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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

LIFELINES

Travel by train on a budget


By ANGELA JEFFS and KEN JOSEPH JR.

Rail on the cheap

In Japan for only a limited time, J.K. is desperate to travel and see as much as possible. But there's a problem. "Cash is pretty limited. Are there any money-saving ways of traveling by train in Japan?"

The deal most familiar to Japanese is the seishun 18 kippu, or "youth 18 ticket" (available to travelers of all ages, despite the name). If you have the time, this is probably the best travel deal in the country. For ¥11,500 you can travel anywhere on the JR route as long as you stick to "regular" trains. For example, while it takes three hours to travel by shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka, it will probably take eight hours using the seishun 18 kippu. For details, see www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/seishun18.html.

Another cash-saver is the Full Moon Pass. This is for couples whose combined age totals at least 88. Such a pass — usable in "green" or first-class carriages only — costs ¥80,500 for five days, ¥99,900 for seven days and ¥124,400 for 12 days.

Moving on, there's the cute-sounding Nice Midi Pass. A "nice midi" is apparently a "nice middle-aged lady," and this pass is only available to women aged over 30 (middle-aged?). For two "midi" passes (the assumption being that no woman of this age travels alone), the cost is ¥57,100 for three days; for three people, the pass will set you back ¥85,650.

On the subject of train travel, don't forget to tell friends and family visiting from abroad to apply for a Japan Rail Pass in their own country. A seven-day pass, which gives you unlimited travel on JR trains including most shinkansen, costs ¥28,300. For 12 days, you can expect to fork out ¥45,100; for 21 days, ¥57,700.

For up-to-date information, please visit www.japanrail.com. There are also a variety of local deals and special tickets for specific areas of Japan, so please check these out online.

If money is really tight, perhaps J.K. should consider traveling by overnight coach. Now that really is cheap! (K.J.)

Seventies glam

H.G. is off to a party with a '70s theme and wants to make a hat with feathers.

"In a perfect world I'd like peacock feathers, but I guess any feathers would do as long as they are exotic. Any idea where to go to buy some? I'm in Nakano, Tokyo."

Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku is your best — and nearest — bet. Having told our party girl that they stocked short peacock feathers and longer goose plumes in black and white, she found the opposite — long peacock tail feather and short plumes — and was all the more happy.

If any reader knows of a specialist shop for such items, do let us know. As birds of a feather, Takarazuka (the all-women theater troupe in Kansai) obviously have the best supply. Maybe they recycle. (A.J.)

Ken Joseph Jr. directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com and (03) 000-911. Send questions, queries, problems and posers to community@japantimes.co.jp


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