Japan Has Changed: Pay Attention to These 5 Changes Before Your Next Trip

As Japan continues evolving, several key updates impact tourists visiting the country. Being aware of these shifts can optimize your upcoming trip.

1. Discontinued Kyoto Bus Pass

Kyoto has discontinued selling the popular 1-day, flat-rate bus pass at the end of September 2023, which allowed unlimited rides on city buses for 700 yen. This decision aims to reduce overcrowding and congestion issues caused by the bus pass’s popularity with tourists. Visitors should consider the pricier combined subway and bus pass instead for 1,100 yen.

2. Price Increase for Japan Rail Pass

As of October 2023, the cost of the Japan Rail Pass has increased by about 1.6 times compared to previous prices. However, the new pass also unlocks access to faster Shinkansen bullet train routes and provides other travel perks across Japan.

3. Stricter Shinkansen Baggage Rules

Shinkansen bullet trains now have tighter restrictions on oversized luggage without advance reservations. Bags exceeding 160-250 cm in total dimensions require additional fees to bring onboard. Travelers should understand the baggage size rules before riding to avoid issues.

Pro Tip: Consider shipping your luggage instead of taking it on the train

4. Limited Suica and Pasmo Card Sales

Due to semiconductor shortages, buying Suica and Pasmo IC transport cards directly in Japan is temporarily suspended. However, Welcome Suica and Pasmo Passport cards are good alternatives, not needing deposits and usable for 28 days. Mobile Suica apps also work.

5. Stricter Smoking Regulations

Smoking is now heavily restricted to designated rooms only in most areas. Parts of Tokyo may impose fines for public smoking violations. Travelers should check local smoking rules and follow proper etiquette.

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