Japanese Trains: What to Know Before You Ride
Though the stations of the Tokyo area already have all their necessary information in English, there are still many rural stations with signage in Japanese only, which is sure to have been the cause of some less-than-pleasant travel experiences. However, the charm of these rural destinations is a popular topic lately, and we’re confident that you’ll visit one of them one day too, if you haven’t already. We’ve compiled a selection of station-related need-to-knows sure to help you out when the need arises, together with the relevant Japanese. Photo: flickr.com
みどりの窓口 (Midori no Madoguchi) – The “Green” Office
This is a station’s reservation and general information center, marked in green (“midori”). If you’re lost or uncertain but asking for help from a Japanese person hasn’t worked, try simply asking, “Midori no madoguchi wa doko desu ka?” Almost all your station-related issues (and ticket purchases, too!) can be resolved here.
上り/下り (Nobori/Kudari) – “Up” Trains and “Down” Trains
Just like their siblings internationally, train routes in Japan are composed of two lines going in opposite directions. These lines are known as either “nobori” or “kudari”, which means “(going) up” and “(going) down”. If you get on the wrong line, you’ll be heading off in the completely opposite direction to where you want to go, so if you must remember just two words today, remember these:
- Nobori (up/inbound train): going “up” in to Tokyo
- Kudari (down/outbound train): going “down” out of Tokyo
Keep these in mind and you won’t end up riding away from your destination right from the start. “Nobori” and “kudari” also apply to expressways, and the Japanese characters are the same, too.
Though train lines vary, in general from around 7 AM to 10 AM the very first car on a line is reserved for female passengers only. This can apply to the last train of the day, as well. There will be large pink labels attached to the train car to let you know. If you’re male, or traveling with males, be sure not to get on these accidentally during those times!
Types of Trains
As with most transit systems globally, Japan has a variety of train types, e.g. rapid, local, etc. If you board a rapid train that isn’t stopping where you want to get off, you’ll ride right past your destination. To prevent this, we’ve compiled a basic list of the kanji, readings, and meanings of the train types in their order of speed (e.g., least to most stops).
- 特急 – とっきゅう – Tokkyuu – Limited Express
- 急行 – きゅうこう – Kyukou – Express
- 快速 – かいそく – Kaisoku – Rapid
- 普通/各駅停車/各停 – ふつう/かくえきていしゃ/かくてい – Futsuu/Kakuekiteisha/Kakutei – Regular/Every Station/Local *different names for same type of train
In addition, there are also a number of words below that you’ll see regularly at train stations. We hope they’ll come in handy!
|X行き||Xゆき/Xいき||X-yuki/X-iki||Bound for X|
|始発||しはつ||Shihatsu||(Station of) Origin *also, first train of the morning|
Traveling with the information we’ve presented today will make a big difference to your trip, so be sure to tuck these tips away!