For Foreign Nationals, an Unlimited 3-Day Pass From JR East (Shinkansen Included!)


If you’ve been keeping Tohoku on your bucket list but have been deterred by time or cost, then here’s a gentle nudge from JR East. The new “JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020”, available for a limited time for foreign nationals, offers three days of unlimited train rides, including Shinkansen and limited-express, for only 12,000 yen!

The Tohoku region, representing the northeastern arm of Japan, may be out of the way compared to Japan’s most populous cities and most famous tourist sites, but it absolutely pulls its weight when it comes to sightseeing. The island of Matsushima in Miyagi, for example, is one of Japan’s Three Great Views, while Hiraizumi is a castle town rich in history and a World Heritage Site. Beautiful, luxurious onsen dot the landscape, all the more soothing in this region’s cold climate, and when it comes to food, Yonezawa beef is one of Japan’s Three Great Beefs, while gyutan (beef tongue) is a Sendai specialty. The Welcome Rail Pass allows you to explore this rich region at historically low prices—read on for all the details!

Tadami Line running on a railroad bridge
ほくそにうむ / PIXTA

The pass costs 12,000 yen (6,000 yen for children) and is available only to those with non-Japanese passports. The unlimited rides apply to JR East’s entire network, which includes not just the Tohoku area, but also the Tokyo area, Niigata, and Nagano as well. The pass must be used over three consecutive days, and it even provides for reserved seats on express and Shinkansen trains, which are normally more expensive.

The Welcome Rail Pass will be sold between October 16, 2020 and February 26, 2021, and you can use it between October 16, 2020 and February 28, 2021. During this period, it can be purchased on the WAmazing website (not yet open), or in-person at a handful of major JR East stations (full list here). Here is JR East’s official English website for this pass.

hirosaki castle fall foliage
Sean Pavone /

How much of a steal is 12,000 yen? For context, a one-way Shinkansen trip on reserved seats is 6,020 yen from Tokyo to Karuizawa, 10,760 yen to Niigata, and 11,410 yen to Sendai. Even a round-trip to Karuizawa, a relatively close destination, is cheaper with the pass, even without taking into account other trains you might take over those three days!

It’s a bargain even compared to JR’s other passes! For comparison, the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku Area) is 20,360 JPY for five days of unlimited travel, and the JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata Area) is 18,300 JPY, also for five days. The Welcome Rail Pass may cover fewer days, but it is less expensive even on a per-day basis, and combines the coverage areas of the two existing passes.

Ginzan Onsen in the snow

Need some ideas for where to go with the JR Welcome Rail Pass? Our sister site Tsunagu Japan has countless articles about the Tohoku region, its destinations, and its special events, but here are six to get you started:

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.