Public transportation is everywhere and yes it is great!
While a lot of it is straight forward in the sense of following a map with numbers and or colors to reach your destination – the open railway market in japan adds one minor layer of complication.
- Buyer beware 🙂 you may be purchasing tickets from the wrong system. There are multiple carriers (owners) of the lines – so you may need to travel between carriers to get where you need to go or just choose one – be sure to read the signage and check the machine you are using to purchase.
- Uniformed employees within the stations are very helpful and can walk you through how to purchase and using the machine if you know where you need to go.
- Get your hands on a map early on and use it as your life line. If you can’t get a physical version – take a picture of a sign that has English and Japanese. You’ll find that often times it helps to have the Japanese version of what you’re looking for handy too (both because sometimes English signs disappear and also to assist those that you enlist for help when needed!).
- If you buy a ticket that utilizes more than one line, when you change lines you’ll have to insert your card in the pass-through to transfer. You MUST use the orange colored pass-through machine (look at the color of the metal – should also have a small transfer sign hanging from the ceiling directly above) to get your ticket back. If you insert this into any other pass through on your way to the next train it will eat your ticket. That won’t be so fun as you need your ticket to insert in the final pass-through machine when you want to exit the station. If you don’t have a ticket, you won’t be able to exit.
- Keep your ticket handy for all the pass-through machines and don’t lose it 🙂
- Look for the color/name of the line you need at all times – it can show up on signage up/down/left/right – just know what you are looking for so that you can spot it quickly amongst the hustle and bustle of the stations.
- Depending on the amount of time you plan to spend in the country and the number of places you’d like to see, it may make sense to invest in a JR pass. Do your research before you leave the US if possible as some versions of the pass are only available prior to entry. No worries if your past the point of entry, there are other options in the country – good bus and flight systems as well. Both Peach and Jetstar have flights around $50 from Osaka to Tokyo and vice versa! While we were told Japan was going to be a very expensive country (and it is in comparison to south East Asian counterparts), it’s possible to keep the costs down and not break the bank if you do a wee bit of homework.
We hope the tips help in your planning process. Feel free to drop us a line if you have any additional tips to add or questions for us – happy to help 🙂