Learn how to Navigate Japan’s Railway System: Varieties, Tickets & Ideas

Japan’s railway system, usually hailed as one of the best on the earth, connects the nation’s main cities, islands, landmarks, cities, and villages, and is undoubtedly essentially the most handy and reasonably priced option to discover this unimaginable place.

Understanding find out how to navigate Japan’s railways is, subsequently, completely important to taking advantage of your time on this particular nation and having the easiest journey expertise. If you wish to see as a lot of Japan as you may and make each second rely, then we are able to let you know how with our professional suggestions for navigating the nation’s quick, environment friendly, and clear railway system.

We’ll clarify every little thing you want to know, from practice sorts, seat courses, and shopping for tickets, to why a Japan Rail Cross is such a sensible funding, in our complete practice journey information.

Right here’s an outline:

Get Your JR Cross

We extremely advocate getting the JR Cross for limitless practice journey in Japan. Right here’s why:

Limitless Journey: Get pleasure from limitless entry to most JR railways, together with high-speed Shinkansen, native trains, and buses.

Value Financial savings: Save considerably on journey prices, significantly useful for long-distance and a number of journeys.

Simplicity: Keep away from the trouble of buying particular person tickets through the use of your move to simply entry trains.

Flexibility: Expertise the liberty to discover spontaneously with out worrying about additional ticket prices.

Further Advantages: Profit from extras like free reserved seat bookings and reductions on different JR transport companies.

Get your JR Cross now!

Japan’s Railway System: An Overview

Quick, secure, environment friendly, and clear, Japan’s trains are every little thing you’ve heard and extra.

In addition they join all the nation, from the northernmost island to the southernmost, enabling vacationers to achieve in all places they may need to go to in Japan. After all, a practice system this huge and sophisticated can appear a bit of daunting for first-time guests and that’s the place we are available in.

Japan's railway system
Learn how to Navigate Japan’s Railway System: Varieties, Tickets & Ideas

Let’s begin by supplying you with a fast overview of the rail system and some key details

  • Japan’s Railways are operated by the JR (Japan Railways) Group. The JR Group consists of six impartial practice operators (JR Hokkaido, JR Central, JR East, JR West, JR Shikoku and JR Kyushu). Collectively, these regional rail firms join Japan’s six fundamental islands. There are additionally smaller non-public firms who run further companies.
  • Need to see a map of the entire JR community? We’ve put collectively an interactive map of the community’s 4,800 practice stations and 23,000 km of rail traces, which presents an excellent useful resource for anybody planning to discover Japan by practice.
Japan's railway system

Prepare Varieties

There are a selection of various practice sorts in Japan, from the well-known and futuristic Shinkansen bullet trains to quaint native companies.

  • Shinkansen
    The well-known ‘bullet trains’ (the nickname comes from the bullet-shaped nostril of their authentic design) join Japan’s fundamental islands, from town of Sapporo within the north to Kagoshima within the south. In between these two stops, these unimaginable high-speed trains go to virtually all of Japan’s main cities – Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and plenty of extra. The Shinkansen are solely operated by the JR Group and have separate ticket gates and platforms. Touring on a bullet practice is an attraction in itself for a lot of guests to Japan. Try: The Full Information to Experiencing the Shinkansen Excessive-Velocity Trains in Japan
  • Restricted Specific
    The quickest non-Shinkansen trains in Japan. Restricted Specific trains are nonetheless very quick and solely cease at main stations. There are greater than 100 differing kinds.
  • Specific
    One other quick service. Specific trains cease at fewer stations than Speedy or Native trains to achieve fundamental locations quicker.
  • Speedy
    Basically a quicker model of the native trains beneath. These trains skip some minor stations to realize a quicker service. No seat reservations are wanted on fast trains.
  • Native
    Common trains that cease at each station. Native trains price the identical as fast trains above. These trains additionally don’t have seat reservations.
  • Particular trains
    These are generally called ‘joyful’ trains in Japan and are particular trains and companies typically based mostly round characters, particular occasions, or themes, from Mickey Mouse to restaurant trains and resort excursions. These typically include large view home windows, particular consolation seats, drinks and meals, and can also contain actions comparable to a cellular artwork gallery, native dancing, and even sake tasting.
A train in Japan

Seat Courses

Whereas touring on Japan’s trains, there are typically two fundamental sorts of seat courses, though a 3rd, gran class, is obtainable on some Shinkansen trains.

  • Abnormal
    These are normal seats. Japan’s atypical seats are comfy, spacious, and clear.
  • Inexperienced Automotive / Inexperienced Class
    The equal of top quality with extra luxurious seating and additional house. Inexperienced automobiles may be recognized with a four-leaf inexperienced clover image on the carriage. Extras embody drinks, oshibori, hand towels and sweet.
  • Gran Class
    Enterprise-class type luxurious seating with perks like eye masks, sake, sashimi, blankets and therapeutic massage seats. Gran class is just accessible on sure Shinkansen trains.
Inside a train in Japan

Introducing: The Japan Rail Cross

The Japan Rail Cross gives limitless journey on all the nationwide JR community, together with the high-speed bullet practice traces and transport to and from the nation’s airports.

Whether or not you’re planning to discover the entire nation or simply journey from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka and again once more (for instance), a JR Cross can provide a lot better worth than buying particular person tickets – and it’s solely accessible for worldwide guests.

Passes are legitimate for 7, 14, or 21 days as soon as activated and offer you entry to all Japan Railways Group (JR) trains, buses, and ferry companies throughout Japan. This consists of the well-known Shinkansen bullet trains. One of many many advantages of the JR Cross – alongside limitless journey on JR trains and the Shinkansen – is free reservations and seat choice. Having a move means you’ll additionally be capable to hop on and off trains as wanted with out having to purchase a ticket, which provides you an enormous quantity of additional flexibility as a traveler. You may even improve your JR Cross to a Inexperienced Class JR Cross for limitless first-class journey. 

Japan Rail Passes may be purchased as much as three months prematurely and have to be activated in your arrival in Japan. Regional JR passes are additionally accessible for those who’re positively solely visiting one space of Japan. Lastly, you may also buy particular person tickets for single and return journeys from self-service ticket machines or ticket counters at stations, though it’s price noting even for those who’re solely planning on utilizing the practice a few times throughout your keep, it’d nonetheless be higher worth to make use of a JR Cross. 

Associated learn: Touring by Rail in Japan with JR Cross

A train in Japan

High Ten Journey Ideas for Japan’s Railways

Alongside the detailed data we’ve already offered, we’ve additionally put collectively a listing of professional suggestions for Japan’s railways that will help you have the very best journey expertise.

1. Planning makes good

The extra time you spend planning your practice journeys earlier than you arrive in Japan, the much less time you’ll waste on the bottom. If you happen to do your analysis prematurely to work out one of the best and best practice journeys to achieve the locations most vital to you then you definitely’ll spend extra time having fun with the vacation spot and fewer time travelling. 

2. Arrive early, by no means late

Japan’s trains are extremely punctual and virtually all the time depart on time so it’s so much higher to be early than late. Arrive on the station in loads of time and also you’ll be nice. Actually, you’ll be amazed at how well timed Japan’s trains are in comparison with the remainder of the world!

3. Trendy know-how is your good friend

The likes of Google Maps, Navitime, and Jorudan, may be extraordinarily helpful for stay updates while you’re out and about. You’ll want to spend money on a PocketWifi gadget earlier than you journey nonetheless to remain linked to the web while you want it. PocketWifi leases provide limitless Wifi from any location, and on as much as 5 gadgets, permitting you to navigate and examine stay timetable updates on the go. Learn extra about normal apps in our information to Hyperdia alternate options

4. Discover the precise departure platform 

One fast tip that may be a lifesaver when in a rush is studying to search out the precise departure platform. There may be a variety of data on each your ticket and the departure screens, like practice identify, stops, sort of service and rather more. A quick option to discover the precise platform is to have a look at the departure occasions first, then take a look at every little thing else. Another is to ask what platform your practice will depart from when reserving the tickets and ask the workers to jot down this in your ticket.

A train station in Japan
Learn how to Navigate Japan’s Railway System: Varieties, Tickets & Ideas

5. Concentrate on Japanese practice etiquette

Japan is thought for valuing good manners and its etiquette guidelines positively prolong to coach journeys. Preserve your cellphone on silent, attempt to keep away from taking calls if attainable, take heed to music by way of headphones solely, preserve your voice down whereas speaking, get rid of your litter, and retailer your baggage accurately, are all good fundamental suggestions if you wish to keep within the good graces of Japanese commuters.

Associated learn: Japanese Etiquette: Learn how to Act Like You’re Japanese

6. Test your baggage allowance

Baggage rules on most of Japan’s trains are pretty relaxed. On the whole, it’s possible you’ll deliver any dimension or variety of baggage inside cause, so long as it doesn’t inconvenience different passengers. The one exception is the Shinkansen bullet trains, which do have extra formal baggage rules.

When boarding the Shinkansen, the next rules apply: You might deliver as much as two items of luggage on board freed from cost. For every bag the entire of the size, width and top should not exceed 250 centimetres, the size should not exceed two metres and the load should be not more than 30 kilograms.

  • Baggage items lower than 160 cm (sum of top x size x width) may be introduced aboard with out prior reservation.
  • For baggage items between 160 cm – 250 centimeters, a previous reservation is required, which may be made without spending a dime. In case no reservation is made, then a 1,000 yen nice can be charged, and your baggage could also be moved by the practice conductor.
  • Baggage over 250 centimeters is probably not introduced on the practice and can want various transportation. Reservations may be made without spending a dime by way of the Eki-Web App, at a ticket machine or in particular person at a ticket window.
  • Utilizing the JR Cross, we recommend making your seat reservations and baggage reservations on the identical time. JR Cross holders who improve to Inexperienced Class get an additional baggage allowance of two suitcases per particular person.
  • Lastly, if in case you have particularly giant baggage, it’s possible you’ll need to contemplate using the lockers at stations or baggage forwarding companies. 
Inside one of the trains on Japan's railway system
Learn how to Navigate Japan’s Railway System: Varieties, Tickets & Ideas

7. Reserved vs non-reserved

Relying on the kind of practice you’re touring on, you’ll come throughout companies with reserved and non-reserved carriages.

The latter merely means you may sit wherever inside these carriages if in case you have a non-reserved ticket. In reserved carriages, you’ll need to pre-book your seat reservation prematurely. Reservations are free for JR Cross holders and may be made at ticket workplaces. We have now extra detailed data on reserving seats additional beneath, so preserve studying.

It’s a good suggestion to order a seat for those who can. Seat reservations and not using a rail move can price wherever between 200 and 1,000 yen every, however they’re free with the JR Cross, which is one other good cause to contemplate shopping for one on your journey.

Making a reservation not solely saves cash, it additionally saves time, as there’s no must queue for a seat on the station platform. Additionally, you will have the peace of mind that you could sit collectively together with your fellow vacationers. All reserved seats are assured.

8. Ebook forward (or keep away from touring) throughout busy durations

Every day, it’s possible you’ll need to keep away from commuter rush-hour durations, that are just like these in different international locations (8 am-9 am and 5 pm-7 pm). In any other case, you’ll additionally need to pay attention to vacation durations when trains is likely to be totally booked. These embody New Yr, Obon, and Golden Week, that are widespread holidays in Japan. The well-known Cherry Blossom season is one other busy time of yr in Japan for vacationers.

Key dates to be careful for are 28 December to six January (New Yr), 27 April to six Could (Golden Week), and 11-20 August (Obon season). The identical goes for festivals, just like the Gion Matsuri in July, the Takayama Pageant from April 14-15 and Tokushima Pageant August 12-15.

Typically talking, reserving forward and making seat reservations is an efficient approach to make sure you have a seat no matter time of yr it’s. 

Orange train in Japan

9. You’ll want a pay as you go journey card for Japan’s subways

Alongside a JR Cross for countrywide journey, a pay as you go journey card for inner-city journeys is a should! These IC playing cards – just like London’s Oyster card system – are the best option to get round Japanese cities utilizing wonderful public transportation.

As such, you’ll positively need to spend money on a pay as you go journey card comparable to an ICOCA, PASMO or Suica card. IC playing cards like these may be topped up and refunded as wanted and so they work by tapping or waving them over the cardboard reader as you move by way of the ticket gates.

As a bonus tip (and never only for practice journey), make sure you carry money the place you may in Japan as bodily money remains to be used so much throughout the nation.

10. Take a second to get pleasure from Japan’s trains and practice stations

Each Japan’s trains and stations are distinctive, state-of-the-art, and filled with issues to see and do. They aren’t simply transport hubs or technique of transport to get from A to B, they’re an expertise in themselves.

Be sure you take a while to cease, go searching, and luxuriate in each the stations and trains themselves as a part of your journey. Some stations are main complexes filled with retailers, eating places, and amenities, for instance, whereas others are picturesque, quaint, and nostalgic.

You’ll additionally discover the world’s greatest practice meals at stations – Ekiben. Pronounced ‘air key ben’, the Japanese phrase ‘Ekiben’ is a portmanteau of the kanji symbols for ‘practice station’ and ‘boxed meal’ i.e. ‘station-bento’. Its identify completely describes what it’s – a lunch field offered at practice stations for consuming throughout your rail journey. Learn our Information to Ekiben for extra.

Equally, Japanese trains, significantly the Shinkansen, include options comparable to onboard drinks and snacks companies, energy retailers for cellphone charging and laptop computer use, seats that may rotate 180 levels, and extra.

In terms of getting round Japan’s practice stations, shopping for tickets, and boarding trains, it’s possible you’ll be pleasantly shocked to find it’s a lot simpler and fewer daunting than it’s possible you’ll assume. You is likely to be shocked to know that Japanese practice stations have indicators and departure boards in English in addition to Japanese. You may additionally see indicators in Chinese language and Korean, reflecting the nation’s standing as a worldwide journey vacation spot. 

Getting tickets at a train station in Japan

Learn how to Reserve Seats & Board the Prepare

Japan’s trains have each non-reserved and reserved seats in separate automobiles. Sure companies are totally reserved, and others could also be switched to totally reserved throughout nationwide holidays just like the New Yr, Obon, or Golden Week, so make sure you examine earlier than you journey.

In case you are touring with a Japan Rail Cross then one of many many benefits of that is that you could make advance seat reservations without spending a dime. Seats may be reserved freed from cost at Midori no Mado Guchi ticket workplaces, recognizable by their inexperienced signal, or at Journey Service Centres and JR-associated Journey Businesses.

For a number of years, JR East trains have been the one service that has provided a web based English language reservation system, which may very well be used to make bookings from outdoors of Japan, with all different traces requiring in-person reservations as soon as in Japan. To order a seat, merely take your JR Cross to the Midori no Mado Guchi, specify which practice you want to reserve a seat on, stating smoking or non-smoking. You’ll then obtain your reserved seat ticket and easily want to point out your JR Cross on the ticket gate and go to your platform.

You’ll want to preserve maintain of your ticket as you’ll have to current each your JR Cross and seat reservation to the ticket inspector. 

So far as boarding a practice goes, it’s comparatively easy – after arriving on the station, you’ll need to undergo the common ticket gates into the paid fare zone and head to the platform. Please word for those who’re touring on a Shinkansen practice there can be a second set of ticket gates. Shinkansen additionally has its personal devoted platforms.

You’ll discover your carriage quantity in your ticket. Carriage numbers can be discovered printed on the bottom and hanging from indicators (non-reserved carriages are often numbered 1-5). Line up behind the white line and wait on your practice. As soon as the practice arrives, enter your carriage and discover your seat (seat numbers are indicated above the window). In any other case, you may sit in any seat if it’s an unreserved carriage.

After that, merely sit again and chill out!

Shinjuku Station in Japan

  • Japan Rail Pass

    Discover Japan with a Japan Rail Cross. Limitless journey on Japan Rail trains, buses and ferries. With our vibrant on-line neighborhood, devoted professional help crew and sophistication main value, service and supply speeds.

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