The railway system in Japan has a high reputation for punctuality and safety.

The train fare varies naturally depending on the distance you travel as well as the type of train you wish to catch: Limited Express, Express etc. and the type of reserved seat: Green Car (first class), Sleeper etc., for each of which an extra charge is required.

Tickets for short distances are available from ticket machines that are installed at each train station whereas tickets for long distances and reservations are dealt with at ticket offices at major stations.

To use the train, first purchase a ticket at a vending machine or ticket window. Your ticket is punched by hand at the wicket or inserted in a punching machine. Please keep the ticket since it must be returned at your destination.
If there is no fare chart in English, buy the cheapest ticket indicated on the vending machine and pay the difference due at the fare adjustment office at your destination station before you go through the exit wicket.

Most stations display station names in both Japanese and alphabet lettering on platform signboards. The name of the station is in large letters in the center of the sign; names of adjacent stations appear below or to either side.

Most if not all trains stop operating around midnight.

Japan Railways (JR)

Japan’s leading railway company, Japan Railways (JR), has an elaborate and well-established system of trains throughout the country.

The Shinkansen (bullet train) is the world famous super express train, which fascinates Japanese and foreign visitors alike with its high speed and comfort. It is operated from Tokyo to major cities at intervals of approximately 15 minutes.

Long-distance trains provide convenient access to all parts of Japan.
To book tickets for long-distance trains follow either one of two different procedures:

  1. If you did not validate your Japan Rail Pass at the airport, or did not make seat reservations at the airport JR Travel Service Center, you can go to the JR Travel Center downtown. The one in Tokyo is located at the Yaesu north-exist concourse of Tokyo Station, and is open 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily. If you have already validated your pass and need only to make seat reservations, go to any Reservation Ticket Office (Midori-no-Madoguchi) counter at major JR stations.
  2. If you don’t have a JR Pass, visit the JR Travel Service Center or one of the major travel agents.


Shinkansen (Bullet train)

The shinkansen has several lines. The Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen, which links Tokyo and Hakata, is the one that many travelers use. The Tohoku shinkansen links Tokyo and Shin-Aomori (Aomori Pref.), the Johetsu shinkansen links Tokyo and Niigata, the Nagano shinkansen links Tokyo and Nagano, and the Kyushu Shinkansen in Kyushu presently links Shinyatsushiro (Kumamoto Pref.) and Kagoshima Chuo (Kagoshima Pref.).

Types of Shinkansen

There are three types of Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen: Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama. Each type of shinkansen stops at different stations. For instance, Nozomi stops at Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Shin-Osaka respectively between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. Hikari stops at different stations in addition to the ones that Nozomi stops at (stations for stops differ for each train). Kodama stops at all stations (16 stations between Tokyo and Osaka).

Types of seats

3 types of seats: Non-reserved seats, Reserved seats, and Green Car seats
Travel time and fares (per one adult) on main lines

  • Between Tokyo and Sendai: Approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes
    Fare: ¥10,590
  • Between Tokyo and Niigata: Approximately 2 hours and 3 minutes
    Fare: ¥10,270
  • Between Tokyo and Nagoya: Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes
    Fare: ¥6,090 + express fare of ¥4,690 (Reserved seat) or ¥3,980 (Non-reserved seat)
  • Between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes
    Fare: ¥8,510 + express fare of ¥5,540 (Reserved seat) or ¥4,730 (Non-reserved seat)
  • Between Tokyo and Hakata: Approximately 5 hours and 15 minutes
    Fare: ¥13,440 + express fare of ¥8,880 (Reserved seat) or ¥7,770 (Non-reserved seat)
  • Between Shin-Osaka and Nagoya: Approximately 50 minutes
    Fare: ¥3,260 + express fare of ¥3,120 (Reserved seat) or ¥2,410 (Non-reserved seat)
  • Between Shin-Osaka and Hakata: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes
    Fare: ¥9,350 + express fare of ¥5,540 (Reserved seat) or ¥4,730 (Non-reserved seat)

※ Express fares are ¥200 cheaper during non-busy days and an additional ¥200 during busy days.

Scenic Railways

Many areas in Japan have their own special, scenic railways on which you can take in the natural beauty and essence of the region.Let’s go on a railway journey filled with appealing local highlights.


Q & A for using trains


Q: It is inconvenient if I have to purchase a ticket every time I ride a train. Is there any better way?

A: There are some convenient card ticketing systems such as a prepaid card or an IC card.

Because of its convenience, the number of card ticket users is increasing. All you need to do is insert your card into a ticket gate machine, so there is no need to purchase a ticket at the ticket machine. There are two types of cards available, the prepaid card and the IC card. They are issued at ticket machines and ticket offices in all stations. For the prepaid card, you buy a card for a fixed amount and insert it through the ticket gate machine before entering the platform. For the IC card with charge, you buy one with a deposit added and use it repeatedly as you reload. When you enter the platform, you just tap the card on the ticket machine. This type of card is normally usable for multiple transportations. Presently there are no common cards which can be used nationwide, but there are various types of cards which can be used in different local areas: the Tokyo area “SUICA” or “PASMO” and the Osaka area “ICOCA” or “KANSAI THRU PASS.” Purchase the one which can be used in the area where you stay, and make sure of which transportations you can use it for.

Q: What are “Women-only passenger cars”?

A:“Railway or subway cars that are prioritized for use by women as well as elementary school students, younger children, customers with disabilities and their caregivers.”

It is one of services introduced by railway companies on selected lines and is operated mainly during rush hours on weekdays. Though the service says “women-only,” the cars may also be used by male passengers mentioned above. The service was designed with the customers’ safety and security in mind, and is made possible with the understanding and consideration of other passengers.

Q: How do I pay the extra fare if I ride farther than the ticket value?

A:When you exit the station after getting off the train, you can pay the extra amount.

If you ride the train with a ticket with a fare that is short for your destination, or if you change your destination after you get on the train, you can pay the extra fare at the exit of your destination station. You can pay it directly to the attendant at the station, or you can use a fare adjustment machine if it is installed at that station, or you can pay the attendant conductor on the train if he comes around you.

Q: What do I do if I left my belongings on the train?

A: You can ask station staff to find them.

If the train company is the same, you can ask for assistance to the staff from the line you took, a departure station, or an arrival station. They will search your belongings through computers based on your information such as the train, your seat location, and the characteristics of your belongings. You may also call a lost and found office of the railway company, but in that case it is usually necessary to speak in Japanese.

Q: What if I get hungry on the train?

A: Food and drink is sold on the train.

For long distance trains such as the shinkansen, there are venders and vending machines which sell food, snacks, drinks, and alcoholic beverages on the train. You may purchase a lunch, such as a sandwich, “onigiri” (rice-ball), or a special local lunch, an “Ekiben” (train station lunch) made with a local product of the district where the train passes. You are allowed to bring food on the train, but be careful if it has strong odor. If you are taking a short distance train, you are not allowed to eat food on the train.

Q: Are there any stations at which trains won’t stop?

A: Yes, make sure of the line, your destination, and the kind of train (stations at which the train stops).

There are several types of trains. In addition to the “Local (stops at all stations),” there are the “Limited Express,” the “Rapid,” the “Express,” and the “Special Express,” which won’t stop at the stations on the way to a destination. If you take the wrong train, the train might not stop at your destination station. Or it might take longer than you expected. Before you get on the train, please make sure of the type of train, and the stations that it stops at. If you take the wrong kind of train, check the station list which is shown on the train, or listen to the train announcement carefully.

Q: How do I purchase and use a Japan railway pass?

A: You can purchase a voucher for a railway pass at travel agencies

outside of Japan and exchange that for an actual pass at a ticket office in Japan. See the link of The Japan Railway Pass for further details. Please confirm the usage and purchase method before you buy one.


Other Railways

In addition to the JR Group, many other smaller railway companies operate train services on heavily travelled, mainly urban and suburban routes. These lines very often link the center of a city and the residential areas at its outskirts. These rail lines are usually only convenient for commuters, but on occasions may offer speedier, more economical and more convenient routes than JR from nearby urban centers to popular spots such as Nikko, Hakone, Nara, and so forth. Please note that the JR Pass is not honored on these lines.
Railway companies in and around the Tokyo area
Destination Railway Company URL
Hakone Odakyu Electric Railway
Nikko Tobu Railway
New Tokyo International (Narita) Airport Keisei Electric Railway
Tokyo International (Haneda) Airport Keihin Electric Express Railway (Keikyu)
Tokyo District (Central part of Tokyo) Tokyo Metro
Tokyo District Toei Subway
Tokyo District/Yokohama Tokyu Corporation
Kawagoe/Chichibu Seibu Railway
Mt. Takao Keio Corporation
Mt. Fuji Fujikyuko Co.
Ebina Sagami Railway train (Sotetsu)
Railway companies in and around the Nagoya area
Destination Railway Comapny URL
Nagoya district Meitetsu (Nagoya Railroad)
Railway companies in and around the Osaka area
Destination Railway Company URL
Osaka/Kyoto/Nara Kintetsu Railway
Osaka/Kyoto Keihan Railway
Kobe/Osaka/Kyoto Hankyu Electric Railway
Kobe/Osaka/Nara Hanshin Electric Railway
Kansai International Airport Nankai Electric Railway
Railway companies in and around the Hiroshima area
Destination Railway Company URL
Hiroshima district Hiroshima Electric Railway
Railway companies in and around the Fukuoka area
Destination Railway Company URL
Fukuoka district Nishi-Nippon Railroad (Nishitetsu)

Related Information


IC cards



IC card issued in the Tokyo metropolitan area by JR East.



IC card issued in the Tokyo metropolitan area by private railways and bus operators.



IC card issued in the Kansai area.


Check timetables

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