Practical tips on JR PASS

The best mode of transportation in Japan is the train. It is fast and efficient and very easy to use.

Japan is the country of trains, with probably the densest network in the world, the highest traffic... It has therefore developed a culture of train travel unique in the world. To make the most of this experience, discover all our practical advices gathered by our team!

  • The station as a shopping centre

Historically the train companies were big trading companies that built very large shopping centres at the same time as the train lines. Therefore the stations are often in large shopping centres.

  • Places to eat at the station

The stations contain specialist stalls selling Ekiben or station bentos, the contents of which are often influenced by the local specialities. There are also many restaurants which are open non-stop and serve many types of food, with something to suit all tastes.

  • Leaving the station

Stations often have several exits and are often very large. Don't hesitate to ask a ticket inspector what exit to take for the place you want to go to.

In Kyoto, the central station is a complex with a very large luxury hotel (Granvia), a big store (Isetan) and a very big audiovisual product shop (BicCamera), an underground shopping centre, a very large Tourist Office, etc…

  • Finding your train

The train number and destination are always shown in Japanese and Latin characters. On many platforms, floor markings show where the train doors are located. The trains stop exactly at the door marking location.

It is a good idea to queue to access the door as the trains do not stop for long. Additionally, seats are not booked in advance on local trains and the sooner you board, the better your chances of securing a seat.

Don't hesitate to ask a traveller on the platform if the train you are waiting for is going to your destination.

Finally, be careful not to take a "Nozomi" train on the Tokyo-Nagoya-Kyoto-Hiroshima line. You must board the "Hikari" or "Kodama" which make a few extra stops.

  • Waiting for your train

There is a certain discipline involved in waiting for your train on a station platform in Japan: choose a queue (generally indicated by floor markings), and patiently wait behind the other passengers until you can board the car, quietly of course (we are in Japan after all).

  • Carrying your luggage

There is no porter service at Japanese stations. The major stations have escalators and lifts but the small stations only have steps. If you are going on a trip lasting one or two days, you can use the Takkyu-bin luggage-sending service for a modest fee to have your luggage delivered to your destination.

Example: You are departing from Kyoto for Tokyo and want to spend 2 nights in Takayama and Kanazawa. For these 2 nights you can keep a minimum amount in a bag and have your suitcase delivered to your hotel in Tokyo.

  • Using the automatic luggage locker

With the lockers you can stop for 2 or 3 hours in a town, take a tour and then continue your journey on the next train. For example, departing from Kyoto on the Okayama route: you can only visit Himeji (2 ½ to 4 h) if you leave your luggage behind.

Most of the major stations have quite large lockers (sometimes in limited numbers however). It is easier to fit in 2 medium-sized bags than a large suitcase. Small stations sometimes do not have lockers for large suitcases: it is better to have soft bags that be easily squashed down than rigid suitcases.

There are also traditional lockers with a service ending quite early in the evening.

  • The station as an information centre

Nearly all stations have a tourist office. There is plenty of literature (unfortunately this is often only available in Japanese) to help you discover places of interest in the town or the region. Employees often speak English and can help you make hotel bookings.

La gare d'Osaka

La gare d'Osaka

© Andrew Leu, Unsplash

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