Izu Peninsula via JR Tokyo Wide Pass
The Izu Peninsula makes for a relaxing break from Tokyo. | Photo by LuxTonnerre used under CC

If you’re looking to do a few days of travel in the Kanto region—maybe a long weekend, or a bit of sightseeing before you head home—the JR Tokyo Wide Pass is a money-saving hack you need to know. Formerly called the JR Kanto Area Pass, the discount train ticket was rebranded in late 2015, with a couple of extra stops tacked onto its routes for good measure. Here’s the 5Ws+H of this nifty little deal.

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JR East for JR Tokyo Wide Pass
JR East is not the only line you have access to with the pass. | Photo by hans-johnson used under CC

First, let’s cover the what. The JR Tokyo Wide Pass is a rail pass that’s available to all holders of non-Japanese passports, regardless of whether you’re in the country for a week or a decade. It gives you unlimited travel on JR East trains (including Shinkansen and limited express trains like the Narita Express) in Tokyo and surrounds for a period of three consecutive days. At ¥10,000, it’s a pretty sweet deal—if you know how to make the most of it, anyway. If your travel plans are taking you further afield for longer, you’re probably better off with a 7-day JR Pass, or one of the other discount passes that are available.

Fuji Five Lakes by JR Tokyo Wide Pass
The JR Tokyo Wide Pass opens up the Fuji Five Lakes area for budget exploration. | Photo by Guilhem Vellut used under CC

Where can I buy a JR Tokyo Wide Pass?

If you’re ready to rush out and grab one of these passes, head to the JR East Travel Service Center or the JR Ticket Office at any of these hubs:

  • Narita Airport (all terminals)
  • Haneda Airport
  • Tokyo Station
  • Shinagawa Station
  • Ueno Station
  • Shinjuku Station
  • Shibuya Station
  • Ikebukuro Station
  • Yokohama Station
  • Mito Station (Ibaraki)

Make sure to take your passport with you, as the sales staff will want to see it before handing over the package. The price for those 12 and up is ¥10,000, while children 6-11 pay ¥5,000. See the official website for more information.

Some trains require seat reservations (if only to make sure you don’t end up standing for hours on end), and that can be handled (for free) by popping into a JR Ticket Office (Midori no Madoguchi) at a station prior to departure, or via the JR East Reservations website (choose “search routes”). If you’re not sure whether you need to reserve a seat, just ask the station staff.

Tomioka Silk Mill accessible with JR Tokyo Wide Pass.
The Tomioka Silk Mill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Gunma, is also an option with the JR Tokyo Wide Pass. | Photo by sawasuke used under CC

What trains can I ride with this pass?

With the JR Tokyo Wide Pass, you have access to not only JR East trains, but some other railways (or parts thereof), too. You can ride the following:

  • All JR East trains (including Shinkansen) within the designated area of the pass (Kanto and parts of Nagano, Niigata, Yamanashi and Shizuoka)
  • Fujikyu Railway (the Mount Fuji area)
  • Izu Kyuko Line (on the Izu Peninsula)
  • Tokyo Monorail (great for getting to Haneda Airport)
  • Joshin Dentetsu Line (Gunma Prefecture)
  • Saitama New Urban Transit Line (between Omiya and the Railway Museum)
  • Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit (Rinkai) Line
  • Limited Express trains running between JR East and Tobu Lines (Nikko, SPACIA Nikko, Kinugawa and SPACIA Kinugawa)
  • Local and rapid trains between Shimoimachi and Tobu-Nikko/Kinugawa-onsen

This JR page provides a handy visual guide to where these lines go, and what the boundaries of the JR Tokyo Wide Pass are.

Note: Keep your passport with you when you use the pass, as you may be asked to show it when going through ticket gates.

Nikko bridge
The mesmerizing beauty of Nikko is just a stone’s throw from Tokyo. | Photo by Hardo Muller used under CC

Where can I go with a JR Tokyo Wide Pass?

You can get out to such holiday favorites as Fuji Five Lakes, Nikko, Karuizawa, Mito and GALA Yuzawa, as well as a huge number of other destinations. Here are a handful of ideas—with the prices you’d pay sans the pass, for the sake of comparison.

Karuizawa break

Tokyoites have been escaping to the resort town of Karuizawa in the mountains near Nagano for centuries. With mild weather, waterfalls and abundant forest, it’s a great place to go for a breather from the summer heat of the big city. Hot springs and skiing also make it popular in the colder months. A regular trip from Tokyo Station without the JR Tokyo Wide Pass costs over ¥12,000, so even if Karuizawa is the only place you’re going, the pass pays for itself.

Gunma getaway

The Joshin Dentetsu train line gives you access to Gunma Prefecture—known for its multitude of hot spring towns, as well as the historical Tomioka Silk Mill. A regular return ticket from Tokyo to the mill costs about ¥12,000, while getting to the outdoor adventure and hot spring hub of Minakami and back costs closer to ¥12,500.

Nikko refresher

Known for its hiking, hot springs, stunning fall foliage and lavish Toshogu Shrine (the resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu), Nikko is a popular retreat for those in Kanto. A regular return trip to Nikko is about ¥6,000, so the JR Tokyo Wide Pass is only good value here if you add another destination to your travel mix.

Izu escape

If you’re a fan of places where rugged mountains meet beautiful beaches, the Izu Peninsula is your jam. Oh, and you can throw in hot springs, too. Whether the JR Tokyo Wide Pass is good value depends on where in the area you want to go—a round-trip to Atami, for example, costs roughly ¥8,600, while a jaunt to Izukyu Shimoda (further south in the peninsula) is closer to ¥15,000.

Read our post on a Cheapo Island Getaway to Shikine-jima while you’re plotting your Izu break.

GALA Yuzawa snow time

In winter and spring, you can use the JR Tokyo Wide Pass to get to GALA Yuzawa, a ski resort in Niigata that’s just 90 minutes from Tokyo. It makes for an easy day or overnight trip. The resort features 16 ski and snowboarding courses, as well as hot springs. A regular round-trip costs more than ¥12,000. To maximize savings, the JR Tokyo Wide Pass also gives you discounts on ski lifts, lessons and other cool stuff.

GALA Yuzawa
GALA Yuzawa is a snowboarding and skiing spot close to Tokyo. | Photo by shinji_w used under CC

Is there anything I can’t do with this pass?

The JR Tokyo Wide Pass cannot be used on the Tokaido Shinkansen (the bullet train that runs between Tokyo and Osaka), other Shinkansen that do not fall within the parameters of JR East, private railways not mentioned above, or JR buses. If you’re wanting to visit Kansai, Hiroshima, Hokkaido or another region beyond the bounds of Kanto, have a look at the other regional rail passes that are available.

Note: If you are not going to be traveling beyond the boundaries of Tokyo, it may work out cheaper to use a rechargeable IC card or just buy regular train tickets. For example, the journey from Tokyo Station to Harajuku only costs ¥200. You might want to check out the 140-yen train hack while you’re planning your travels, too.

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