The Seishun 18 Ticket and 5 Recommended Escape Routes from Tokyo

Japan Rail Tickets
Seishun 18 ticket
The Seishun 18 ticket allows dirt-cheap rail travel across Japan. | Photo by hans-johnson used under CC

The Seishun 18 ticket (青春18きっぷ) is a special discount ticket sold by national rail operator JR three times a year—in summer, winter and spring. It allows up to five non-consecutive days of unlimited travel on JR local and rapid trains, making it a super-cheap way to explore Japan at a slow pace. Here’s the lowdown on this bargain deal.

First off, the price. Seishun 18 tickets (named for the youth who love to use them) cost ¥11,850 a pop, giving you unlimited travel for just ¥2,370/day—that’s outstanding value. While the ticket sales periods coincide with school holidays, anyone, of any age and nationality, can use the tickets. You can share the tickets, too; a group of five people could each travel for one day, for example, or a couple could get two days of travel each (with one to spare). The only catch is that you can’t ride limited express trains (tokkyu/特急) or the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Where do I find the Seishun 18 ticket?

You can buy the tickets at most JR stations, but only three times a year. If you look at the official JR website, you’ll see that it says the tickets go on sale just twice a year—that’s out of date, and you can confirm as much on the Japanese page. The sales and usage dates differ slightly year on year, but for 2017 they are as follows:

SeasonPeriod of SalePeriod of Use
SpringFebruary 20 to March 31March 1 to April 10
SummerJuly 1 to August 31July 20 to September 10
WinterDecember 1 to December 31December 10 to January 10

Unlike the Japan Rail Pass, the Seishun 18 ticket does not need to be used on five consecutive days. That means you can activate it, take a break, and get back to using it a little later in the usage period—no need to use it all in one go.

Where can I go with these tickets?

The Seishun 18 ticket allows you to just jump on a train hobo-style and see where it takes you. However, with a little planning you can hit some of the more interesting far-flung destinations that would normally cost ¥20,000 or more to reach. To help you on your way, we’ve planned five escape routes from Tokyo, taking you to Kanazawa, Hiraizumi, Fuji Rock, Nara and Miyajima.

Note: The schedule for each trip assumes you are leaving on a weekday, and not on the weekend or a public holiday. Trains are more frequent on weekdays, so if you do leave on the weekend or a holiday, bear in mind that it might take considerably longer to get to where you’re going.

An awesome overnight trip from Tokyo to Osaka, where you can have fun at Universal Studios Japan. The tour includes your bullet train tickets, park entrance fees click here for details
 Suggested Activity 

Before you set off, make sure you’re stocked up with food, drinks, books, games and so on for those long boring bits (you’re limited to the slower trains, remember). It’s also worth keeping an eye on the weather—although it’s less likely to be a hindrance than during winter, high winds can throw train schedules into chaos.

Route 1: Destination Kanazawa

Seishun 18 to Kanazawa Castle
You can use the Seishun 18 ticket to get to Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture. | Photo by lensonjapan used under CC

Kanazawa has a castle, beautiful heritage buildings dating back to the Edo period, art museums, and awesome food. Plus, it’s a long way from Tokyo by train, making it the perfect destination for Seishun 18 ticket travel. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

Vital stats: 622.5 km, 11 hours and 40 minutes, 6 train changes

IntervalTrain/LineDeparture – ArrivalTravel time
Tokyo – AtamiJR Tokaido Line10:57 – 12:54 117 mins
Atami – HamamatsuJR Tokaido Line12:56 – 15:33 157 mins
Hamamatsu – ToyohashiJR Tokaido Line15:43 – 16:16 33 minutes
Toyohashi – MaibaraJR Tokaido Line Rapid16:32 – 18:41 129 minutes
Maibara – TsurugaJR Special Rapid Service 19:01 – 19:49 48 mins
Tsuruga – FukuiJR Hokuriku Line20:10 – 21:09 59 mins
Fukui – KanazawaJR Hokuriku Line 21:15 – 22:37 82 mins

Route 2: Destination Hiraizumi

Hiraizumi via Seishun 18
Part of the Chusonji Temple complex. | Photo by Kimon Berlin used under CC

During the Heian and Kamakura periods (from about 1200 to 800 years ago) Hiraizumi in the far north of Honshu apparently rivaled Kyoto in both size and influence. Much of that has disappeared over the centuries, but there are enough interesting bits left that the area received the coveted status of World Heritage Site in June, 2011. This means it’s often crawling with flag-wielding tour guides and fleets of tour buses, but the temples and historic buildings are stunning.



Of note are two major festivals during the period that the Seishun 18 ticket is valid: the Chusonji Outdoor Bonfire Noh on August 14th, and the Hiraizumi Daimonji Festival (where they light a fire on a mountainside in the shape of the 大 kanji—more famously associated with Kyoto) on August 16th.

Vital stats: 452.5 km, 8 hours and 49 minutes, 7 train changes

IntervalTrain/LineDeparture – ArrivalTravel time
Ueno – UtsunomiyaJR Utsunomiya Line Rapid7:50 – 9:27 97 mins
Utsunomiya – KuroisoJR Utsunomiya Line9:32 – 10:23 51 mins
Kuroiso to KoriyamaJR Tohoku Line10:27 – 11:30 63 mins
Koriyama – FukushimaJR Tohoku Line11:56 – 12:43 47 mins
Fukushima – SendaiJR Tohoku Line 513:00 – 14:13 73 mins
Sendai – KogotaJR Tohoku Line14:34 – 15:20 46 mins
Kogota – IchinosekiJR Tohoku Line15:35 – 16:23 48 mins
Ichinoseki – HiraizumiJR Tohoku Line16:31 – 16:39 8 mins

Route 3: Destination Fuji Rock

Seishun 18 to Fuji Rock Festival
You can use the Seishun 18 ticket to get to Fuji Rock. For real. | Photo by Kentaro Ohno used under CC

If you can afford the tickets to Fuji Rock, you probably don’t *need* to get there with the Seishun 18 ticket, but perhaps you do! Regardless, what better way to build your sense of anticipation than by taking slow trains across one of the most rugged parts of Japan?

The first stages open at 11am, so you’ll want to start your journey super early to avoid missing anything. The closest station (from which you can catch the shuttle bus for the 40-minute ride to the venue) is Echigo-Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture.



Vital stats: 199.4 km, 4 hours and 1 minute, 2 train changes

IntervalTrain/LineDeparture – ArrivalTravel Time
Tokyo – TakasakiJR Takasaki Line6:20 – 8:16 116 mins
Takasaki – MinakamiJR Joetsu Main Line8:24 – 9:31 67 mins
Minakami – Echigo-YuzawaJR Joetsu Main Line9:47 – 10:21 34 mins

Route 4: Destination Nara

Nara deer with Seishun 18 ticket
Nara’s deer are a funny sort. | Photo by SteFou! used under CC

If prancing about with domesticated deer and admiring a giant Buddha is your thing, then head to Nara. Because this route takes you south, within a couple of hours of departure you’ll be skirting the base of Mount Fuji, which, barring low cloud, is always an impressive sight. After that, as you continue down the Tokaido Line, the vistas get a little less awe-inspiring, but there’s still plenty of green between the big metropolises, and glimpses of the Pacific for a bit of variety.

Vital stats: 499.9 km, 9 hours and 18 minutes, 7 train changes

IntervalTrain/LineDeparture – ArrivalTravel time
Tokyo – AtamiJR Tokaido Line07:42 – 09:31 109 mins
Atami – ShizuokaJR Tokaido Line09:37 – 10:50 73 mins
Shizuoka – HamamatsuJR Tokaido Line11:03 – 12:15 72 mins
Hamamatsu – ToyohashiJR Tokaido Line12:20 – 12:54 34 mins
Toyohashi – NagoyaJR Tokaido Line Rapid13:03 – 13:58 55 mins
Nagoya – KameyamaJR Kansai Line Rapid14:06 – 15:09 63 mins
Kameyama – KamoJR Kansai Line15:14 – 16:35 81 mins
Kamo – NaraJR Yamatoji Line Regional Rapid16:44 – 17:00 16 mins

Cheapo tip: If you feel like splashing out, take a trip down to Kyoto instead on a discount bullet train tour package (which includes accommodation), and visit Nara for a day.

Route 5: Miyajima

Miyajima
Photo by Rog01 used under CC

Down near Hiroshima, Miyajima is the place with the iconic red torii gate, the base of which is submerged at high tide. The JR site mentions it specifically, highlighting the fact that the Seishun 18 ticket is valid for the ferry to the island. Getting there in a single day is a huge haul from Tokyo—but it is possible. In a minute shy of 15.5 hrs, you’ll cover 916 km and make 10 transfers! Mind you, you’ll arrive so late at night that all you’ll be able to do is find a place to sleep and visit the shrine the next morning.

Vital stats: 916 km, 15 hours and 29 minute, 10 train and ferry changes

IntervalTrain/LineDeparture – ArrivalTravel time
Tokyo – AtamiJR Tokaido Line06:07 – 07:59 112 mins
Atami – ShizuokaJR Tokaido Line08:02 – 09:20 78 mins
Shizuoka – HamamatsuJR Tokaido Line09:22 – 10:33 71 mins
Hamamatsu – ToyohashiJR Tokaido Line10:43 – 11:17 34 mins
Toyohashi – OgakiJR Tokaido Line New Rapid11:21 – 12:46 85 mins
Ogaki – MaibaraJR Tokaido Line13:12 – 13:47 35 mins
Maibara – KyotoJR Special Rapid Service (Stay on train)13:50 – 14:43 53 mins
Kyoto – OsakaJR Special Rapid Service (Stay on train)14:45 – 15:13 28 mins
Osaka – HimejiJR Special Rapid Service15:13 – 16:16 61 mins
Himeji – AioiJR Sanyo Line16:34 – 16:53 19 mins
Aioi –  OkayamaJR Sanyo Line16:59 – 18:08 69 mins
Okayama – HiroshimaJR Sanyo Line18:10 – 20:57 167 mins
Hiroshima – MiyajimaguchiJR Sanyo Line21:08 – 21:36 28 mins
Miyajimaguchiko (Miyajimaguchi Port) – Miyajimako (Miyajima Port)JR Miyajima Ferry22:00 – 22:10 10 minutes

Is there anything else I need to know?

With so many changes on the longer routes, the chances that you’ll actually make it to your final destination on time are about 50/50—but even if you fall short, there’s always the next day. If none of these getaways appeal to you, or if you just want to make your own adventure, useful sites for planning your trip are Jorudan and Hyperdia (don’t forget to use the ‘More Options’ section and un-click everything except for ‘Local Train’ and ‘Japan Railway [JP]’).

The Seishun 18 ticket also, in theory, gives you access to two overnight trains—the Moonlight Nagara (to Ogaki) and Moonlight Shinshu (to Hakuba). Reliable, up-to-date information on these seasonal rides is sorely lacking, so your best bet is to talk to the staff at a JR ticket office. If the trains happen to be running during your period of travel, you’ll need to reserve tickets fast, as the retro feel of the trains makes them immensely popular.

For more short trip ideas from Tokyo, check out our sister Seishun rail travel article and these other Seishun travel ideas.

Note: All above schedules are intended to provide an estimated guide only.

This post was originally published on July 16, 2012. Last updated on August 14, 2017.

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12 Responses to “The Seishun 18 Ticket and 5 Recommended Escape Routes from Tokyo”

  1. Hanlon Razor

    Good god those are long rides.  If you want to save money that badly – highway bus.

    • CheapoGreg

      The Seishun 18 is only partly about the money. Where’s the fun, romance and adventure of a bus? Buses (although I’m sure we’ll cover them at some point!) are not very fun experiences at all.

      • Agreed. I bought a Seishun 18 pass almost every season over the years I lived in Japan. I saw plenty that I would never have seen otherwise – I would go to Kyoto Station and flip a coin to decide whether I was headed east or west. Great experience.

  2. Hanlon Razor

    Good god those are long rides.  If you want to save money that badly – highway bus.

    • CheapoGreg

      The Seishun 18 is only partly about the money. Where’s the fun, romance and adventure of a bus? Buses (although I’m sure we’ll cover them at some point!) are not very fun experiences at all.

      • Agreed. I bought a Seishun 18 pass almost every season over the years I lived in Japan. I saw plenty that I would never have seen otherwise – I would go to Kyoto Station and flip a coin to decide whether I was headed east or west. Great experience.

  3. Fellow Bargain Hunter

    I’ve used this pass (once) before for Tokyo ->Osaka-> Tokyo (plus a side trip on the way back), and it was pretty fun. Sometimes you’re running with the crowd to get that key connection. Sometimes (but not often, in my experience) you’re standing. You get to take a variety of trains and see a lot of the countryside.

    By the way, the pass is not limited to one person. It’s 5 trips, so for example, 2 people can use it for 2 days, and then on the third day one person can use it and the other person can pay regular fare.

    Also, it’s offered 3 times a year, not 2: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2362.html

    And I don’t think there’s a rule against using it on consecutive days. In fact, I’m pretty sure we used it two days in a row.

    All in all, like you say it’s an amazing deal, and a lot less tiring than I expected. I thought the trains would be swarming with students heading east and west, but really it wasn’t that bad. I’d definitely try it again.

    BTW, that’s awesome that you listed a bunch of examples of how this can be used.

    • CheapoGreg

      Thanks for the correction! I’ve added an edit to explain that it’s available three times a year.

  4. Fellow Bargain Hunter

    I’ve used this pass (once) before for Tokyo ->Osaka-> Tokyo (plus a side trip on the way back), and it was pretty fun. Sometimes you’re running with the crowd to get that key connection. Sometimes (but not often, in my experience) you’re standing. You get to take a variety of trains and see a lot of the countryside.

    By the way, the pass is not limited to one person. It’s 5 trips, so for example, 2 people can use it for 2 days, and then on the third day one person can use it and the other person can pay regular fare.

    Also, it’s offered 3 times a year, not 2: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2362.html

    And I don’t think there’s a rule against using it on consecutive days. In fact, I’m pretty sure we used it two days in a row.

    All in all, like you say it’s an amazing deal, and a lot less tiring than I expected. I thought the trains would be swarming with students heading east and west, but really it wasn’t that bad. I’d definitely try it again.

    BTW, that’s awesome that you listed a bunch of examples of how this can be used.

    • CheapoGreg

      Thanks for the correction! I’ve added an edit to explain that it’s available three times a year.

  5. I once used seishun ticket to go from Oita, Beppu to Fuji-san climbing then going back, all in 5 days. The amount of time sitting on the train was tremendously boring. If you have plenty of time and want to go cheap, seishun is great otherwise you’d better hop on a shinkansen or a plane.

  6. Tay Kai Yun

    Hello! I saw their official website that it is March 1 to April 10 but the year stated is 2015. I was wondering if the dates remain the same for 2016? Thanks!


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