Only tourists are able to purchase the famous Japan Rail Pass, which allows travelers to flit around the country on the normally expensive Shinkansen. What you may not know, is that there are a few regional rail passes that foreign passport holders on any visa can purchase. That means you, foreign residents of Japan!

Some passes are available indefinitely; others are only available for a limited time. The Kansai WIDE Area Excursion Pass and passes from JR Shikoku and JR Hokkaidō are only available through March 2023 — so don’t sleep on this opportunity! Scroll down to the bottom for rail passes that can be purchased by anyone, even Japanese citizens.

Good news: Eligibility for foreign residents for the Shikoku and Hokkaidō passes was set to expire at the end of September 2022 but has now been extended through March 2023!

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Overview of rail passes currently available

The following JR regional rail passes are currently available to foreign passport holders on any visa:

Pass Key destinations Shinkansen Deadline to purchase Price Booking link
Tokyo Wide Pass Nikkō, Izu Peninsula, Fuji Five Lakes, Karuizawa & Gala Yuzawa Hokuriku Shinkansen to Sakudaira; Jōetsu Shinkansen to Gala Yuzawa; Tōhoku Shinkansen to Nasu Shiobara ¥10,000 Reserve online
JR East Nagano & Niigata Area Pass Nikkō, Izu Peninsula, Karuizawa, Gala Yuzawa, Kusatsu Onsen, Nagano & Niigata Hokuriku Shinkansen to Jōetsu Myōkō; Jōetsu Shinkansen to Niigata; Tōhoku Shinkansen to Nasu Shiobara ¥10,000 Reserve online
JR East Tōhoku Area Pass Nikkō, Izu Peninsula, Karuizawa, Gala Yuzawa, Kusatsu Onsen & Tōhoku Hokuriku Shinkansen to Sakudaira; Jōetsu Shinkansen to Gala Yuzawa; Tōhoku Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori (Aomori) ¥20,000 Reserve online
Kansai WIDE Area Excursion Pass Kansai, Kinosaki Onsen & Kii Peninsula Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka & Okayama March 31, 2023 ¥10,000 Reserve online
3-day JR Shikoku Pass All of Shikoku! March 31, 2023 ¥11,000 Reserve online
JR Hokkaidō Sapporo–Noboribetsu Area Pass Sapporo, Otaru, Noboribetsu & New Chitose Airport March 31, 2023 ¥8,500
JR Hokkaidō Sapporo–Furano Area Pass Sapporo, Otaru, Asahikawa, Furano, Biei & New Chitose Airport March 31, 2023 ¥9,500

*Passes for children 6–11 are half-price

The deadline to purchase the pass is also the deadline to activate the pass. So for example, the last day to purchase and activate a 3-day Shikoku Pass is March 29 and the last day you can travel with the pass is March 31.

Passes without booking links must be purchased in-person at select train stations. See sections on individual passes for more details.

Tokyo Wide Pass

The excellent Tokyo Wide Pass gives you three days of consecutive travel in the Kantō area. That means excursions to Nikkō, the Izu Peninsula, Karuizawa, and (in winter) ski resort Gala Yuzawa (among other places). Find out more about what you can do with the Tokyo Wide Pass.

The pass costs ¥10,000 and can be purchased here.

JR East passes

JR East has two passes that can be purchased by foreign passport holders of any visa status: the Nagano & Niigata Area Pass and the Tōhoku Area Pass. With the Nagano & Niigata Area Pass, you get Shinkansen travel in Niigata and Nagano — perfect for hitting the slopes or summer hiking trips.

The Tōhoku Area Pass, meanwhile, gives you some Shinkansen travel in Niigata and Nagano plus travel along the entire length of the Tōhoku Shinkansen. This pass is ideal for exploring this undervisited region in depth.

Both passes are good for five days of consecutive travel. The Nagano & Niigata Area Pass costs ¥18,000 and you can buy it here. The Tōhoku Area Pass costs ¥20,000; purchase it online here.

See our article on JR East regional rail passes for more details, plus ideas for where to travel.

Summer Karuizawa Shiraito Falls
Pretty Shiraito Falls in Karuizawa, one of the places you can visit with the Tokyo Wide Pass or a JR East Pass | Photo by iStock.com/Norimoto

Passes only available for a limited time

The following deals are set to expire at the end of March 2023 (though we hope they will be extended, of course)

Kansai WIDE Area Excursion Pass

JR West’s Kansai WIDE Area Excursion Pass gives you three consecutive days of travel in the greater Kansai area. What does that mean? It means you can ride the Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Okayama, via Kōbe and Himeji. Or ride limited express trains up to Kinosaki Onsen or down to the Kii Peninsula.

This pass is just for foreign residents, and will be available through March 2023. It costs ¥10,000 (¥5,000 for children) and you can purchase it here.

3-day JR Shikoku Pass

JR Shikoku is offering a special, limited-time only 3-day rail pass just for foreign residents. It gives you unlimited travel on Shikoku’s limited express trains — Shikoku doesn’t have a Shinkansen — plus all other JR trains, Tosa Kuroshio Railway lines, and JR Shikoku buses for Birafu (for the Anpanman Museum) and Kuma Kōgen (a scenic mountain resort area).

The pass costs ¥11,000 and is available through March 2023. It must be purchased online. You cannot purchase it over the counter at train stations in Japan.

Use your exchange voucher to pick up the actual pass from a Warp branch office at Takamatsu, Tokushima, Kōchi, or Matsuyama stations. Details about the Warp branch offices can be found here.

Check out our article on JR Shikoku rail passes for ideas about where to travel in Shikoku, including a sample 3-day itinerary.

JR Hokkaidō regional rail passes

JR Hokkaidō has two new regional rail passes that can be purchased by foreign residents through March 2023. The Sapporo–Noboribetsu Area Pass covers rail travel between Sapporo, Otaru, New Chitose Airport, and Noboribetsu. The Sapporo–Furano Area Pass covers rail travel between Sapporo, Otaru, New Chitose Airport, Asahikawa, and Furano.

Both passes are good for four consecutive days. The Sapporo–Noboribetsu Area Pass costs ¥8,500 and the Sapporo–Furano Area Pass costs ¥9,500. Purchase either at New Chitose Airport or Sapporo Station.

A JR Hokkaido train stopped at Shikaribetsu Station
A JR Hokkaidō train stopped at Shikaribetsu Station | Photo by iStock.com/Takashi-Nakano

Discount rail passes that anyone can use

There are also discount travel schemes that have no eligibility requirements. These can be used by anyone, including Japanese citizens. Sadly none of them are as good a deal as the passes created specifically for tourists — but they can still save you money.

There’s the famous Seishun 18 ticket, which gives you five non-consecutive days of unlimited travel on JR local and rapid trains. There’s also the Hokkaidō & Eastern Japan Pass, which gives you seven consecutive days of travel on local and rapid trains operated by JR East and JR Hokkaidō.

JR East has a number of passes — called otokuna kippu (“special tickets”) — good for one or two days of unlimited travel around select areas, like Aomori or Iwate. All the info is in Japanese though, unfortunately.

The Hokkaidō Free Pass, meanwhile, covers everything that the JR Hokkaidō Pass for tourists does — and anyone can purchase it, including foreign residents and Japanese passport holders. The down side is that the pass costs more than the one for tourists and has blackout dates. For more details, see our guide to Hokkaidō rail passes.

Likewise, the Shikoku Free Ticket from JR Shikoku appears to be exactly the same as the 3-day JR Shikoku Pass for foreign passport holders (just more expensive).

JR Kyūshū has a 3-day pass — what it’s calling the Hello! Freetime Net Pass — that resembles the Kyūshū rail passes for foreign tourists. Except it costs more and you have create an online account with JR Kyūshū. There’s also a discount scheme called something like “Expert Traveler Kyūshū to One’s Heart’s Content Ticket” (旅名人の九州満喫きっぷ) that gives you three non-consecutive days of travel (or one day for three people) on any local train in Kyūshū, JR or otherwise.

While we strive to make sure all details are correct, information is subject to change.

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Filed under: Transport
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