When summer is in full swing, I long to get out of the big city and into the beautiful Japanese countryside. Usually that's when I jump on my bicycle, but if my chosen destination is too far, or the weather is just too hot, or I want to go with non-cycling friends, there's a special JR deal that is “just the ticket”!
Seishun 18 Tickets were originally introduced with university students in mind, and they are a convenient and economical way to travel on Japan Rail. For ￥11,850 you get a ticket that gives you 5 days of travel on JR trains or buses and also the Miyajima ferry. You can get on and off the train as many times as you want. Although you can't use them on special express trains or bullet trains, they are really useful for the following reasons.
You don't have to use the ticket on consecutive days
If you just want to go on day trips at the weekends, that's fine. You can spread your 5 days over 5 weekends. You could also travel to somewhere, stay a few days, then go somewhere else. It means you can enjoy your travel without trying to cram in as much as possible so you don't waste the ticket.
Two or more people can share the ticket
This means couples or groups can split the ticket and the cost between them, meaning you can enjoy a day out with friends for a very reasonable price. If you prefer solo travel, you can still split the ticket with friends, and go to your separate destinations on different days. However if the ticket is used by more than one person at one time, they must be traveling together.
Anyone can buy them
You don't have to be an 18 year old student to buy a Seishun 18 Ticket. You can be an 80 year old grandmother, a business man or a tourist, a Japanese or a foreigner, no problem. You won't be asked for your passport or any other identification.
You can get a refund for unused tickets
If you don't manage to use all five days of your ticket because you break you leg or something, you can get a refund, minus a small service fee.
How to buy
You can buy Seishun 18 Tickets at any JR station between the following dates:
Spring: February 20 to March 31
Summer: July 1 to August 31
Winter: December 1 to December 31
You can buy Seishun 18 Tickets from the ticket machine, but unless you read Japanese that might be a bit tricky, so it's best to ask for help. Say to the attendant “Seishun Juu-hachi kippu o kudasai”. These dates could be adjusted, so best to check the Japan Rail website.\
How to use
When you want to travel, present your ticket at the window, and the station attendant will stamp it once for each person traveling. For the rest of the day, you just need to show your ticket each time you pass through the ticket gate.
You can use Seishun 18 Tickets during the following periods:
Spring: March 1 to April 10
Summer: July 20 to September 10
Winter: December 10 to January 10
I used Seishun 18 Ticket in spring, to visit Nikko, and Kofu, Isawa Onsen Town and Saruhashi. A few years ago when I was living in Kyoto I used it to visit Kurashiki, Hiroshima and Miyajima. Unlimited travel on Japan Rail trains, buses and the Miyajima ferry for just ￥2,370 per person per day is pretty amazing, and by riding local trains away from the normal tourist trails you can see a very different side of Japan than the one that whizzes past on the bullet train. Use Hyperdia to plan journey times and transfers, and enjoy the ride!