Thursday, March 10, 2011

Riding The Trains (Densha)

Platform "2" to Shinagawa.
Train Timetables.  Trains start running at 0500 to just before Midnight.
Yokohama Station- busy place especially on a Sunday!
Our family had little experience riding trains until we came to Japan.  We'd used them a bit when we lived in San Diego, but overall we were novices to this "new" way of commuting.  At first, just thinking about purchasing a train ticket was challenging.  We've made huge progress since being here, but it hasn't been free from trial and error.  Here's a little rundown of how to get onto the correct train.

1) At the ticket machine there is an English button that will walk you through everything.  Most of the time there is a map above the kiosk that will tell you how much it will cost to where you are going.  In the event that we weren't sure or that the map was solely in Japanese, we just put in a certain amount of Yen and did a fare adjustment at another Kiosk once we were at our destination.

2) Once you ticket spits out of the machine then you walk through the turnstile.  Put your ticket into the slot and it will pop up at the other end.  Grab it before you head up to the train.  I forgot to grab my ticket once and had to ask the ticket booth attendant (that was interesting to try to explain) to fetch it for me.  I'm happy that it was in the lock box at the turnstile and that someone was able to help me.

3) Now, after you have your tickets you need to figure out which train to take.  The trains will show the "final" destination on large signs so that will guide you to the correct platform.  Once on the platform, there is usually (unless at a smaller station where you will just look at the timetables shown in blue and pink on the wall) a digital train schedule that will show times, platforms and destinations.  The trains that say "local" or also known as "black trains" will stop at every stop until the final destination.  To shorten your trip you can use the red or green trains..or express trains.  This is a good option if you're heading up to Yokohama or up to Tokyo.  The trains run from around 0500 to just before Midnight.

Once you've made it to your final destination, the trick is always how do I make it back?  Just as long as you back track, make sure to have a phrase book handy, get an English map of the train systems if possible (they have them on base) and of course just ask for help.  Language barrier or not, someone has always been willing to lead us into the right direction.


  • Turn off your phone, or use manner mode on the trains.
  • Get a Pasmo or Suica card.  
  • Do not stay on the train when everyone else has gotten off.  This means its probably at the end of  its route.  We did this once and someone helped us get onto another train
  • Do not blare your headphones on the train.  
  • Avoid taking the train around 9am during the weekday if possible.  This is rush hour and you will be standing, or crammed into the train.
  • Make sure you don't get too relaxed or into a good conversation and end up missing your stop.  This happened to me and a friend just yesterday. 

1 comment:

  1. I am very proud of you and your family. But just the same I worry about you. Be safe. My thoughts are with you.

    Your Friend,