and many are in fact available to foreign residents (and Japanese citizens, too).

Whilst not quite as versatile as the flagship JR Rail Pass, passes such as the Tokyo Wide Pass can provide pretty good savings.

See our full guide on which rail pass to choose for details on some of the other passes (as well as the not-for-residents JR Rail Pass).

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Cheapo advice on the Welcome Pass

When calculating your savings with the Welcome Pass, consider that JR East is already doing a half-price campaign until the 31st March of 2021, so it’s best to choose far-flung destinations in order to get the most value.

For example, a half-price ticket from Tokyo to Yamagata costs ¥5,690, so to get real value out of the discount Welcome Pass, you would need to add an extra leg, or perhaps plan a side trip.

Pro tip: You can use the Go To Travel, Go To Event and Go To Eat campaigns to maximize the savings on your travels around Japan.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published on October 8, 2020. Last updated on December 4, 2020.

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