Unintenionally, I got my train ticket to Kobe cheaper than my collegues.
I had to go on a business trip from Tokyo to Kobe and decided to take the Shinkansen. Taking the plane was a bit cheaper, but involved more changes and waiting time, whereas the train was going directly from Tokyo to Shin-Kobe station. I prefered sitting in the spacious Shinkansen chairs for 3 hours instead of doing the train-wait-plane-train option.
I bought the train ticket at a ticket counter and according to the JR employee, I could save a bit of money if I bought a return ticket instead of two one way tickets. Who does not want to save some money? So I decided for the return ticket, not thinking much more about it.
Somewhere in Kobe, while I was standing with my collegues, I found the ticket in my jacket and unconciously took it out. One of my collegues saw it and burst out, laughing: “So you have a return ticket? Many Japanese do not know about this!” I was confused, why would this be so special? I had a closer look on my ticket. It did not go to Shin-Kobe, but to Nishiakashi (西明石), located a bit further West of Kobe. When I bought the ticket, I hadn’t even paid attention to that. My other collegues seemed to understand, but apparently had not taken advantage of it. I decided to find out why I unknowingly looked so smart because of that ticket.
I am not completely sure, but it turns out that I could benefit from a discount rule on Shinkansen tickets: the return ticket is 10% cheaper, if the distance travelled is further than 600 km one way. Tokyo-Shin-Kobe is 589.5 km away. Tokyo- Nishiakashi is 612.3 km (values from Hyperdia). So the 10% discount only applies for a return ticket to Nishi-Akashi, but not for Kobe, and the discounted Nishi-Akashi ticket is cheaper than the full price Kobe ticket. I tried to calculate it with the ticket prices indicated on Hyperdia, but did not come up with the price I paid, which was 27,020 Yen for Nishi-Akashi compared to 28,320 for Shin-Kobe. Anyway, it is good to know about the 600 km return ticket discount. Shinkansen tickets are so expensive, I am glad for any possible way to get them cheaper.
Do you know a good way to get cheaper train tickets? Did you know the 600 km rule? Did you ever use it?