For every time you've wanted to go inside a train station but not actually take a train anywhere, JR (as well as many private lines) has got you covered. The name of the ticket is the 入場券 (nyujouken), the "entrance ticket," or in perhaps more fitting English, the "platform ticket."
The ticket is a way for people to meet and send off friends and loved ones just a little farther into the journey than the station's entrance wickets. It's not a big practical difference, except perhaps in the case of a young child or a friend like mine who wasn't used to Japan, but for some, the sentimental value is worth the few extra yen spent.
And just how much does that sentiment cost? Usually the 入場券 for a local train station will run from 100 to 150 yen. Shinkansen platforms also have 入場券, and again each station has leeway to determine its own platform ticket price. But even a shinkansen platform ticket will rarely exceed 200 yen. My last one was 220 yen, but Tokyo is just 130 yen, Osaka 120 yen, and Nagoya 140 yen.
Aside from seeing off friends, the platform ticket allows you access to the shops located within the station. Usually there isn't a big difference in the souvenirs sold there from the ones sold just outside, but occasionally there's a special or popular store exclusive to the inside of a station.
I also met someone who claimed that every time he went to Shinagawa from his home in Western Japan, he'd just buy the 入場券 and then shoulder his way through a crowded wicket at the exit station, getting himself an almost free ride for a route that should have cost him 14,000 yen or more. As I got to know that guy a bit better, though, I realized most of the stories he told were just that. When I once traveled with him to Tokyo, he bought all his tickets as usual. :)
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