Japan’s tourism industry has suffered this year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Cherry blossom season in March and April saw parks closed to curb the spread of infections.

Golden Week in early May was also quiet as the government urged residents to “Stay Home.”

Living in Kyoto, my daily bus ride to work takes me past tourist hot spots like Gion and Kiyomizu Temple, before arriving at Kyoto Station. I have personally enjoyed the lack of tourists lugging their heavy suitcases onto the bus and making it difficult for everyone to get on and off. But the contrast is certainly striking.

We find ourselves in a difficult situation as Obon holiday week approaches. While many Japanese receive time off from work and may return to their hometowns or go on vacation with their families, the recent spike in coronavirus infections is a bit concerning.

That being said, JR East and even the Japanese government have come up with ways to entice residents to travel domestically, hoping to revitalize the economy.

JR East Half-Price Shinkansen Tickets

The East Japan Railway Company, also known as JR East, has announced 50% discounted tickets for Shinkansen lines running from Tokyo to the northern and northeastern parts of Japan.

Check here (Japanese only) or the list below for trains and destinations eligible for this discount.

JR East Shinkansen Lines

  • Hayabusa, Hayate: between Tokyo and Morioka (Iwate)/Shin-Hakodate Hokuto (Hokkaido)
  • Yamabiko: between Tokyo and Koriyama/Fukushima/Sendai/Morioka
  • Nasuno: between Tokyo and Nasushiobara (Tochigi)
  • Tsubasa: between Tokyo and Yamagata
  • Komachi: between Tokyo and Akita
  • Toki, Tanigawa: between Tokyo and Jomokogen/Niigata
  • Kagayaki: between Tokyo and Toyama/Shin-Takaoka/Kanazawa
  • Hakutaka: between Tokyo and Itoigawa/Kurobe-Unazuki Onsen/Toyama/Shin-Takaoka/Kanazawa
  • Asama: between Tokyo and Nagano

Limited Express Trains

  • Hitachi: between Tokyo and Haranomachi/Soma/Watari/Iwanuma/Sendai
  • Azusa: between Tokyo and Haranomachi/Chino/Kami-Suwa/Matsumoto
  • Kaiji: between Tokyo and Kofu/Ryo
  • Wakashio, Shinjuku-Wakashio: between Tokyo and Oamishirasato/Ohara/Katsuura/Awa-Kamogawa
  • Sazanami, Shinjuku-Sazanami: between Tokyo and Goi/Anegasaki/Kisarazu/Kimitsu/Tateyama
  • Shiosai: between Tokyo and Sakura/Yachimata/Naruto/Yokaichiba/Asahi/Choshi
  • Inaho: between Tokyo and Tsuruoka/Amarume/Sakata
  • Nikko, Kinugawa, Spacia Kinugawa: between Tokyo and Tobu-Nikko/Kinugawa Onsen

The promotion will begin August 20 and run until March 31, 2021.

Some important fine print to note is that Hokuriku Shinkansen’s Kagayaki and Hakutaka trains (for destinations like Toyama and Kanazawa), which will be half price only until September 30 this year.

In addition, the discount only applies to tickets purchased from the official JR East website and must be reserved from 20 days to one month prior to your departure date.

Many of you may be thinking, “Hey, what about JR West trains?”

Perhaps because they are more popular travel destinations JR doesn’t see fit to extend the discount westward, but we can wait and see. Here’s hoping!

By - Mujo.