30 useful tips for travel in Japan
- Japanese Terms for Train Travel
- Japan has an extensive train network that is quite easy to use if you understand how it works. It helps to know some Japanese expressions for tickets and trains.
- Types of trains
- Some lines have different types of trains: Some will make fewer stops, getting you to major stations faster. Local trains (kaku-eki) stop at every station. Rapid trains (kaisoku) skip a few smaller stations, and express (kyuko) and limited express (tokkyu) trains stop only at major stations. "Shinkansen" are the high-speed bullet trains operated by Japan Rail (JR), and are only used for very long distances.
- Train tickets
- Ticket is “kippu” in Japanese. Most tickets are single one-way tickets (kata-michi). Special tickets are often called some kind of "pass", like the Japan Rail Pass. Whatever you use, keep the ticket with you until you reach your destination.
Ticket prices usually depend on how far you go. There can be an extra charge for using some of the fast express trains. Look for the station you want to go to on the map near the ticket machines. Next to the station name is the price for a single ticket for an adult. If you cannot find the station ask, “How much is it to ABC?” (ABC ma-de wa ikura desu ka?). Child tickets for half-price are also available for elementary-aged children. Look for the child icon on the ticket machine to buy one.
After you insert money, you can select the ticket by price. On Shinkansen and some express trains you also have to choose between reserved seats (shitei-seki) and non-reserved seats (jiyu-seki). Normal tickets are non-reserved seats.
If you have trouble using the ticket machines, you can buy tickets at the station office. Say, “A ticket to ABC, please” (ABC ma-de kudasai). They can also help you with directions. Ask, “Where is ABC?” (ABC wa doko desu ka?).
- Buying the wrong ticket
- If you did not buy the correct ticket, you can pay the remaining difference at your destination. There is usually a fare adjustment machine for this near the exit. They look like ticket machines. You can also go through the station office and pay there. In case you cannot find the price for the correct ticket to buy, the best strategy is to buy the cheapest ticket available and then pay the adjustment later.
- General advice
- Take cash with you. You cannot always use a credit card. Make sure you have the name of your destination in Japanese. Some places may have signs in Japanese only. If you are not sure what station you are at, ask someone “Is this here ABC?” (Koko wa ABC desu ka?). All in all, with the name of where you want to go, and "excuse me" (sumimasen) and "thank you" (arigato), you're guaranteed to make it to your destination.