JR East Welcome Rail Pass

JR East Welcome Rail Pass 2020 for Japanese residents only: Unlimited ride for 3 days in JR East area

JR East Shinkansen

Good news for foreign nationals residing in Japan.

The JR East Pass, which is sold only to short-stay travelers, will be sold to foreign nationals living in Japan starting next week. In fact, this pass was planned to be sold to Olympic spectators this past summer. However, the spread of Covid-19 changed everything and now it was sold to foreign nationals living in Japan.

Regardless of the circumstances, this pass is better and cheaper than the JR East Pass which is sold to short-stay travelers.

In this article, I will explain this pass.

What is JR East Welcome Rail Pass?

Most trains in JR East lines are covered.

This pass allows unlimited rides on JR Shinkansen, limited express trains, rapid trains, and regular trains in the areas of Tokyo, Tohoku, Niigata, and Nagano for three consecutive days.

The Shinkansen trains that can be taken with this pass are the Tohoku, Akita, Yamagata, Joetsu and Hokuriku Shinkansen between Tokyo and Joetsu Myoko. You cannot take the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya, Kyoto and Shin-osaka and the Hokkaido Shinkansen.

Gran class is most expensive seat in all JR trains. You have to pay extra on top of the pass to take a seat in this class

Green Cars and Gran Class are not covered fully by this pass. Additional express fee and seat fee are required on top of the pass.

Sales and usage period

This pass will be solf from October 16, 2020 (Friday) to February 26, 2021 (Friday). You can start using this pass on October 16, 2020. The pass is sold from one month before the fisrst day of use. And you may buy it on the day of travel if you want.

When you purchase a pass, don’t forget to bring your passport. This pass is sold for foreign nationals residing in Japan only. You must present your passport when you buy it. And you can tell a staff when you want to start using a pass at the time of purchasing.

1 day means the actual date of use. It does not mean 24 hours. For example, if you start using the pass at 23:00 on November 1st, you will spend one day of the pass for just one hours and your pass will be expired at 23:59 on November 3rd. But in Tokyo and surrounding area, trains run even after midnight. You can get on a train until the last train even after midnight.

Sales location

You can buy this pass at JR East Travel Service Center in these following stations:

In addition, “Go to Travel Campaign” is being held in Japan. This is a government-sponsored discount on travel costs, but this pass is not eligible for this promotion.

Price

Adult12,000 JPY
Child (6 to 11 years)6,000 JPY
  • Students, youth and senior discounts are not available.
  • Children under 6 years old is free of charge unless you wish reserve seats.

The JR East Passes, which are sold for short-term travelers, divides the JR East area into two parts, the Tohoku version and the Nagano Niigata version. These passes are Flex Passes that can be used for any 5 days in 14 days period, so they are easy to use, but the price is around 20,000 yen.

On the other hand, this pass has to be used for 3 consecutive days, but the price is 12,000 yen and it can be used in all areas of JR East. Depending on how you use it, this pass is definitely better.

Coverage

Coverage map (Source from JR East officlal site)

As I mentioned above, this pass covers all JR East lines in JR East area. And it covers also the following lines:

  • Aoimori Railway (Aomori – Metoki)
  • IGR Iwate Ginga Railway (Morioka – Metoki)
  • Sanriku Railway (Sakari – Kuji)
  • Echigo TOKImeki Railway (Myokokogen – Naoetsu – Ichifuri)
  • Shinano Railway (Karuizawa – Myokokogen)

Some other JR East deals cover Tokyo Monorail (Haneda – Hamamatsucho), Rinkai Line (Osaki – Shin Kiba), Izukyu Railway (Ito – Izukyu Shimoda) and Fujikyu Railway (Otsuki – Kawaguchiko). But this pass does not cover these railways.

And subway lines and other private railway lines are not covered by this pass either.

Reservaed seat

Ordinary seats on the Akita Shinkansen Komachi

You can reserve seats on the Shinkansen and limited express trains as many as you want with this ticket. Many trains, such as Hayabusa on the Tohoku Shinkansen, Azusa from Shinjuku to Matsumoto, require reservations and you cannot get on trains without reservations.

You can make a reservation at a ticket vending machine and or JR ticket window, which is called “Midori no Madoguchi.”

Most ticket vending machines at major stations are multilingual.

How many rides do I have to make to get the money worth?

The three-day ticket costs 12,000 JPY. So, you can get the money by taking the train for 6,000 JPY one way. Actually it is super easy.

The table below shows the total amount of one-way base fares and Shinkansen / express fares to major cities in the coverage area departing from Tokyo.

Depart from TokyoRegular fare
Sendai by the Tohoku Shinkansen11,410 JPY
Akita by the Akita Shinkansen18,120 JPY
Matsumoto by the limited express Azusa6,620 JPY
Nagano by the Hokuriku Shinkansen8,340 JPY
Gala Yuzawa by the Joetsu Shinkansen6,790 JPY
Niigata by the Joetsu Shinkansen10,760 JPY
Yamagata by the Yamagata Shinkansen11,550 JPY

As you saw the table above, you can get your money worth for even a day trip to Sendai or Niigata. Of course, this pass is valid for 3 days, so you can stay in these cities and explore the surrounding area, or you can visit several places.

Suggested itineraries

Here are three plans that I recommend using this pass:

Matsushima, Yamadera and Mt. Zao

You will spend one night each in Sendai and Zao Onsen to visit Matsushima, Yamadera and Mt. Zao.

Day 1

TimeStation / Train name
09:08Tokyo station
(The Tohoku Shinkansen Hayabusa 11)
10:40 / 10:50Sendai station
(JR Senseki line local train)
11:29 / 15:12MatsushimaKaigan station
Sightseeing in Matsushima
(JR Sendaki line local train)
15:50Sendai station (overnight)

Day 2

TimeStation / Train name
09:04Sendai station
(JR Senzan line rapid train)
10:01 / 13:57Yamadera station
Sightseeing in Risshaku-ji temple, a.k.a. Yamadera
(JR Senzan line rapid train)
14:16 / 15:20Yamagata station
(Yamako bus)
15:57Zao Onsen bus terminal (overnight)
Yamako bus from Yamagata station to Zao Onsen bus teminal is not covered by the JR East Welcome Rail Pass 2020. The bus fare is 1,000 JPY.

Day 3

TimeStation / Train name
11:20Zao Onsen bus terminal
(Yamako bus)
12:05 / 16:07Yamagata station
Sightseeing in Yamagata city
(The Yamagata Shinkansen Tsubasa 150)
18:48Tokyo station
Yamako bus from Zao Onsen bus teminal to Yamagata station is not covered by the JR East Welcome Rail Pass 2020. The bus fare is 1,000 JPY.

Hiraizumi, Nyuto Onsen, Kakunodate and Resort Shirakami

You will spend one night each in Nyuto Onsen and Akita to visit Hiraizumi, Kakunodate and enjoy ride on Resort Shirakami.

During winter season, Resort Shirakami runs on weekend only other than holiday season. You must start this trip on Thursday or Friday.

Day 1

TimeStation / Train name
07:56Tokyo station
(The Tohoku Shinkansen Hayabusa 103)
10:08 / 10:16Ichinoseki station
(JR Tohoku line local train)
10:24 / 13:53Hiraizumi station
Sightseeing in Hiraizumi
(JR Tohoku line local train)
15:14 / 15:35Morioka station
(The Akita Shinkansen Komachi 25)
16:10 / 16:35Tazawako station
(Ugo Kotsu bus)
17:23Nyuto Onsen (overnight)
Ugo Kotsu bus from Tazawako station to Nyuto Onsen is not covered by the JR East Welcome Rail Pass 2020. The bus fare is 840 JPY. If you are not interested in Nyuto Onsen, you can stay in either Morioka or Kakunodate. It is easier to find a hotel at a lower rate in Morioka.

Day 2

TimeStation / Train name
09:55Nyuto Onsen
(Ugo Kotsu bus)
10:43 / 11:28Tazawako station
(The Akita Shinkansen Komachi 9)
11:41 / 16:24Kakunodate station
Sightseeing in Kakunodate
(The Akita Shinkansen Komachi 25)
17:13Akita station (overnight)
Ugo Kotsu bus from Nyuto Onsen to Tazawako station is not covered by the JR East Welcome Rail Pass 2020. The bus fare is 840 JPY.

Day 3

TimeStation / Train name
08:20Akita station
(Resort Shirakami 1)
13:29 / 15:56Aomori station
Sightseeing in Aomori
(Ou line local train)
16:01 / 16:17Shin-Aomori station
(The Tohoku Shinkansen Hayabusa 36)
19:32Tokyo station

You can add the Stove Train on Tsugaru railway after December 1st if you like. Please see the table below:

TimeStation / Train name
08:20Akita station
(Resort Shirakami 1)
12:09 / 14:48Goshogawara station
(Tsugaru Railway Stove Train #155)
15:33 / 15:44Tsugaru-Nakasato station
(Tsugaru Railway Stove Train #156)
16:38 / 16:46Goshogawara station (overnight)
(JR Gono line local train)
17:22 / 17:47Kawabe station
(JR Ou line Rapid train)
18:13 / 18:24Shin-Aomori station
(The Tohoku Shinkansen Hayabusa 44)
21:23Tokyo station

Snow Monkey, Shin-Hotaka and Matsumoto

You will spend one night each in Nagano and Hirayu Onsen to visit Snow Monkey Park, Shin-Hodaka and Matsumoto.

Day 1

TimeStation / Train name
08:36Tokyo station
(The Hokuriku Shinkansen Kagayaki 505)
10:01 / 10:20Nagano station
(Nagaden Express Bus)
11:07 / 13:55Snow Monkey Park
*You have to walk about 30 minutes to get to the park.
(Nagaden Express Bus)
14:50Nagano station (overnight)
You have to add Snow Monkey Pass at 3,600 JPY for adult and 1,800 JPY for child (6 to `11 years old). It includes a round trip bus fare and admission for Snow Monkey Park.

Day 2

TimeStation / Train name
07:45Nagano station
(The limited express Shinano 4)
08:36 / 09:55Matsumoto station
(Alpico / Nohi Express Bus)
11:30 / 11:40Hirayu Onsen
(Nohi Bus local bus)
12:25 / 15:55Shin-Hotaka ropeway
(Nohi Bus local bus)
16:28Hirayu Onsen
You have to add bus fares at JPY 3,200 for Matsumoto station to Shin-Hotaka Ropeway and JPY 910 for Shin-Hotaka Ropeway to Hirayu Onsen. A child fare (6 to 11 years old) is half amout of adult fare. Shin-Hotaka Ropeway admission is not included.

Day 3

TimeStation / Train name
11:10Hirayu Onsen
(Alpico / Nohi Express Bus)
12:35 / 16:30Matsumoto station
Sightseeing in Matsumoto
(The limited express Azusa 46)
19:06Shinjuku station
You have to add bus fares at JPY 2,700 JPY for Hirayu Onsen to Matsumoto station. A child fare (6 to 11 years old) is half amout of adult fare.

Summary

This is a special discount ticket released because the demand is declining due to Covid-19. We cannot see like this deal under the normal situation.

Enjoy your trip with this, as it’s an unusual rate.

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