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Luckily, beautiful Japan is incredibly tourist-friendly and so is its railway system. You won't find yourself in a situation when you stand in the middle of a train station utterly lost, having no clue where to go, and feeling like you are all alone in this world. You can rest assured that all significant information is offered in both Japanese and English, making navigating really easy (and even if you have some questions - don't hesitate to ask. People around you - be it fellow tourists or local citizen - will gladly point you in the right direction).
The same is true for the rail tickets in Japan, at least when it comes to Shinkansen and Limited Express Trains. You can rest assured that all vital information will be also indicated in English, so if you suddenly forget when your train departs or where you are going at all, a quick glance at your ticket will clear any doubts.
But we all know the old saying, forewarned is forearmed, so to be on the safe side, we've prepared a quick guide on how to read train tickets in Japan. Hopefully, this insight will help you to feel even more comfortable during your railway adventure.
As this resource is dedicated to everything Shinkansen travel-related, we will explain the magic behind the Japanese train tickets, using a Shinkansen railway ticket as an example.
As you can see, we haven't lied to you. The most important data is provided in both English and Japanese, but not everything becomes clear right away.
Although Google Translate can do marvels, you have to agree that it's still safer to have at least a general understanding of what each element of the ticket stands for, To help you out, we've marked every important segment on the picture below.
Everything is pretty intuitive when it comes to Shinkansen tickets. But what about other trains? The beauty of traveling by Limited Express trains, for example, is not just in wider coverage than Shinkansen provides, but also because the trains tickets for both trains are very-very similar. You can see for yourself.
Using the same scheme as we applied to reading Shinkansen tickets, you can see right away not just where and when this particular train departs, but also that this ticket is for Tokiwa train #55 and that the seat #6 in 5th raw in the first car is reserved for the lucky owner of the tickets.
The matter gets more complicated when Japanese trains less renowned for their fast travel times (but serving many more destinations than the renowned Shinkansen) are concerned, as you can see in the picture. Local train tickets can be a bit less friendly towards those who don't speak Japanese. Unfortunately, there is no standard system that you can apply for any train tickets. The tickets for local trains from various private companies and JR Group will be all different (the one on the picture was issued by Chichibu Railway). So if you happen to travel to less in-the-public-eye Japanese destinations, it's better to have either a Japanese-speaking friend with you or Google Translate ready.
Of course, there is more than just one way to buy a train ticket. The old-school one is to grab one right at the station before departure, but there are certain drawbacks like endless queues or already sold-out tickets. Today, the smartest way to buy japan train tickets is definitely online. This way, there is no need to wait in line and waste precious time of your life that you could have spent exploring the amazing country.
With the Rail Ninja booking platform, for example, you can buy your tickets in a matter of several minutes. All you need to do is to choose the date of the journey and the departure/arrival stations, select the seats you would like to be yours for the ride, fill out a few forms with personal data, and voila!
Booking your Japan rail tickets online means that that the seat on a train of your choice is reserved for you, but you will need to have an actual paper ticket to enjoy a ride. It can be easily achieved by printing a ticket at the station.
The process is very fast and easy. Together with the confirmation of the seat reservation, you will get a unique login and password. At the station, you need to go to the nearest ticket machine, enter these data corresponding to the ticket you need at the moment, and the machine will print it for you fast and easy. The interface has both Japanese and English commands as you can see in the picture, so you will get the job done very quickly and with no problems at all.
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This website serves as a comprehensive guide to assist you in planning your rail travel across Japan, while also providing insightful details about the different train options available. Please note that we do not own or operate any of the trains in Japan. Neither we nor our suggested partners for ticket booking services function as rail carriers.
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