Limited-time pass offers huge discounts on train travel in and around Tokyo.

Japan’s tourism industry has been under significant strain this year, with latest figures from the Japan National Tourism Organisation recording just 8,700 foreign arrivals in August, compared to 2.5 million in August last year.

With international tourist numbers hitting record lows, the central government has been actively encouraging Japanese residents to travel throughout the country with special “Go To” discount campaigns. Now, East Japan Rail (commonly known as JR East) is getting on board with a proactive campaign of their own to help the flailing industry, and this offer is available only for foreigners.

The JR Group (to which JR East belongs) is already well-known for their Japan Rail passes, which offer discounted train travel to foreign passport holders with tourist visas. These passes usually can’t be used by foreign passport holders on more long-term visas, though, which means foreigners residing in Japan for work or study have to pay full-price when using trains like the high-speed Shinkansen to travel around the country.

Now, for the first-time ever, JR East has created a Rail Pass for all foreign passport holders in Japan, regardless of their visa status. Called the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020, the new discounted travel ticket allows foreigners in Japan to enjoy unlimited travel on all JR East trains in Tokyo, Tohoku, Nagano, and Niigata, including the Shinkansen.

▼ The areas covered by the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020

As the above image shows, pass holders will be able to travel from Tokyo right up to the very northernmost tip of the main island, stopping off to enjoy famous specialties like sake in Niigata, apples in Aomori, and soba noodles in Nagano. There are also plenty of famous tourist sites on the trail, including the beautifully atmospheric Ginzan Onsen, Jigokudani Monkey Park, where snow monkeys bathe in hot springs, and Matsumoto Castle, the oldest five-tiered, six-story castle tower remaining in Japan.

▼ Matsumoto Castle contains original structures dating back to when it was first built in 1594.

The JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 costs 12,000 yen (US$113.55) for adults and 6,000 yen for children, and is valid for use on three consecutive days. Given that a return trip to Aomori Prefecture on the bullet train usually costs approximately 35,500 yen (US$335.95), the pass is incredibly good value for money, even if you buy two of them to give you six days of exploring Honshu’s northernmost regions.

The pass will only be offered for a limited time, with the sales period running from 16 October to 26 February 2021, and the validity period extending from 16 October to 28 February. The pass can be purchased online from 16 October.

Source: East Japan Railway Company
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Insert images: East Japan Railway Company

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