As a child living in a remote part of Vancouver Island called Bowser, i would wave at the VR Dayliner that ran from Victoria to Courtenay in the morning and, if i got the chance, i would wave at it again when it returned to Victoria in the evening. If i was a child living in Tokyo i would have a sore arm.
Taking the train in Japan can be a bit strange at first, especially when there are few signs in English. The train system also gives you a sense of the enormity of Tokyo. Here’s some information about the trains.
普通 Local (kakueki-teisha or futsuu-densha)
Local trains stop at every station.
快速 Rapid (kaisoku)
Rapid trains skip some stations. There is no difference in the ticket price between local and rapid trains.
急行 Express (kyuukou)
Express trains stop at even fewer stations than rapid trains. Japan Railways (JR) charges an express fee in addition to the base fare.
特急 Limited Express (tokkyu)
Limited express trains stop only at major stations. A limited express fee usually has to be paid in addition to the base fare. It is typically between 500 and 4000 yen. JR railway companies always charge this fee, but some other private railway companies do not.
新幹線 Super Express (shinkansen)
Shinkansen are only operated by JR. Shinkansen run along separate tracks and platforms. A limited express fee has to be paid in addition to the base fare. It is typically between 800 and 8000 yen.
There is little difference between train and metro, as most metro lines are connected to private railways and use the same trains. There are numerous other private companies serving the suburbs.
Traveling by train can be very expensive because you get charge for each train company. For example, if you change train companies three times on route to your destination it could cost you 450 yen for the complete trip. Where as the same distance with one train company may cost you only 160 yen.
Why don’t you stay with one company you ask? Because if you have to transfer twice it could be three different train lines. Here’s the train line breakdown:
East Japan Railway Company
Akita Shinkansen (秋田新幹線)(Morioka – Akita)
Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線)(Tokyo – Nagano)
Jōetsu Shinkansen (上越新幹線)(Tokyo – Niigata)
Tōhoku Shinkansen (東北新幹線)(Tokyo – Sendai – Hachinohe)
Yamagata Shinkansen (山形新幹線)(Fukushima – Shinjō)
Tokyo Suburban Area (東京近郊区間)
赤羽線 Akabane Line (Ikebukuro – Akabane)
中央本線 Chūō Main Line (Tokyo – Shiojiri – Nagoya)
中央快速線 Chūō Rapid Line (Tokyo – Takao – Ōtsuki)
中央・総武緩行線 Chūō-Sōbu Line (Mitaka – Shinjuku – Chiba)
八高線 Hachikō Line (Hachiōji – Takasaki)
五日市線 Itsukaichi Line (Haijima – Musashi Itsukaichi)
常磐線 Jōban Line (Ueno – Hitachi)
川越線 Kawagoe Line (Ōmiya – Kawagoe – Komagawa)
京浜東北線 Keihin-Tōhoku Line () (Ōmiya – Tokyo – Yokohama)
京葉線 Keiyō Line (Tokyo – Soga)
水戸線 Mito Line (Oyama – Tomobe)
武蔵野線 Musashino Line (Fuchū Hommachi – Nishi Funabashi) (Tokyo outer loop)
南武線 Nambu Line (Kawasaki – Tachikawa; Shitte – Hamakawasaki)
成田線 Narita Line (Sakura – Chōshi; Abiko – Narita; Narita – Narita Airport)
根岸線 Negishi Line (Yokohama – Ōfuna)
青梅線 Ōme Line (Tachikawa – Ōme – Okutama)
両毛線 Ryōmō Line (Oyama – Shin Maebashi)
相模線 Sagami Line (Hashimoto – Chigasaki)
埼京線 Saikyō Line (Ōsaki – Ōmiya)
湘南新宿ライン Shōnan-Shinjuku Line (Ōmiya – Shinjuku – Ōfuna)
総武本線 Sōbu Main Line (Tokyo – Chōshi)
外房線 Sotobō Line (Chiba – Mobara – Awa Kamogawa)
高崎線 Takasaki Line (Ōmiya – Takasaki)
東金線 Tōgane Line (Narutō – Ōami)
東北本線 Tōhoku Main Line (Utsunomiya Line) ((宇都宮線)) (Ueno – Kuroiso)
東海道本線 Tōkaidō Main Line (Tōkyō – Yokohama – Atami)
鶴見線 Tsurumi Line (Tsurumi – Ōgimachi; Anzen – Ōkawa; Asano – Umishibaura)
内房線 Uchibō Line (Soga – Kisarazu – Awa Kamogawa)
宇都宮線 Utsunomiya Line () (Ueno – Utsunomiya)
山手線 Yamanote Line (Ōsaki – Shinjuku – Tabata – Tōkyō – Osaki. Tokyo inner loop)
横浜線 Yokohama Line (Higashi Kanagawa – Hachiōji)
横須賀線 Yokosuka Line (Tokyo – Kurihama)
銀座線 Ginza Line
丸ノ内線 Marunouchi Line
日比谷線 Hibiya Line
千代田線 Chiyoda Line
半蔵門線 Hanzomon Line
東西線 Tozai Line
南北線 Namboku Line
有楽町線 Yurakucho Line
新有楽町線New Yurakucho Line
副都心 Fukutoshin Line
Toei Subway (Tokyo Metropolitan Goverment) 4 lines
新宿線 Shinjuku Line
三田線 Mita Line
浅草線 Asakusa Line
大江戸線 Oedo Line
Smaller Private Train Companies
京急 Keikyu: Short for Keihin-Kyuko (京浜急行) Tokyo (東京) – Yokohama (横浜) Express
京王 Keio: Tokyo (東京) – Hachioji (八王子)
京成 Keisei: Tokyo (東京) – Narita (成田)
小田急 Odakyu: Odawara (小田原) Express (急行)
西武 Seibu: West (西) Musashi (武). Musashi is old name of the region North and West of Tokyo.
東武 Tobu: East (東) Musashi (武).
東急 Tokyu: Tokyo (東京) Express (急行), which has 9 lines connecting various places in the Kanagawa prefecture and Southern Tokyo (Shibuya, Meguro, Gotanda, Oimachi).