Travel Around Western Japan On a Budget With a "Seishun 18" Ticket! 4 Recommended Itineraries

Transportation costs in Japan are quite high, so what's the best way to travel around Japan on a budget? The Seishun 18 Kippu (Youthful 18 Ticket) might be the perfect option. A train tour is not just about moving from point A to point B, but also about enjoying the scenery and food, as well as experiencing the local culture. Try traveling on a regular or train that stops at every station, and change trains at a random station to discover new areas while waiting for the next train. This might be the best part of your journey!

Kansai

Travel Tips

What is a Seishun 18 Ticket?

The Seishun 18 Ticket is issued by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) three times per year in the spring, summer, and winter. It can be purchased at JR ticket offices, travel service centers, or vending machines nationwide. The ticket, costing 12,050 yen for five days of unlimited rides, can be used on regular seats on all JR local trains, the open-seating zone on rapid trains, bus rapid transit (for lines in the Tohoku region that are still under repair following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami), as well as ferries traveling between JR West and Miyajima Island. The five days of travel don't need to be consecutive, and can be used by a single person making separate trips or shared amongst multiple people traveling together. With this ticket, you don't have to worry about the expensive transportation costs anymore, and can easily travel all over Japan from Hokkaido in the north to Kagoshima in the south!

Sales Periods

Spring: Feb 20 - March 31, 2020
Summer: Jul 1 - Aug 31, 2020
Winter: Dec 1 - 31, 2020

Validity Periods

Spring: March 1 - April 10, 2020
Summer: Jul 20 - Sep 10, 2020
Winter: Dec 10, 2019 - Jan 10, 2021

The Fine Print

1. The passes can be used on any 5 days within the validity period.
2. The period of one day begins at the time of departure and ends at midnight on the same day. If it is past midnight, one extra day will be counted. (Within the special urban networks around Osaka and Tokyo, however, you can go up to the last train of the night without it counting as a second day.)
3. Can be used on all JR lines throughout Japan (JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Shikoku, and JR Kyushu) and the JR West Miyajima Ferry
*The Seishun 18 Ticket is not valid for Shinkansen or reserved seats on express trains. Designated seats on selected limited express trains or sightseeing trains can be purchased for an additional fee.

Ticket price: 12,050 yen (meaning one day costs 2,410 yen if all 5 days are used)

4 Recommended Seishun 18 Itineraries Departing From Osaka

Note: All itineraries use weekday timetables.

Same Day Round Trip: Osaka ⇆ Tajimi

Transportation fee: One day of the Seishun 18 Ticket (2,410 yen) + Yoro line round trip (840 yen) + Tohtetsu Bus round trip (720 yen) = 3,970 yen (saving 5,470 yen).

At 8:22 am, depart from Osaka on a journey full of artistic hotspots. The first stop is "The Site of Reversible Destiny–Yoro Park" in Yoro-shi, Gifu Prefecture, one of the masterpieces by world-famous artist Shusaku Arakawa and American poet Madeline Gins. The name might make you imagine a tea garden (or perhaps something more psychedelic), but it is actually a major tourist attraction. The main feature is that it uses optical illusions based around the sense of balance, different distances, and uneven terrains to create a unique space experience uncommon to daily life.

After exploring the fantasyland of Yoro Park, head off at 12:51 towards Tajimi, transferring at Ogaki and Nagoya in the process. Once you've arrived, try some Gifu soy-sauce udon (thick noodles) for lunch at “Shinanoya,” a restaurant that is around a 10-minute walk from Tajimi Station.

Now on a full stomach, take the Tohtetsu bus network's "Kasahara" bus line (360 yen for a single ride) to the fairytale “Mosaic Tile Museum.” The museum is located in Tajimi-shi, where more than 80% of Japan's mosaic tiling is produced. Designed as a special fairytale-like building by architect Terunobu Fujimori, the Mosaic Tile Museum opened its doors in June 2016. At the entrance, you will see an unconventional, irregular-shaped structure, which some netizens say looks the face of popular manga character "Crayon Shin-chan." Both the building itself and the exhibitions inside are worth seeing, and the mosaic DIY class is a must-try experience, too.

Before your departure at 7:03 pm, there is still time to return to the area near Tajimi Station to try some eel rice at the century-old Romantei Uoseki restaurant. You will definitely love the delicious unadon (rice bowl with eel) featuring extra-tender eel grilled with a coating of special soy sauce.

7:03 am       Osaka        JR Kyoto Line rapid train to Maibara
8:30 am       Arrive        JR Maibara Station
8:33 am       Depart       JR Tokaido Main Line to Ogaki
9:05 am       Arrive        JR Ogaki Station
9:08 am       Depart      Yoro Railway Yoro Line
9:30 am       Arrive        Yoro Station 

12:51 pm     Yoro          Yoro Railway Yoro Line
1:13 pm      Arrive         JR Ogaki Station
1:26 pm      Depart       JR Tokaido Main Line Rapid train to Toyohashi
1:58 pm      Arrive         JR Nagoya Station
2:02 pm      Depart       JR Chuo Main Line Rapid train to Mizunami
2:37 pm      Arrive        JR Tajimi Station

7:00 pm      Tajimi        JR Chuo Main Line Rapid train to Nagoya
7:38 pm      Arrive        JR Nagoya Station
7:50 pm      Depart      JR Tokaido Main Line Rapid train to Maibara
9:06 pm      Arrive        JR Maibara Station
9:34 pm      Depart      JR Biwako Line Special Rapid train to Aboshi
10:57 pm     Arrive       JR Osaka Station

2-Day 1-Night Itinerary: Osaka→Kanazawa→Tsuruga→Osaka

Transportation fee: 
Day 1: One day of the Seishun 18 Ticket (2,410 yen) 
Day 2: One day of the Seishun 18 Ticket (2,410 yen) + Tsuruga Bus 1-Day Pass (500 yen)
Total: 5,320 yen (saving 4,590 yen)

Day 1

Opened in 2015, the Hokuriku Shinkansen brought about redevelopment in the area surrounding Kanazawa Station. Although there is no shinkansen running from Osaka to Kanazawa (yet!), the railway network is already well-developed with limited express trains and regular trains. Thanks to this, the freshest seafood from the east coast of Japan is actually not far away from Osaka.

At 7:45 am, depart from Osaka for Kanazawa, also known as Little Kyoto. First of all, go try some seasonal seafood at Omicho Market before heading to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and the Kenroku-en, known as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. Higashi Tea House Street, which used to be a pleasure district back in the Edo period (1603-1868), still retains the traditional look of that time. Here you can taste some Japanese desserts and gold-leaf ice cream while watching people walk up and down the street. Sitting in a coffee shop remodeled from a traditional home is the perfect way to enjoy a moment of peace.

7:45 am    Osaka     JR Kyoto Line Special Rapid train to Tsuruga
9:50 am    Arrive     JR Tsuruga Station
9:53 am    Depart   JR Hokuriku Main Line to Fukui
10:49 am  Arrive     JR Fukui Station
11:13 am  Depart   JR Hokuriku Main Line to Kanazawa 
12:42 pm  Arrive    JR Kanazawa Station

Want some more ideas for things to do in Kanazawa? Check out our list of 15 things to do, including museums, restaurants, and natural sights. We also have a whole article on the city's Tea House district.

Day 2

At 9:30 am, begin the journey from Kanazawa to Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture. Having had seafood for lunch yesterday, why not have a hearty meal of meat today at Tsuruga Yoroppaken Ekimae Branch, a famous Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) restaurant in Kanazawa. Fried to crisp perfection, the pork cutlets are topped with a special sweet and sour sauce and paired with local Koshihikari rice produced in Fukui.

After the meal, buy a Tsuruga bus 1-day pass to visit the Tsuruga Red Brick Warehouse, which is designated as a national tangible cultural property. Although it is not as big as the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, limited crab dishes are available in winter. Other attractions include the Kanegasaki Shrine, a lucky shrine for relationships; the Kehi Shrine, home to one of Japan’s three greatest wooden Torii gates; and Nihon-kai Sakana-machi, the largest seafood market on the Sea of Japan.

At 4:23 pm, it’s time to embark on the return trip to Osaka with a quick stop in Kyoto along the way. You might enjoy dinner at a restaurant in Kyoto Tower or Isetan Department Store, which is directly connected to Kyoto Station.

9:30 am       Kanazawa     JR Hokuriku Main Line to Fukui
11:02 am     Arrive            JR Fukui Station
11:12 am     Depart          JR Hokuriku Main Line to Tsuruga
12:04 pm     Arrive           JR Tsuruga Station

4:23 pm       Tsuruga       JR Hokuriku Main Line Special Rapid train to Himeji
5:57 pm       Arrive           JR Kyoto Station

8:14 pm       Kyoto           JR Kyoto Line Special Rapid train to Himeji
8:43 pm       Arrive           JR Osaka Station

3-Day 2-Night Itinerary: Osaka→Matsuyama→Hiroshima→Osaka

Transportation fee: 
Day 1: One day of the Seishun 18 Ticket (2,410 yen) + Iyotetsu Railway (320 yen)
Day 2: Iyotetsu Railway (160 yen) + JR (1,120 yen) + Highway Bus (620 yen) + High-Speed Ferry (2,720 yen) + JR (510 yen)
Day 3: One day of the Seishun 18 Ticket (2,410 yen) + Hiroshima Electric Railway (460 yen)
Total: 10,730 yen (saving 8,540 yen)

Day 1 

This trip involves leaving the island of Honshu and traveling to Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's main islands, so let’s start the long train journey before sunrise. You can choose to sleep all the way, people-watch, or look at the scenery outside the train which you might have never noticed before. Once you've arrived at Matsuyama, in Ehime Prefecture, you can spend the rest of the first day at Dogo Onsen, filled with a historic and cultural atmosphere. With a history of 3,000 years, Dogo Onsen is said to be the oldest among Japan's three ancient hot springs. Known for its 3-story wooden building, this historical structure was renovated in 1984 and is listed as an important national cultural property. The reason for Dogo Onsen’s popularity is not only because it was favored by famous historical figures like Prince Shotoku as well as Meiji-era literary giants Natsume Soseki and Masaoka Shiki, but also because female visitors are particularly fond of its beauty effects. What’s more, it is rumored that the Dogo Onsen Honkan (main building) was the blueprint for Yubaba’s Bathhouse in Studio Ghibli's animated film “Spirited Away.” 

Since January 2019, extensive renovation work has started at the old Dogo Onsen Honkan to improve earthquake resistance, so all rest areas on the second and third floors will be closed to the public for seven years. Visitors can only take pictures from the outside, so those who would like to bathe in the holy waters may choose go to the annex instead. Outside Dogo Onsen Station, you can see the popular replicas of the steam train and Karakuri mechanical clock from Natsume Soseki’s novel “Botchan.” For dinner, you might return to downtown Matsuyama and choose anything from restaurants serving local cuisine to chain restaurants on the lively streets.

5:58 am    Osaka           JR Kobe Line rapid train to Himeji
7:30 am    Arrive           JR Himeji Station
7:31 am    Depart          JR Sanyo Main Line to Niimi
9:08 am    Arrive           JR Okayama Station 
9:33 am    Depart          JR Marine Liner No.17 rapid train
10:11 am   Arrive           JR Sakaide Station
10:30 am   Depart         JR Sunport Nanpu Relay rapid train
11:25 am   Arrive          JR Kan'onji Station
11:40 am   Depart         JR Yosan Line to Matsuyama
3:01 pm     Arrive          JR Matsuyama Station 
3:19 pm     Depart         Iyotetsu City Line Route 5
3:44 pm     Arrive          Dogo Onsen

6:00 pm     Dogo Onsen Iyotetsu City Line Route 3 or 5
6:11 pm     Arrive          Okaido

Day 2 

Matsuyama Castle is also known as “Kinki-jo,” “Katsuyama Castle,” or “Iyo Matsuyama Castle” to distinguish it from other Matsuyama Castles. The Matsuyama Castle Honmaru (main circle of defense) is located atop a hill, 132 meters high, in the city center. There are four hiking trails to reach the summit, and tourists usually take the route starting from Shinonome-guchi on the east side, which will pass by the Shinonome Shrine on the way up. You can also take the cable car up to the castle.

At 11:21 am, head to Shimonada Station, the most beautiful station nearest to the sea! This is a must-visit attraction for many tourists, photography enthusiasts, and railway fans. Seishun 18 is also the reason for Shimonada Station’s popularity, as the station was featured in a Seishun 18 poster from JR in 1999. In the vicinity of the station, there is also a popular place similar to the disappearing railroad tracks in Spirited Away, and right outside the station is Shimonada Coffee. It is not always open, but if you are lucky, you can try a freshly-squeezed drink made from citrus fruits, the local specialty of Ehime (photo below).

To return to Honshu Island, take one of two high-speed ferries from the Matsuyama Sightseeing Port to Kure Port, namely the Super Jet (55 minutes; 5,500 yen) or the Cruise Ferry (110 minutes; 2,670 yen). Once there, Hiroshima is just a short distance from Kure, and is a great place to stay overnight. Try the famous Hiroshima-style "okonomiyaki" (Japanese savory pancakes) at the renowned “Mi-chan” restaurant. The biggest difference between Hiroshima-style and Osaka-style is that the former has fried noodles, adding a more satisfying taste and texture.

11:21 am    Okaido           Iyotetsu City Line Route 1, 2, or 5
11:34 am    Arrive             JR Matsuyama Ekimae Station
11:41 am    Depart           JR Yosan Line to Yawatahama
12:30 pm    Arrive            JR Shimonada

1:01 pm      Shimonada   JR Yosan Line to Iyo-shi
1:22 pm      Arrive            JR Iyo-shi
1:32 pm      Depart          JR Yosan Line to Iyo-Hojo
1:49 pm      Arrive            JR Matsuyama Station

3:15 pm      Matsuyama  Highway bus 
3:35 pm      Arrive            Matsuyama Sightseeing Port
4:50 pm      Depart          Super Jet 
6:45 pm      Arrive            Kure Port

7:05 pm      Kure            JR Kure Line to Hiroshima
7:57 pm      Arrive          JR Hiroshima Station

Day 3 

A short trip from Hiroshima is the World Heritage Site Miyajima Island, which is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine, with its symbolic torii gate "floating" above the water at high tide. Established around 593 AD, this shrine has a history of more than 1,400 years and is the head shrine of about 500 other Itsukushima Shrines in Japan. Itsukushima Shrine is built in the intertidal zone of the Seto Inland Sea's seashore, and the floating gate is one of the "Three Views of Japan," making it the most famous landmark of the island. Most parts of the complex and possessions of the shrine are listed as national treasures by the Japanese government, and the shrine itself was also listed as a World Heritage Site in 1996 along with the virgin forest of ​​Mount Misen behind it.

Miyajima is not only known for its floating torii gate, but also its famous farmed oysters. The local restaurant “Kakiya” is listed in the top 5000 nationwide restaurants on Japanese food review site Tabelog, offering a wide range of raw, fried, boiled, steamed, grilled, and deep-fried oyster dishes, as well as an oyster set for just around 2,000 yen. After satisfying your taste buds, head up the hill to the secret “Kakiwai” cafe, where you can overlook the floating torii gate and the five-story pagoda, and leisurely enjoy the beauty of Miyajima.

Besides Miyajima Island, people would probably think of “Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum” or “Atomic Bomb Dome” when mentioning Hiroshima. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the Second World War to an end, but the cruelty of the war also seriously injured or killed countless innocent people in Hiroshima back then, affecting future generations as well. You might want to put this place on your bucket list to better understand Japan's history and see the heavy impact of war on people's lives. 

8:35 am    Hiroshima   JR Sanyo Main Line to Iwakuni
9:05 am    Arrive           JR Miyajimaguchi
9:40 am    Depart         JR West Miyajima Ferry
9:50 am    Arrive          Miyajima Port

1:25 pm    Miyajima     JR West Miyajima Ferry
1:35 pm    Arrive          Miyajimaguchi Station
1:51 pm    Depart        Hiroden Miyajima Line
2:39 pm    Arrive         Genbaku Dome-mae (Atomic Bomb Dome) Station

5:45 pm    Hiroshima   Hiroden Streetcar Route 2
6:01 pm    Arrive          Hiroden Hiroshima Station
6:13 pm    Depart        JR Sanyo Main Line to Itozaki
7:36 pm    Arrive          JR Itozaki Station
7:37 pm    Depart        JR Sanyo Main Line to Okayama
9:04 pm    Arrive          JR Okayama Station
9:09 pm    Depart        JR Sanyo Main Line to Himeji
10:33 pm  Arrive         JR Himeji Station
10:35 pm  Depart        JR Kobe Special Rapid train to Yasu
11:38 pm  Arrive         JR Osaka Station

This itinerary features 24 hours in Hiroshima, and we have plenty of articles to give you ideas on how to spend this time. Here are 12 places that every visitor should visit in Hiroshima, and for a deeper dive into the island with the famous shrine, see the article on things you can do in Miyajima. For information about accommodations, see our article featuring 8 guesthouses that offer an inexpensive place to stay.

Day Trip: Osaka ⇆ Kure

Cost: One day of the Seishun 18 Ticket (2,410 yen, saving 9,360 yen).

At 8:00 am, start your beautiful train tour by departing from Osaka to Banshu-Ako on a Special Rapid Service train. Change trains at Aioi Station and Okayama Station before arriving at Kurashiki Station. The Kurashiki Bikan Historical Area is famous for its canal, which was a transfer point of goods back in the 1600s. The streets full of old houses with special white walls and the rows of willow trees along the Kurashiki River create a laid-back atmosphere. In the Kurashiki area, you will find famous masking-tape stores, the Ohara Museum of Art with many designated cultural assets, and the Achi Shrine, among other attractions. If you have time, it would be nice to take a short break at the EL GRECO CAFÉ surrounded by green vines next to the Ohara Museum of Art.

Head back onto the train, and you will find that on the Kure Line, you can enjoy the beautiful view of the Seto Inland Sea. At 4:10 pm, you will arrive at Kure, site of a Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) base. The Yamato Museum will be closing soon, so you might want to hurry up and take some pictures with the submarine outside, enjoy the sea breeze, and try some navy curry. At 5:36 pm, take the train back to Osaka into the sunset. You will arrive at Himeji Station at 10:33 pm. Make use of the 20-minute wait when changing trains to eat station soba (buckwheat noodles) as a midnight snack, perfect for warming up your stomach and overcoming the fatigue from the day full of train rides. 

7:56 am       Osaka         JR Kobe Line Special Rapid train to Himeji
9:04 am       Arrive         JR Himeji Station
9:11 am       Depart        JR Kobe Line to Banshu-Ako
9:30 am       Arrive         JR Aioi Station
9:32 am       Depart       JR Sanyo Main Line to Okayama
10:38 am     Arrive         JR Okayama Station
10:49 am     Depart       JR Sanyo Main Line to Itozaki
11:05 am     Arrive         JR Kurashiki Station

12:47 pm     Kurashiki   JR Sanyo Main Line to Mihara
2:03 pm       Arrive         JR Mihara Station
2:08 pm       Depart       JR Kure Line to Hiro
3:47 pm       Arrive         JR Hiro Station
4:01 pm       Depart       JR Kure Line to Iwakuni
4:10 pm       Arrive         JR Kure Station

5:36 pm       Kure           JR Akiji Liner rapid train to Itozaki
7:26 pm       Arrive         JR Itozaki Station
7:39 pm       Depart       JR Sanyo Main Line to Okayama
9:04 pm       Arrive         JR Okayama Station
9:09 pm       Depart       JR Sanyo Main Line to Himeji
10:33 pm     Arrive         JR Himeji Station
10:35 pm     Depart       JR Kobe Special Rapid train to Yasu
11:38 pm     Arrive         JR Osaka Station

Although "seishun" means "youthful," there is no age limit on using the ticket. As long as you are willing to spend the time, you can embark on a youthful journey. Whether you are in your youthful backpacking phase or just want to save money while having fun adventures in Japan, this is your ticket to traveling around Japan with ease!

Title Image Credit: Alexander Vow / Shutterstock.com, Natee Meepian / Shutterstock.com, Shawn.ccf / Shutterstock.com

 

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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