Travel Tohoku With a JR East Pass

Go the distance with unlimited rides for any five days

 By Bridget Ye   Jul 22, 2016

Are Japan’s transportation costs causing you to hesitate visiting the country? Well don’t fret! The JR East Pass for the Tohoku area has you covered. Roam Honshu Island’s Tokohu region freely for any five days within a total period of two weeks on any JR East train. Additionally, why not also take a seat on the world-famous Shinkansen bullet train and watch the tranquil Japanese countryside whiz by, arriving at a new destination 700km away within only a matter of hours.

Overview

The JR East Pass for the Tohoku area is a special discounted pass available only to visitors holding foreign citizenship, and with a short-term “Temporary Visitor” visa that does not exceed a total stay of 90 days in the country.

Unlimited travel is possible for any select five days within a two week (14 days) period beginning on the first chosen day of use. A stamp will be placed on the Pass by station staff for each day the Pass is used.

The Pass enables users unlimited travel in ordinary cars on all JR East local, limited express, and express trains in the designated JR East Pass region (Tohoku Area), which covers major stations including Tokyo, Sakudaira, Sendai, Yamagata, Akita, and Shin-Aomori.

Holders of the JR East Pass (Tohoku Area) are also welcome to take the Shinkansen bullet trains.

The JR East Pass is an incredibly valuable deal that promises fast and easy travel throughout the Tohoku region. The Pass can help pass holders save up to ¥15,000 off the regular round-trip transit fare from Tokyo, in the south of the designated area, to Shin-Aomori, all the way in the north.

Purchasing your pass

The JR East Pass for the Tohoku region can be purchased either overseas from outside of Japan, or domestically at one of many select locations.

JR East Passes (Tohoku Area) for adults, individuals 12 years and older, are ¥19,000 for overseas purchases and ¥20,000 for domestic purchases. Passes for children 6 to 11 years old are ¥9,500 for overseas purchases and ¥10,000 for domestic purchases.

Please note that the starting date, the day you collect your JR East Pass (Tohoku Area), of the two-week valid period for the Pass cannot be changed once you have selected a date of issuance. Ensure that you have planned your trip beforehand to accommodate for the two weeks that you will have your Pass.

Purchasing Overseas

Overseas purchases may be made via a travel agent or online on the JR East website. Regardless of the method of purchase, you will be required to first obtain an Exchange Order e-ticket. Please ensure that you have requested the correct JR East Pass that covers your desired destinations, as there are two different passes under the name of JR East Pass, one for the Tohoku region and one for the Nagano/Niigata region.

For purchases through a travel agent, you will receive your Exchange Order on the day of purchase. For purchases via the JR East website, your Exchange Order will be emailed to you. Please print out a copy of your Exchange Order prior to your departure to Japan.

Upon arrival in Japan, bring your Exchange Order to an exchange location (please see below for specific locations) along with your passport for verification. Once all documents have been approved and your eligibility confirmed, you will then receive your JR East Pass (Tohoku Area) and you can start taking JR East trains and Shinkansen to travel Tohoku!

Purchasing Domestically

Bring your passport and sufficient money to the JR East Travel Service Center at any of the select exchange and sales locations, including Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, Haneda Airport International Terminal, Narita Airport Terminal 1, and Narita Airport Terminal 2-3. A complete list of exchange and sales locations can be found here.

Using Your Pass

Your JR East Pass (Tohoku Area) is adhered to a page in pamphlet. Please do not remove the Pass from its page, as this will render it invalid for use. As the Pass is non-transferable, you are required to fill in your identification details, which include your name as it appears on your passport, your telephone number, and your passport number. These details are written in the space above the Pass, and you may be asked by station personnel to present your passport for verification purposes when you enter or exit a train station.

With your JR East Pass (Tohoku Area), you can enter any JR and Shinkansen stations without purchasing a ticket from the ticket machine, but because you do not have a ticket, you cannot pass through the automated gates. Instead please refer to the staffed counters on either the left or right side of the automated gates. Show your pass to an on-duty staff member, who will place a stamp with that day’s date on your Pass if you do not already have one, and proceed into the station.

A Few Things to Consider

It does not hurt to make seat reservations. With a JR East Pass (Tohoku Area), you can make reservations free of charge, either at a JR Ticket Office or Travel Service Center in most major JR East stations, or online. Reserving a seat is highly recommended, as trains during rush hour are busiest, and available seating will be very limited without reservations. Trains operating for long-distance journeys will similarly be reserved quickly. It is also important to note that many trains do not have non-reserved cars, so reserve a seat at least one week before your departure just to be safe, or you will have to endure standing on the train for hours.

On a more cheerful note, have a browse through JR's Joyful Trains. As a JR East Pass (Tohoku Area) holder, you can make reservations for any of these unique trains that operate in various locations throughout Tohoku. The Joyful Trains series offer customers a more exciting train-riding experience. Some trains, such as the Resort Shirakami and Resort View Furusato, have enlarged windows offering enhanced sightseeing opportunities. Others, such as the Pokémon You Train, FruiTea Fukushima, and Toreiyu Tsubasa trains, are themed for your pleasure and enjoyment.

Top Destinations From Tokyo Station

  • Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture: 1.8 hrs to Nikko Station
  • Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture: 2 hrs to Sendai Station
  • Hachimantai, Iwate Prefecture: 2.2 hrs to Morioka Station
  • Dewa Sanzan, Yamagata Prefecture: 3.5 hrs to Tsuruoka Station
  • Aomori, Aomori Prefecture: 3.3 hrs to Aomori Station

Itterasshai!

Now off you go on an exciting adventure in Japan with your JR East Pass. Tohoku awaits you!

Written by Bridget Ye
Japan Travel Member

Join the discussion

Justin Velgus a year ago
A great way to enjoy Tohoku! The largest city, Sendai, is closer than Kyoto.