Japan to Launch Nationwide Expressway Pass for Overseas Visitors
Japan has announced the launch of a new nationwide expressway pass that will allow visitors from abroad to take unlimited travel on most expressways across Japan.From October 13th, visitors to Japan with foreign passports who use certain designated rental car companies will be able to make unlimited use of expressways across the country for a period of either one or two weeks for a fixed price by using the new Japan Expressway Pass.
The new pass will cover expressways owned by East Nippon Expressway Co. (Nexco-East), Central Nippon Expressway Co. (Nexco-Central), and West Nippon Expressway Co. (Nexco-West), as well as some other expressway operators (visitors to Hokkaido can benefit from a separate pass, the Hokkaido Expressway Pass - find out more here). Although the pass will not cover expressways in Hokkaido, in and around Tokyo or in and around Osaka, it will allow visitors unlimited use of around 10,000 km of Japan’s fastest roads covering most of the country.
According to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), car rentals by foreign visitors to Japan climbed to around 700,000 for the year April 2015 to March 2016. Announcing the launch of the new pass at a press conference, the transport minister Keiichi Ishii said that he hopes that the new pass will encourage visitors from abroad to venture off the popular tourist route between Tokyo, Mount Fuji and Kyoto and explore undiscovered regional destinations outside of the main cities.
Where To Visit with the New Pass
Discover Nara and Kyoto - 1 night, 2 days
Kansai International Airport (KIX) -> Nara -> Kyoto -> KIX
As former capitals of Japan, between them Nara and Kyoto are an invaluable repository of Japanese history, art, religion and culture. See the best of what each of Japan’s former capitals has to offer with this short itinerary. From shrines and temples to palace ruins, a ‘power spot’, and a shogun’s burial mound, by getting around by car, you’ll be able to cover all these sights in just two days both easily and comfortably.
Day 1 - Kyoto
Thread your way through Fushimi Inari Shrine’s corridor of scarlet shrine gates - the mountain shrine never fails to evoke a sense of mystery in visitors. Soak up the unbroken view of the streets of Kyoto from Kiyomizudera Temple’s famous all-wooden yet entirely nail-free viewing platform. Visit Nanzen-ji Temple, Japan’s oldest and highest-ranking Zen temple, built by special request of the emperor at the time. Visit Tenryu-ji Temple - the most famous of Kyoto’s five great Zen temples, the temple garden behind the priests’ quarters is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cross Togetsukyo Bridge, a 155m long and 11m wide bridge suspended over Arashiyama district’s Katsuragawa River in scenic surroundings. Take a night-time visit to Shogunzaka, a 2m tall burial mound in the grounds of a temple at the summit of Mt. Kacho.
Day 2 - Nara
Nara Park->Heijo Palace Ruins->Todaiji Temple Big Buddha
Spend a few hours roaming Nara Park, home to many UNESCO World Heritage sites and national treasures as well as over 1,000 deer! Explore Heijo Palace Ruins - another registered World Heritage site, this vast former site of a palace said to be large enough to hold 30 baseball stadiums. Visit Kashihara Shrine, dedicated to the first ever emperor of Japan and his wife, tucked away in the foothills of Mt. Unebi. Measure up against the main star at Todai-ji Temple - another UNESCO World Heritage site, it is most famous for its Daibutsu, a giant golden statue of the Buddha. Climb Mt. Wakakusa, whose grass-covered summit offers a sweeping view of the Nara cityscape from its peak. Recharge at Omiwa Jinja Shrine, said to be one of the oldest shrines in Japan and famous today as a mystical ‘power spot’.
Explore 5 Castle Towns in Central Japan - 5 Days
Day 1 - Matsumoto
Explore the authentic wooden interior of Matsumoto Castle, one of the most complete and beautiful of Japan’s surviving original castles. See inside the Former Kaichi School, one of the first schools in Japan, which opened in an attractive western-style building in 1876 and was converted into a museum in 1961. View the highlights of Matsumoto City Museum of Art’s permanent collection, which includes artworks by Matsumoto’s most famous daughter, internationally acclaimed artist Yayoi Kusama. Relax in Okuhida Onsen Towns, a famous hot spring destination known for its outdoor baths (rotenburo) offering stunning views of the Northern Japan Alps while you bathe.