Train symbols in Japan: Understanding the complex naming and numbering schemes

  • Published on : 26/03/2024
  • by : Japan Experience

Japan's extensive and efficient train network can be overwhelming for visitors at first glance. The myriad train symbols, names and numbers follow specific conventions that provide key information about each service. 



Familiarizing yourself with these symbols is essential for smoothly navigating the rail system and making the most of your travels in Japan, allowing for easy travel to some of the country's most lauded destinations, be it with a Japan Rail Pass or tickets to your ideal cities!

Decoding the symbols for electric trains (excluding Shinkansen)

Electric trains in Japan, apart from the Shinkansen, use a naming scheme with seven components indicating the train type, usage, electric system, classification, development order, classification number, and manufacturing number. For example, クモハE233-1070 breaks down as follows:

クモ (kumo) - motorized car with driving cab

  • ハ (ha) - ordinary passenger coach
  • E - train belonging to JR East, built from 1993 onwards
  • 233 - Series 233
  • 1070 - the 1070th car manufactured in this series

Other common symbols include モ (mo) for motorized cars without cabs, サ (sa) for non-motorized trailer cars, and specific indicators for first class "green cars" (ロ), luggage compartments (ニ), and more.


Yellow line

Yellow line

©victor-deweerdt, unsplash

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