If you are wondering how to use the trains in Japan, it is in theory quite simple. However, catching a train in Japan can be a bit tricky for those of us who aren't able to read and speak Japanese. Here you will find some tips and information on how to use the trains in Japan.
The process of catching a train in Japan
You buy a ticket at a ticket window or at an electronic ticket vendor, then you find out which platform your train leaves from and head towards that platform. Before you get to the platform you will at some point have to insert your ticket into the electric turnstiles or hand it to someone who will manually stamp it. Then you will take the ticket back (don't lose it!) and wait for your train. When it comes, get aboard.
The trains will usually have automated announcements about which stops are coming up. Listen carefully for your stop. When the train stops the doors will usually open automatically, but if they don't just press the green button at the side of the door to open them. You will have to go through the turnstiles again, again inserting your ticket though this time you won't get it back, unless you are transferring and the ticket is taking you further.
You may not always be able to catch a train directly, and will have to make a transfer of two along your journey. With the trains in Japan, even if you are transferring between lines and companies, you can still get a single ticket (especially on the longer journeys).
You may get multiple tickets for one journey, especially if you are riding on the shinkansen (bullet train). You will use these all at the same time, and when going through the turnstiles should be put in together. If you have three tickets, they should be placed one on top of the other and inserted as one ticket.
If you have any problems someone will generally come to help you (in the metropolitan areas). Otherwise go and find someone.
Without any Japanese
In the big stations of the main cities of Japan there are staff generally standing around ready to help. Often they will speak a little English or even a lot (but don't assume so), so if you are polite and considerate you should have no trouble at all.
Suggestions and tips to complete your journey successfully
- It can be tough remembering names of foreign places, so if you think you might forget the name or address, write it down and keep it in your pocket.
- Also you might want to write the kanji for the place you are going so that if you need to, you can find the place by looking at the kanji.
- Give yourself time to figure things out and get to the station 10 minutes earlier than you think you have to. Much better to be early and successful than late and miss your train!
- The best website for finding your route and available trains is hyperdia