• Japanese Railroads for beginners

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by usa4624
I will be visiting Japan later this year, and do not know much about Japanese railroad. Can anyone point me to some good "Japanese Railroads for beginners" websites?
  by Komachi
I lived/studdied there for two years and traveled quite a bit by rail. What exactly do you want to know? Tickets, types of trains, what routes go where...

How long are you going to be there and where do you plan on going? Also, what month do you plan on going, as various festivals going on during the year mean more crowded trains (especially August, during Obon, when families go to their ancestoral homelands to celebrate and remember those family members who have passed on).

Let me know.
  by usa4624
Yes. I will be visiting my brother who is a student at the University of Tokyo, and would like an introduction of Japanese Railroads before I go.
Komachi wrote:What exactly do you want to know? Tickets, types of trains, what routes go where...

  by David Benton
reading Komachi's excellent threads and links in this forum should give you a good introduction . I think we have a couple of contributors based in Japan as well .

Good Luck ! Japan is on my list of "might get there one day " countries , I find it fascinating , but I gather the cost of touring there is quite high . like a small fortune for a cup of Coffee . But i guess your brother would know all about the cost of living there .
  by Komachi

Thanks for the ringing endorsement!

By the way, here's a link to the thread on Japanese railways...


Actually, I've been looking around for some other sites that may be of use to you. The two things you will want to know up front, before you go, talk to a travel agent and see if you can get the Japan Rail Pass, you pay a bunch of cash up front, but it gives you unlimited access on any train on the Japan Railways (JR) system for a few days (any train anywhere... on JR)... from the locals to the Shinkansen ("bullet trains"). The other is the Seshin Ju Hatchi Kippu (SEH-shen JUU HA-chi KEY-pooh), or "Number 18 ticket," which costs about 150 bucks and gives you unlimited rides on any JR local, rapid or limited express for five days, which you can stretch out over a month or so after purchasing said ticket).

I used the "18 ticket" quite a bit and would reccomend it if you don't mind riding the train all day and making a few transfers along the way.

If you're just going to hit the major tourist spots, then just remember that the Tokaido sen (sen = line) is the major rail line between Tokyo and Osaka (which will also take you to Kyoto and Kobe). From Osaka you can get to Hiroshima and on to Nagasaki...

Tokyo... I have a guidebook a Japanese friend of mine gave me that has all the major lines in Tokyo listed - JR, private and subway lines - and also points out transit lines. He also gave me a guidebook on all the free attractions one can see in Tokyo (like the Toyta super showroom in Ikebukero ward, it has all the latest Toyota vehicles on display on 5 floors). I would reccomend you get both (let me do some digging to find the authors, ISBN numbers, etc.). Otherwise, the Yamanote (green) line is the Tokyo equivilent of the Chicago "loop" (it's a circular route around Tokyo like the "L's" loop around Chi-town) the Chuo line (orange) is the rapid train between Tokyo (Marunouchi) station and Shinjuku while the Sobu Chuo line (yellow) is the local train (third stop on that and the Yamanote line is Akihabara... land of electronics and anime).

But I can't really tell you much more at the moment. How far west or north do you plan on going? I can get you more info. if you can give me your general "game plan."

  by Komachi
Here are the books I was talking about...

"Tokyo for Free"
- By Susan Pompain
Printed by Kodansha International Ltd.
ISBN 4-7700-2053-8

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/bookse ... 557TiFcBMI

"Tokyo Transit Book"
Mine is the 5th edition by Garry Bassin printed in 1997 (I was there in '98-'00)
Printed by the Japan Times
ISBN 4-7890-0894-0 C0026

I couldn't find it available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but it is available from The Japan Times

http://bookclub.japantimes.co.jp/englis ... /3039.html

(And that's for the 7th edition, printed April 2005!)

I would say those are the two basic "must haves" for your trip. Now, the next question is... how much Japanese do you speak? There are English information kiosks in the big citiies, and you may run into a few people who speak English, but the rural areas are another story (I'm sure you're aware of that, but I had to ask anyway).

Hope those can help you out, and like I said before, if you can give me your itenerary (or rough plans) I can give you more info. on train lines, etc.

  by BillN
Please be more specific in where you are going so that we may assist you.

Domo arigato gozaimashita.

P.S. Hi Komachi, still here.
  by Komachi
Hey, Bill!

As David aluded to, Bill is one of our resident "go to" guys, as he has lived in Japan for a long while and traveled extensively through the country, especially the western half (Kyushu and western Honshu), so he could tell you about the routes west of Kyoto (I didn't really get too much more west than Kyoto). I, on the other hand, lived up in Tohoku (the northeast part of Honshu) and know more about the rail lines there (especually the ones around Akita City (Akita Prefecture), Sendai (Mie Prefecture) and Hirosaki (Aomori Prefecture).

So, if you can narrow down the region(s), major cities you want to go, the two of us (and there may be more out there) can help you figure out what lines to take, what trains to ride, where to transfer... maybe even how much each leg of your trip will cost! Even if you don't know exactly where you want to go, we can tell you how to get to the nearest major city and options that radiate out from there. JR, private railways, light rail (tram) lines, etc.

Onigai itashimasu.