Tag Archives: japan

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.


Welcome to Densha de Japan!

Ah, the first post. Breathe her in.

To be honest, this isn’t my first time to write a blog. I used to write one a few years ago about coming to Japan. Unfortunately, that never seemed to materialize…but yet, 4 years later, I thought I finally have enough interesting stuff to talk about.

And that folks, will be about the Japanese Railway System. -fanfare-

Ughghghghghghggg...

 

But why? How have I become a 鉄ちゃん (tecchan=railway fan)?? Well, I grew up and lived in Southern California for 24 years. Anyone who’s ever been there knows that you can’t get anywhere without a car. Sure, there’s a Metro through Downtown LA and also some trains that run north and south to and from San Diego. But it’s not efficient! If you’re looking to get somewhere quickly, using your car is the way to go…but even getting to your destination quickly isn’t guaranteed with all the traffic. And then there’s the mess of trying to get onto the right freeway and….ugh, sweet jesus.

Let’s get back on topic. So, I came to Japan, carless, and had to rely on public transportation for the first time in my life. It was at THAT MOMENT that I fell in love with trains. Of course, the bullet train is a technological marvel…having the ability to whisk people away at 300 km/h ON TIME. But I also came to rely on local trains a lot. Their rails network nationwide connecting you to huge metropolitans like Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, but at the same time burrowing deep through the Japanese Alps and it’s countless lush, green, beautiful forests. Looking out the window of a train, staring at the woods, I can’t help but wonder if Totoro is in there somewhere. Millions of people use the train everyday, and for good reason. It’s fast, efficient, safe, and relatively cheap…sometimes. Continuing on…

Why a train blog?

Well, I figured this: theres already TONS of blogs in English about different aspects of Japanese culture such as anime, Japanese ramen, Pokemon, maid cafes, AKB48, English teachers who hate their students, animated tentacle sex, Japanese bento boxes, weird stuff sold in convenient stores, and of course, crazy Japanese inventions.

 

Oh, that last site never gets old.

With that being said, I can not find a comprehensive train blog in English. Sure, some sites have nibbles of information here or there, but nothing where I can be like, WOW THAT WAS HELPFUL AND ALL IN ONE PLACE. I suppose that goal was left for someone like me. And I’m willing to take on the challenge…if you’re willing to read of course. And if not, that’s cool too.

So, let’s explore Japan together, by train. I know you wanna. Besides, where else could you find shit like this:

 

Is this even real?


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