JAPAN COMMUTE: How to Use the Train

So, you already have your destination and your schedule, and you’ve checked Hyperdia for your ideal route. The next step is learning how to purchase and use your ticket. Note: If you haven’t learned about the wonders of using Hyperdia yet, you can discover it here JAPAN TRAINS: How to Use Hyperdia.

Using the Train

  1. Go to the ticket machine; the default setting of one is in Japanese. However, you can change the language into “English” by pressing a button. You’ll hear a prompt ‘All train information will be displayed in English.’
  2. Follow the steps you see on the screen. Push the button that shows the number of passengers and press the corresponding price on the screen. You will then be asked to confirm the ticket.

    Reminder: You need to know the amount you have to pay before going to the machine.

  3. Get the tickets that the machine releases. Don’t worry if you already have the ticket and made a mistake with your booking. You can still use the same ticket. You just have to go to one of the fare adjustment machines to pay for the difference.
  4. Insert the ticket into the gate’s slot; after doing so, it will come out at the end. Get it and try not to lose it.
  5. Stand on the appropriate platform. Hyperdia will display a track/platform number, but make it a point to double check if you’re on the right one. You can do this by looking at the signs and displays inside the station. You’ll also find a detailed timetable while waiting for the train on the platform.
  6. Once you find your platform, just wait. The estimated time of arrival (ETA) of the next trains and their types will appear on the display screens.
  7. Photo by Astrid Alvarez
  8. Choose a route in Hyperdia and follow it to the letter (more so for trips with multiple transfers). You’ll find signs around the station, making it easier to catch the next train you need to be on. If you have any problems or questions, the staff at the gates is accommodating and friendly.
  9. If you already have passes like the JR Pass or commute cards like ICOCA, PASMO or SUICA, you can skip the first four steps above.
  10. Make sure to board the right type of train — local, rapid, express, or limited express. You don’t want to board a train that will skip your intended station, do you?

The process may seem easy at first, but once you’re in the big cities of Osaka or Tokyo with their massive subways and train stations, it can be quite a confusing experience. Just in Tokyo’s stations, there’s a web of lines and transfers that even people living there still get confused every now and then. Also, please follow the train rules and etiquette.

Commuting in Japan: Train and Bus Etiquette

Japan Rail Pass

The JR Pass will allow you to take unlimited rides within the JR network. It is best for long-distance train travel.

But when is JR Pass worth it? If you are visiting multiple cities in Japan for a period of 7 days or longer. JR Pass covers Shinkansen (high-speed bullet trains), which are very expensive. The JR Pass will allow you to take these speedy trains without worrying about the cost. It’s a great buy if you have a busy itinerary spanning multiple cities.


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