The Seishun 18 is a budget ticket for unlimited travel on local trains in Japan for a period of 5 days. It can be shared, and used by anyone.
Table of contents:
Introduction to the Seishun 18 Ticket
We often get asked, should I get the Japan Rail Pass or a Seishun ticket? As there is no direct answer, we will explain what the Seishun 18 Kippu is, who the benefits and restrictions are and how it compares to the JR Pass. In addition to some personal usage tips from our Japan experts.
The Seishun 18 Ticket (青春18きっぷ,) fully written as Seishun Juhachi Kippu and translating as youth 18 ticket, or more poetically “springtime of life” ticket and is meant for the younger generation in Japan to explore the country and make beautiful memories during their holiday periods. There is however no age limit and anyone can buy the ticket. The ticket is sold during the 3 main holiday periods in Japan, and can’t be used year round.
The entire JR rail network in included, and is valid on local and rapid train service. That does mean that the Shinkansen bullet trains, Limited express trains and private railways can not be used. We will now explain the details below, including usage,
sales periods, and what it is like to travel by local train in Japan.
When is the Seishun 18 Kippu on sale, and when can it be used?
Photo (c) Newsliner, CC BY-SA 2.5 via WikiCommons.
The ticket is on sale 3 times per year, these are:
- Period of use: March 1 to April 10
- Period of sale: February 20 to March 31
- Period of use: July 20 to September 10
- Period of sale: July 1 to August 31
- Period of use: December 10 to January 10
- Period of sale: December 1 to December 31
The Seishun 18 Kippu includes 5 coupons of travel, these can be used at any day within the validity period (for instance July 20 to September 10 during summer). Each coupon is valid for a full day (midnight to midnight) and can be used and shared by multiple people. For example, you could buy the Seishun 18 Kippu for yourself and travel 5 days, or travel buy the Seishun 18 Kippu with a group of 5 and all travel one day, or any variation thereof.
How does the Seishun 18 Kippu compare to the Japan Rail Pass
The entire conventional JR Network nationwide can be using the Seishun 18 Kippu. That basically means any local or rapid train service operated by the JR Group. For an entire overview of lines covered, please refer to our JR Map. On the map, any green line is included.
There are some additional lines included that can either be used for free, or for a discounted additional fee. These are:
Shinkansen and Ltd. Express Trains:
- For travel between Honshu and Hokkaido, an additional ticket called the "Seishun 18 Kippu Hokkaido Shinkansen Ticket" is required for 2490 yen. This allows travel on a non-reserved seat on the Hokkaido Shinkansen between Okutsugaru-Imabetsu (Honshu) and Kikonai (Hokkaido) stations. This additional ticket also includes travel between Kikonai and Hakodate stations on the South Hokkaido Railway.
On limited express trains using a non-reserved seat:
- Between Aomori and Shin-Aomori
- Between Shintoku and Shin-Yubari
- Between Sasebo and Haiki
- Between Miyazaki and Miyazaki Airport
- The Aoimori Railway between Aomori, Noheji and Hachinohe stations. This is if you want to access the JR Ominato Line to the Shimokita Peninsula and the JR Hachinohe Line. It is however now allowed to embark or disembark on any station on the Aoimori Railway without having to pay an additional fare.
- The IR Ishikawa Railway between Kanazawa and Tsubata stations, for travel to the JR Nanao Line bound for the Noto Peninsula. Here too, getting off is not permitted.
- The Ainokaze Toyama Railway between Toyama and Takaoka stations. For onward travel to the JR Himi Line and JR Johana Line. Same applies here for getting on or off at any of the stations in between.
What is it like to use the Seishun 18 Kippu - A personal account
"I’ve used the Seishun ticket on multiple times, during my student days and after. Overall they are font memories, like transferring on local stations you’d otherwise never visit - and local trains are a great way to see part of the Japanese countryside - you’d otherwise simply would not see. It’s also great to do distances like Hiroshima - Kyoto, or Kyoto - Kanazawa for as little as 2,410 yen!
At the same time, it certainly is not for everyone. Local trains have little comfort and with more people using the ticket, you have to be quick to secure a seat or risk standing. You’ll likely be tired at a full-day spending on the train. The upside is that due to everyone using the same ticket, you get to chat quickly with other travellers. As a student it allowed me to see parts of Japan, I’d otherwise would not have had the resources for at the time."
How does the Seishun 18 Kippu compare to the Japan Rail Pass?
It is hard to make a direct comparison, as both tickets target completely different audiences. The Japan Rail Pass is only for visitors from abroad with a temporary visitor (tourism) visa. While the Seishun 18 Kippu is targeted at students during holiday periods. If it came down to a simple comparison in price, then the Seishun 18 Kippu is the better choice economically, yet there is so much more to both tickets. Like trains included, duration, the option to travel Green Class (first class), eligibility and window of availability.
For us the bottom line and biggest difference is that Japan Rail Pass includes Shinkansen and Limited express trains, with free seat reservations. That is a whole different level in terms of travel time and comfort compared to local trains. Especially if you are on a visiting trip to Japan with limited time. This would apply to over 98% of visitors to Japan. That said, the Seishun 18 Kippu is a fantastic way to see if Japan on a budget and have time on your side.