This is a fast-growing scene I was turned onto last year when taking a train from Osaka to Tokyo. A buddy mentioned I could save some cash by buying the ticket at a hole in the wall shop outside Namba station (instead of at the regular JR ticket office). I decided to try it out, and saved about 1,000 yen off the shinkansen ticket price.
The ticket was totally legit, but of course the first time you try it out, you wonder if you're getting bamboozled, right? It was totally on the up and up, so I thought that's cool, and I pocketed the idea in case I needed to take any more long distance trains.
Fast forward a year or so, and my Japanese teacher told me you can buy all kinds of discount tickets at the shops, including department store vouchers, movie tickets, etc. That piqued my curiosity, so I decided to check the places out more closely down the line.
Low and behold, during a recent walk around Shinjuku, I noticed these shops have mushroomed, and they're advertising all kinds of tickets for sale. Some examples:
Vouchers for hot/iced coffee at McDonalds. The average is 35 yen for a single voucher, or 3 for 100 yen. You walk into a standard coffee shop in Tokyo, and you're paying 7-10 times that amount. Incidentally, the exact same cup of coffee at McD's costs 120 yen, so the voucher is 1/4 the price. This particular voucher is good till 10/21, so it's one deal that may vanish in a month's time, unless a new batch pops up.
There are a ton of other tickets for sale - for concerts, movies, plays, musicals, and on and on:
That reminds me, I also bought a pre-paid telephone card at a discount shop. The face value was 3,000 yen, but I only paid 2,750. Sweet.
You can also visit Mickey and crew at a discount..
It gets more and more surreal. The places even sell subway tickets.
For JR tickets, that's usually from your present location to wherever you're headed. Now, you're saving pennies on short-distance runs (10 or 20 yen off for a JR destination several stops away). But you can make out nicely with a discounted private line ticket, especially on the weekend. I imagine there are plenty of Tokyo-ites who stock up on these tickets and use them on a daily basis. The savings over a number of weeks or months would really add up.
Besides trains, you can also get discounted long-distance bus tickets at some shops.
One place even sold its train tickets through a vending machine:
Here's another type of voucher we tried today:
It's good for any of the 10 restaurants printed on the front. (Watami, Za Watami, Fridays, etc.) The face value is 1000 yen, but the price was 750 (we've seen them for as low as 700). You can only use one per person, so if you've got three people in your group, you can use three vouchers. Let's say you buy them at 700 a pop and use the full amount (if your bill is more than the voucher total, you can top off the difference in cash). That's a savings of 900 yen for a single meal. Not bad. Oh but these particular vouchers can't be used for lunch, so there's that.
The discount ticket shops tend to be near the major train stations. In Tokyo, I've seen them near Ikebukuro, Shibuya, and Shinjuku station. There's a cluster in Shinjuku with around 10 of these places in a nice neat row.
A constant stream of shoppers pop in and out in search of discounts. The shops restock up by buying vouchers, tickets, etc from patrons. Some places advertise what they'll pay for this or that type of voucher.
Anyway, it's an easy way to save some nice coin. So far, my experiences have all been positive, but that's not to say there aren't scammers out there, right? So always - buyer beware.
If anyone has a discount ticket story to share, leave a comment - I'd love to read about it!