Train travel in Japan! Easy tips on how to take the train
Train is a very convenient means of transportation in Japan. By using trains, you can have access to almost everywhere within this country. In this article, we will share with you some one-oh-one knowledge on how to commute with trains.
Waku WakuPublished on 20 Nov 2020, 12:00
To use the train, you need a ticket or an IC card
To get on a regular train, you need to purchase a ticket or an IC card. You can buy one at ticket machine near the ticket gate.
1. Purchase a ticket
Normally, the ticket vending machines will display buying options in prices.
First of all, find how to get to your desired destination and check the corresponding fare on the map. Then buy a ticket for that distance.
Most of recently launched ticket machines include touch-panel. English translation is also available.
If you purchase a shorter distance ticket but actually go further than your original destination, you need to pay an additional fee at the drop-off station. However, on the contrary, if you get off at a distance shorter than the desired destination, the price difference between 2 destinations will not be refunded. So be really careful when purchasing tickets.
If you are lost or are uncertain about what ticket to get, consult with the station's staffs. Let them know your destination, and they will help you the shortest route and ticket fare.
2. Get an IC card
IC cards are so-called prepaid electronic money. They can be your game-changer because it saves lots of time buying ticket by pre-charging the money.
You need to deposit 500 yen to issue an IC card. However, if you return it to the registered station after use, your deposited money will be refunded.
Each railway company issue their own IC cards. Since the coverage service for each is different, it is recommended to check its usability and availability before purchasing one.
For example, JR Group's "Suica" (East Japan area), "ICOCA" (West Japan area), and "PASMO" which can be used on metro lines and buses in the Tokyo metropolitan area are recommended because of their great coverage services and user-friendliness system.
Not limited to transportation usage, these IC cards can also be used as electronic money at vending machines and convenience stores.
There are many types of trains in Japan, especially in urban areas. It is common that passengers need to transfer to another trains several times before reaching final destination. Using an IC card will help you saving those time getting tickets.
To summarise, if you commute a lot by train, we highly recommend using an IC card.
Tickets done! Let’s get on the train
You got your ticket (or IC card), now let's head to the platform.
1. Check the route to your desired destination
When buying a ticket, it is essential to check the train route and follow it.
The route can be found on station's maps (usually placed above ticket vending machine) or free handout map. But we highly recommend using the mobile app for much better convenience.
Recommended apps: https://japantravel.navitime.com/en/
2. Pass through the ticket gate
The ticket gates are different for each railway company.
In many stations, it is often displayed overhead so make sure you go to the correct gate. After you pass through, also look for overhead display to access your platform.
There are entrance and exit gates. If the ticket gate shows "↑", you can pass, and if it is "x", it means you have to find another one.
Insert ticket into the slot or touch the panel using IC card at ticket gate with the "↑" sign to pass.
If there is not enough money left on the card, or if the card is not touched properly, the gate will not open, so please touch firmly and check your card balance as well.
When you arrive at the destination, you must present your ticket or IC card when you leave the platform at that station! The ticket is relatively small and can easily fall out of your pocket so please make sure that you keep it on guard!
3. Take the train
Many trains will notify you of the next arrival station by displaying information on monitor or by voice announcement. In urban areas, you can experience both voice and display announcement and English version is also available (Sometimes, Chinese and Korean are also available).
When you need to take transfer, get off at transit station.
There will be signs and notifications guiding you to your next platform, follow the guidance to get there.
Home platforms often have electronic bulletin boards indicating train's types and arrival time. At some large stations, different type of trains run on the same line. Moreover, 2 opposite trains approaching platform at the same time is very common. So be really careful not to mistake your train with another. Double check your train information before you board again.
Click here for article on different types of trains:
If you have any troubles such as not able to find the ticket gate, or getting on the wrong train, please contact the station staff.
The station staff will politely show you how to get to your destination.
Also, do you want to know about the unique manners of Japan when riding trains? Learn more about them here:
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