Travel Japan Tips: The Railways

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3 Simple Tips

3 Simple Tips

Public transportation is never a thrill, especially when you're in a place where you can't read or speak the language. Even with my speaking abilities, I can't really read or write to save my life (I can read but remember, Japanese writing has three forms). Still, here are 3 tips I've come to collect to make handling your train transportation troubles!

  1. Check the Signs! Even though you're in Japan, a lot of the train stations have English written on the signs and at the ticket booths. The most important thing is to make sure you have the stations of where you need to go written down in English and Japanese, just in case you have any trouble. This way, you can check the ticket booths for what you have written down, and even if you can't find your station, you can ask for help from one of the station workers.
  2. Timing! Japans rail system operates on a ridiculously meticulous schedule. This means you don't want to be waiting in line for the restroom or the convenience store only 2 minutes before your train leaves. Time things out accordingly to the schedule. Also, there are no late-night trains in Japan, so set an alarm if you're going to be drinking to avoid missing your train, or else be prepared to pay for an expensive taxi ride home.
  3. Listen up! When you're on the train, it's an unspoken (pun) rule that you are to keep your phones on silent, and try not to make too much noise on the train. Now, while that's great for being polite, that also helps you hear the train announcements. If you're on a shinkansen, you will hear the announcements for the train stops in both Japanese and English. The trains on some lines will have the stops listed in English and Japanese on the signs inside the train, so you will be able to find the way to your stop if you pay attention!

A few more tips of advice that apply to traveling by trains:

  • Rail-passes get you into any station while active, so you can stop in for a quick bathroom break need be.
  • Sleeping on the train is relatively safe and works if you have a long way to go and know when to wake up in time.
  • Some stations don't have places to buy food when you go in the area to board the trains. Keep that in mind if you want a snack for the ride!

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