11 different routes from Tokyo offering huge discounts.
The tourism industry in Japan came to a screeching halt earlier this year with the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, as pretty much the whole country stayed home for both cherry blossom season and the Golden Week vacation period, two of the spring’s busiest travel periods.
Things aren’t looking much rosier for the Obon celebration in early August, when people in Japan traditionally take a week off from work to go back to their home towns (or, if they feel like they’ve already seen enough of their relatives lately, go somewhere else). But Japan Railways has faith that eventually people will be able to travel again, and when they do, the rail operator wants to make it easier on their wallets with massive 50-percent-off discounts for Shinkansen bullet train tickets.
The deal is being offered by East Japan Railway Company, also known as JR East, the division of Japan Railways that connects Tokyo with the Tohoku, Joetsu, Hokuriku, and Yamagata Shinkansen lines that stretch north and northwest from the capital. Travelers taking the following Shinkansen trains between August 20, 2020 and March 31, 2021 will be able to purchase their tickets for half-price.
● Hayabusa: To/from Tokyo Station and Morioka (Iwate Prefecture)
● Hayabusa: Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station (Hokkaido)
● Yamabiko: Tokyo and Fukushima
● Nasuno: Tokyo and Nasushiobara (Tochigi)
● Komachi: Toyko and Akita
● Tsubasa: Tokyo and Shinjo (Yamagata)
● Toki: Tokyo and Jomo-Kogen (Gunma)
● Tanigawa: Tokyo and Niigata
● Asama: Tokyo and Nagano
● Kagayaki: Tokyo and Kanazawa (Ishikawa)
● Hakutaka: Tokyo and Itoigawa (Niigata)
The most expensive one-way fare on that list is between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, which ordinarily costs 23,230 yen (US$217), meaning the discount saves you 11,620 yen, since JR East is generous enough to round down when calculating the price of the half-off ticket. Even the least-expensive tickets, to/from Tokyo and Nasushiobara or Jomo-Kogen, become 2,910 yen cheaper, which is a nice chunk of change to have added to your budget for seeing the local sites and enjoying regional delicacies.
While they may not represent the same level of potential savings as JR’s multi-day unlimited-use rail passes, these discounted tickets are excellent options for travelers who won’t be bouncing back and forth across the whole country, and are instead looking to take one or maybe two side-trips while spending a lot of their time in Japan in Tokyo. If that sounds like the sort of trip you’re planning, the half-off Shinkansen tickets, which are being offered as part of JR East’s Tabi ni Deyou (“Let’s Go on a Journey”) campaign can be purchased through its Eki Net online ticketing service, and must be reserved between 20 days and one month ahead of the date you intend to ride on.