Tourist train pass unifying nine railways set for trial in western Japan

JIJI, Kyodo

The Kansai Economic Federation (Kankeiren) and nine railways in western Japan will kick off a one-year trial in April for a common electronic pass for foreign tourists modeled on JR West’s Icoca IC train pass, the business lobby said.

The Kansai One Pass card, which has an integrated circuit chip in it, will allow holders to seamlessly ride the trains of nine different railways in the region, including West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) and Hankyu Corp. It will also function as a debit card and entitle the holder to discounts and other services at about 90 tourist spots and shops, including Kansai International Airport in Osaka, which is also part of the one-year project.

That means it will be more versatile than the Icoca card.

According to Kankeiren, the common IC ticket project is the first in Japan to be undertaken jointly by a business lobby and railways. The goal is to lure more tourists to Kansai by making it easier for them to get around the region. Japanese, however, will not be eligible for the card, which will be sold at major stations to short-term visitors who show their passports.

The Kansai One Pass card requires a minimum charge of ¥3,000, including a nonrefundable ¥500 deposit, but can hold as much as ¥20,000. It will come with a map of the area and is decorated with Astro Boy, the creation of late cartoonist Osamu Tezuka, who grew up in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture.

“It’s convenient and has a great design. I think it will be very popular,” Shinichi Fukushima, head of Kankeiren’s tourism panel and chairman of New Kansai International Airport Co., said Wednesday.

After the trial ends on March 31 next year the organizers hope to take the Kansai One Pass system full-scale, officials said. Up to 30,000 cards will be issued during the trial, which begins on April 8.

  • jcbinok

    So, it’s like a train debit card? Add money to the card and you don’t have to buy tickets, just scan the card and the fare gets removed from your balance? Sounds good, though hardly revolutionary.

    • Magus

      If it doubles as a debit card it’s pretty cool you can get it on the spot and without a bank account. Still, loads of places only accept cash. We’ll have to wait and see if it gets really popular.
      PS: it would be fair to make it available to Japanese living abroad too, just like the JR Pass is.