How to use trains in Japan (and subways and trams)


If there is something that makes us all a thousand incognitas when we think about traveling to Japan, it is transportation. We imagine hundreds of trains, tight meters, road scalextrix, indications in Japanese, stress, ...

Well, the truth is that if something has surprised us on this trip is that ... nothing is further from reality. The transports in Japan are intuitive, punctual, simple to use and comfortable. In just one way you go to the other side of the city if you almost find out. And the best is the frequency of both trains and buses ... every very little time.

We will tell you in this article of the rail transport, the main means of transport in the Japanese country. And for this we are going to talk about the trains of the Japan Rail company (which is used by us, although there is some other private company of similar use), the subway, the trams and the funicular of Hakone.

Rail transport with the Japan Rail Pass

Japan Rail is the great transport company of Japan. In addition to rail transport it has buses, ferries, hotels and bicycles in addition to some other facility. We with them, as far as rail transport is concerned, we use two services: the "normal" trains (regional, local and limited express) and the Shinkhashen ("bullet trains").

There is a fundamental utility on the internet to know the schedules, available routes and prices that this company includes. This is //

As we have commented on many occasions, we took the bonus valid for 14 days (there is also for 7 and 21) called Japan Rail Pass. UPDATE 2016: Today you can buy it online at the best price inofficial agency and in 2 days you have it at home.

Redeeming it there is very simple. You just have to go to one "office ticket" with the green symbol at any station (Midori-no madoguchi), say the date from which you want it to work and give the voucher next to the passport and cover a form, which can be found on the internet also: //

And from there? Enjoy

1. "Normal" trains (local, regional, limited express and other lines)

Virtually all of Japan is connected to JR trains. In addition the main cities like Osaka or Tokyo have Loop lines that run through its main neighborhoods.

How to use it? It is as simple as locating the station that interests us. They are all very intuitive. To move from the "free" zone to the JR zone you simply have to teach the Japan Rail Pass in one of the margins of the controls (where there is always a reviewer) or if we have ticket, pass it through any of the metro type controls. (There is possibility on some routes to reserve a seat as in the Shikhashen. Read below how it will work)

Once inside everything is very simple. To locate our platform we can either look at the electronic panels or follow the indicative posters that appear in both Japanese and English.

And wait for the next train. Do not worry about falling asleep, in Japan everything sounds. When the next train is approaching, in addition to indicating it on the electronic panel, it will sound little music, hehehe ... There is some very geeky wagon !!

The wagons, depending on the time and the route, can be very full or almost empty. But anyway, we never had trouble catching what we wanted.

2. ShikhashenJR also has the famous Shikhashen or "bullet trains" that communicate, with just a few stops in major cities, the North and South of Honshu Island. (NOTE: The Shikhashen Nozomi are not included in the JRPass, is the only one.) The operation here is very similar. There are 4,6,8 and 16 car trains. In all of them there will be some who will be kind "RESERVED" and others "NO-RESERVED". This is valid for some ordinary trains or Limited Express that are not Shikhashen. We always use the "RESERVED" and for this you only have to reserve your seat the same day if there is it in any "Office Ticket" or in previous days. If you are more or less clear about your journeys by booking the day before or two days in advance, you should not have problems and you will know that you have your seat for long journeys. If not, there is always the possibility of going on a "NO-RESERVED" (it doesn't matter if you don't have a ticket) and try to take a seat or stand up.

The indications, again, we will have them in japanese and english, alternating information between both languages. The frequency is a little lower than in the other trains, but it is still literally amazing (having a "bullet train" every 10 or 15 minutes? Uffs)

How to know where my car will stop if I am in CAR 4, for example? Very easy. In all the platforms of the station we will have posters on the floor which will put EXACTLY where our car will be. As there are several types of color posters according to a Shikhasen Nozomi of 16 cars, or a Hikari of 16 or 8 cars, or a Kodama of 8, 6 or 4 cars. Identified the color (puts it) we just have to go to the place where our car is (In the example CAR 4). And do not worry, in addition to arriving PUNCTUAL to the second, KEY IT, the entrance of the wagon 4 will be in front of your nose ...

Once inside, both "normal" and Shikhasen trains, we will be kept informed by screen and voice of what will be the next stop, the current one and there will be posters in the stations that are seen from the cars to be able to follow it too. seating of the Shikhashen are airplane type and a large suitcase usually enters in case we want to take it for long journeys. And the service also (they bring you coffee, juice, pastries, etc ... -previous payment-)

What to do on large routes (and short, hehe)? The Japanese only do 3 things on the journeys: Vicio to the mobile (watching TV on it, answering messages or playing ...), read (huge newspapers that are read from top to bottom, comic manga or books) or !!! SLEEP !! ! The "flex" effect takes over the Japanese. Pussy, they fall asleep standing up. And in addition 80% chose this option, hehe. And what were we going to do? !! SLEEP !!. The little girl would be in charge of waking us up (and she does)

Occasionally (almost always), the reviser to ask for your tickets if you have chosen the option of reserved seats. Also note that practically all stations have available automatic slogans to be able to leave things for prices according to the size of 300, 400 or 500 Y. A very comfortable option if you know that you will return to the station. (Visit Himeji Castle, or Okayama Garden, etc ...)

Other trains used in Japan

In the Hakone area you can buy the Hakone Free Pass, a voucher that allows you to enjoy all the trains (and other means of transport) in the area for 2 or 3 days, depending on which one you take. The use is identical, although showing another type of bonus. More information in //

Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto Metro

The subway of the big cities does not allow the use of the JRPass. We use it both in Osaka, like Kyoto, and Tokyo. Punctuality is still impeccable and its service puts you anywhere in the city, as it happens in Europe, with relative speed. Its operation is very very simple and intuitive as well. The first thing to do is take a ticket depending on the station we want to go to. For this we will always find a station plan in which he will point us where we are and we will locate our destiny. There will be two numbers, one large (adult price) and one small (child price). All in Japanese and English. The machines are automatic and change and some are even tactile. They have the option of putting them in English and there is a button to choose 2, 3 or more tickets of the same type so as not to have to take them out one by one. In addition the lines will be distinguished by colors and name (Example, Kamasura Line, green), which will facilitate its location. Finally, the stations will have a letter and a number associated, which makes everything more intuitive. (Example, Oike stop will have K08 and the Kyoto Station K11, in green too). In Tokyo there are 2 private companies that manage it, so it is advisable to have a subway map. It may happen to you that you change from one line from one company to another, but if the machine gives you an error, go to the supervisor side and quickly solve the problem.

Hence, the same as in Europe. Plan of stations, arrival of the subway, normal wagons and ... "musiquita". In addition to the information on the platforms of the stops by name, color, letter and number, by voice and on the electronic panel (not all), the stops will be informed.

!! That comes !! !! That comes !! Everyone in line. Eh, and the Spanish cap method? Everyone in their queue !! How organized are these Japanese ...

Let out before entering, basic rule in any Japanese (and European) meter

Also highlight a very curious thing. Although we did not get to see colored wagons or an exclusive use of women in them, if there were SPECIFIC and EXCLUSIVE wagons for ladys in certain lines. If so, they have everything thought. Or is it that the Japanese are very out? hehehe

Trams in Okayama, Hiroshima and Kamakura

Another railway transport that we took a lot was the tram. Both in Okayama and Hiroshima the use was very similar to the bus, entering from behind or in front and paying according to the stop where we got off, putting the money in the box next to it of the driver, when leaving ahead. his price was around 100 and 150 Y.

In Kamakura the ticket was purchased before entering and its use was very similar to that of trains, passing a pre-check before getting into the wagons. Its price was 190 Y

Funicular in Hakone

Even if in passing, another of the railway means we took was the Hakone Cable-pulled Funicular. We use the two day Hakone Free Pass.

And this is all about Rail Transport. We continue with the rest of the transports in THIS ARTICLE