Monday, 22 March 2010

Seijun 18 Kippu: A youthful ticket

Spring has sprung. Cherry blossoms are starting to bloom. The end of the financial year looms. Schools and universities are on holidays. Seishun ju hachi kippu season is here again. During the three university holiday breaks - March, August and January - Japan Rail, in their munificence, issue 'seishun ju hachi kippu", or youthful 18 tickets. The various JR companies across Japan hark back to the days before they were split into separate regional entities and jointly offer the tickets. A ticket costs 11,500 yen (130AUD), and is valid for unlimited travel on any JR line in Japan, for any five days within a set six week period. ( You can see on the photo the space for each day of usage to get stamped.)  You can also buy (and sell) partly used seishun hachi tickets - i.e. with some of the spaces on the tickets used already -  from discount ticket shops for less than the face value.

Seijun juu hachi kippu typically appeal to people with lots of time, little money and an appreciation of "slow travel" and adventure. Shinkansen are fast and efficient, as are planes, and to some extent night buses too. Seijun juu hachi kippu are anything but; a trip from Tokyo to Hiro's parents takes 17 hours 14 minutes and 9 changes of train! A night bus is 1 bus direct and 8 hours. Shinkansen is 6 1/2 hours with one change to local bus / train, and a plane is 90 mins. Despite their efficiencey they share a common disasadvantage: lack of scenery. Although Shinkansen go through the countryside, the lines are built through relatively densely populated plains areas. Mountains are there to be tunnelled through.... and there is nothing very scenic about a tunnel.

I have been toying with the idea of a train adventure by seishun juu hachi kippu for years. Despite the daunting amount of in train time, there is something quaintly nostalgic about clanking along through mountains and farmland in an old three carriage train. The local lines go through scantly populated areas in the mountains of central Japan, as well as up the Japan Sea coast. This year I am determined to do it!
This year I have the advantage of time - no classes until mid April, and also Lily is living in Niigata - a perfect excuse for breaking up the journey - it's always good fun to spend time with the Yamashitas.   Also, making it easier, the Japanese train search engines now have a function to enable searches of only trains where the seijun 18 kippu can be used, a vast improvement on tedious searches of individual trains that may or may not have connections.

This is how the timetable is looking at the moment. A couple of long waits at stations, but it will give time to go out and have a wander around. I'm planning to come back through the mountains of central Yamagata.
The North bound trip will go something like this.
North bound.
Ueno Takasaki 5:13 to 6:55 102 minutes 101.4km
(15 minutes) @ Takasaki
Takasaki Minakami 7:10 to 8:13 63 min 165.6km
(11 minutes) @ Minakami
Minakami Nagaoka 08:24 to 10:18 114min
(20 minutes) @ Nagaoka
Nagaoka Niigata 10:38 to 11:53 75min 63.3km
■ Niigata - Niitsu
10:02 to 10:20 [18 minutes]
◇ Niitsu [22-minute wait]
Niitsu - Shibata 10:42 to 11:11 [29 minutes]
◇ Shibata [15-minute wait]
Shibata - Murakami 11:26 to 12:06 [40 minutes]
◇ Murakami [91-minute wait]
Murakami - Sakata 13:37 to 15:58 [141 minutes]
◇ Sakata [96-minute wait]
Sakata - Akita 17:34 to 19:38 [124 minutes]
◇ Akita 5 [31 minute wait]
Akita-Odate 20:09 to 21:54 [105 minutes]


Katsunori said...

How about take MOONLIGHT ECHIGO?
An overnight local train to Niigata from Shinjyuku.

That takes only less than 6H
But require 500y for reserved seat

Buy ordinary ticket
Akabane - Takasaki 1620y

then use 18 kippu after Takasaki

You may get the ticket around 1500y at discount shop.

Cecilia said...

Arigatou - you are the guru of seishun 18!
I looked at the Moonlight Echigo, and I'm set on going back to Sakata at some stage. For going to Niigata only it didn't make so much sense (had I been going further north it probably would have).
I didn't realise that you could the tix for the Takasaki part at ticket shops. The seishun 18 were discounted only 100Y in Ueno / Okachimachi :( . From memory the discount was better in Shinjuku - I will know better for next time.

Do the reserved seats on the Moonlight Echigo sell out quickly?

The trip to Niigata was much less arduous than I expected... the trip back however..... a very long day. :)

Thanks very much.

Katsunori said...


Long time no see

You are good travel writer as well as photo grappler!
You should contact The Australian as hidden Japan writer.

>Do the reserved seats on the Moonlight Echigo sell out
> quickly?

----I guess so..A lot of train geeks take it who is always carry big timetable. You may seen the guy on the train??

>The trip to Niigata was much less arduous than
>I expected...
> the trip back however..... a very long day. :)

----Well It’s tend to more trains in morning and evening that is peek time. Usually they set for High school commuting time. Mid day are most less frequent trains.

Check many timetable site.. Each may be deferent result. Also try to search on shorter segments as possible.

I prefer Hyperdia. Use SearchDetails and only check on

Ordinary Train
Japan Railway(JR)

Ticket shop also sales leftovers such as 2/5 4/5 seishun 18 tickets and they send to sale cheaper when expire date come sooner.. Just like closing sale at supermarket.

Cecilia said...

You're very kind.
You are so right about the tettchan and their timetable books.
There weren't many people on the train from Minakami, but I was the only one in my carriage without one!
I'd like to go back to Sakata - they even have a free bike hire service for non locals. The Moonlight Echigo seems like a good option for it.
Even though it was school hols. there were lots of J/SHS kids on the trains - I guess club is a good way to keep them occupied and out of trouble. I didn't have much waiting time between trains but it seemed that there were very few rapid service on the Joban line in particular. Next time I will try searching for shorter sections - thanks for the tip.
I still have two usages left, this is the last weekend of it, so we are going to go to Kofu on Sat. I haven't really been to Yamanashi except to climb Mt Fuji. It's supposed to be quite pretty. If it seems like there is enough time we may go west of Yamanashi and come back throgh Takasaki.

I will check out ticket shops for part used ones in the future. It makes sense that they would be cheaper getting to the end of the season. At the beginning there was a big premium on one / two use tickets - maybe 6,000 for a 2 trip ticket.

I had assumed the tickets would have been cheaper in Okachimachi -Ueno area than in Shinjuku but it wasn't the case. They were only discounted by 100Y, I should have bought in Shinjuku where they were 300 yen reduced.
The ticke shops sell tix to Mori Art Museum / Tokyo Sky View for almost 50% off!

Cecilia said...

Katsu-san, Do you know what year the seishun 18 was introduced? I have googled it, and come up with the 80s but beyond that I know neither when nor why.
I guess why was to promote travel - I assume it came in before 87, when National Rail was split up into the various regional Japan Rails.

Katsunori said...

Seisyun18 was introduced 1982 so called seisyun 18 nobibobi kippu

Sorry I didn't have time now have to go bed..


Cecilia said...

Thank you :)