A No-Nonsense Guide To Japanese Trains

Japanese Trains are confusing. I mean, really confusing. Just look at this map of Greater Tokyo by JR Trains.

Greater Tokyo Train Map

Especially for a first-time Japanese foreigner, this can be more than overwhelming. Thankfully, it’s a system that’s predictable and well oiled; though the initial shock of these maps might leave your clothes a little more sweaty than you planned for (and I hope you have your luggage with you). P.S. I always pack hand wipes in my bag for long flights because I get nasty after sitting for 10 hours.

There are really only 3 steps to planning a route.
1. Note the destination and initial station you are coming from. The destination is the most important.
2. Price of the journey in cash
3. The transfer stations in between your home and destination station

Note: Bring more cash than you think you need. In Japan, cash is king (this is assuming that you aren’t going to be staying long term in the same area; if that’s the case, a prepaid IC card may be more beneficial).

If you are making a long journey, and need to take a 新幹線 (bullet train), then you’ll want to make a reservation in advance to confirm your seats and price.

How to Transfer
Get off at the station you need to.

… Yup.

No, but really. Listen to the intercom closely for the station that has a train on the line you need to get on.

If in doubt, get off at the next station and ask a ticket barrier attendant for directions. Even if they don’t speak any English, if you provide them your destination station, they will pull out a map and show you the route you should take.

For further help on navigating the maps (visually), check out the video I have on the Starfish Journals YouTube channel.

That’s it! You’re set for your adventure in Japan. Good luck, and tweet me pictures when make it. 🙂