Fare Hikes
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Fare Hikes

By Molly Kaiser for The J-Pop Exchange

Recent approval by the Japanese government allowing the JR Group to increase fares as they see fit on weekends and holidays for the country’s famous Shinkansen high speed trains is expected to cause pocketbook woes for tourists.

The JR Pass–which gives short-term visitors to the country unlimited rides on JR trains for one, two and three-week increments–increased in price by an average of 70% at the beginning of October. The effort is an attempt to put a damper on overtourism which has put stress on residents across the country.

The Shinkansen is known globally for its speed and cleanliness. The bullet trains allow tourists to explore all that Japan has to offer with comfortable and efficient travel, and is an experience in and of itself, with food, spacious seating and facilities, and more. A train from Tokyo to Kyoto, a 280-mile trip, takes only two hours and 34 minutes, whereas it takes almost six hours to drive.

In the recovery since the pandemic, tourism has crept back to near pre-pandemic levels. In September, total tourism reached 2.18 million, which is 96.1% of the stats for the same month in 2019, according to The Mainichi. Specific issues residents are facing from this influx of travelers include trespassing, littering, traffic congestion and crowding of public roads for photos have increased and have left residents looking for a solution.

The price of the passes has remained relatively unchanged since the 1980s. According to The New York Times, visitors to Japan in 2023 paid the same amount, unadjusted, for a two week rail pass as they did in 1989. Even now, the JR Group has not been granted to increase fares to boost revenue.

News outlets predict a jump from 29,640 yen ($226) to 50,000 yen ($334), the two-week pass from 47,250 ($315) to 80,000 yen ($534) and the three-week pass from 60,450 yen ($404) to 100,000 ($668). The Japan Railpass website currently lists a one-week pass for $336, two-week for $568 and a three-week pass for $672.

The action taken by the Japanese government in mid-October will ease the process for railway operators to increase fees through a “simplified review” and through other relaxed procedures–like only having to fill out an application to raise fares rather than having to formally request permission. The government also empowered the implementation of express bus services which are intended to reduce traffic connecting train stations and popular tourist destinations.


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