13 things for train taking you to smart itinerary

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You’ve reached my blog means you have at least curious about travel to Japan right? I think you will take public transportation especially train because train is one of well developed way to move around Japan. That reason behind I’m going to write 13 topics related to train using Tokyo as example. It would be better to know beforehand to build your trip plan. Even if you’ve already been to Japan and have taken train several times, you might be able to find tips you’ve never heard. So Let’s take a look.

1, JR (Japan railway) and Subway(Tokyo Metro)

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Logo for rail company

In Tokyo, there are ground level train and subway. I think you would be able to get how complex line Tokyo has, after check a line map at following two links.

JR
http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/info/map_a4ol.pdf

Subway
http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/subwaymap/pdf/routemap_en.pdf

As you saw the tons of line, even Japanese sometimes get lost unless they get used to. Moreover there is such a confusing one which is some stations are shared by JR and subway. For example, Shinjuku station is shared by JR and subway but Roppongi station is only for subway and so on. This type of things happen often in Tokyo, so keep in mind.

If you look for Roppongi station on JR line map, you can’t find Roppongi station as I said. Generally speaking, It might be hard to distinguish the difference between JR and Subway for the first time due to likely similar map.

2, Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train)

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Speaking of Japanese train, you might have heard “Shinkansen”. Explaining with big picture, that type of train can move long distance in shorter time than normal train. Now in Japan several, different types of Shinkansen are running in Japan depending on region. You can distinguish which train is running on which reagin using figure.

For example if you take Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka you will take Tokaido/Sanyo line. However there are three different type of lines run on Tokaido/Sanyo line which are called Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama. The difference between those are the number of stop. Well I recommend to take bullet train if you have chance to go where bullet train near by. Then it should become something good memory. Yes, bullet train is expensive but it has dedicated platform and gate and quite styled train car design, so I think it going to be good experience in Japan.

All bullet trains are run by JR and needs to pay fares for both base ticket and reserved seats ticket to take.

You could find more details at http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018.html

3, Types of trains

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In above section, I’ve told you that there are difference about the number of stops depending on types of bullet train. Actually the same goes for local train. Generally speaking it consists of 4 different models which are limited express (tokkyu : 特急), express (kyuko : 急行), rapid (kaisoku : 快速) and ordinary (futsu : 普通). The limited express is less stop and ordinary stops every station written in order. So it would be better to choose limited express if it is going to stop at station you want to get off. You don’t need to pay additional fare to get on in general. All you need to do is just buying basic ticket.

Why I said “generally” is that because how those type are named is quite depending on train company unfortunately. That being said, it should be enough to keep in mind and just know there is several different type of train.

4, Don’t take train rush hour

Nothing hard to think of stay away from rush hour on train which is around 8 – 9 am on weekday. You might have seen pushers on Youtube who literally pushes people into train. It doesn’t happen every day but depending on situation you might be caught up in rush as long as you took the train in rush hour. By the way Shinjuku station is the busiest station in the world in terms of the number of passenger in a day.

5, Priority seat in the car

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With taking train can in Japan, you would sometimes see this sign (look at figure) on window. This means beneath seat of this sticker is priority seat for elderly, pregnant and handicapped people and so on. You should be able to recognize them because the seats color is different from other ones. Of course you can take them but for some reason Japanese train intentionally has dedicated seats for them.

6, Women only car

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This is not going to be bother you as long as you take the train except morning but you would see this sticker(look at figure) on train window sometimes. If you are man and find this car in rush hour especially morning, you have to be aware and try to get in another car because its car is going to be women only car.

This car is used for protecting women from groper. So when you’re a man and need to take train on in morning, make sure if car window has this sticker. Well you might be able to find out before train comes in, because at certain platform where women only car is going to stop in front of has the same color sticker. That is where women only car stops.

7, How to buy a ticket

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A way of buying ticket might be different from others country so I’m going to tell you about how to. In Japan you can buy a ticket referring to line map above a ticket machine. First you need to look for station on the map where you’re going to get off. After you find a station, your fare from here to destination should be printed just next to station on map.

Once you find out fare, all you need to do is just insert Japanese yen into ticket machine then touch a button which is exactly the same price on map. Sometimes lime map is put next to ticket machine, but again you can find it near the machine. Generally the ticket machine is using Japanese as default language(for sure), but there is a button for switching language among Japanese and English in JR, so would be better to put language into English before take action.

Nevertheless you run into trouble, let’s ask staff next to gate should become the best solution for sure.

8, IC card instead of buying ticket every time

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I told you just one before section about buying a ticket to get on but there is an another way that is using IC card (called Suica, pasmo and so on). Actually this is way popular one to pass the gate. Moreover this makes your fare slightly cheaper than just buying ticket with machine. You could see tons of people in Japan who use Suica(http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html ) or Pasmo( http://www.pasmo.co.jp/en/ ) especially in Kanto reagion.

There are several different cards over Japan depending on region however it generally compatible with each other so if you have one IC card, it should be enough to move around. Regarding how to use IC card is that basically charge Japanese yen using ticket machine (usually the ticket machine has both functionality buying ticket and charge money to your IC card), then when you pass the gate all you need to is just touch your card closely on the certain point of gate.

Maybe you can imagine already. The fare is deducted from your IC card when you touch the gate again to out. 500 yen you need to pay when apply your IC card but when you return it, 500 yen will be return to you. Well IC card might turn something good to you if you forget to give back.

9, A general manner unspoken

This might be small rule when you use train in any case most Japanese keep following things.

  • To make getting off and on smoothly, waits till all people get off
  • Keep quiet as you are on the car. People generally refrain even taking on the phone
  • If you face packed car and you have backpack, hold your backpack in your arms

Those rules are unspoken, put in above rules in mind would be better.

10, Wash room and trash can at station

Trash can and washroom are generally installed inside the station(need to pass the gate). In the relatively big station, you can see the washroom for handicapped. Regarding the trash, you can see separated trash can for each types like paper, plastic and can.

11, Useful web page for taking train

The links below I recommend to take a look before going to here Japan to ensure Japanese rail system and searchable timetable. I surely can say that it should be useful as information to make your better itinerary.

12, Discount tickets good for traveler

The cheapest fare, sounds good for everyone isn’t it? Actually there are 2 popular way to cut train cost. I think following 2 types are common so I’ll pick up and talk about them.

・Japan rail Pass

http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/index.html

This is dedicated pass for foreign traveller means I can not buy it because Japanese..(I’m jealous of you!). Anyway you can choose one out of three types which are 7, 14, 21 days in a row tickets and as you choose period, “ALMOST” all stations you can get off and on.
Of cause there are several exceptions, so you can not be wild with joy. It is not always cheaper than buy basic ticket at station. That’s why I strongly recommend to go through above link before make decision. On the other hand, it may cut your train fare drastic depending on your itinerary is true; especially you’re going to take bullet train a couple of times.

・Seishun juhachi-kippu

http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/seishun18.html

This ticket allows us to take all trains for 5 days except for bullet train (5 day-tickets). You can take train 5 days in a row or separately 5 days or can share with your friends. One thing that this ticket bother me is that only sold for 5 day-tickets. Sometimes it works quite well but sometimes not..so again it’s depends if it cut your travel cost.

13, Eating and drinking at stations

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Noodle (Udon, Soba) shop at station

In relatively large size of station, there is convenient store or small cafe where serves Udon or Soba (both noodle) in general. If you don’t have enough time to transfer but you were hungry, eating at those shops would be solution for it. By the way eating Udon or Soba at station is quite well known style for Japanese so I recommend to drop at and have Udon or Soba to feel part of Japanese culture in a way because most Japanese people had had them at station I think.

Wrapping up

I put down about 10 tips in this article including small info. The reason why I put small one as well is I know as we’re on travel sometimes even small info turns useful one. Hope this article helps your travel. If you have questions or wants more detail, feel free to send a message or comment using form below.

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