Taking the Train in Japan – Part 3

Japan Train Map

I know what you’re thinking. When you look at the train map above your pulse starts to quicken; your breath comes in raspy gasps; you feel yourself getting faint. No worries. That’s normal when you look at a Japanese Train map for the first time.

The good news is that with a few simple tips you’ll be purchasing train tickets from a vending machine like a pro.

Step by step guide to buying train tickets from a vending machine in Japan

Unless you know Japanese Kanji, the first thing you’re going to want to do is find a train map in English. The good news is that they shouldn’t be hard to find. Either there will be one on the wall around the ticket vending machines, or you may find a printed one you can take with you.

The first thing you will need to know is what station you want to travel too. Once you find it on the map you should notice a price listed for that station. Here’s an example:

Japan Train Fare Map

So, say you’re were trying to get to Unobe Station. First you would find it on the map. Then you would look at the fare price (in this case it will cost you 320 yen to get to Unobe Station). With that in mind you will now have enough information to purchase your ticket from the vending machine.

So here’s what you do next (steps loving provided by Japan Guide):

  1. Insert the money into the vending machine. Most machines accept coins of 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen and bills of 1000 yen. Many machines also accept larger bills.
  2. Select the number of tickets that you wish to buy. The default is one, so if you are traveling alone, you can skip this step.
  3. Press the button that shows the amount for your ticket.
  4. Collect the ticket(s) and change.

So back to our example. If you were traveling to Unobe Station you would chose to purchase a 320 Yen ticket. If you decided at the last minute that you would rather go to Koen-higashiguchi Station, for example, then you would need to purchase a 390 Yen ticket instead. The exact prices of all the fare will be choices on the vending machine, so you will only need to find the exact amount and press that button.

Note: In rare cases the station names on the maps are written only in Japanese and you can’t find a helpful Japanese person to give you a hand. In cases like that, you can purchase a ticket for the lowest possible price, and then pay the difference at a fare adjustment machine when you get to your destination.

It’s really not that difficult once you get a hang of it. If you want to make things easier for yourself, pick up an English train or subway map and know your destination before you arrive at the station. Also, try not to travel during rush hours :)

Here’s another picture of a Fare Rate Map. This one’s entirely in Japanese, but you should be a able to get a feel for how it works now.

JR Fare Map

Be sure to also check out our Part 1 and Part 2 of how to take the train in Japan.

Find information on last minute vacations at clubmed.ca

Picture Credits – People looking at map by : ames sf, Train Fare Map by: lkstrknb, JR Yamamote Line Map by: LMGoBlue

One Response to “Taking the Train in Japan – Part 3”

  1. Ben Wim  on June 24th, 2010

    Somewhat easier than buying separate tickets and calculating the cost for each trip is to buy a SUICA card. You can retrieve a new SUICA card from the same machines where you buy your regular tickets.
    You pay 2000 yen and a 500 yen deposit (which you can get back when you leave japan) .
    Then you just hold the card against the gates every time you enter and leave the subway station. The cost is automatically deducted. When it’s empty, it gives you a signal and you can recharge the card.


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