The JR Kanto Area Pass feels like the cheap rail pass that JR forgot about. While all the unlimited travel passes are only available to foreign tourists, this particular pass is open to anyone with a foreign passport – I even purchased one using an expired passport.
So what’s the deal? Unlimited travel within the greater Kanto area for 3 consecutive days on ANY JR train – including the Shinkansen – for 8,300yen. Kids get the pass for 4,200yen.
If you’re stuck in the sweltering heat island of Tokyo, this is the ideal pass for a weekend away or for a quick circuit of some of the slightly far flung (and cooler) points of interest in the Kanto region.
So how far can you go? To the north, you can go as far as Kinugawa Onsen, just to the north of the sightseeing hotspot of Nikko. Heading south, you can get as far as Izukyu Shimoda on the Izu peninsula. Also within reach is the resort town of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture as well as Jomo Kogen in the township of Minakami in Gunma Prefecture.
While not as big a winter attraction as the ski fields in Nagano Prefecture (sadly out of reach with the pass), Minakami still boasts 9 different ski areas.
Shiraito Falls, near Karuizawa. Just looking at this photo will make you feel cooler.
Although there are cheaper ways to get around (highway bus and the Seishun 18 Kippu to name a couple) the Kanto Area Pass saves you plenty off the regular fares and gets you there a lot faster than a bus. A return trip to Jomo Kogen with the pass will save you 3,520yen, to Nikko the saving is 2,860yen, to Karuizawa you’ll save 2,480yen and to Izukyu Shimoda you’ll save 2,940yen – all without even using the middle day of the pass or taking any side trips.
Passes can be purchased at View Plaza branches at major JR stations (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Shinagawa, Ikebukuro, Tokyo etc.) but be sure to take passports for all the people for whom you’ll purchase a pass. At the same time as purchasing your pass, you can also reserve seats on the trains that you plan to take, so there’s no need to activate your pass and then scramble for the free seating carriages.
So grab the Kanto Area Pass, get out of Tokyo and go where the road (or Google Maps) leads you. Even here there’s mobile coverage.
Guest Contributor: Tokyo Cheapo