JR Central and JR West have announced the launch of two special rail passes exclusively targeted towards foreign tourists, both of which can be purchased starting July 1st.
The Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass is an upgrade over its predecessor (which is available until June 26th) - although more expensive by 3,000 yen, the pass now also covers the area between Takayama, Kanazawa, and Toyama, and newly includes Kansai Airport.
For 13,500 yen (half price for children aged 6-11), pass owners are granted 5 consecutive days of unlimited travel on JR trains from Nagoya to Toyama and from Kansai Aiport to Kanazawa, on Shinkansen trains from Kanazawa to Toyama, and on buses from Kanazawa to Takayama and from Shirakawa-go to Shin-Takaoka. Furthermore, pass holders are also allowed up to four free reservations on limited express trains (excluding the Shinkansen and Haruka Express Trains).
With this pass, tourists can access a variety of popular destinations such as big cities Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyoto, the beautiful Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, the World Heritage Site Shirakawa-go, and renowned hot springs such as the Gero Onsen and Kaga Onsen, for a significant discount.
The Ise-Kumano Area Tourist Pass allows tourists unlimited travel for 5 consecutive days on JR trains from Nagoya to Toba and Kii-Katsuura, as well as on certain buses within the Mie Kotsu and Kumano Kotsu bus operating areas, for only 10,500 yen (half price for children aged 6-11) - much cheaper than buying single tickets each time. Furthermore, pass holders are also allowed up to four free reservations on limited express trains.
The Area Tourist Passes will be available for purchase online or at certain overseas travel agencies; they can only be purchased by non-Japanese passport holders with a "short-term stay" visa, who will receive an exchange ticket (MCO). Once in Japan, they can exchange the MCO for the rail pass at designated JR stations (Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Osaka, Komatsu, Kanazawa, Toyama).
Official Website (contains maps of coverage area)
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Intern at JapanTravel & rising 4th year (senior) at the University of Virginia. 3/4 Japanese and 1/4 Australian; born and currently live in Yokohama. My favorite spots in Japan (aside from Yokohama) are Hokkaido, Okinawa, and Tochigi, but hopefully someday I'll get to visit all 47 prefectures.