The practical guide to travel in Japan
Japan has 23,670 kilometers of rail track across the country, making it easy to travel throughout the country. Whilst planning your trip, you will need to know how to reserve a seat, check train schedules and more, which is why Japan Experience offers a practical guide on Japan by train.

Japan RAIL NEtwork

Japan’s railway network covers almost the entire country, from Hokkaido in the north toKyushu in the south. The Japanese Shinkansen or Bullet Train is among the fastest trains inthe world, connecting major cities throughout the archipelago. The train ride from Tokyo toKyoto takes just 2 hours 20 minutes with a Nozomi Shinkansen or the Hikari Shinkansen (usable with the Japan Rail Pass).

                                               Click on the map to enlarge.

train SCHEDULE in japan

To find the routes and schedules you need for your trip, visit this website: Hyperdia.com.

                     • Fill in your departure station (enter the beginning of the name of yourdeparture station, the system will automatically provide the stations that you can click on.You must do this otherwise it will not recognize the name) and your arrival station on thesame basis. Then choose your desired departure time.                   
                     • Click on "More Options" to choose to go via a certain station, avoid certain types of trains and much more ...

Our advice:                   

                     • If your journey is quite long, the system will suggest an internal flight, if you do not want these options shown, deselect "Airplane" and "Airport Shuttle Bus."

                     • If you have a Japan Rail Pass or if you want to know if your journey is eligible forusing the Japan Rail Pass, click on "More Options" and uncheck the "NOZOMI / MIZUHO /HAYABUSA (SHINKANSEN)" (unless you want to ride the Hokkaido Shinkansen to Sendai, Morioka, Shin Aomori, Kikonai or Okutsugaru-Imabetsu) and "Private Railway" boxes. You will see the details of your tripif possible with the Japan Rail Pass.

Please notice that if you want to travel from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori or Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (Hokkaido) with the Japan Rail Pass, you can use the Hayabusa train so you must check the NOZOMI/MIZUHO/HAYABUSA box.

You will have the details of your trip as possible with the Japan Rail Pass. The total price is displayed on the top left, this is the price of the combined trip and seat price.

Travel between major cities can be very fast, here is a table of the main train journeys in Japan and their duration.
Carte des durées de trajet de train au Japon
This table shows the time of the shortest route without using the Nozomi and Mizuho trains, as it is not possible to take these trains with a Japan Rail Pass. Depending on the connection time and the route train, it may be slightly longer.

how much is the train in japan ?

The train is not the cheapest means of transport of Japan (for example night buses are cheaper) but it is the most convenient and comfortable.
You can find the train fares using Hyperdia, you can see the price of the top left hand side, the total price includes:

       • The price of the journey, this is fixed.

       • The seat prices. This depends on the type of seat you choose:

             • Unreserved Seat: in Japan there are un-reserved cars (usually the first three cars) for non-reserved seats, this means you can sit where you want in the car. These tickets are the cheapest and if you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can board the train without reserving a seat by going to the window at the platform.

             • Reserved Seat: these are the to a reserved seat in any train, where you have a designated seat. You can make a reservation for these seats in advance at any ticket office.

             • Green Car Seat: these seats are the equivalent of first class. Here you can recline your seat, enjoy the footrest and a larger space for you and your luggage as well as magazines for trip.Here are the prices in yen of the main routes.

Tableau des tarifs de train au Japon
This chart represents the train fares of "non-reserved seats".

How to buy a train ticket in japan ?

Purchasing a train ticket to Japan is very simple, here's how:

             • Before starting your journey you will need to find out the train schedule onHyperdia, then visit the station (a few days before if you plan to travel during peak periods(except during cherry late March and early May golden week Obon (festival of the dead) inearly August) or just before you go in a normal period) or ten minutes before departure offseason) and then at the ticket office, Midori no Madoguchi, counter symbolized by a greenlogo of a marked man in white sitting on a seat.              

             • Here you can purchase both a "non-reserved" seat (you can sit where you want, ifseats are available) or or a reserved seat. The reserved seat is more expensive than non-reserved seat. Then you can proceed to the platform with your ticket.If you have a Japan Rail Pass, there is no need to buy a ticket or reserve your seat in advance(excluding peak periods), you can board non-reserved cars. If it is a peak period or busytrain, you may need to travel standing in these areas, especially in the case of local trainsbut do not worry, this rarely happens. It is also quite possible to reserve a seat for free withthe Japan Rail Pass at a Midori no Madoguchi.

« ticket

JAPAN RAIL PASS, reductions and reduced rates

In Japan, there is no reduced rate except other than for children under 12 years (0-12 years old). Under the age of 6, you do not need to purchase a child’s ticket if they sit on your lap, however if you would like them to have a seat of their own, then you will need to purchase a child’s ticket.

The Japan Rail Pass may lead to a reduction but it depends on the route you will travel, in fact, the Japan Rail Pass is a package (you only pay once for unlimited use of the train) that allows you to take all trains owned by Japan Railway company unlimited for 7, 14 or 21 days.

The latter can be purchased only outside of Japan: you buy an exchange voucher which you then exchange in Japan to receive the Japan Rail Pass (you choose the validity dates that you would like when you exchange the voucher).The Japan Rail Pass is profitable if and only if the total price of your train journeys of 7, 14 or 21 days is higher than the price of the Japan Rail Pass. To calculate the cost and compare it to the price of Japan Rail Pass, visit Hyperdia.com as indicated above.

To find out if a train is owned by Japan Railway or not, you can also find this out on Hyperdia.com.

Here are the steps to follow:

         • Enter all the details of your trip.

         • In "More Options", then uncheck the "Nozomi / MIZUHO / HAYABUSA (SHINKANSEN)" box and the "Private Railway" box.

         • Click Search.If the system does not find anything, then this route is not valid using a Japan Rail Pass. You must then start over without the aforementioned unchecked boxes and so see how much it will cost and to find the route.

find your way around japanese stations

Japanese stations can be huge! They are sometimes true labyrinths of restaurants andshops. Once you have booked your ticket (or you have a Japan Rail Pass) and are close tothe departure platforms, the hardest part is over.

There are signs in English indicating the departure platform of your train and time of thevarious trains departing from that platform. Then go to the platform, there are markings inEnglish to help you know where to queue, this will be the exact location where the train willstop.

For most local trains, it is a little more relaxed but the principles remain the same.

Another important thing to remember is check what exit you must take to get to your hotelor place you want to visit. Exit signs will indicate name of the road. You can also ask for helpwith a JR Officer or an information desk where you will find English speaking staff.

SYMBOLS on the trains

Train travel is, in Japan, particularly easy and fluid but it does not happen by accident: youwill need to follow the labels on the trains:       

            • Special cars and priority seats.

In Japan, there are several types of special cars and priority seating. Do not get into the carfor women if you are not one (on the platform you will see "Boarding points for womenonly"), or in the "electronic off" car with your mobile phone switched on.The priority seats are clearly indicated by pictograms that represent a pregnant woman, aperson with a young child and an elderly person. Do not sit there, even when busy.
            • Etiquette

The two principles of etiquette to remember are: avoid making loud phone calls (if you haveto do, talk the lowest possible) and do not talk too loud. Japanese are accustomed to talkingquietly on the train. Another thing to know, especially for transport, is that you should avoidtaking oversized luggage with you: please call baggage transport services as Takkyubin. Theycan take your luggage from one point to another: For example, if you were to make a trip toKanazawa from Tokyo to Kyoto, with Takkyubin you can deliver your large suitcase direct toto your hotel, making your journey a lot more pleasant and relaxing.

differents types of trains in Japan

Traveling around Japan you will need to take the train on small journeys, such as day trips from Kyoto to Nara or Tokyo to Nikko, Kamakura or even Hakone (Mount Fuji), as well as trains that travel great distances such as Tokyo / Kyoto or Kyoto / Hiroshima example. For both trips the usage rules are the same.

However, there are several types of trains depending on the journey:

      • The Shinkansen is the Japanese Bullet Train.

      • The Express, called tokkyu limited, goes quickly and stops only at major stations.

      • The express train, called kyuko, travels slower than the express and stops at most stations.

      • The so-called rapid trains, kaisoku, are considered as semi-express and do not stop at all stations.

      • Finally local trains, called futsu, these stop at all stations.

Most Japanese trains are run by the Japan Railway Company. But there are some area that have railways run by private companies. In the Kanto region you can find the companies like Odakyo, Keio, Tokyo Metro Keikyu, Sotetsu, Keisein, Tobu and Seibu who manage most subway lines in Tokyo. There is also the Hankyu line, Hanshin, Keihan, Kintetsu and Nankai in the Kansai region around Kyoto. In Kyushu, there are JR and Nishitetsu trains. In the Chubu region, the Japanese Alps, the only private company is called Meitetsu.

There are other types of trains used by private companies, which often operate over very small distances, such as around Mount Koya and Mount Fuji. Here are the types of train available:

     • Semi-special express train, called juntokkyu, are in places of limited express (very fast) and express (slightly slower).

     • The so-called semi-express, junkyu, are a mix of local trains and rapid trains, they go pretty fast but stop at many stations.

     • Then you have tsukin, commuter trains that run during peak hours. Like the express trains, they are pretty fast and stop at many stations.

The train’s speeds will affect journey times, so in some cases it is possible to change trains ata station so you can catch a faster train, therefore, first take an express train to near yourdestination then take a local train, and it will cost you the same price. Station names are inLatin letters.