Edited March 2021
Spring is just around the corner… which means that Sakura-Cherry blossom season will start soon! As you may already know, there are many places you can visit to enjoy Sakura viewing – “Hanami” in Japan. People all over the world hope to visit Japan to enjoy such beautiful spring scenery. This also means that the costs of traveling sharply increase because of the high demand for transportation and accommodation. All plane tickets and accommodation prices rise up so fast that sometimes they are even impossible to afford.
But still, we all want to enjoy Japanese traditional Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) culture right?
In this article, I am going to tell you about 3 ways of how to travel cheaper in Japan when your budget is limited.
Taking long distance buses
If you are from a country where everyone drives their own car everywhere, you might feel hesitant about taking a long-distance bus. But this buses in Japan are completely different from the ones from your country.
They make brief stops every few hours for people who need some fresh air. If you want more personal space, you can choose ” the 3 seat bus”, which only has 3 seats per row, with a space between each seat, instead of 4 seats. Those luxury seats usually have a big “shades” which make your seats look like a capsule hotel (even includes a blanket and a pillow).
There are many choices. Most of the long-distance buses leave late at night and arrive early in the morning at their destination. It’s perfect if you can make a head start on the traveling schedule while sleeping overnight on the bus.
The bus fare varies depending on how far and when you are traveling, however, you pay only half price compared to Shinkansen (bullet train) on average.
Here’s a website where you can search different bus routes and prices. Make sure you book in advance if you want a cheaper ticket.
Using the Kinken (ticket) shops
In Japan, there are a lot of Kinken(Ticket) shops that sell all kinds of tickets for a discounted price. Tickets sold at Kinken Shop include ones: concerts, amusement parks, museum exhibitions and many other events. People use these shops for getting discounted train tickets.
These shops purchase coupon/multiple-trip tickets from train companies and sell them by one to the customers. With JR multi-trip deal, you get 11 tickets for the price of 10.
For example, the usual JR train fare from Tokyo to Kamakura is 920¥ while discounted rate would be 850¥. Usually, one person doesn’t need all tickets so that’s why it’s convenient for people to buy them from Kinken shops.
JR does not sell multi-trip tickets for Shinkansen (non-reserved) so if you would like to travel by Shinkansen, the cheapest way is to purchase the normal fare for the non-reserved seat. You might have to stand when it’s overcrowded if you don’t reserve a seat. If you want to make sure that you’ll get to take a seat on your Shinkansen ride, I recommend you buy the ticket for a reserved seat from one of the Kinken Shops.
You should know that most of the JR multi-trip tickets cannot be used for these periods as below:
from April 27 – May 6
August 11 – 20
December 28 – January 6
Using Japan Rail “Seishun 18 Kippu”
If you are traveling a relatively short distance and have time to spend riding on JR local (non-Shinkansen) trains, then the cheapest way is to use the “Seishun 18 Kippu”, literally translated as “Youth 18 ticket”. Even though the name contains words like Youth and 18, there’s no age limit and it can be used by anyone. This is a seasonal ticket only sold and can be used for a limited time of the year as below (for 2021- 2022):
Available for purchase: 20 Feb 2021 – 31 Mar 2021
Available for use: 1 Mar 2021– 10 Apr 2021
Available for purchase: 1 July 2021– 31 Aug 2021
Available for use: 20 July 2021 – 10 Sep 2021
Available for purchase: 1 Dec 2021 – 31 Dec 2021
Available for use: 10 Dec 2021 – 10 Jan 2022
Those tickets might cost up to 12,050 yen and contain 5 tickets.
A single ticket (2,410¥) is valid for one calendar day and you can ride as many JR trains as possible as long as they are JR local and rapid trains. You can use some express trains by paying extra but not the Shinkansen. Those 5 tickets can be used by 5 people traveling together or one person can use it for 5 calendar days. Since all 5 trips are printed on a single ticket, it cannot be split among people traveling to separate destinations. If you are traveling by yourself and don’t need all 5 trips, you can visit the Kinken Shop and buy or sell the used ticket. If you just want 1 trip, buy the one that’s been used 4 times already. If you buy the full ticket, just use it for 2 days and when you don’t need it anymore, you can sell it to Kinken shops as well.
Sometimes it is nice to enjoy riding local trains. It would be a great chance for you to observe authentic Japan.
For the detailed information and rules regarding how to use the ticket, please refer to this website: https://www.jreast.co.jp/multi/en/pass/seishun18.html
There are many ways to travel within Japan without paying for the overpriced tickets, especially in the popular tourist season. However, cheaper options sell out fairly quickly. Make sure that you book them fast. Although it’s also important for you to do lots of research before purchasing your tickets and planning your trip well. Some discounted tickets have complicated rules which can be very inconvenient for you if you are not aware of it. If you want to travel cheaper, you have to pay the “price” by putting more time and effort into the research and planning.
I hope that these tips will help you experience my beloved country and discover unique Japanese culture.
SATOMI T / JAPAN