Looking for a cheap getaway? Have a few unused days of nenkyuu burning a hole in your contract? Look no further than the Japan Railways 青春１８きっぷ, or Seishun Juuhachi Kippu.
This special seasonal ticket allows you to experience two of the best parts of living in Japan: its breathtakingly beautiful scenery and impeccably on-time train system. Cruising by lush green forests or pristine craggy beaches, the 青春１８きっぷ gives you a chance to take a leisurely vacation and save a bundle, too.
The ticket, which means “youthful 18 ticket”, got its name due to its popularity amongst young people, but contrary to what the name suggests, anyone can use it, young or old. The ticket includes five spaces for stamps, each of which are valid for unlimited travel on any JR local or rapid trains on a given calendar date. In the morning, the station attendant will stamp your ticket with the day’s date, which will validate you for travel until midnight that night. (If you are on the train at midnight, the stamp is valid until you get off the train). If you exit and enter a train station, simply show your date-stamped ticket to the attendant every time you enter.
The ticket costs ¥11,850, which comes out to just ¥2,370 for each day of travel! A great feature of the 青春１８きっぷ is that the tickets don’t have to be used consecutively, nor do they have to be used by the same person. A group of five friends can take a one-day trip, one person can take one five-day trip, or a two-day trip and a three-day trip, etc. With so many different travel possibilities, it’s not hard to find a reason to take advantage of it!
Since each day only amounts to ¥2,370 paid, many day trips from Gunma are now made much cheaper, such as Tokyo or Nikko. You can also stretch your ticket value by traveling as far as you can in a day—Gunma-dwellers can reach as far north as Aomori or as far south as Hiroshima in a day. Note that the 青春１８きっぷ is only valid on local or rapid trains—no express or Shinkansen allowed. This can lead to multiple transfers and a slower ride, but can also mean hours of beautiful scenery, relaxing and exploring new parts of Japan.
I used all five days of my 青春１８きっぷ in one trip, traveling from Shibukawa to Kobe on the first day, back and forth around Kansai for the next three days, and from Osaka back to Gunma on the fifth day. Had I paid the regular train fare, surely it would have been ¥30,000 or more.
One last caution: since it is a seasonal ticket, the 青春１８きっぷ is only available during certain travel times of the year, which line up quite nicely with summer, winter and spring break.
For Spring 2015, the ticket is on sale now at all major JR stations and travel agencies until March 31st, and is valid for use from March 1st until April 10th. For more information on periods of availability and other restrictions, click here.