Travel by Train in Japan

Traveling by train is the most convenient transportation in Japan. However, this way also be confused for both Japanese and foreigners sometimes because of the railway complexity. So, the follwing lists are introducing some useful tricks for you to travel by train in Japan which more easier than you think.

Types of Train in Japan

Types of train is one of the most important things about traveling by train in Japan. Most people will often have problems because getting on the wrong train. Since all trains run in the same rails (except Shinkansen), some trains will have to pay for additional ticket fare while some trains will not stop at some stations. Here are the introduction about common Types of train in Japan.

Local (普通) Local is normal trains that stop every station.
Rapid (快速) Trains that skip some station. Faster than Local with the same price of ticket. Please check skip station before ride with this train.
Express (急行) Faster than Rapid with skip more station. Some railway company like JR will charge additional for express fare but some railway company not charge for additional fare.
Limited Express (特急) Limited Express trains that stop only major station with additional fee. But it is fast and convenience if your destination is on route of Limited express train.
Shinkansen (新幹線) Super fast bullet train operate by JR Railway. Best choice for long distant travel. Need to pay additional fee to the base fare for 800 – 10,000 depend on period.


How to buy ticket at Automatic Vending Machine

  1. Check arrival station fare
  2. Insert money to the machine. Most machine accept both coin and note.
  3. Select number of ticket (Default by 1) then select fare of your choice
  4. Take the ticket and change


If you cannot find destination fare on the station maps because some stations are not written in English. You can buy any fare ticket (the lowest price) and pay the difference when you reach your destination at the Fare Adjustment Machine.

Fare Adjustment Machine

You cannot exit the train station if your ticket fare is not valid. You need to adjust your ticket fare at the Fare Adjustment Machine (のりこし) by insert the ticket and the machine will show the difference that you need to pay.

Seat Types

Shinkansen and the Limited Express Trains are available in two seat types as below.

Green Car and Ordinary Seat

First, Green Car and Ordinary (Name may be different depend on railway operator). Green car is train business class service compare with airlines. It offer more spacious seats with less crowded than other classes. The ticket fare of Green Car is 30% – 50% higher than Ordinary and it mostly found in Shinkansen service.

Reserved and Non-Reserved Seat

Another seat type called Reserved and Non-Reserved seat. Reserved seat is fix you on seat number of your choice with additional cost roughly 300 to 700 yen for making reservation (JR Pass holder can making reservation for free). For Non-Reserved seat, you can choose any available seats in the train, especially in Non-Reserved seat area (around car no.1-5). However, if you found that your currently seat out of Non-Reserved seat area has owner after sitting for a while, you have to get up and find another available seat.


You can easily make reservation for Reserved seat and Green Car at automatic vending machine, ticket counter or website (JR Pass holder can only reserve at ticket counter). Ticket can be reserved 1 month before departure.

Types of Shinkansen (Based on Tokaido Line)

Shinkansen are available in 3 types as below (Based on Tokaido Line and may be different from other lines)

Nozomi (のぞみ) The fastest Shinkansen which stop only in major station. Nozomi is the best for people who need fast travel (approx. 120 minutes from Tokyo to Osaka). The seats are generally reserved seats with a few of non-reserved seats.
Hikari (ひかり) Slower and stop more station than Nozomi and have both reserved seats and non-reserved seats.
Kodama (こだま) The slowest Shinkansen which mostly stop at many stations. The cost is cheaper than Nozomi and Hikari. Seats are generally non-reserved seat.


How to check train routes and time table

Train in Japan is one of the most efficient management system in the world, they can publish accurate timetable of trains and stations for passenger convenience. Here is the recommend website for timetable and route checking that easy to use and have English language. Please find out below.


Hyperdia is one of the most popular website for trains route information and timetable checking with huge database. Operated by Hitachi-Systems, Ltd.

Their search function is simple and very easy to use. Only enter your location and destination, date, time, type, then press search button.

System will automatically show route, time with total fare and you can check time table of both train and station.

For advanced search, you can select filter a lot of condition to make the best route for you.

Google Map

The world famous application that help you travel abroad like your hometown. Now Google Map have a lot of Japan information include traveling by train in Japan.

It is very simple to use. You can input your destination then tap navigate and select by train. Google Map will show you route with information of trains, time and fare ticket.