The ‘rail pass’ system for visitors to Japan is definitely not a new concept. They have been around for quite some time, and if you’re only here for a week or two, they’re definitely the way to go if you’re looking to visit locations outside of Tokyo. The rail pass gives you the ability to travel to any location that the JR East lines travel to. Starting in the middle of October, on October 16th to be exact, they will be offering a new limited version of the rail pass called the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 which has a couple of unique features to this version of the pass.
The previous JR EAST Rail Pass where you had the ability to travel to any destination that JR EAST services, there were a few limitations that were imposed on the pass itself, such as the exclusion of the Hikari Shinkansen line which allows you access to the Kansai area in less than 3 hours from the Shinagawa station in Tokyo. The new JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 includes ALL lines that are serviced by JR EAST, and that also includes all Shinkansen lines. Definitely, a welcome change if you ask me.
The next change is the validity period and pricing. The original JR EAST Rail Pass which is still available, costs ¥20,360 for adults and ¥10,180 for children and covers 5 days. Where the new JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 costs ¥12,000 for adults and ¥6,000 for children and lasts for 3 days. Certainly, not a bad deal if you’re just looking for a quick weekend getaway to say Akita, Niigata, or Nagano.
Even better is that where the standard rail pass is only available to foreign passport holders who entered Japan on a temporary visitor status, the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 is available to ANYONE with a foreign passport, regardless of visa status.
The JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 goes on sale starting on October 16th and will be valid until February 28th, 2021 via the JR EAST website.