Train Guide


Japan is the king of trains.  While other developed countries have cut services and lines, Japan continues to be a pioneer in train travel.  Fast, on time and easy to use. Most station signs, in-train signs/information and announcements are done in English.

Train Schedules

We recommend Jorudan or  Hyperdia.

Suica and Icoca cards



Suica (Tokyo) and Icoca (Kansai) cards are pay-as-you-go cards for train travel.  They can also be used on many buses, at shops and often on other train companies networks.

Where can I buy them?

They can be bought from a ticket machine at any JR station, such as Shinjuku or Shibuya station. You need to pay a little deposit, but you can get most of this back when you are finished.

How do I get my deposit back?

Bring your card to a ticket counter and ask for a refund.  Say ‘Owari des’.

How do I use them?

Just tap your card on the panel on the ticket gate.

Where can I use them?

Each card has its own wide area in which it can be used, but they are often interchangeable (for example the Suica card can be used in other card areas).  Its best to get a Suica card (Tokyo), as this can be used in the largest number of area.  In the countryside, you may need to get a normal ticket (see below).

Are they worth it?

They usually are.  If you get individual tickets, its easy to make mistakes and spend more money than you should, especially if you are changing from one train network to another.

How do I charge them?

You can charge them at any ticket machine.  If your low on balance, there are top-up machines inside the ticket gate area.

Normal Tickets

If you are going out into the countryside, then electronic cards may not be usable.  In this case, you must buy a ticket from one of the machines.  English is available by clicking on the ‘English’ button, sometime on-screen or just to the side.

Where do I buy a ticket?

They can be bought from a ticket machine at the station.  Be sure to get a ticket for the train company you are using.

How do I know which to buy?

In Japan you buy a ticket with a certain value.  Each destination has its own cost from another, so you should check by looking at the map around/above the ticket machines.  If you don’t know the value, don’t worry.   Just get the cheapest ticket, then top it up at a charging machine behind the ticket gate at your final station.

How do I use them?

Just insert it into the slot at a ticket gate, walk through and take it out from the other side.

Shinkansen (Bullet Train)

The Shinkansen is usually very expensive, so it’s best to only use if you have the Japan Rail Pass.  If you really have to use a Shinkansen because of time, get a non-reserved ticket if you can to save a bit.

Japan Rail Passes - Book Online

Published by Matthew Baxter

Japan travel writer and onsen addict