Getting around in Japan is very easy thanks to the country’s extensive public transit system. Japanese railways are some of the best and most advanced in the world. Since so many tourists come to the country, Japanese Railways has set up a foreigner-exclusive rail pass for the popular Kanto, Tohoku, and Hokkaido areas, the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass to make it easier for visitors to get around with less hassle.

What is JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass?

Two Hayabusa shinkansen trains at Shin Hakodate Hokuto Station, Hakodate. Photo Credit: chinnian at Flickr.

The JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass is a pass that can be used to board any valid route within a limited time period. It was created for use by tourists who have a limited time to see all the incredible things the Kanto, Tohoku, and Hokkaido regions have to offer. Pass holders can sit in all non-reserved Ordinary class cars. With this pass, there is no need to worry about buying train tickets for your particular train in advance. It allows for more flexibility during your visit.

Who can use it?

The JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass is only available to foreigners visiting Japan who have temporary visitor status. If you are visiting any of the areas it travels through, it’s a very good idea to purchase the pass in advance as a part of your travel preparations. Your travel agency can also help you set one up before you depart. Residents of Japan cannot use a JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass.

Where to purchase it?

You can purchase the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass online or inside Japan. Check out this link to see a number of purchase locations for the pass.

You can find places to purchase a JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass at major Japanese railway stations and inside airports. If you purchase it online, you will receive a voucher that will need to be exchanged for the actual pass at major Japanese railway stations or airports.

If you choose to purchase the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass in Japan, there is a limit of one purchase per person and stay. This limitation does not apply to purchases that are made while in other countries.

Route map of the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass. Photo Credit: East Japan Railway Company & Hokkaido Railway Company.

How much does it cost?

If a JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass is purchased online or outside of Japan, it costs 26,000 yen. If purchased in person in Japan, it costs 27,000 yen. Children aged six to eleven can get a pass at half off. Infants can travel free when accompanied. No green car version of the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass is available.

What is the period of use?

You can use the pass on six days of your choice within a fourteen-day period. The fourteen-day period begins upon the issue of the actual pass. The days are measured based on calendar days (midnight to midnight) instead of a clock. You do not need to decide on the dates of use in advance.

What are the valid train routes?

JR East’s Narita Express (N’EX) train is one of the easiest options for getting into Tokyo City from Narita International Airport. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

With a JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass, you can use any trains operated by JR East in the Kanto region (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi, and Ibaraki Prefectures), Tohoku region (Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata, Akita, Iwate and Aomori Prefectures), and the JR Hokkaido trains in southern Hokkaido (as far out as Sapporo). The pass can also be used on the Tokyo Monorail, which is the transport that connects Haneda Airport with central Tokyo. Another valid use for the pass is the BRT buses along the Sanriku coast.

The JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass can be used in select areas for all  JR East and JR Hokkaido trains. This includes including shinkansen except for Tokaido Shinkansen, which is a JR Central. You also cannot use the pass for limited express trains and local trains,with the exception of certain “liner” trains. You cannot use the pass for JR buses.

Some JR trains run partly on tracks owned by other railroad companies and pass-holders will have to pay the fare for the non-JR section of the trip. This can be done either at the station or on board the train.

Additionally, there are a few non-JR trains that you can use with the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass. These are:

1. Limited express trains between Shinjuku, Tobu-Nikko, and Kinugawa Onsen

2. Local trains between Tobu-Nikko, Shimo-Imaichi, and Kinugawa Onsen

3. Trains along the Izukyu Line between Ito and Izukyu-Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula

4. Trains along the Iwate Ginga Railway and Aoimori Railway between Morioka and Aomori

5. Trains between Sendai and Sendai Airport

It might be helpful to print out a map from the official JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass website to make sure you are planning your route out so you can use the pass. Pass holders can reserve seats for free; you’ll need to speak to a train station attendant to do so.

What are the purchase requirements?

You can use this pass to enjoy unlimited ride on Tokyo Monorail, one of the best ways to get to the city from Haneda Airport.

If you are a foreign tourist visiting Japan from abroad for sightseeing, under the entry status of “Temporary visitor” can only buy and use this pass. Please note that confirmation of the passport entry stamp is needed when making an exchange for or purchasing a JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass in Japan.

Visitors with duel citizenship in Japan and another country will not be able to use the pass if they enter Japan with their Japanese passport. The pass can not be purchased if the period of stay in Japan noted in the passport is shorter than the validity period of the pass.

Before you get to Japan, you can purchase the pass online if you choose. When you go to exchange your voucher for the pass itself, you will need to present your passport. On the other hand, you can also purchase JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass in Japan if you present your passport.

Keep your passport handy whenever you are using the pass, since officials may want to check it to ensure the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass is valid.

Since this pass can be used only on Ordinary cars. It is not valid for travel on Green Cars, GranClass, individual compartments, Liners or sleeper cars. If you wish to reserve a Green Car (First-Class) seat, you will be covered for the Basic Fare only and will have to pay the Limited Express and Green Car charges separately. The same thing applies for the Gran Class (Premium-First-Class).

What are the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass changes and refund policies?

Once you exchange your voucher, you cannot change the fourteen-day window of your pass. An unused voucher can be refunded for one year after purchase. No refunds are available after vouchers are exchanged for passes. Refunds will be charged a 15% cancellation fee. No refunds are available for lost and stolen passes. You cannot make any kind of reservation before buying the pass.

The JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass is a great way to see northern Japan. It’s simple to use and allows for extensive, hassle-free travel to some of the most famous and interesting tourist areas in the country. No need to worry about planning a route when driving roads in a foreign country or scrambling to buy train tickets for multiple trips. The JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass allows you to sit in comfort and take in the sights as you travel.