Travelling in Japan

JR Yamanote Line Tokyo

Getting around in Japan is not as difficult as it may first appear. The country is covered by a high-speed network of train lines that can get you half way across Honshu in less than 4 hours.

On Board a Local JR Line Train


The Shinkansen, or “bullet trains” are the fastest form of transport in Japan in particular the Nozomi trains (the fastest of them all).

On Board a Shinkansen

Travel on these trains is generally pre-booked though you can purchase tickets on the day often this involves not getting an assigned seat so you may have to struggle to find somewhere to sit. The trains are generally very comfortable (much wider, I found, than similar trains in Europe and North America) and operate very accurately down to the second of their schedule. Food is also offered on most trains (ummmm, onigiri…).

Purchasing a Train/Subway Ticket

Purchasing a ticket on the day at any major train/subway station is not all that difficult though may at first glance be very daunting. Most stations have a map of the entire network with stations marked out clearly on it (the station names may be in Kanji so be sure you know what your destination name looks like in Japanese).

Purchasing a Ticket

To purchase a ticket, do the following:

  1. Look at the map and find your destination. An amount in yen will be displayed beneath the station name.
  2. Using this information put money into the machines until you have enough for the ticket.
  3. Press the appropriate ticket amount on the machine and a ticket will be dispensed.

Tickets are required to gain access to the train platforms (and the trains).

Shinkansen Platform

On longer-haul trains you will need to pre-book your travel at a travel centre located in most major train stations.


In two words: I wouldn't. While the road signage is quite good (though often in Japanese only) there is a lot of very fast moving traffic that knows where they are going…

Petrol Station (Space is at a premium)

JR Rail Pass

The most economical way of using the trains in Japan is to purchase a JR Rail Pass but this cannot be purchased in Japan itself but in advance of travel. The pass is valid for travel on all JR-operated rail systems in Japan with the exception of the Nozomi (and there are a few other exceptions detailed at the official site).

Further Information

For further information, please see: