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Willer Express - Inexpensive Highway Bus Reservations in English

The JR East Welcome Rail Pass is a temporarily available rail pass for non-Japanese passport holders which provides three days of unlimited travel in the the service area of JR East. The pass was originally intended for visitors of the Tokyo 2020 summer games, but with the games postponed and the borders virtually closed to tourism due to the coronavirus, the pass was repurposed to encourage foreign residents of Japan to resume domestic travel activities.

Available from October 16, 2020 to February 28, 2021 for only 12,000 yen, the pass is the best valued rail pass to go on sale since the Japan Rail Pass. It can provide huge discounts for trips from Tokyo in the directions of the Tohoku Region, Nagano and Niigata. It allows travel at uniquely low costs, especially when combined with discounted lodgings through the Go To Travel campaign.

JR East Welcome Rail Pass
Adult (age 12+)
Child (age 6-11)
12,000 yen
6,000 yen

Below is a simplified map of train and bus lines that can be used with the pass:

Validity

  1. Unlimited use of trains operated by JR East, as shown on the map above, including shinkansen (except Tokaido Shinkansen, which is operated by JR Central), limited express trains and local trains (except some "liner" trains). The Hokuriku Shinkansen is covered as far as Joetsu Myoko Station.
  2. Unlimited use of the BRT buses along the Sanriku Coast.
  3. Unlimited use of the following non-JR trains:
    • Aoimori Railway
    • Iwate Galaxy Railway (IGR)
    • Sanriku Railway
    • Shinano Railway
    • Echigo Tokimeki Railway (between Myoko Kogen and Naoetsu)
  4. Seat reservations can be made for free. Note that up to six reservations can be made at ticket machines, but no limits apply to making seat reservations at manned ticket offices.
  5. The pass is not valid on the Tokyo Monorail.
  6. The pass is valid on three consecutive days. The validity of the passes is based on calendar days (midnight to midnight) as opposed to 24-hour periods. The starting date of the pass is selected at the time of purchase and needs to be within one month of the purchase date.
  7. Only non-Japanese passport holders can use the JR East Welcome Rail Pass. It cannot be used by Japanese nationals.
  8. The pass can be used between October 16, 2020 and February 28, 2021. Purchase is possible through February 26, 2021.

Points of Sale

The JR East Welcome Rail Pass can be purchased at selected major railway stations in the service area of JR East, including several major stations in Tokyo. A non-Japanese passport has to be presented at the time of purchase.

Assessment

Available for 12,000 yen, the JR East Welcome Rail Pass is one of the best rail passes ever offered. It pays off for virtually any round trip made between Tokyo and Nagano, Niigata or the Tohoku Region, and it is only slightly more expensive than a regular one way ticket from Tokyo to Sendai. Note that for travel within the Kanto Region and immediate surroundings, the Tokyo Wide Pass is a little bit cheaper.