Travelling Around Japan by Train

Traveling around Japan by train is not just a mode of transportation; it's an integral part of the Japanese travel experience. Renowned for its punctuality, efficiency, and extensive network, the railway system in Japan connects cities and rural areas across the country, making it an ideal option for tourists looking to explore the Land of the Rising Sun. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essentials of navigating Japan's railways, from high-speed Shinkansen to picturesque local lines.

The Shinkansen (Bullet Trains)

The Shinkansen, or bullet trains, are the pride of Japan's rail network, offering fast and comfortable travel between major cities. Operating at speeds of up to 320 km/h, these trains make long-distance travel convenient and efficient. Key routes include the Tokaido Shinkansen (Tokyo to Osaka), the Tohoku Shinkansen (Tokyo to Aomori), and the Kyushu Shinkansen (Hakata to Kagoshima-Chuo), among others.

Benefits of Shinkansen Travel

  • Speed: Cover long distances in a fraction of the time it would take by road.
  • Frequency: With trains departing every few minutes on major routes, you have great flexibility in planning your itinerary.
  • Comfort: Spacious seating, clean facilities, and smooth rides ensure a comfortable journey.
  • Scenic Views: Large windows offer passengers stunning views of the Japanese countryside, cities, and coastlines.

Regional and Local Trains

Beyond the Shinkansen, Japan's regional and local trains provide access to areas off the beaten path, often showcasing scenic landscapes and charming towns not accessible by high-speed rail.

Scenic Train Routes Worth Exploring

  • Hakone Tozan Railway: Wind through the mountainous Hakone region, famous for hot springs and views of Mount Fuji.
  • Tadami Line: Experience the serene beauty of the Fukushima countryside, especially magical in winter.
  • Gono Line: Ride along the rugged coast of the Sea of Japan, from Akita to Aomori, passing through quaint fishing villages and stunning landscapes.

Japan Rail Pass

For tourists, the Japan Rail Pass offers unlimited travel on most JR trains for a fixed period (7, 14, or 21 consecutive days), including selected Shinkansen and local trains. This pass is an economical option for those planning extensive travel around Japan.

Benefits of the Japan Rail Pass

  • Cost-Effective: Significant savings for travelers planning to use the Shinkansen or travel long distances.
  • Convenience: Easy to use, allowing for flexible travel plans without the need to purchase individual tickets.
  • Accessibility: Covers a wide range of transportation, including JR buses and ferries.

Tips for Train Travel in Japan

  • Reserve Seats on Long-Distance Trains: While many trains offer non-reserved seating, reserving your seat, especially on popular routes or during peak travel seasons, ensures a stress-free journey.
  • Download a Railway App: Apps like HyperDia or Japan Official Travel App provide real-time train schedules, route options, and fare calculations.
  • Be Punctual: Japanese trains are famously on time. Arriving at the station a few minutes early can help you locate your platform and car number with ease.
  • Mind the Etiquette: Practice good manners by keeping noise to a minimum, setting your phone to silent mode, and queuing orderly at platform markers.


Traveling around Japan by train offers a glimpse into the country's soul, marrying technological prowess with a deep respect for service and punctuality. Whether you're whisked away on a Shinkansen to another metropolis or meandering through the countryside on a local line, the train journey in Japan is as much a part of your adventure as the destination itself. With careful planning and a spirit of exploration, the rails can unlock a world of discovery across this beautiful and diverse country.