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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

How to Travel on the Japanese Railways
By:Dee Albero

The Japanese railway system is often considered one of the most comprehensive, clean and punctual railways in the world. It is an extensively utilized network, invaluable to tourists and the Japanese public alike.

Japan Railways, or "JR," controls most of Japan's vast rail network, composed of six regional companies, including the famous bullet trains (shinkansen). Train travel is popular in Japan, particularly in densely populated areas where roads are often highly congested.

Consider buying a rail pass before your visit if you are traveling to Japan from abroad for a considerable discount. These passes cannot be purchased from within Japan.

Visit train route websites before buying a ticket to see which route to follow and the cost for your journey (see references). Otherwise, the train stations offer clear, color coded and numbered maps of the rail system as well as detailed time tables for trains.

Locate a ticket vending station. Identify your destination on the map above the vending station and note the fare for traveling to this stop.

Insert yen (coins and/or bills) into the vending machine and choose the number of tickets you require. Most rail tickets are charged by distance traveled and are valid for at least one day. Children ages 6 to11 are usually half the price of an adult fare, while younger children are free.

Choose the button that reflects your ticket fare. The machine will then dispense your ticket(s) and any change.

Feed your ticket into the automated ticket gate at one end, pass through, and collect it at the other end before proceeding to the platform. Verify that you are on the correct train line headed in the correct direction.

Look and listen for the name of your destination as you arrive at each station. There may also be an automated sign showing upcoming stations on your train. After arrival, exit the ticket gate in the same manner as you entered (the ticket will be retained as you exit the ticket gate at your destination).

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