You've probably heard of the Japan Rail Pass in the guise of the bullet-train option. It's a good deal, but only if you travel around a LOT on your trip to Japan.
For those of us that live here, or that want a more relaxed vacation, there are various other options.
One such is the JR Seishun 18 (or "Seishun juuhachi kippu" to give it's full name). The map to the right shows the coverage of this ticket.
Price: 11,500 yen
Duration: Five days (don't have to be consecutive)
Not only do the days not need to be taken together (so you could use it only for your longer journeys), but you can also share it with other people. For example, if you both use it on one day, it counts as two of your five days.
The ticket is valid for the duration of the season (see below), and you can even sell back unused parts of your ticket to the ticket office.
The ticket is only valid on local and rapid JR trains (including kaisoku night trains). This isn't too bad, but does mean that you may spend 4 hours getting somewhere which only takes one or less on the shinkansen (at 20% of the cost). I went all the way to Shikoku from my little town in Nagano, and because I had to use the JR Iida line (slowest train in Japan) it took 12 hours. A bus and shinkansen combo would have taken much less than half that but cost 14 times the price.
The train time site Jorudan is great for checking times, as it even has a search option just for this type of ticket (Japanese site only, so you'll need to be able to write or paste your destination stops. Reading the resulting info should be easy if you use our recommended Japanese browser plugins). Check the 青春18きっぷ検索 heading.
You can only use the ticket during certain times of the year (school holidays). They are:
March 1st to April 10th (must be purchased before 31st March)
July 20th to September 10th (purchase before 31st August)
December 10 to January 10th (purchase before 31st December
- Buy the ticket from the ticket booth on most JR stations.
- You will need to show the ticket at the gate every time you enter or leave a station (you cannot use the automatic ticket readers).
- It's fine to stop off for a few hours and continue the same journey later in the day (it won't use another stamp on your ticket).
- Details on the JR website.
- http://www.hyperdia.com/ will show you prices and times of bullet train and JR trains for comparison, as does the Jorudan site briefly mentioned above.