7 train tips for first-time travelers to Japan!

Japan’s rail system is largely developed and is a very practical means of transportation both locally and cross-country, so both residents and tourists alike find themselves riding trains almost on a daily basis, be it their local train lines or the world-famous Shinkansen trains. For those taking their initial trip out to Japan, the role that train travel will play during their travels undoubtedly crosses their minds.

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Riding trains on their own is something that likely does not need extensive research by anyone. However, the details on Japan’s train system may be quite distinct compared to many Western countries.  

One major thing to note is that, in Japan, train fare is typically calculated by distance, and this goes for both local and Shinkansen bullet train. The more stops you pass, the more expensive the fare becomes, and this rate is different from train line to train line. This may differ from train systems in other countries that simply charge riders one flat rate.

Tickets for the train can be purchased at the touch screen machines that are often by train line gates. They are often separated for local train lines and then ones specifically for Shinkansen trains.

JR Pass 2

A Japan Rail Pass with a validity period of 7 days

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It’s important to note that, while Japan’s train network and system is efficient and convenient, it’s not without some getting used to. In major cities especially, train stations will be major junctions of transit and commercial activities. 

Tokyo Station alone has 28 different platforms servicing eight local Japan Railway lines, seven Shinkansen bullet train lines, and the Tokyo Metro. There are also departures for buses throughout Tokyo along with long-distance highway buses, multiple taxi pick-up and drop off spots, three different multi-story department stores, and a vast underground network with restaurants, shops, and other facilities. Other major stations in the country, like Shinjuku Station, also in Tokyo, Umeda Station in Osaka, and Hakata Station in Fukuoka, follow a similar format. 

Inside of Tokyo Station's Marunouchi Entrance

Inside of Tokyo Station's Marunouchi Entrance

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Entrance to the Daimaru Department Store inside Tokyo Station

Entrance to the Daimaru Department Store inside Tokyo Station

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Platform for the Shinkansen Bullet Train

Platform for the Shinkansen Bullet Train displaying certain cars with free suiting and certain cars with assigned seating.

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Check out our recommended smartphone apps for Japan travel! // Smartphone apps to use for your trip to Japan

In other words, you have the archives of the countless questions asked about Japan train travel on the internet, an array of different articles and support options on our website to answer your questions, and, of course, the knowledge of Japan Railway's own employees at your disposal. 

Have a question on specific routes or ticket usage? Chances are someone else in the past asked the same or a similar question and had it answered on an online forum. Additionally, utilize the expertise of Japan travel experts like Japan Experience who have articles and resources on a medley of different questions, such as train reservations, luggage policies, and general travel advice. Here are some articles to read up on to help prepare you for your journey: 

  • Read more on making reservations for trains here
  • Read more on the oversized luggage policy for the Shinkansen here
  • Read our Japan travel guide here

Specifically for Japan Rail Pass users, we offer a support service called JRP Care that gives you access to our dedicated Japan Rail Pass hotline that can be called for any inquiries regarding the pass. This includes questions on where and when to exchange, what trains to use, and other general train inquiries. You can even call for our own personal advice on where to go and how to get there, making it a great service for first-time visitors.

Oversized Luggage

The oversized baggage area located behind the reserved seats.

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Book your Japan Rail Pass today and enjoy unlimited train ride across Japan!

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Japan Rail Pass
Read about oversized luggage rules on the shinkansen // New Luggage Reservation Rules for the Shinkansen
Read about seat reservations for trains in Japan // How to Reserve Seats on the Train in Japan
Read about the different types of shinkansen cars // Different types of Shinkansen Cars
See a list of voucher exchange offices // Japan Rail Pass Exchange Offices

Frequently Asked Questions about the JR Pass.

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