Seishun Juhachi Kippu Rail Pass 青春十八
Information on the discount Seishun Juhachi (Youth 18) JR rail ticket in Japan which allows discount train travel throughout Japan.
The Seishun Juhachi Kippu, literally, "Youth 18 Ticket," is one of Japan's best-kept rail pass secrets.
In spite of its name, there are no age restrictions on its use.
The Seishun Juhachi Kippu is perhaps the most interesting, and certainly the best value, way to travel on Japan's extensive rail network.
Seishun Juhachi Kippu Details
For 12,050 yen you get a single ticket entitling you - plus any companions - to 5 days of unlimited travel on all JR services including night trains but excluding limited express and shinkansen (bullet train) services. That's five separate 24-hour periods of travel on all local trains throughout Japan.
The ticket is stamped by railway staff for each day of use, i.e., up to five times.
You don't have to book when you want to travel, you just have to turn up to any JR station and get your ticket stamped with the date at the barrier.
When it comes to numbers of people, the Seishun Juhachi is very flexible. If there is more than one of you traveling, you can use the one ticket as long as there are enough unused days of the ticket remaining. Thus, on the one ticket, one person can travel for five days, 2 people can travel together for 2 days with one day left over, and so on, up to 5 people traveling together just for 1 day.
You can buy the Seishun Juhachi Kippu at most staffed JR station. The major disadvantage is that this ticket is seasonal: valid for only about a month at certain times of the year: spring, summer and winter, as shown below.
When using the ticket you cannot pass through automatic ticket gates but need to show your ticket to a member of staff.
Period On Sale Valid
Spring: February 20 - March 31 and March 1 - April 10
Summer: July 1 - August 31 and July 20 - September 10
Winter: December 1 - December 31 and December 10 - January 10
JR East Infoline
To plan your trip call the JR East Infoline (03 0423 0111). They have all the timetables at their fingertips and speak excellent English. They will be able to give you a number of alternatives to help you minimize your transfer time.
Of course, tourists are also eligible for the Japan Rail Pass which already entitles you to unrestricted use of nearly all JR services, including most shinkansen. The catch is that a 7-day Japan Rail Pass is more than twice the price, making the Seishun Juhachi Kippu an option well worth considering for the budget traveler.
Why it's worth using the Seishun Juhachi Kippu
Apart from saving you money on your transportation costs, there are other good reasons to travel with the Seishun Juhachi Kippu.
- You tend to meet more people, mainly Japanese students and foreign residents of Japan, doing exactly the same as you. This is especially true if you stay at youth hostels along the way.
- It encourages you to be more adventurous when planning your itinerary. Since you can't use the shinkansen, it is as easy to get to non-shinkansen destinations such as Kanazawa as it is to destinations served by the shinkansen, such as Kyoto, thereby giving you the perfect opportunity to get off the beaten track.
- Slow can be interesting! Many local trains take scenic routes through the countryside and along the coast. From Tokyo to Osaka, local trains give you a lot longer to see Mt. Fuji than the shinkansen!
Night trains are a great way to cover long distances when you are traveling on the Seishun Juhachi Ticket, with the added advantage that they leave you with the following day to explore your destination or continue your journey even further.
Of Japan's night trains, only the the "Moonlight" series of night trains can be ridden using the Seishun Juhachi Ticket.
Night train tickets need to be reserved at a cost of 520 yen per person in addition to one day (or two days: see "N.B." below) of your Seishun Juhachi ticket. Tickets go on sale at 10 am, one month before the day the train departs. You can reserve seats at the ticket offices of any major JR railway station. Reservations for the more popular routes (marked "*" below) sell out quickly, often within minutes of going on sale. You are therefore advised to line up in front of the ticket office before it opens as early as possible. (People are known to camp out from hours beforehand.) For more details call the JR East Infoline on 03 3423 0111.
Tokyo - Nagoya - Ogaki
Now a seasonal train running at busy periods of the year
Tokyo - Nigata - Murakami
Midnight* Hakodate - Sapporo
Kyoto - Osaka - Hakata (Fukuoka)
Kyoto - Osaka - Hiroshima
Kyoto - Osaka - Kochi
Was discontinued by 2010
Kyoto - Osaka - Matsuyama
Was discontinued in 2008
Kyoto - Osaka - Matsue - Izumo
NB. Because the Seishun Juhachi Ticket is valid from midnight to midnight, if you are starting out on your travels using a night train (which leaves only an hour or so before midnight) you need to do one of two things:
1. Buy a regular train ticket for as far as the first station where the train stops after midnight; (this is the cheaper option)
2. Use up two of your Seishun Juhachi tickets: one for the brief time between boarding the train and arriving at the first after-midnight station, the other for the rest of the new post-midnight day.
The Japanese rail system is second to none in the world for efficiency, as is attested to by what in any other country is the impossible feat of running the trains on time, all the time.