We all love the Shinkansen, but extended journeys by bullet train can get expensive (unless you qualify for the Japan Rail Pass). Isn’t there a cheaper way to see Japan?
For three magical periods during the year, the answer is yes: the Seishun 18 Ticket.
What Is the Seishun 18 Ticket?
The Seishun 18 Ticket is valid for five days’ worth of unlimited, “hop-on, hop-off” travel on the following forms of transport:
- JR local (futsu or kakueki) and rapid (kaisoku) trains, in regular carriages with non-reserved seats
Note that this specifically excludes express (kyuko) trains, limited express (tokkyu) trains, and the Shinkansen
- JR BRT (“bus rapid transit”) service along the Sanriku coast
- JR Miyajima ferry
- A few other connecting services, sometimes with additional fees
The Seishun 18 Ticket costs ¥12,050, which comes to ¥2,410 per day. The five days don’t need to be used consecutively, and the ticket is fully transferable. People traveling together can also share the same ticket.
For example, a five-person group could use one Seishun 18 Ticket for a day trip together. Or a four-person group could use it for a day trip, and then could give it to a different friend to use a week later. (But since the ticket is a physical object that can only be in one place at once, the four-person group and their friend couldn’t use it for different journeys on the same day.)
Note that, although the word seishun means “salad days” or “springtime of youth,” there’s no age requirement. Anyone of any age can use a Seishun 18 Ticket.
When Is the Seishun 18 Ticket Available?
The Seishun 18 Ticket is only available for purchase and use at specific times of year. As of writing, those times are:
- Spring (March 1 to April 10)—on sale February 20 to March 31
- Summer (July 20 to September 10)—on sale July 1 to August 31
- Winter (December 10 to January 10)—on sale December 1 to December 31
* Dates are subject to change. Please check JR's website for the latest information.
Why Would I Want to Buy a Seishun 18 Ticket?
If you’re time-rich but money-poor, the Seishun 18 Ticket might be just what you need.
For example, taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Sendai takes 1.5 hours and costs around ¥11,000 yen. You can make the same journey using one day’s worth of a Seishun 18 Ticket, at an effective cost of ¥2,410 . . . but you’ll be riding local or rapid trains for 7 hours.
Of course, this also comes with a certain flexibility. Unlike the Shinkansen, the Seishun 18 Ticket lets you hop off multiple times along the way to see the local sights. Or you could split the journey over two days and spend the night in Fukushima along the way. Even if you could afford the Shinkansen, the Seishun 18 Ticket lets you see more of the sights between the cities and enjoy a more leisurely journey.
How Can I Plan a Seishun 18 Ticket Journey?
Simple—let JapanTravel by NAVITIME do it for you.
In the JapanTravel app, tap Route at the bottom to open Route Search. Enter your desired start and end points plus travel dates, tap Tourist Pass and Seishun 18 Ticket, and then tap Search. The app will present a list of Seishun 18 Ticket–friendly options. (There are similar search options on the JapanTravel website.)
Incidentally, for the purposes of the Seishun 18 Ticket, a “day” lasts from midnight to 11:59 p.m. If you board your first train at 10 p.m., you can only use your ticket for two hours—probably not enough time to get your money’s worth. And if you happen to be still on the train at 11:59 p.m., your ticket is only valid to the next stop. Keep this in mind when planning your trip, especially if it involves any late-night travel.
How Do I Buy a Seishun 18 Ticket?
The ticket isn’t available from the standard ticket vending machines, but it can be bought from the special machines that sell Shinkansen tickets. If using the English interface, look under Discounted tickets.
You can also buy a Seishun 18 Ticket in person at the Green Window (Midori no Madoguchi) if your station has one.
How Do I Use a Seishun 18 Ticket?
Although the Seishun 18 Ticket is printed on the same magnetic-backed paper as other pre-IC-card tickets, you can’t run it through the automatic turnstiles. Instead, just show the ticket to the attendant in the window on your way in and out (remember, if you’re traveling in a group, you all have to travel together.)