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UPDATE | May 25, 2023

A complete explanation of Nihon Railway! [1] Train language and how to ride

A complete explanation of the new series, Nihon Railway! Railways are used casually in Japan, but it is also true that it is a little confusing from the standpoint of an international student. Why are there so many railway companies? How do you ride the Shinkansen? How do you get on the train in the first place? In this series, we will explain things in an easy-to-understand manner from the perspective of international students so that you can use the railway more conveniently. In this first article, let's start with "words" and "how to ride", which are often confusing.

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1. words used in trains


To use the train, you need to know the term.
There are many things that you will use in your life, so it's a good idea to memorize them.

①Nearest station: The nearest station from a certain place. In general, people often refer to the station closest to their home.

② Ticket gate (ticket gate): This is where you use your ticket or IC card to pay the fare. Only people with a ticket or IC card can enter or exit the ticket gate.

③ Platform: A place where you can get on and off the train.

④● Platform (● platform): A term used to refer to the track on the platform.

⑤ Type: Refers to the type of train that differs depending on the station it stops at and the service it offers.

There are local trains, rapid trains, express trains, and limited express trains.

⑥ Electronic bulletin board: A bulletin board that gives information about trains.

⑦Railway company: A company that operates a railroad. Even at stations with the same name, lines operated by different companies are located in different locations and must be exited from the ticket gates.

⑧Difference between railways and trains: They are often used interchangeably in everyday life, but trains only refer to trains that are powered by electricity. In this article, we will refer to railway trains as "trains."


2. before leaving


Before you go out by train, use Google Maps to find out how to get to your destination, so you won't get lost on your way out.

①How to get to the nearest station from where you are

②Which company and which line should I take at the station?

③ Time and fee

④ Directions from the station you arrived at to your destination (exit number)

The more you research, the less confusion you will have.

3. When you arrive at the station, go to the ticket gate

When you arrive at the station, go inside and look for the ticket gate for the line you want to board.
To board the train, you need an IC card or a ticket to pay the fare.



Tickets can be purchased from the ticket machines near the ticket gates.
In some cases, the fare will be automatically calculated by selecting the station you want to go to, but in other cases, you will have to check the fare yourself. In this case, look for the station you want to go to on the route map above the ticket vending machine, and buy a ticket for the amount written next to the station name.

You can board the train by inserting this ticket into the ticket gate.

This ticket will be checked at the station when you arrive, so don't lose it.

② IC card


It is a card that can be charged with money in advance and paid from that amount. Just like tickets, you can buy them from ticket vending machines. Just touch this at the ticket gate to board the train. You can pay the fare by tapping the ticket at the ticket gate of the station where you got off.
If you use an IC card, you can get cheaper train fares and earn points. Also, you don't have to buy a ticket every time you get on the train, so you can board the train just by touching it, which is very convenient.

(However, depending on the railway company, IC cards may not be used, so it is necessary to check whether IC cards can be used on the train you want to ride.)

4. take a train


After passing through the ticket gate, go to the platform where the train comes.
Various trains come to the platform, but there are three things to check before getting on the train.

①Is it the platform of the line you want to ride?

Stations with multiple lines may have multiple platforms. In this case, make sure that the route you want to take is included before going to the platform.

②Which type of train stops at the destination station?

Depending on the type, some trains may pass through some stations without stopping (express, rapid, limited express, etc.). In this case, be sure to check before boarding whether the train will stop at the station you want to go to. In particular, please be aware that limited express trains may incur additional charges.

③When and where will the train of that type come?

Depending on the platform, it may be sandwiched between two tracks. In this case, you can check by looking at the platform number on the electronic bulletin board.

You can also check the departure time from the electric bulletin board. Trains may be late, but they never leave early. If the train leaves earlier than you expected, make sure you are on the right train.

Also, if you get lost, you can ask the station staff on the platform.

5. when you arrive


When you arrive at your destination station, get off the train. Then head to the ticket gate, but before that, check the exit number written on the platform. Larger stations often have two or more ticket gates, and if you make a mistake, you may have to walk a long distance to reach your destination.
Find out in advance which exit is closest to your destination, and exit from the ticket gate closest to that exit.

6. summary


how to get on the train
① Check directions in advance

②Use your ticket or IC card to enter the ticket gate

③ Check the train that can take you to your destination and get on it

④When you arrive, go out of the ticket gate with the exit closest to your destination.

can be summarized with

However, if you get lost at the station, you can solve most of them by asking the station staff. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask the station staff, as they will help you if you are in trouble.

By all means, please learn how to use the railway and enjoy your outing!

The person who wrote this article

San Young Lee

Born in Seongnam, South Korea. He came to Japan in 2019 and graduated from Nagoya University Faculty of Agriculture in 2023. He studied organic chemistry at university, and is currently involved in supporting international students in pursuing higher education and employment, something he has been interested in for some time. I like Japanese culture, history, transportation, and town planning, and traveled to all 47 prefectures when I was a student. Hokkaido is my favorite prefecture.

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