By Daniel Vesey
On December 19th, 2015, the JR Tokyo Wide Pass replaced the JR Kanto Area Pass. Although slightly more expensive at ￥10,000 than the old pass (￥5,000 for children) it is still amazingly good value, and the area covered has been expanded.
What do you get?
3 consecutive days unlimited travel on JR trains in Tokyo and the surrounding areas. You can start using it as soon as you arrive in Japan to travel into the Tokyo metropolitan area. You can use it to travel on Shinkansen and Limited Express trains (there are a few exceptions). You can use it to visit many popular tourist destinations like Mount Fuji and Nikko. You can even use it to travel on some non-JR trains like Fujikyuko Railway.
Who can buy it?
Most Japan Rail passes are only available to temporary visitors, however the Tokyo Wide Pass is also available to people living in Japan as long as they hold a foreign passport. Even some temporary visitors may find it is the most useful pass to buy if they intend to use Tokyo as a base.
Where to buy and how to use?
You can only buy the Tokyo Wide Pass in Tokyo, from JR East Travel Service Centers at Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, Tokyo Station, Shinagawa Station, Ueno Station, Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station, Ikebukuro Station,Yokohama Station or Mito Station. You will need to show your passport and tell the staff which 3 days you plan to use it. You will receive a ticket attached to a folder. However you don't need to start your trip from one of these stations - any JR station is OK.
When you use the pass, don't try to go through the ticket gate. Present the folder to the staff at the ticket gate office. The fist time you use it, they will stamp the pass. You should carry your passport with you and show it if asked. After that, show your pass at the ticket gate office each time you go in or out of a station.
You can obtain a reserved seat ticket by taking your pass to a Travel Service Center of Green Window (Midori-no-guchi). There is no extra charge for a reserved seat.
Which train lines can you use?
You can use the Tokyo Wide Pass on all JR East lines including Sinkansen Lines (but not on Tokaido Line). You can also use it on the Tokyo Monorail, the entire Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit Rinkai Line, and the Saitama New Urban Transit Line (New Shuttle) – between Omiya and the Railway Museum. The Tokyo Wide Pass is also valid for travel on the Izu Kyuko Line (to Izu), the Fujikyu Railway to Kawaguchiko, the Joshin Dentestu Line, and the limited express trains between JR East Lines and Tobu Railway lines: the Nikko, the SPACIA Nikko, the Kinugawa, and the SPACIA Kinugawa. Also, the local trains (including rapid trains) between Shimo-imaichi and Tobu-nikko/Kinugawa-onsen Stations.
Where can you go?
Not only can you use the pass for getting around Tokyo, but it makes accessing Tokyo's neighboring prefectures easy. You can base yourself in Tokyo and take day trips to any of these great places...
Visit Kusatsu Onsen Town and soak in hot springs - if you can stand the heat! Visit Haruna Shrine, one of the most beautiful, atmospheric and impressive shrines I have ever visited. How about going rafting and canyoning in Minakami?
Visit fabulous Tōshō-gu, then spend the rest of the day wandering around the charming town of Nikkō. You could take a bus to Lake Chuzenji and check out nearby Kegon Falls which is probably Japan's most famous waterfall. You could also visit Kinugawa Onsen in Tochigi.
If you like bonsai, you'll definitely want to see Omiya Bonsai Village, and if you like trains there is a huge Railway Museum one stop from Omiya Station. If you don't mind a longer journey I can recommend Nagatoro as a great place to explore.
See Maizuru Castle Park and walk the Inishie-no-michi trail in Kofu. Go hiking in beautiful Shosenkyo Gorge, explore Lake Kawaguchi in the shadow of Mount Fuji and see the fairy tale Monkey Bridge in Otsuki. Go and pick your own peaches or grapes. Visit one of Japan's famous hot spring towns, Isawa Onsen.
One favorite summer getaway for trendy Tokyo-ites is Karuizawa in Nagano.
Explore the Izu peninsula with its beautiful beaches, shrines and temples and monkey park. There's also a gold mine where you can actually try gold panning, an orchid sanctuary, an alligator garden and some great hiking trails.
Yokohama is a wonderful area just a short journey from the center of Tokyo. The lights of Minato Mirai are beautiful at night. Yokohama Chinatown and the historic houses in Yamate District. Then there's Kamakura, where you could easily spend a satisfying day (or maybe evening?) visiting temples and shrines and just soaking up the great ambience that the area has.
Time to make a plan
With so many great places to go you'll probably have trouble deciding how to use your JR Tokyo Wide Pass!
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I came to Japan in 2003 to teach English. I lived in Shiga prefecture for one year, and it still holds a special place in my heart. I lived in Kyoto for nine years, then moved to Machida, Tokyo in 2014 after meeting my Japanese partner. I love to take photos, and my Japan in Pictures Facebook page has some 40,000 followers. I have been the Regional Partner for Yamanashi Prefecture since 2014. I am enjoying exploring the prefectures around Tokyo (I like to get off the beaten track), and I hope the photos and stories I share will encourage more people to discover this wonderful country.