JR KYUSHU RAIL PASS: Now Available for Expats in Japan!
What is JR KYUSHU RAIL PASS?
This pass allows the user to inexpensively travel around Kyushu by ridding the local and limited express trains, as well as the Shinkansen (bullet trains). Moreover, you can even make seat reservations for free (only) at the ticket office before you board.
Originally, when you buy a one-way train ticket from HAKATA to OITA, it will cost 8,110 yen. However, with the JR Kyushu Rail Pass, you just need to pay 9,500 yen and you could take advantage of it for 3 days!
NOTE: Since Kokura is part of Sanyo Shinkansen, which is run by JR-WEST, the bullet train between Hakata and Kokura aren’t included in the pass.
Furthermore, even though you could only purchase JR Kyushu Rail Pass up to March 31, 2022, you can still utilize it until May 2nd (3-day pass) and May 4 (5-day pass).
Where is Kyushu?
Kyushu is in the southernmost part of Japan and it consists of Northern Kyushu (Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Oita, and Saga), Southern Kyushu (Kagoshima and Miyazaki), and Okinawa Prefecture. When you take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hakata Station (Fukuoka), it will take 5 hours and by plane it’s 2 hours.
This southernmost region is abundant in beautiful beaches and has 25 volcanoes, making it prone to tectonic events! But at the same time, Kyushu is gifted with the most notable hot spring (onsen) towns in Japan, like Beppu, Ibusuki, Kurokawa, Unzen, etc.
Purchasing JR KYUSHU RAIL PASS
The JR Kyushu Rail Pass costs from 9,500 to 20,000 yen— the price will depend on which area (all Kyushu, Southern, Northern) or how many days (3, 5, or 7 consecutive days) you’ll choose. On top of that, kids ages 6-11 have a 50% deduction and some facilities give discounts/freebies when you show this pass.
With regards to acquiring this ticket, only foreigners living in Japan are eligible to purchase it, thus the buyer needs to provide his/her passport. And unlike the previous JR Kyushu DISCOVER Rail Pass, you can only buy the new pass at the Kyushu station ticket office.
For the list of where you can locate a ticket office near you and other information, check out the JR Kyushu Rail Pass website.
NOTE: At the time my husband and I bought this pass for our Kagoshima trip, we purchased it the day before we travel. You can buy the ticket on the day you want to use it, but it might take time to process. For us, it took more than 15 minutes.
Some staffs might not know much about the JR Kyushu Rail Pass, hence they need time to check some information. Thus, I highly suggest buying it in advance to make sure you have enough time to make it on your ride.
And about how we bought our JR Kyushu Rail Pass, we just told the staff about it. We were then handed out a form to fill out and after that, we handed our passports. A couple of minutes later, the staff gave back our passports, printed out our tickets, and explained how to use them.
Using JR KYUSHU RAIL PASS
Don’t hide your passport yet, because the one who bought the JR Kyushu Rail Pass is the only one allowed to use it. That’s why you might be asked for your passport whenever you use this pass.
As for seat reservations, you can only book them at the Kyushu station ticket office. Plus, there are no limits on how many times you want to make seat reservations.
NOTE: For those who are wondering if our passports were examined at the ticket gates, the answer is NO. Even when we ride the limited express trains, the staff just take a quick look at our pass. However, just to be safe, take your passport with you at all times.
Plan your trip wisely
Even though that JR Kyushu Rail Pass is economical, there are more affordable ways to travel around Kyushu. You could ride the bus, boat, cheap flights, or look for different special low-cost rail pass like JR’s Seishun 18 Kippu. All you need to do is start your research and draft the itinerary that will fit your budget.
So here are some tips that can guide you to decide, whether to buy the JR Kyushu Rail Pass or not.
1. Calculate whether or not using JR Kyushu Rail Pass for your trip is cheaper or not
There are still many places that are not accessible by train in Kyushu because it’s either in a very secluded place (e.g. on an island or up in the mountains) or the line is closed due to damage caused by natural disasters.
For example, in Kagoshima, the train schedule is not as frequent as in Tokyo. Some stations have 1 train or bus once every one or 2 hours. Furthermore, many of its tourist sights are only reachable by car.
So, for those who are thinking of ONLY traveling around Kagoshima, going there by plane and renting a car is a more affordable option. When you book early, the cheapest roundtrip flight from Tokyo to Kagoshima is around 12,000 yen, from Fukuoka it’s 18,000, and from Osaka, it’s 10,000. Then, renting a car for a day in Kagoshima costs about 7,000 yen.
On the other hand, if you’re a Kyushu resident and you don’t mind taking your time, or you want to explore more than one prefecture, then the JR Kyushu Rail Pass is a really good deal.
2. Research what you want to do/see
This will help you decide, whether the JR Kyushu Rail Pass could help you cut costs or not. There are tons of vlogs/blogs and Instagram Japan-travel accounts that could help you create your trip agenda.
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However, when you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to plan trips, you can just look into JR Kyushu Rail Pass’ website. It offers several itineraries which can give you an idea of what to do, to visit, or where to stay at.
3. What website to use
Researching in this period is very easy, all thanks to the INTERNET. All you need to do is Google it, but to make it easier for you, here is a list of these sites:
There are several rental companies available around Kyushu, but Toyota has the most user-friendly English (also in Korean, Thai, and Chinese) website. You could check the price and vehicle available in the branch you are planning to rent a car without entering a flight number. On some sites, you need to provide this info to be able to browse it.
In addition, Toyota has wonderful and fast service, especially when you already filled up the form online.
It’s a great page to compare the prices of the transportation that is available for your destination.
This is a helpful tool to know the distance of the places you want to visit from each other, plus how long will it take you to get there on foot, by mass transit, or by car. With this, you could decide which mode of transportation is best for you.
- JR Kyushu Rail Pass
Of course, for more detailed information about this ticket, visit its official page.
- These are the Travel Support Websites of each prefecture in Kyushu
You could indeed save a couple of bucks by using the JR Kyushu Rail Pass, especially when you are targeting to visit more than one prefecture and places that are accessible by trains.
NOTE: My husband and I’s trip to Kagoshima was spontaneous. After knowing that Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke used Kagoshima’s Mossy Forest as a reference, my husband immediately wanted to go there before the typhoon season starts.
This forest is located in Yakushima— one of the biodiverse islands of Kagoshima, which also doesn’t have trains.
We didn’t even think about the JR Kyushu Rail Pass until the expensive prices of airfare shocked us. This caused us to get the ticket and change our itinerary. We first travel around Kagoshima’s mainland with the JR Kyushu Rail Pass, then ride a boat to Yakushima and rent a car.
All thanks to JR Kyushu Rail Pass, we were able to visit Kagoshima on a whim.
Have you ever tried any cost-effective train or bus pass in Japan? Comment down below!
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