Japan: 626 km, Seishun 18, 10 local trains for about 12 hours of travel (one way). Yes, it was definitely an adventure.
The day after Christmas Eve, I left Tokyo for Kanazawa, to take part in an organized tour to discover the local gastronomy. Don’t be scared by my hours of travel. Kanazawa is not too far from Tokyo! With a Shinkansen in less than 4 hours, you can arrive fresh and rested at the central station.
Driven by the need to keep my expenses under control and from the desire to experience a bit of an adventure among the landscapes of this magnificent country, with a backpack. camera and lot of patience I left.
My transport: a total of 10 local trains, with related stops in isolated and small stations that you will never think of pass by.
One of the reasons why this trip was possible is thanks to the Seishun 18. It’s a train ticket that allows you to travel throughout the country using local and express trains (except those that require reserved seats). All in the most economical way available.
With 2,370 yen (less than 20 euros) per day, you can travel to any destination in the country. For example, you can go from Tokyo -> Kyoto, or from the extreme north to the far south, all with just one ticket and everything at the same price!
Like all the good things, there are however some limitations that must be taken into account.
It is not possible to buy a ticket for a single day. But the only option available is the “5-day package” (for a total of 11,850 yen). However, this is not a disadvantage because:
if you are traveling alone -> you can use the ticket for 5 days. Stopping and restarting during your journey.
if you travel with friends -> the ticket is not nominative. You can share it with those traveling with you or it can be used by more than two people at the same time (max 5). Remember that in this case, each person corresponds to one day. This means that if you are a couple, you can use the ticket for two days (and there will remain a reserve day). If the trip includes 5 people, the ticket can be just used by everyone in a single day.
Another fundamental point: everyone must travel the same route together at the same time!
In fact, created to encourage the Japanese to travel around the country and facilitate students to return to their families during holiday times without spending too much (“Seishun – 青春” means, in fact, youth), there are only 3 times of the year when this ticket is available.
Autumn -> from March 1st to April 10th
Summer -> from 20 July to 10 September
Winter -> from 10 December to 10 January
(I advise you to look at the official website to verify that there are no variations in the dates)
These days include the time frame in which you spend your 5 days traveling (they do not necessarily have to be consecutive days).
Remember that one day of travel is considered from midnight to 11.59pm.
The ticket is issued by JR and you can only use trains linked to this company. I advise you to organize your timetable in advance with the various stages in order to be prepared and to be able to understand which train is Jr or not.
Personally, to organize my travel, I used this site: www.jorudan.co.jp. It indicates clearly which are the JR trains, the departure and arrival times, the stations to stop and the tracks from which your train will leave.
In order to use this website, here some advice: How To Organize A Trip with Local Train Japan!
It was Yo who told me about this ticket, which I had never heard of before. The day before I left, I went to the station with a JR office closer to home (tickets cannot be bought online or at the machines). Whether you are a tourist or a resident, everyone can buy the Seishun 18, without needing to show any documents.
Once purchased, the second fundamental moment was the organization of the trip. Like I said before, the site to which I have entrusted was: www.jorudan.co.jp Unfortunately it is in the Japanese language (the English version requires to register for a fee), but if you want to give it a chance, it is not so difficult to use.
Once marked all the way, you just need to start your journey!
1-> Cold: I left Tokyo with its sun still autumn and I arrived in Kanazawa where there were at least two spans of snow on the road. During the trip you will stop at small stations where there is not a warm waiting room and, if you are traveling in winter, you will have to wait for the next train under the snow. I advise you to dress comfortably and well padded and to buy some warming bags before leaving (you can find it in the supermarket or conbini)
2 -> Snack: not all stations have a small conbini in which you can buy a snack for the trip, or between a train and the other, you will not have time to buy something to eat. So I recommend you buy an Onigiri or an Ekiben (Travel Obento) before leaving! Just in case!
3 -> When writing your itinerary, do not forget to also transcribe the Kanji (Japanese characters) of each station you are going to stop. In case you need to ask for help, our Western pronunciation is often difficult to understand. If instead, you show the Kanji of the station where you have to someone, they will be able to help you more easily.
The trip with the Seishun 18 was a wonderful experience. From your train window, you will see large cities, endless expanses of rice fields and small country villages. You will coast the sea and you will suddenly find yourself facing Mount Fuji. You will observe sunny landscapes and you will see the first snowflakes descending.
That said, enjoy the journey and live with your own eyes the incredible landscapes that this country has to offer!
Have a nice trip!
Ele & Yo