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Get on the right track!


Get on the right track!

Riding trains in Japan can be tricky at times: not only do you need to figure out the fastest/cheapest/nicest way to get there while navigating multiple train companies, but often the nomenclature for the different types of trains changes from company to company.

The fastest of all is the JR Shinkansen (新幹線) which links major cities of Japan from Sakuranomiya in Kyuushu to Sapporo in Hokkaido. Nozomi (のぞみ), Hikari (ひかり) and Kodama (こだま) are from fastest to slowest. JR Rail Passes for visitors do not allow travel on the Nozomi.

For most local transportation, people rely on local JR lines and private companies, and this is where things get a little complicated. In most cases, you cannot transfer with the same ticket from one company to the next, except in some cases with Hanshin (阪神), Kintetsu (近鉄), Hankyu
(阪急) and Sanyo (山陽) lines.

Also, the appellations for the various types of express trains varies, and this becomes important as in some cases extra charges are needed for trains sharing the same name. Here is the standard nomenclature from fastest to slowest, some adding 区間 (kukan) before a train type to indicate that it stops at more stations.
The English translations, especially as far as sub express and semi express go, are not consistant from one company to the next, while with the Keihan line (京阪), kyuukou (急行) is slower than junkyuu (準急).

Limited Express
(extra charge with JR, Kintetsu & Nankai)
特急 tokkyuu
(Special) Rapid (新)快速 (shin) kaisoku
Express 急行 kyuukou
Sub/Semi Express 準急 junkyuu
Local 普通 futsuu

Finally, here are some phrases to help you get to your destination more quickly and easily.

Useful Expressions

Excuse me, which way to Yodo station? すみません。淀駅はどちらですか? Sumimasen. Yodo eki wa, dochira desu ka?
How much is it to Fukakusa station? 深草駅までいくらですか? Fukakusa eki made ikura desu ka?
The Special Rapid to Himeji is on what platform? 姫路行きの新快速のホームは何番ですか? Himeji iki no kaisoku no ho-mu wa nanban desu ka?
Which train is the fastest to Ishiyama? 石山まで、どれが早いですか? Ishiyama made, dore ga hayai desu ka?
Does this train stop at Takedao? この電車は武田尾駅に止まりますか? Kono densha wa Takedao eki ni tomarimasuka?
Can I sit here? ここに座ってもいいですか? Kono ni suwatte mo ii desu ka?
Let’s sit on this side. The view is more beautiful. こちらに座りましょう。景色がいいです。 Kochira ni suwarimashou. Keshiki ga ii desu.
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