JR (Japan Railway) is the biggest train company’s group in Japan. When you travel in Japan by train, you will take JR train. Because JR has a local train network in cities and operates many inter-city long distance trains. But a train system in Japan is very complicated. Because there are lots of train companies which are not under JR group. It is very hard to find which train JR is or not. And also there are many companies under JR group. Actually these companies under JR group are financially separated. It sometimes makes inconvenience for passengers.
In this post, I would like to explain about JR train network. And I also mention about Non JR train networks.
- 1 What is JR
- 2 Railroad lines in operation by JR
- 3 The Shinkansen
- 4 Conventional line
- 5 Private railway companies
What is JR
All JR companies were Japan’s National Railway (JNR) before and it had huge number of lines in all part of Japan other than Okinawa. In 1987, JNR was privatized and divided into more than 10 companies by government decision because JNR had a huge financial deficit. Now these following six companies operates a passenger train service throughout Japan by areas.
Railroad lines in operation by JR
JR operates the Shinkansen (a.k.a. Bullet train = 新幹線) and conventional lines (Zairaisen = 在来線).
The Shinkansen trains are completely separated from other trains on conventional lines. The Shinkansen trains run on the different standard track. Shinkansen trains cannot share the track with other trains on conventional line with a few exception. Because the rail gauge of Shinkansen is wider than others. (Shinkansen 1,435 mm / Conventional line 1,067 mm). Shinkansen is designed for high-speed train operation. There is no train crossings and have less stations than Conventional line for the high speed operation. The fare system is also different from other JR trains. You must have both the base fare ticket and the Shinkansen ticket. The Shinkansen ticket is required to proceed to the Shinkansen platform unless you use the train pass, such as JR Pass.
Between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto
0 stations between these on Shinkansen line
13 stations on Conventional line
*If you take a rapid train or limited express train on Conventional line, you can skip many stations. I will tell you later about the rapid train and the limited express later.
Please refer the link below to learn more about Shinkansen.
What is Shinkansen?
When you make your trip plan, you have to make sure that you can use Shinkansen to go to your destination or not. Try to take Shinkansen as much as you can. That is the key to save your travel time.
JR operates many trains on Conventional line. There are three types of trains, a limited express train, a rapid train and a local train.
This is the fastest train on Conventional line. The train runs between major cities where Shinkansen does not cover. Most of limited express trains are operated where Shinkansen is not operated.
More than 100 types of limited express trains are operated throughout Japan. Most of the places in Japan can be accessed by Shinkansen and limited express trains. Both the base fare ticket and the limited express ticket are required to take the limited express train unless you use the train pass, such as JR Pass.
Please refer the link below to find the list of the limited express train.
The rapid train is a kind of local train. Only the base fare ticket is required to take the rapid train without some exceptions. Rapid trains can be divided into two types.
Inter-city rapid train
This type of train is operated mostly in major cities and surrounding area, such as Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. This type of the rapid train stops at major stations only and it offers faster transit service for commuters. Most of these trains that are operated in Greater Tokyo area and “Rapid Marine Liner” (Okayama to Takamatsu through Seto Ohashi bridge) have Green class. If you want to have better comfortability in even Rapid trains, you can take Green seat. If you have a Japan Rail Pass Green, of course you can take this with no extra charge.
In Tokyo and Osaka, the faster Rapid service trains are operated. These trains are called “Special Rapid Service”. You may take these trains on Chuo line (Tokyo-Shinjuku-Hachioji-Takao-Otsuki) and on Tokaido line, a.k.a. Kyoto-Kobe line (Maibara-Kyoto-ShinOsaka-Osaka-Kobe-Himeji). These trains are fast and very frequent.
And you may take Rapid service trains to access to the airport. Rapid Airport Narita (Kurihama-Yokohama-Tokyo-Chiba-Narita airport), Kansai Airport Rapid Service (Kyobashi-Osaka-Tennoji-Kansai airport) and Rapid Airport (Sapporo-New Chitose airport) are operated. Japan Railways operate Limited Express, like Narita Express (Narita airport-Greater Tokyo) and Haruka (Kansai airport-Shin Osaka/Kyoto) too. But if you will pay a single fare, you can consider about taking these Rapid trains to save your budget.
Joyful train and cruising train
The other Rapid trains are called the Joyful trains and the cruising trains. These types of trains are operated for the tourist by the specialized train fleet. Some trains offer you at the same level of service as the limited express trains as you see the photo of the interior of Resort Shirakami.
Most of these trains require the seat fee beside the base fare. Advanced reservation is also required to take some of these trains.
This types of train are operated everywhere for the commuters. You may take the local train for the short ride. In the major cities, you will hop on and off the local train, such as on Yamanote line (the loop line in Tokyo), Osaka Kanjo line (the loop line in Osaka). The train runs every minutes in these cities.
In the countryside, you may have to take the local train too. But the train does not run frequently in the countryside. On some lines, the train makes a few trips a day. You must check the train timetable before you are on board.
Private railway companies
There are so many private railway companies especially in the major cities, such as Tokyo, Osaka. And also there are many municipal subway lines too. If you use JR deals, such as JR Pass, basically these train lines are not covered.
I would like to show you only major companies which you should know to travel in Japan.
- Sapporo City Subway
- Hakodate Tram
- Sendai City Subway
- Sendai Airport Transit
- Yagan Railway
- Aizu Railway
Kanto region (Tokyo and surrounding area)
- Tokyo Metro
- Tokyo Toei Subway
- Tokyo Monorail
- Odakyu Railway
- Keisei Railway
- Keikyu Railway
- Tobu Railway
- Seibu Railway
- Keio Railway
- Tokyu Railway
- Yokohama City Subway
- Sotetsu Railway
- Fuji Kyuko Railway
- Enoshima Dentetsu Railway
- Hakone Tozan Railway
- Meitetsu Railway
- Nagoya City Subway
- Toyama Chiho Railway
- All transportation on Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
- Nagano Railway
- Osaka City Subway
- Kyoto City Subway
- Kobe City Subway
- Kintetsu Railway
- Nankai Railway
- Hankyu Railway
- Hanshin Railway
- Keihan Railway
- Kobe Dentetsu Railway
- Sanyo Railway
- Kyoto Tango Railway
- Wakayama Dentetsu Railway
Chugoku and Shikoku
- Okayama Tram
- Hiroshima Dentetsu Tram
- Takamatsu Kotohira Railway
- Iyo Railway
- Tosa Dentetsu Tran
- Nishitetsu Railway
- Fukuoka City Subway
- Kumamoto Tram
- Kumamoto Dentetsu Railway
- Nagasaki Tram
- Kagoshima Tram