The JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass is an interesting new pass that has opened to celebrate the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen line. It allows unlimited travel on all JR (national rail) trains from Tokyo and Yokohama in Kanto all the way up to Otaru and Sapporo in Hokkaido, via Tohoku. Highlights in between include the Kakunodate, Sendai, Hakodate and Nikko. The pass includes the use of Shinkansen (bullet) trains and limited express trains.
The pass is a flexible 6 day pass.
What does it cost?
Purchased outside Japan: Adults 26,000 yen (about $220), Children 13,000 yen (about $110)
Purchased in Japan: Adults 27,000 yen (about $230), Children 13,500 yen (about $115)
When can I use it?
Is it worth it?
It is quite a distance that this pass covers, but as it is flexible this pass could be used for a 1-2 week long trip. Doing single Shinkansen, or even super slow normal train tickets, would be far more expensive. An advantage over the Japan Bus Pass is that the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass covers a wider area and many more locations, all the way up to Otaru. The 5 day Japan Bus Pass is cheaper though, so if just going to some major cities nearer to Tokyo this may be better.
What are the rules?
- For use only in Hokkaido, Kanto and northern Japan.
- Can also be used on Izu Kyūkō lines, all Tokyo Monorail lines, all Aoimori Railway lines, all Iwate Galaxy Railway lines and all Sendai Airport Transit lines. Also usable on Tobu express trains to Nikko.
- Only available to people with Tourist Visas,
- When riding a Shinkansen train with the pass, you need to reserve seats. This can be done at the Shinkansen ticket office of any JR station with Shinkansen services.
- The flexible option must be used on any 6 days in a 14 day period.
Where can I buy it?
You can purchase at a travel agent in your home country (Japan specific ones are best, such as JTB or HIS), which is cheaper. You can also purchase or at a major train station in Japan.
How do I use it?
Activating a JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass differs according to who you buy it from, so check with the company you purchased from. You are usually given a slip which you then take to a major JR train station, then exchange for a pass (you will need to show your passport). You can exchange at major stations such as Sapporo or Tokyo station, as well as major airports.
Once you have your ticket, just show it to the station staff at the ticket gates and they will let you in. They will sometimes stamp the pass.