Seishun 18 Kippu: the Little-known Alternative to JR Pass
Affordable Train Tickets in Japan
The Seishun 18 Kippu, or JR Seishun Jû-Hachi Kippu (or S18K) for "youth 18 ticket", is a train ticket for unlimited rides over 5 days on the JR company’s local and rapid trains, all over Japan. With a very competitive ¥12,050 (~US$81.51) cost, its use is nevertheless limited to a few specific times of the year.
Despite the JR Pass being the best transportation deal in Japan for sightseers, it is not necessarily suitable for all travelers in the archipelago. Besides the iconic Tokaido Route, Japan has many other ways to travel to lovely places. That is where the Seishun 18 Kippu comes in handy, a lesser-known but as rewarding pass than the JRP, at least on the budgeting side.
Contrary to what its name may suggest, the S18K is purchasable by any traveler, regardless of their age or visa, and even by children. Japanese citizens are also eligible, unlike the JR Pass that is restricted to foreign visitors. In the same way, it offers free train trips, over 5 flexible days.
Benefits and validity
The main benefits of the Seishun 18 Kippu in comparison to the Japan Rail Pass are:
- Its low price, ¥12,050 (~US$81.51), to compare to the ¥29,110 (~US$196.90) for a 7-days JRP;
- The 5 days of use that are not necessarily consecutive, more precisely 5×24h (from 12 a.m to 11:59 p.m., or the train’s arrival hour at destination if later in the night);
- It is not limited to one person and can be shared between several travelers on the same trips.
In practice, the S18K is a 5 tickets booklet, that can be used for example by 5 travelers on the same train, or by 1 traveler on 5 different trips for an unlimited time. Holders must show the ticket to the train staff at the station, it can not be used in the automatic gates.
While benefits are interesting, the Seishun 18 Kippu is limited by 2 main conditions of use. First, it can not be used on the fastest trains ((Shinkansen 🚅 and limited express), but is valid for the other local and rapid JR trains, the JR rapid buses, as well as on the ferry ⛴️ to Miyajima. As usual Hyperdia and Japan Travel by Navitime are useful tools when planning itineraries in Japan. Moreover, it is not possible to order the pass from overseas, but it is purchasable in most of JR stations throughout Japan.
Lastly, the S18K is valid only over a few specific time periods that coincide with touristic seasonal peaks:
- In spring, from March 1 to April 10 (sale from February 20 to March 31)
- In summer, from July 20 to September 10 (sale from July 1 to August 31)
- In winter, from December 10 to January 10 (sale from December 1 to 31)
The date may vary each year according to the Japanese school holidays. For more details on the pass, check the official website (see our Learn More section below).
Our advice on whether to buy the S18K or not
The Japan Rail Pass is undoubtedly very advantageous, starting by a fast payback (such as on the usual Tokyo-Kyoto round-trip). Moreover, it allows to travel with the Shinkansen, which the S18K does not.
However, before ordering, and if you are planning an original trip or trying to travel more locally, you may consider the Seishun 18 Kippu, which makes a 1-day train travel amount to an unbeatable ¥2,410(~US$16.30) fare!
With this price comes a less touristy Japan, more quiet and probably more authentic, without the need for speed or modernity.
That is what the Japan Railways is promoting in beautiful advertising campaigns, with pictures you can see in our gallery below.