Japan Train Travel: A Train is a Train, Right?

The most common issue we come across with travelers visiting Japan on their own is not understanding the Japan train system. We’ve heard countless stories of people losing an entire day of sightseeing because they either missed a train or took the wrong one.

The following is a story of a couple we met at our Tokyo hotel.

Japan Train Travel: A Train is a Train, Right?

During our break between giving tours we met a young couple at the hotel bar. As we chatted and got to know them we asked how they were enjoying their time in Japan. That’s when they told us they had just returned from Yokohama.

Yokohama is very close to Tokyo and, depending on who you speak with, is often considered part of Tokyo. The station is busy and there are hundreds of trains coming and going from the station on any given day.

Train Station Wicket

Ticket gate at Kyoto JR Station

The couple’s plan was to spend a few hours in Yokohama and then make their way back to Tokyo to visit some museums. They had no trouble taking a local train there. After spending a couple of hours seeing the sights they decided to come back the way they came, on a local train.

Travel Japan’s Trains Like a Pro

Learn How to Use Train Travel Apps

While waiting on the platform for their train, one pulled up close to the time of the train they were wanting to catch. They got on the train and took a seat. After riding the train for about thirty minutes they realized that the stops were not the same as the trip to Yokohama.

Platform at Shinjuku JR Station

We asked where the train was going, but they had no idea. They decided to get off and just catch the next train in the opposite direction. However, the train they boarded wasn’t going to Yokohama.

After spending the rest of the day lost in the Japanese train system, they found a helpful commuter. This Good Samaritan ended up accompanying them all the way back to Yokohama and got them on the correct train to Tokyo.

Tokyo Yamanote Train Line Platform

Platform and tracks at Shinjuku JR Station

They laughed and said it was an experience, but they were also a bit upset that they missed an entire day of sightseeing and their chance to visit the museums.

All this could have been prevented with a simple tool and some advanced preparation. Once you understand the rail system, it’s actually pretty easy to navigate even if you can’t read Japanese.

We’ve heard countless stories like this in the past 20 years of  living and working in Japan. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to make sure travelers to Japan have the best experience possible. We offer multi-day small group guided tours during the spring and fall. If traveling on your own, be sure to get the most out of your trip with our Japan Travel Services. We want you to leave loving the country and yearning to return.

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