Discount rail passes will soon be available for US troops in Japan

A shinkansen, or high-speed bullet train, prepares to depart Tokyo Station, April 30, 2017.


By HANA KUSUMOTO | Stars and Stripes | Published: February 18, 2021

Expats and foreign workers in Japan, including those under the status of forces agreement, have long grumbled about the availability of heavily discounted fares for the country's rail system which are offered only to tourists.

However, starting April 1, two low-cost rail passes will be made available to non-Japanese citizens residing in Japan, according to a news release from East Japan Railway.

The "JR East Pass (Tohoku area)" and "JR East Pass (Nagano, Niigata area)" will offer unlimited rides for five consecutive days on some JR East lines, including the high-speed shinkansen, and other designated trains and buses.

The popular Japan Rail Pass, which offers unlimited rides nationwide, will still remain available only to tourists.

The Tohoku pass will be available for travel in the Tohoku region in the northern part of Japan’s mainland, Honshu, and in the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures.

The pass for Niigata and Nagano will be available for travel in the Kanto region and in the Nagano and Niigata prefectures in the central and western parts of the island.

The Tohoku passes cost 20,000 yen (about $191) for adults and 10,000 yen ($95) for children. Nagano, Niigata passes are 18,000 yen for adults ($172) and 9,000 yen ($86) for children.

The passes will be sold at Narita International Airport and most major stations with passport-reader ticketing machines: Tokyo, Ueno, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Hamamatsucho, Yokohama, Mito, Sendai, Yamagata, Fukushima, Morioka, Hachinohe, Aomori, Akita, Niigata, Nagano and Matsumoto.

The change comes as the company revises the rail passes, which were available only as paper tickets. The new passes will be machine-readable to let pass holders use automatic ticket gates. Current passes must be shown to station staff to pass the gates.

The two passes will supplement the JR Tokyo Wide Pass, the other pass already available to foreign residents, which offers unlimited use of trains in the Kanto region for three consecutive days. That pass cost 10,180 yen ($97) for adults and 5,090 yen ($49) for children.

Twitter: @HanaKusumoto