All of Japan's rail lines are given names by operators, and the majority of them have distinctive names (with very few exceptions). This approach is particularly practical because the line names are even printed on train tickets to show the itinerary.
Typically, the lines are called for a city along the route, a region it passes through, or simply the railroad line's direction. The names might even draw inspiration from the nation's past.
In total, Japan has five different train types: local trains, limited express trains, express trains, rapid trains, and Shinkansen (the best of them all). Though slower than their Shinkansen counterparts, the restricted express trains make up for this with greater coverage of routes. They only make stops at significant railroad stations, which makes them distinctive.
Express trains claim to run at a similar speed to restricted express trains, but they stop at more stations along the way, lengthening the journey. Even though they are the slowest of the bunch and offer a greater variety of railway stations and destinations, rapid trains and local trains are essential for getting to isolated locations.
How to navigate
Tickets for the metro? Subways are not compatible with JR Passes. Purchase a rechargeable, contactless SUICA or IC card at one of the numerous kiosks located inside stations all around Japan to get through the subway gates more quickly. When you're in a hurry, tapping the card to rapidly pass through turnstiles will be useful. You may also use the card in select taxis, 7-11s, vending machines, and many other stores. Make sure your SUICA card is fully loaded with 2,000 yen (US$20) of credit, preferably outside of peak hours, because you don't want it to run out in the thick of rush hour. The card itself has a 500 yen ($4.50) deposit. Repeat visitors can spend your credit for 10 years by using your SUICA card.
If you want to cash in your SUICA card entirely and receive your deposit and remaining balance, be aware there’s a fee for doing so: As of 2021, the fee is 220 yen (US$2).
How can I locate the finest train schedules and maps? Often, the best place to get train schedules is Google Maps. It has improved greatly in recent years, and like every significant public transportation system, it provides information about the duration and cost of each train as well as its stops and level of usage. The leaderboards that list the outgoing and arriving trains are prominently displayed within stations. All JR offices offer free rail maps, and your JR Rail Pass includes one as well. Another English-language software and website that provides access to all Japanese train timetables and schedules is called HyperDia.
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