Riding the train in Japan

On your trip to Tokyo, perhaps for our Tokyo Olympics tours or on our Tokyo Highlights tours or the like we will be riding the train in Japan. Initially, it can be stressful which is why we will allow time to learn the train system. Without going into all the different trains which can be confusing to beginners. Let us discuss train etiquette.

Train etiquette is unique in Japan. On my first trip to Tokyo with my friend Kazu, I was so glad she was with me to navigate the train system. It was difficult for me to let go and trust she would get us to where we needed to be, looking back she was very patient with me. Everything is in Japanese, the names of the stations and the streets or exits. English is announced on the loudspeaker sporadically, but not always. Loading a Suica card is the first step to getting on a train unless it is the Shinkansen then there is a separate train fare. Once your Suica card is loaded then you can enter the station through the kiosk and go to the platform to wait for the train. It is advisable to stand in line and to look down as there are different lines for different people. Especially when it is peak time if you do not stand in line, you will be shunned by the Japanese people for not doing what everyone else is doing.

If it is not peak time, you are able to jump into line at the last minute. Once on the train if there is a place to sit you can sit down. While sitting you should keep your legs closed out of respect for space and try not to touch the person next to you with your legs. During your trip to Tokyo, it may be hot, however inside the trains, the air conditioning is on maximum, so it is nice. The same in the winter, the trains are heated, so again it is comfortable. At the end of each car, there are about 4-6 seats for senior/disabled/pregnant people to sit. You should not sit there at all. If you choose to sit down in that area and a senior gets on the train, you should get up and offer him or her your seat. This is Japanese culture and it is a sign of respect. This practice is usually followed by everyone on the train. Once you arrive at your station, they will say it in Japanese, then you disembark. Everyone will get in a line to walk up the stairs. Oh, sorry I forgot to mention that before, there will be many stairs to get on the platform initially as well as disembarking upon arrival. For the larger train stations, there are escalators that go up and down into the station. Unfortunately, not all stations have elevators of if they do, they can be difficult to find.

The largest train station is Shinjuku station, over the years they have been doing construction on that station to expand it and make it more efficient. I do not advise going through Shinjuku station if you are on your own, as even the locals sometimes get lost due to all the changes and construction! But if you must, then definitely allow extra time. If you are hungry or thirsty, every train station has food and vending machines. The larger train stations, such as Shinjuku, Tokyo station, and Shibuya station have many dine-in options. Again, be ready to wait in line😉.

It is our hope that after joining us on a Tokyo tour during your trip to Tokyo, you can navigate some of this on your own. This is how we are different; we do not just throw you to the water and say swim. We take you on the train and show you the ‘how to’ along the way on our Tokyo tour trips. If you interested in a guided and fun experience, please check out more information on our upcoming Tokyo Tours. We look forward to traveling again and we have great deals for the fall and spring!

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