Japan: Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy, 日本 [Japanese]; Nippon.
Currency: Japanese Yen [日本円 Japanese] JPY (¥]
National Railway System
numeric 42; alpha JP
National Railway Operator
The Japan Railways Group, commonly known as the JR Group, took over the assets of Japanese National Railways (JNR) on 1 April 1987, and consists of seven for profit stock companies. No national rail operator exits now.
The seven JR companies are six geographically based passenger ones plus Japan Freight Railway Company; JR Freight which uses the tracks of the other six.
The passenger operators are, Going east to west;
- Hokkaido Railway Company; JR Hokkaido
- East Japan Railway Company; JR East
- Central Japan Railway Company; JR Central
- West Japan Railway Company; JR West
- Shikoku Railway Company; JR Shikoku
- Kyushu Railway Company; JR Kyushu
Private Railway Operators
There are considered to be some 21 major and semi-major private railway operators:-
- Hankyu Railway - Hankyu Corporation 阪急電鉄
- Hanshin Electric Railway Co. Ltd. 阪神電気鉄道
- Keihan Electric Railway 京阪電気鉄道
- Keikyu Corporation 京浜急行電鉄 (京急)
- Keio Corporation 京王電鉄
- Keisei Electric Railway 京成電鉄
- Kintetsu Railway Co. Ltd. 近畿日本鉄道 (近鉄)
- Kita-Osaka Kyuko Railway 北大阪急行電鉄 (Kitakyū 北急)
- Kōbe Rapid Transit Railway 神戸高速鉄道 (subway, Category-3 railway operator)
- Nagoya Railroad (Meitetsu) 名古屋鉄道 (名鉄)
- Nankai Electric Railway 南海電気鉄道
- Nishi-Nippon Railroad 西日本鉄道 (西鉄 Nishitetsu)
- Odakyu Electric Railway 小田急電鉄
- Sagami Railway (Sotetsu) 相模鉄道 (相鉄)
- Sanyo Electric Railway 山陽電気鉄道
- Seibu Railway 西武鉄道
- Semboku Rapid Railway
- Shin-Keisei Electric Railway 新京成電鉄
- Tobu Railway Co. Ltd. 東武鉄道
- Tokyo Metro 東京地下鉄 (東京メトロ)
- Tokyu Railways - Tokyu Corporation 東京急行電鉄 (東急)
Other Private and Third Sector Railways
Information is available at the Man in Seat 61.
- Summary timetables are available in some editions of the European Rail Timetable.
- Timetables [in Japanese] are issued each month by JR and JTB.
The JTB Version also includes most private lines.
JTB Mook produce a rail atlas but in Japanese only.
These have short descriptions of the systems [in German and English] with basic, but useful, diagrammatic maps of some complex city/town areas [which can include heavy rail e.g. JR lines] as well as many colour pictures of the rolling stock.
Many of the rail operators have diagrammatic maps of their systems but these will often miss out lines of their competitors.
Standard single journeys on conventional [JR and Private] lines are generally mileage [well km] based with a rate per km reducing for longer journeys. Supplements are paid for Express and Limited Express trains, seat reservation and travel in Green Cars. See Regular tickets for more information. If a ticket for the exact/whole trip cannot be obtained e.g. if it involves JR and private lines, a ticket to a known point can be purchased and an excess fare paid at the destination. It is understood paying excess fares this way caries no penalty as JR and the other private railways etc. recognise longer train trips in Japan can use complex routes.
On Shinkansen lines ticket pricing tends to be demand based like airlines, to compete with them and express bus operations. Prices can be lower if purchased in advance and for weekend travel or holiday periods e.g. as business demand may be lower. However for certain key national holiday periods, like "Golden Week", with four national holidays in succession, domestic demand may be high and cheap fares restricted and reservations limited.
Green cars are the Japanese equivalent of first class, generally with larger seats/spacing and bigger windows, and on conventional lines can be used by paying a "Green Car" supplement on top of a standard ticket fare. The supplement can include a seat reservation or on some lines e.g. radiating from Tokyo a one off supplement can be purchased before boarding or from an assistant in the Green Car. On Shinkansen lines reservation is compulsory to travel in a Green Car and this should be included at the time of ticket purchase. With a Japan Rail Green Pass reservations are generally complementary but must be obtained before travel.
Seishun 18 "Kippu" Ticket
A Seishun 18 ticket allows unlimited basic rate travel on all JR [Non-Shinkansen] conventional lines, for a number of days in a year. It has three defined purchase periods and three defined e.g. holiday time usage periods each year. See Seishun 18 Ticket.
The ticket sheet is valid for 5 days of, not necessarily contiguous, travel by one person or a groups of people e.g. 5 traveling on one day and is aimed at younger people hence the "18" in the title and those who are less in a hurry.
Tokyo Area One Day Passes
A number of one day passes for either train or metro or buses (or combinations of) in the Tokyo Area
- 1485 mm (4 feet 8½ inches) Standard; JR Shinkansen, some private suburban networks/lines and subways.
- 1372 mm (4 feet 6 inches) Used mainly for Keiō Line branches and some regional tram systems
- 1067 mm (3 feet 6 inches) Cape; Used on original passenger and freight lines and some tram systems.
- 762 mm (2 feet 6 inches) Used on a few electrified regional lines.
Electrification systems used by the JR Group are 1,500 V DC and 20 kV AC for conventional lines, and 25 kV AC for Shinkansen.
Electrification with 600 V DC and 750 V DC are also seen on private lines and tramways. Some private lines use 1,500 V DC.
Frequency of AC power supply is 50 Hz in eastern Japan and 60 Hz in western Japan.
Rule of the road
The Kitayama Rail Pages have distances and line lengths indexed by Prefecture or the Railway Name or the Line Name. There are also Wikipedia pages, in English, for most JR and private lines with distances and other basic details.
The Sagano Scenic Railway runs on a section of bypassed former JR main line.
Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has complied a set of scenic rail journeys.
Links also from the Japanese Subway Association page.
See Wikipeida List
Recent and Future Changes
The 1067 mm (3 foot 6 inch) gauge Utsunomiya Light Rail line opened on 26 August 2023.
The 1067 mm (3 foot 6 inch) JR Khyshu Kyūdai Main Line was reopened throughout on 20 July 2023 afterr rainfall damage in two places earlier in the month.
The 1.6 km extension of the standard gauge Fukola City Subway, Nanakuma Line, from Tenjin-Minami to Hakata Station via Kushida Shrine Station, began operation on 27 March 2023.
The 1067 mm (3 foot 6 inch), ~6 km, Sōtetsu–Tōkyū Link Line of the Eastern Kanagawa Rail Link opened on 18 March 2023. This has allowed the Tōkyū Shin-yokohama Line and the Sōtetsu Shin-yokohama Line to commence operation and so facilitating through running between Sōtetsu, Tobu, Tōkyū, Tokyo Metro and JR East lines.
A section of the 1067 mm (3 foot 6 inch) Oigawa Railway Main Line between Ieyama and Senzu is closed due to Typhon damage in December 2022, with bus replacement. Steam SL trains and local service operate as far as Ieyama. Government funding has been agreed to assist the restoration. The upper Ōigawa Railway Ikawa Line is unaffected.
JR-Khyshu opened the 66 km standard gauge Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen mini-shinkansen, between Nagasaki and Takeo-Onsen, on 23 September 2022. The route to connect it to the rest of the Kyushu Shinkansen, at Hakata Station, has yet to be decided. Gauge convertible trains have been suggested to enable the connection.
The 124 km extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen high-speed line, from Kanazawa southwest via Fukui to Tsuruga, is scheduled to open on 16 March 2024.
The JR-East Rikuu West Line was "temporarily" suspended 14 May 2022 to facilitate construction of a tunnel for the Shinjo Sakata Road of National Route 47. This will last until at least 2024-2025.
The JR-Kyushu Hisatsu Line is suspended, for the 87 km between Yatsushiro and Yoshimatsu, since flood damage in July 2020. No date for resumption of services has been announced.
The JR-East Yonesaka Line is partially suspended due to rainstorm damage. Full restoration could take several years while financing is sorted out.