I’m writing today to tell you about another Japan Railways “rail pass,” in particular about my recent experiences using the Seishun 18 Ticket
(青春１８きっぷ). As for why there have been some Japan-related posts lately, well– I’ve been in Tokyo for a couple of weeks.
What is the Seishun 18 Ticket?
In short, the Seishun 18 ticket is a cheaper version of the JR Pass that is only available during three different times in one calendar year:
|Ticket Validity Period||Dates Tickets are on Sale|
|March 1 – April 10||February 20 – March 31 (Late Winter to Early Spring)|
|July 20 – September 10||July 1, 2022 – August 31 (Summertime)|
|December 10 – January 10||December 1 – December 31 (Late Fall to Early Winter)|
The idea behind the Seishun 18 Ticket stemmed from the early 1980s, when the younger folks at the time (seishun・青春・せいしゅん means youth in Japanese) were opting more for road trips than rail trips. Japan Railways started heavily marketing towards that demographic, particularly during the super busy holiday time known as Golden Week.
Eventually, its use for holiday periods was dropped in favor of three different times of the year, which conveniently includes cherry blossom season in much of the country:
Or, would you rather eat cherries? Then visit Yamagata during the summer:
Indeed, it’s also great for trying out local foods, hitting up those places you might otherwise not have planned without an unlimited* type of rail pass, and to appreciate the usefulness of the Japanese rail system.
O.K., so What is It?
Basically, anyone can buy the Seishun 18 Ticket once in Japan; this goes for visitors, residents, and Japanese citizens alike. The most recent price was ¥12,050, which is the same for children and adults.
I mentioned above the unlimited aspect of this ticket. Well, let’s put it another way — you can take any JR train that also has unreserved seating anywhere in the country, plus hop aboard the JR West Miyajima Ferry to reach the “floating” torii gate:
It’s the rail pass for rail fans who have the time to explore Japan, simply enjoy Japanese trains, and/or like stopping to see what hyperlocal souvenirs are available at each station.
In other words, don’t even think about hoping on a bullet train, or an express, or a limited express. The Seishun 18 is only for 普通 (futsuu/regular) and 快速 (kaisoku/rapid) trains.
And by only, I mean there are a few exceptions on both JR and non-JR trains. Even though Japan Railways, aka JR, is the elephant in the room, there are a number of other private railway lines all over the country. For more details on the exceptions, visit this page.
How do I Use the Seishun 18 Ticket?
Here’s where we get a big pro, a pro, and a big con.
The big pro is that you can use it on any five days during the validity period; in other words, it doesn’t have to be consecutive days.
The pro is that you can share it with others. For instance, you and your friend want to take a day trip from Osaka to Okayama, and you personally have already used the Seishun 18 Ticket three times. For when you take that day trip with your friend, that will count as days four and five.
Alternatively, let’s say five you of you want to go roundtrip between Osaka and Hiroshima for the day. You can all use the one ticket to go on the same day … of course, once that day ends, your ticket is no longer valid (since each person using it counts as a “day.”)
The con comes with actually using the ticket at the station. You can’t simply tap it/slide it through the ticket gates; rather, you have to show it to a station master at their booth.
Why is this a con? It’s inefficient; depending on the time of day, there could be a crowd of passengers with their own plagues/issues du jour trying to seek help from the station master. (is the sarcastic thinking behind it, you’re already taking the slowest trains, so you’re not in a rush?) It’s not therapeutic.
Figure this– to start off using the ticket each day, the station master has to stamp it on that particular day:
Fine, that’s reasonable.
But, every time you want to use the Seishun 18 Ticket, you’ve got to show it to someone in that booth. It can become a cluster* very quickly.
Oh, and many stations don’t have any employees conspicuously working at them, or at them at all. For example, one day, I ended up at the Kita Itami station, north of Osaka:
It’s a local JR station, but no one was around. I had the ticket, but I also had to shove my way through the gate, buzzer and all, to access the platform. Not so fun. (To be fair, these types of stations are much less likely to be on the average tourist’s itinerary)
Bonus (if you can read Japanese)
Since first discovering the website a few years ago, many of my train trips through Japan have been planned using Jorudan.co.jp. There is a wonky English version, but Jorudan naturally does it well in Japanese (link to the Google App version, which is called Japan Travel Planner).
Better yet, Jorudan even has a Japanese version specific for those planning train travel with the Seishun 18 Ticket. After having just used it last week, it broke down train times, wait times, platforms, delays (and why they were delayed), and maps. Very practical.
The Seishun 18 Ticket is a fun way to get around if you have the patience for it, and again, if you really like Japanese trains.
Coming from a country where the national passenger rail service is a joke (i.e. the U.S.), I was never much of a rail fan. That all changed when I started to travel around Japan. Besides the sheer breadth of local train service, there are also trains for budding gourmets (link in Japanese), liquor lovers, and of course, manga fans:
Have you ever used the Seishun 18 Ticket?