By The North American Post Staff
The Japan Rail Pass has been benefitting foreign travelers in Japan with unlimited train rides during the pass-use period. Having such a special service since 1981, Japan Railways (JR) announced in November that the pass can be bought by only non-Japanese citizens starting from this coming April.
In addition to 20 million foreign travelers to Japan, thousands of Japanese expats, who have lived abroad with permanent visas from those countries, have enjoyed their trips to Japan. The expats would not be eligible to purchase the pass under the new rule. The decision has been criticized by Japanese communities abroad, reported several foreign Japanese media including the Nikkei Shimbun and Sao Paulo Shimbun in Brazil.
The Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad, a Japan-based organization for Japanese abroad, also shared the concern regarding the JR decision. According to Japanese media in Brazil, JR has been offering the special rule for Japanese expats and the time to end it has come.
As the number of the international marriages has increased, this JR decision may be a headache for these families who plan to travel to Japan. Even some local organizations may need to re-plan for any future Japan trips because of many travelers to Japan who will not qualify for the rail pass benefit.
According to the Foreign Ministry of Japan, the number of Japanese expats around the world is over 450,000, which may be about 35% of total Japanese abroad who have Japanese citizenship. There are over 180,000 Japanese who have a permanent visa, called a green card. Under the Consul-General of Japan in the Seattle area, about 8,700 residents live with their permanent visas, which is over 65% of the Japanese nationals in the area.