Some of you are very nervous of language barrier. But in 2014, more than 13 million tourists have visited Japan. I believe 99% of tourists did not understand Japanese. But most of tourist have completed their travel without a huge issue. It is not very hard to make a trip to Japan without speaking Japanese. I think the signage and the announcement in both station and train help travellers and take them to the right direction.
In this post, I would like to show you the signage in the station and train. I hope this post will relief your pain.
- 1 In the station building
- 2 At the platform
- 3 Signage and announcement in the train
- 4 No problem in major cities, may be challenging in country side
- 5 How much typical Japanese speak English?
In the station building
At first, I would like to show you the signage in the station.
How to find the station
The station name is shown in both Japanese and English as you saw Yurakucho station photo above. So even if you do not under stand Japanese at all, you can find the station name in English.
There are many signage at the entrance and the ticket gate. But all signage is shown in Japanese and English as well. In major stations, it is shown in Chinese and Korean too.
How to find subway station
Subway station is located in underground and thus sometimes hard to find it. The station name of subway is written in both Japanese and English too. And also subway station and line in major cities have number. It makes you to find the station and line easily.
Ticket Vending machine
If you do not use any rail passes, you need to purchase a ticket. For the short transfer, like train trip within downtown Tokyo, you purchase a ticket at the vending machine. Most of vending machine in major cities offer us English signage or guidance.
But if you need to purchase long transfer ticket, you need to go to the ticket office. In most of JR stations, ticket office is called Midori no Madoguchi in Japanese. But in English, the signage shows “Ticket” only.
How to find the direction in the station
If you arrive or depart at major terminal station, like Tokyo, Osaka, there are many tracks, ticket gates and entrance. But there are lots of signage that are written in both English and Japanese. 99% of signage in the station are written in both English and Japanese. As long as you understand English, you will never lose your way.
How to find the track where you need to ride a train
Most of station have train departure information board at the ticket gate. You can find the train name and destination when you enter the station.
You may watch the movie below to see how it shows in both Japanese and English.
At the platform
At the ticket gate, you can find the track number where your train depart. You may find the number and destination at the stairs or escalators to the platform.
Now I would like to show you the signage at platform.
Station name board
It is written in Japanese and English basically as you see above. I would like to show you some more samples.
In some stations near/in tourist spot, it is written in Korean and Chinese too.
As I mentioned above, subway in major cities have numbers for lines and stations. You may find the station number on station name board too.
Conventional train platform
I show you several sample images of train information board at the platform.
Most of signage is shown in both Japanese and English. The movie below shows you very typical LED signage at the platform of JR Gifu station.
Shinkansen (Bullet Train) platform
Shinkansen platform is very tourist friendly place. Both English signage and English announcement are available too.
All Shinkansen stations have multilingual display and announcement. I would like to show you one more movie. This was recorded at Hiroshima station.
Signage and announcement in the train
As long as you travel in major cities, you will find both Japanese and English signage on the train.
Commute train in major cities
Most of signage are written in both English and Japanese.
In the train, there are many signage. In these days, Korean and Chinese signage have been seen very often.
The following movie shows you the display above the door in Yamanote line train. You can listen the announcement in both Japanese and English too.
This is one of very common commute trains in Tokyo. Most of JR trains in Tokyo have same type of display and announce.
Limited Express train
Express trains have reserved seat, non reserved seat and Green cars too. Those information are shown beside the passengers door.
In the trains, most of signage are shown in Japanese and English. But airport express trains have four language signage.
Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Shinkansen train has same features as limited express trains.
The next movie is made by some train fan. It shows you the display in Hokuriku Shinkansen train from Kanazawa to Tokyo. You can listen the announce in both Japanese and English too.
No problem in major cities, may be challenging in country side
As you have seen this post above, you will find the signage at least in English. Especially train that runs in major cities, airport and popular tourist sites, is very friendly for overseas tourist. Even if you travel in country side, you are able to find English signage in the station. However you may not be able to find any English signage in the train. Of course it does not have any English announcement either. If you intend to visit country side, all information must be prepared.
How much typical Japanese speak English?
Most of Japanese do not speak English fluently even though Japanese learn English in high school for 6 years. However most of Japanese are more comfortable reading and writing much more than speaking and listening. When you face a problem, try to write the issue and explain slowly. It is much easier for typical Japanese to understand what is your issue.
Things will be much easier than that you think!