The words to know to take the train in Japan 日本で電車に乗る時に必要な言葉

Guide to the essential vocabulary of the Japanese train

As an essential means of transport, the train will take you to the four corners of Japan safely, quickly, and punctually... as long as you choose your route carefully.  During your travels, you will notice that some Japanese words are repeated again and again. 

In the main Japanese stations, the signposts have indications in Japanese and also in English. For more fluidity, it can be useful to understand and be able to express a few basic words: check out here an essential glossary for a journey as fluid as a Shinkansen trip... and to avoid staying on the platform!  


Basic Japanese train vocabulary


  • Eki - 駅 : Station 

Here we start with one of the most important words! You can see this character written as a suffix to all the station names in the country, for instance 京都駅 "Kyoto-eki" for Kyoto Station.

Good to know: To ask "Where is (station name) station?"", say "(name of the station) eki wa doko desuka ?".  


  • Kippu - 切符 : Ticket

Important for getting on most transport in Japan! If you don't want to bother with tickets, think about rechargeable cards Pasmo or Suica, that allow you to travel without buying a ticket.


  • Iki - 行き : Destination 

“Destination”. To avoid ending up at Nagoya station when you wanted to go to Kyoto station, it is essential to know this little word. You will often hear this word to announce the destination of your train. It is written as a suffix of the destination station.

Good to know: If you want to ask if this train goes to Tokyo, say : "Tokyo iki desu ka ?"



Femme, qui attend le train sur un quai

© Redd

Shinkansen vu d'une fenêtre

Shinkansen vu d'une fenêtre

© Chris Barbalis

Train à quai, gare Nikko

Train à quai, gare Nikko

Zhipeng Ya

Finding your way around the train

3 essential expressions for sitting at the right place

Discover below the 3 types of seats that exist and learn to recognize them.

  • Jiyu seki - 自由席 : non-reserved places

Unreserved seating is a basic train feature in Japan. It can be found in different types of trains, including the Shinkansen, the famous high-speed train that includes 3 cars of seats without reservation! Avoid paying extra by choosing an unreserved seat...useful, is it not?

Sièges non-réservés dans train japonais

Sièges non-réservés dans train japonais

© MaedaAkihiko

Sièges réservés dans train japonais

Sièges réservés dans train japonais

© 特急スカイツリートレイン

Autocollant indiquant siège prioritaire

Autocollant indiquant siège prioritaire

© Paul Downey

Special facilities to know about

  • Josei senyô sharyô - 女性専用車両 : women's only car

Here we present the most important arrangement of all! In Japan, there are often problems with inappropriate touching on commuter trains during rush hours. Safety is a fundamental principle of Japanese culture, so many companies have decided to set up women-only cars. Pink markings are affixed to the floor and windows of these cars so that they can be recognized. The concept inspires a certain safety for women, and it is hoped that it will be reproduced in other countries!


  • Kitsuen - 喫煙 : Smoking area

Smoking areas are not a principle, but rather an exception. Some long-distance trains, including the Shinkansen, will have smoking areas where you can enjoy your relaxing journey with a cigarette.

Wagon pour femmes de la ligne Keio à la station Shinjuku, Tokyo

© っ

Panneau "cigarette interdite" sur quai

© mrhayata

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