(original photo by Takeshi Kuboki; CC BY 2.0)

Inter-city Travel by Rail

Express and bullet trains (shinkansen) allow you to travel long distances in a short time period. Unlike ordinary cars, they charge a fee in addition to the base fare. These trains may carry first class (“Green”) cars with more spacious seats. Seats are either jiyu-seki (, Non-Reserved) or shitei-seki (, Reserved). Seat reservation fees vary by season and by type of train, but are free with certain tourist passes. Limited express trains are often referred to by special names (“Azusa” or “Cassiopeia,” for example).

In Tokyo, Shinkansen heading to northern Japan, including Nagano, Niigata, Yamagata, Akita and Hokkaido, depart from Tokyo Station and Ueno Station. Shinkansen heading south and west towards Kansai depart from Tokyo Station and Shinagawa Station.

See also: Railway System for details about train categories.

Passes for Tourists

The following passes are convenient for temporary visitors to Tokyo, and are sold at airports.

Unlimited rides on all JR East trains including the Shinkansen. Passport required for purchase.
Price: : Adults 22,000 Yen / Children 11,000 Yen for flexible 5 days
Unlimited rides on all JR trains in the Kanto area including the Shinkansen and express trains. Passport required for purchase.
Price: : Adults 8,000 Yen/3 days, Children 4,000 Yen/3 days
This is a great deal for non-residents (foreigners on a “temporary visitor” status). It can only be purchased outside of Japan. The pass allows you to travel on any JR trains, including the bullet trains (except Nozomi), as much as you like during the specified period. The price varies depending on the duration of your pass and your seat class.
For budget and leisurely travelers, a ticket package called “Seishun 18” offers 5 days of unlimited rides on all JR lines, limited to travel on regular cars (local and rapid) only.
Price: : 11,850 yen (five days worth of travel for only 2,370 yen per day)
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