”Trains and Subways” from Terry

”Trains and Subways” from Terry

One of the good things about being in Japan, living and working, is the reliability of the trains and subways. Delays, while not uncommon, are soon remedied and the schedules get back to normal very quickly.

Commuting will be something you will be doing a lot when you start work but for those still not sure about taking the trains, here are some helpful guidelines for you.

One thing good about travelling in Japan is that almost all the signs are in English, too. You may encounter places where there aren`t but it would probably be in only the most rural locations. All the major cities and towns have directions in both Japanese and English, and sometimes Chinese and Korean, too.

If you have any problems or need to book your tickets in advance, get your season ticket or anything else, just head to the Midori No Madoguchi (みどりの窓口). This is the travel office and can be found in
most reasonable-sized train stations. You can everything done here. They are the station`s general information and travel centre. As the name implies, the sign will be in green or have a green background. When lost or unsure of what to do, just ask anyone or any staff for the Midori no madoguchi.

Like any other country, trains in Japan run in two directions.
Tokyo being the center of government, finance and power, is usually the place everything is based on. Hence, you will find the trains are usually nobori(going up) or kudari(going down). This means that all
nobori trains are ones heading in the direction of Tokyo, and kudari trains are the ones heading out of Tokyo.

It is important to remember this as it will help you when you are travelling and want to either get to your destination or get back home. These terms also apply to motorways in Japan, with the same kanji.
It will help you when checking whether there are any traffic jams if you happen to be driving.

Another thing you have to know with commuter trains, is that there is a designated carriage in the morning hours (between 7.30 – 9.30 ish) that is reserved only for women. Only females are allowed on these carriages and men will get a lot of dirty looks should they board these cars!
These carriages came about due to the increasing number of sexual harrassment cases being reported on the trains by women. These are normally the first or last cars on the train, so be careful.


Japanese rail companies operate a variety of trains e.g. rapid, express, local etc. Depending on the station you are boarding or alighting, it will affect which train you can take.
Here is a basic list of the kanji you will encounter at the station:
(In order of speed)

特急 – とっきゅう – Tokkyuu – Limited Express Very few stops
急行 – きゅうこう – Kyukou – Express Few stops
快速 – かいそく – Kaisoku – Rapid Skips smaller stations
普通 – ふつう – Futsuu – Regular*
各駅停車 – かくえきていしゃ – Kakuekiteisha – Every station*
各停 – かくてい – Kakutei – Local*
*Different names used by different companies for same type of train

Additionally, there are also a number of words below that you’ll see regularly at train stations.

Kanji Hiragana Roma-ji English

入口 いりぐち Iriguchi Entrance
出口 でぐち Deguchi Exit
北口 きたぐち Kitaguchi North Exit
東口 ひがしぐち Higashiguchi East Exit
南口 みなみぐち Minamiguchi South Exit
西口 にしぐち Nishiguchi West Exit
切符 きっぷ Kippu Ticket
乗換 のりかえ Norikae Transfer
改札口 かいさつぐち Kaisatsuguchi Ticket Gate
X行き Xゆき/Xいき X-yuki/X-iki Bound for X
方面 ほうめん Houmen Direction
始発 しはつ Shihatsu (Station of) Origin *Also, first train of the morning
終点 しゅうてん Syuuten Last stop

I hope you will find this information useful and helpful when travelling often on the trains.