The “JR Pass” Secret

ImagePhoto courtesy of flickr user Yvon Liu.

The JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) allows you to travel all over Japan for much cheaper than you would have to pay had you not purchased it. There are many different types of trains in Japan, and they’re quite expensive in the long run; especially if you plan on doing some traveling more than once or twice during your stay. 

At first glance, one might look at it as far too expensive when coupled with the airline ticket (the most expensive part of your trip, I guarantee). However, with a quick bit of math, it is soon revealed that the JR Pass can save you BIG money! First, a couple of caveats:

#1: It can only be bought outside of Japan. The pass is intended for foreigners only, to promote and increase tourism, and increase the ease of traveling for us overall. You can buy it online or in person at a designated JR Pass retailer.

#2: What you are actually purchasing is not the pass itself just yet, it is a voucher which you take to Japan with you. When you land, you simply trade the voucher for the actual pass, which can be done at any JR Station or even at the airport once you land.

The JR Pass saved me hundreds of dollars when I went to Japan in 2009; granted, the more you plan on traveling, the more it will save you. However, it will practically pay for itself after just a few train rides, depending on their distances. 

Depending on how long you want your pass to be available for use, the price varies. There are one week passes, two week passes, and three week passes available. I used the two week pass, which cost me an estimated $500. However, without the pass, I would have spent well over $1,000. 

My usage case was probably not the average Joe’s usage, considering I used the pass to travel almost the entire main island of Honshu from North to South during my one month stay. But even for mister Average Joe, a one week pass could potentially pay for itself after just four or five train rides, and in case you are not aware, you’ll be using a train pretty much anywhere you decide to visit, unless it is walking or biking distance. 

You can find more information and even purchase a JR Pass yourself here
Another location to purchase a pass – also available in a physical brick-and-mortar store, if you prefer – is here. They have a physical location on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, next to the Super H-Mart and Brand Mart USA off of I-285.

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Japan Fest Atlanta

Japan Fest is an annual event here in Atlanta that is meant to bring an understanding among and build a friendship between Japanese and Americans. It is held at the end of September every year in the Gwinnett Civic Center located in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Beginning in 2007, I visited Japan Fest for the first time. This was a full two years before I visited Japan itself. It was such a fun event that I would like to document the experience here in hopes that others might choose to attend Japan Fest as well.

This year, the festival is on Saturday, September 21st (10am-6pm), and Sunday, September 22nd (10am-5pm) and is located at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway | Duluth GA 30097 as usual.

Many different performances/acts are available for enjoyment at Japan Fest, and they change every year. In order to get the most up-to-date information, you must visit their website, linked to above.

In 2007, I attended for the first time with a friend and my little sister.

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I had a great time watching all of the performances, including: concerts inside the convention center, ikebana (the art of flower arranging), witnessing my first tea ceremony and all of its strict rules, and seeing ninjutsu performed in front of my eyes for the first time.

I enjoyed it enough to return in 2008.

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And this time, enjoyed a real rock concert, rather than only the traditional side of things!

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Once again, in 2009, before visiting Japan itself in December, I decided to visit Japan Fest once more in September and enjoyed even more activities, including trying on a kimono for the first time, and witnessing the crazy invention known as the Japanese toilet. (If you have not seen these toilets, I recommend viewing them. They’re some of the most sophisticated toilets in the world!)

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Here is a youtube video demonstrating the Japanese toilet, by Ken Cannon:

If you have a chance to visit Japan Fest, you can even buy your own Japanese-style toilet and have it installed in your home! However, it is still very expensive in America.

Tickets are only $8, and kids six years and under get in free. It’s a great chance to get a taste of Japan before going to the real thing!

GSU Study Abroad – Japan

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GSU Study Abroad - Japan (Image from GSU’s Study Abroad Program for Japan)

Studying abroad in Japan through GSU is a great way to get to Japan if you are already a student at the university! It is a great program that helps set up your housing and transfers credits back to GSU on your completion. In addition, there are scholarships that will pay for practically the entire program!

Study abroad with a minimum GPA of 3.0! Japanese language learners of all levels and majors are welcome! Students complete at least one year of university-level Japanese each term. Also take electives in both English and Japanese.

Please click the photo for more information, or click here.

Top 10 Attractions Tokyo – Japan Travel Guide

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This is a quick video introduction into one person’s top 10 attractions of Tokyo.

I’ve selected this video clip to introduce readers — who might not know of any attractions in Japan — to several areas of interest that travelers frequently experience when visiting Japan for the first time.

In a future post I will explain how I left Atlanta and visited Japan for four weeks. Additionally, in other posts I will provide my own top places to visit, other ways of getting there (for example, GSU Study Abroad), coverage of Atlanta’s “Japan Fest”, tips for cheaper airfare, cultural tips to reduce culture shock, and information about one of Japan’s best-kept secrets: The JR Pass.