Category Archives: Rail Passes

The Gala 1-Day Ticket

(NOTE: ALL information is for the 2011-2012 season!)

Living in or around Tokyo and looking to get some winter action done this season?

You’re in luck as you have access to well over 100 different ski resorts littered throughout Niigata, Nagano, and Gunma Prefectures. However, getting to a resort can cost well over ¥15,000, and that’s just in transportation costs. That’s not including lift tickets, board/ski rentals, etc.

That’s where the Gala 1-Day Ticket comes in.

all within reach!

With the Gala 1-Day Ticket, it includes:

  • Round-trip Shinkansen from Tokyo to Gala-Yuzawa Station (via the Joetsu Shinkansen Line)
  • 1-Day lift ticket for Gala-Yuzawa Ski Resort
  • 10% off rentals

…all for ¥12,200.

If you were to purchase the Shinkansen tickets and lift ticket separately, it would come to ¥18,300, saving you at least ¥6,100. Also, if you board at a station other than Tokyo Station, the price gets cheaper further along the Joetsu Shinkansen.

For example:

From Omiya Station – ¥11,100. Kumagaya Station – ¥10,100. Takasaki Station – ¥8,700. Also, if you purchase the ticket from an automated ticket machine rather than buying from a staffed window, it’ll save you an extra ¥300!

Trains for Gala-Yuzawa leave at least twice an hour and the trains home are just as frequent.

As for Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort itself, it’s not a bad place to go skiing. From train platform to ski lift takes no more than 2 minutes (EXTREMELY convenient if you bring your own gear), and there are plenty of facilities available to guests, including restaurants throughout the resort, locker rentals, a LARGE changing area, and even a hot springs. It’s also one of the higher resorts in the Yuzawa, so the snow tends to stick around a bit longer than the neighboring resorts. There’s a high speed gondola provided at the main building and the resort has plenty of quad and triple lifts to get throughout the entire resort with ease.

However, the ease and convenience of Gala-Yuzawa Ski Resort has its costs. Because they’ve made it TOO easy for Tokyoites to visit, it’s one of the most crowded, especially on weekends!! Lines to get on the lift can get long, and it makes the lunchtime rush a little unbearable, especially if you’re starving. Also, there isn’t as much variety as some of the other resorts, such as Naeba or Happo-one in Nagano Prefecture, but it’s enough if you’re just doing a day trip.

All-in-all, it’s a good price for a one-day trip. If you’re looking to do a weekend trip, there are plenty of specials that the local hotels or inns can offer that also include lift tickets. If you need help looking, don’t be afraid to leave a comment below, and I promise to respond quickly!

Finally with any train ticket report, are the fine details to help plan your trip better.

  • Price: ¥12,200 on weekdays, ¥13,200 on weekends (from Tokyo Station. Half price for children
  • Type: One-Day Shinkansen Pass plus lift ticket. Getting on/off at stations not ticketed for is not allowed.
  • Purchase Locations:
    • Automated ticket machines that also sell Shinkansen tickets
    • JR Ticket offices (Midori-no-madoguchi)
  • Purchase/Usage Period: December to April/May (depends when resort closes for the season)

Finally, JR East has provided a lot of useful links, all in English!, to help give a little more information (just in case I forgot anything!)

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GALA 1-Day Ticket – (English) Official JR East webpage about the ticket. Also gives information how it can be used in conjunction with the JR EAST PASS (if you’re an overseas traveller).

Gala-Yuzawa Ski Resort – (English) Official webpage for the ski resort. Includes detailed information about the resort, such as hours of operation, lift operation, weather/snow conditions and courses.

GALA日帰りきっぷ – (Japanese) Official JR East webpage about the ticket.

Snow Japan – (English) A great (if not the BEST) English-related webpage to snowboarding and skiing in Japan. Has detailed information about ALL resorts in Japan and is updated at least once a day. A great place to start if looking to hit the slopes this winter.


The Echigo Two-Day Pass

The Echigo Two-Day Pass (越後ツーデーパス – Echigo Tsū Dē Pasu) is an all-you-can-ride ticket that can be used on all local JR lines throughout Niigata Prefecture. It also covers Hokuetsu Railway’s Hokuhoku Line, a privately owned line running from the Yuzawa Onsen area to Naoetsu City along the Sea of Japan.

For ¥2500 (¥1250/children), it can be used for two consecutive days on local and rapid trains only. Shinkansen and Limited Express trains cannot be used with this pass.

There is a similar ticket called the Echigo One-Day Pass, which as the name suggests, can only used for one day.

A major difference between the two is the coverage area. The One-Day Pass is restricted to only the central and northern parts of the Prefecture, whereas the Two-Day Pass covers the entire prefecture. There are even some lines that allow you to trickle into neighboring Fukushima Prefecture for a few stops.

But is the pass worth it? I believe so.

First of all, many people don’t realize it, but Niigata is HUGE. In fact, it’s the 5th largest prefecture in Japan. If you were to travel by local train from Naoetsu in the south to Murakami in the north, that trip alone would take between 5 and 6 hours and cost ¥3260. If you really wanted to see most of Niigata and take your time, the Two-Day Pass is one of the most economical ways to do so.

In addition (I see it as a bonus, really), the pass also allows free bicycle rentals from many stations. So you can get off somewhere, rent a bike for free, ride around a bit, take a dip at a local hot springs (for example), and then reboard the train to your next destination. I don’t think Niigata Prefecture can be done in just one day, so this pass gives you the flexibility to explore a beautiful part of Japan at your own pace.

Details about the Pass are below:

  • Price: ¥2500, ¥1250 for elementary school students and younger
  • Type: Two-Day Free Pass
  • Purchase Locations
    • Most major JR stations
    • Automated Ticket Machines throughout Niigata Prefecture
  • Usage Period
    • Saturdays, Sundays, and National Holidays
    • Whenever schools are not in session (Spring Break, Summer Vacation, New Years Holidays, etc)
    • Calendar can be seen here: 2011/2012 Usage Calendar (2nd page)
  • Purchase Period
    • Anytime
  • Usable Areas
    • All JR Lines and Stations within Niigata Prefecture
    • Hokuetsu Express – Hokuhoku Line
  • Free Bicycle Rental Locations
    • Echigo Yuzawa Station, Urase Station, Gosen Station, Oguni Station, Shibata Station, Nakajo Station, Murakami Station, Arai Station, Takada Station, Naoetsu Station, Kashiwazaki Station, Higashi Sanjo Station, Kamo Station, Maki Station, Hokuetsu Express’ Tokamachi Station
    • Bicycle Rental Available from April 1st to November 30th

Finally, I’ve included a few links below to help you get started on sightseeing ideas whether it’s your first time to Niigata, or you live here. Enjoy!

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Niigata Travel Guide – A well done booklet covering tourism activities around the Prefecture. Also provides example itineraries. One of the most comprehensive travel guides (in English!!) that I’ve seen so far. Also appears to be new.

Enjoy-Niigata – From the same people who brought you the guide above.

越後ツーデーパス – (Japanese) The official page about the pass on the JR Company website


The JR East Japan Pass

The JR East Japan Pass (JR東日本パス – JR Higashi-Nihon Pasu), is a one-day all-you-can-ride rail pass.

For ¥10,000 (¥5,000/children), it allows pass holders to use ALL lines within the JR East system, including Shinkansen and Limited Express trains.

All this is yours. For one day. Photo - JR East

This pass shouldn’t be confused with the JR East Pass, which is a multi-day rail pass which can only be bought by overseas visitors to Japan. The JR East Japan Pass can be bought and used by anyone living in or visiting Japan.

Although it can only used for one day, there’s a lot of ground that can be covered in that period of time because of the ability to use Shinkansen trains.

For example, let’s say you live in Tokyo, and you want to do a day trip to Aomori, the ”crown” of Honshu. A one-way ticket from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori Station is ¥16,370 (already more than the price of the Pass). You take the first train from Tokyo at 6:28am, arriving at Shin-Aomori at 10:01am. From there, you visit some hot springs, sightsee around Aomori City, and eat some famous Aomori apples and scallops (hopefully not together). Finally, it’s time to go home. Pay another ¥16,370, board the last train bound for Tokyo at 7:33pm and arrive at 11:08pm. A long day, indeed…but doable.

Normally, this trip would cost you ¥32,740. But with the pass, just ¥10,000. A whopping 69% discount.

It’s the first time I’ve seen this kind of pass offered, and I definitely view it as way to boost tourism to most parts of Tohoku. Not only does it allow many people to see so many different places in Eastern Japan, but the price definitely can’t be beat. Even it you wanted to make it an overnight trip by buying 2 one-day passes for consecutive days, it’s still a great deal.

This pass is only available for a certain period and rules do apply. I’ll help break it down below:

  • Price: ¥10,000 for adults, ¥5,000 for elementary school students and younger
  • Type: One-Day Free Pass
  • Purchase Locations
    • Most major JR Stations
    • Automated Ticket Machines that sell ticket reservations
  • Usage Period
    • June 11-20, 2011
    • July 7-18, 2011
  • Purchase Period
    • May 11 – July 17, 2011
    • NOTE: Tickets MUST be purchased at least one day in advance!
  • Usable Areas
    • All lines within the JR East network, including Shinkansen lines
    • Aoimori Railway Line (Aomori Prefecture)
    • IGR (Iwate Galaxy Railway) Line (Iwate Prefecture)
    • Hokuetsu Express – Hokuhoku Line (Niigata Prefecture)
  • Reserved and Unreserved Seating
    • Most trains, like those that run on local lines are unreserved seating, meaning you can sit anywhere you please. With this pass, no additional ticket is needed. Some Shinkansen trains also have unreserved seating, so all you need is your pass.
    • Limited Express and most Shinkansen trains are reserved seating, meaning a reservation has to be made in advance to obtain a seat. Usually, a separate ticket and an additional cost. However, with this pass, it allows users to obtain up to TWO reserved seating tickets at no additional cost.
      • Example 1: Using the Tokyo to Shin-Aomori scenario above, the all trains running on the Tohoku Shinkansen are reserved, meaning there is no unreserved seating available. If I wish to ride this train, I’ll need a reserved seating ticket for the trip up to Aomori, and then an additional one for the trip back to Tokyo, thus using the two times permitted to obtain reserved seating. If I want to ride an additional train with reserved seating, I would have to purchase one this time.
      • Example 2: I want to go from Tokyo to Niigata using the Joetsu Shinkansen. Most trains on this line have both unreserved and reserved seating. I decided to board the unreserved seating section, meaning I don’t need an additional seating ticket and I can sit where ever I’d like.
  • Green Car and GranClass
    • Green Car (First Class seats) is an additional charge…and can be quite expensive.
    • GranClass (Super First Class) is only available on the Hayabusa (E5 Series), and also requires an additional, and expensive charge.
  • Changes, Cancellations, and Refunds
    • Changes to reserved tickets can be made one time at no additional cost
    • Unused tickets can be refunded, minus a ¥630 handling fee

Don’t let all the rules scare you, as it’s all a lot easier than it seems. All in all, its a great way to see a lot without having to dish out a bunch of money. So, what do you say? How does a trip sound?

Any questions about this pass? Need some sample itineraries? Time tables? Please let me know!
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JR東日本パス – (Japanese) The official page about the pass on the JR Company website.


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