(Updated with note; corrected)
A lot of new stuff going on in my life prevents me from posting much, but I felt I should weigh in with this tip for fellow commuters in Japan:
Business weekly Shukan Diamond President has an article that explains how you could potentially save around 9,000 yen a year by buying two commuter passes — one that goes most of the way, and another that covers the rest of the ground. Because of the oddities of Japan’s train pricing system, your commuter pass might go up or down if you split your commute into two separate passes.
But it’s not as simple as buying two train passes along the same route. If you do that, generally you’ll have to either get off and on again halfway through your commute, or explain to the station attendant every time you get off the train. Not practical.
But one successful example they give is this: If you live in Omiya and commute to Tokyo Omori station, you could save 9,060 yen a year by buying one pass from Omiya to Ochanomizu, and the second from Ochanomizu to Tokyo Akihabara to Omori. This will let you ride all the way to Tokyo Omori (and let you stop at Ochanomizu at no charge if you want).
As you can see, it can get kind of complicated. To help sort things out, someone has developed an application that determines the most advantageous route for any given individual. Sadly, it’s already gone viral and is thus unavailable.Those who don’t want to wait for them to add server space and Google ads can try experimenting with Yahoo’s train route finder in the meantime (if you’re desperate, try waiting until late late at night when most others are sleeping. If you do, open a mirror site for the rest of us!).
The article states that this practice is hardly new and has been used by train-savvy salarymen for some time now.When some of Tokyo’s planned new routes come online it should create whole new levels of complexity to exploit.
(Diamond article found on Yahoo Japan front page)
Note: This practice is not the same as a train scam known as kiseru in which the rider has a ticket for the beginning and end of the trip but skips out on the rest of the fare.