Series N700 shinkansen train in Japan

Series N700 shinkansen trains.  These link Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima & Hakata on the Tokaido & Sanyo line.

►►► Buy a Japan Rail Pass

►►► Japan Railpass guide

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  Buy a Japan Rail Pass

►►► Tours of Japan by train


Explore Japan by rail

The best way to get around Japan is by train.  On this page you'll find an introduction to train travel in Japan, with advice on times, routes, tickets and passes.

small bullet point  Train travel in Japan, an overview

small bullet point  Maps of Japan's rail network

small bullet point  How to check train times & fares

small bullet point  Ordinary class or Green Car?

small bullet point  Reserved or unreserved?

small bullet point  Busy periods to avoid

small bullet point  Example journey times & prices

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  Maps of Japan's rail network

small bullet point  Classes & reservations

Japan Rail pass guide 2024

small bullet point  Japan Rail Pass or point to point tickets?

small bullet point  What does a Japan Rail Pass cover?

small bullet point  How does a Japan Rail Pass work?

small bullet point  Making reservations to go with your pass

small bullet point  How to buy a Japan Rail Pass

small bullet point  Regional passes & Seishun 18 Kippu pass

small bullet point  A suggested 7-day itinerary in pictures

What are Japanese trains like?

small bullet point  Shinkansen   Watch the video guides

small bullet point  Limited Express

small bullet point  Ordinary & Rapid trains

small bullet point  Sleeper trains

small bullet point  Travel tips:  Luggage, WiFi, finding your train

small bullet point  Rules for large suitcases on shinkansen routes

Airport links & other useful info

small bullet point  Useful country information: currency, dial code...

small bullet point  Finding your way around Tokyo station

small bullet point  The Tokyo Station Hotel

small bullet point  Ryokans, capsule hotels

small bullet point  Haneda Airport train link

small bullet point  Narita Airport train link

small bullet point  Recommended guidebooks

small bullet point  Tours of Japan by train - organised for you

small bullet point  Travel insurance, mobile data, VPN & other tips

Ferries to & from Japan

small bullet point  Ferries from Japan to Russia

small bullet point  Ferries from Japan to China

small bullet point  Ferries from Japan to South Korea

small bullet point  Flights to Japan

small bullet point  Europe to Japan by Trans-Siberian Railway

Useful country information

Train operator:

There are six major regional railway companies, known collectively as Japan Railways (JR) Group, plus many private local operators.

For Japan train times try or

Japan rail map.  Tokyo metro website (with map):


Japan railpass:

Japan rail pass informationBuy a Japan Rail Pass online

Time zone:

 GMT+9 all year round.

Dialling code:





£1 = approx 180 Yen.   $1 = 140 Yen.  Currency converter

Hotels in Japan:

Ryokans, hotels & capsule hotels   

Flights to Japan:


Cheap flights to Japan

Tourist information:  

Hotels in Japan  Tripadvisor Japan pages   



Not required by UK, EU, US, Canadian or Australian  citizens for tourist visits of up to 30 days.  A return or onward ticket be necessary.  Recommended guidebooks

Page last updated:

22 March 2024

Train travel in Japan

Maps of the rail network

How to check train times & fares

The classic network

Shinkansen high-speed lines

Ordinary class or Green Car?

Green Car seats on an N700A shinkansen   Ordinary class seats on an N700A shinkansen

Green Car on a shinkansen, seats 2+2 across car width.


Ordinary class, seats 2+3 across car width.

Reserved or non-reserved?

Busy periods to avoid

Example journey times & prices



Time by Nozomi*

Time by Hikari**

One-way fare***

Train frequency:

 Tokyo - Kyoto

513km, 320 miles

2 hours 18 min

2 hours 38 min


Every 15-30 minutes

 Tokyo - Shin-Osaka

552km, 345 miles

2 hours 33 min

2 hours 53 min


Every 15-30 minutes

 Tokyo - Hiroshima

894km, 559 miles

4 hours 1 min

4 hours 49 min


Every 15-30 minutes

 Tokyo - Nagasaki

1,328km, 830 miles

7 hours 14 min

8 hours 21 min


Every hour, change Hakata

 Kyoto - Hiroshima

380km, 237 miles

1 hour 36 min

1 hour 59 min


Every 15-30 minutes

 Hiroshima - Nagasaki

434km, 271 miles

3 hours 10 min

3 hours 25 min


Every hour, change Hakata

£1 = 180 yen.  $1 = 140 yen.

* Nozomi = fastest Shinkansen stopping pattern.

** Hikari = next fastest train type, Japan Rail Passes can be used.

*** Fare by Nozomi with reserved seat.

Check Japanese train times & fares at

Children aged 0 to 5 travel free, children aged 6 to 11 travel at half fare, children aged 12 and over pay full fare.

Rail fares in Japan are expensive, and if you are an overseas visitor a Japan Rail Pass can be the cheapest way to travel even if you are only planning one return trip from (say) Tokyo to Hiroshima.  See the Japan Rail Pass section.

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How to buy tickets

How to buy local tickets

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Japan Rail Pass guide

  Japan Rail Pass exchange voucher

1. Exchange Voucher.  When you order your pass online, you are sent an Exchange Voucher (above, on left) plus a handy Japan Rail Pass user guide, a Japan rail timetable and a Japan rail map.  The voucher can be exchanged for a Japan Rail Pass at any time in the 3 months after ordering.

  A Japan Rail Pass

2.  Japan Rail Pass.  You exchange the voucher for a Japan Rail Pass at any one of 50 designated JR exchange offices in Japan, including Tokyo, Ueno, Shinjuku, Narita International Airport, Haneda International Airport, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nagasaki.  The photo above shows an old-school pass, from 2023 passes are being issued as credit-card-size card tickets which can operate ticket gates.

What does a Japan Rail Pass cover?

How does a Japan Rail Pass work

  Japan Rail Pass reservations

3.  Reservations.  Reservation are free with a Japan Rail Pass.  You get a seat reservation ticket like this for each seat you reserve, stating date, train, car & seat number.

  Seat reservations logo

You can make seat reservations at any ticket office shown with the green seat reservation logo.

Making reservations with your pass

Suggested 7-day itinerary

Buy a Japan Rail Pass

When you buy your pass

Japan Rail Pass exchange voucher

1. Exchange Voucher.  When you order your pass online, you are sent an Exchange Voucher (above, on left) plus a handy Japan Rail Pass user guide, a Japan rail timetable and a Japan rail map.  The voucher can be exchanged for a Japan Rail Pass at any time in the 3 months after ordering.

A Japan Rail Pass

2.  Japan Rail Pass.  You exchange the voucher for a Japan Rail Pass at any one of 50 designated JR exchange offices in Japan, including Tokyo main station (2 offices), Ueno, Shinjuku, Narita International Airport, Haneda International Airport, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nagasaki.  The photo above shows an old-school pass, from 2023 passes are being issued as credit-card-size card tickets which can operate ticket gates.

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Regional rail passes

Japan East pass, Sanyo pass, Kansai pass

Seishun 18 Kippu

1, 2 & 3-day metro passes for Tokyo

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What are Japanese trains like?

Shinkansen high-speed trains

Everyone has heard of Japan's bullet train lines, more properly known in Japan as shinkansen which means new trunk line.  These are high-speed lines, built to European and North American standard gauge with rails 4' 8½" apart.  The first shinkansen was the Tokaido Shinkansen opened in 1964 between Toyo, Kyoto and Osaka, later extended as the Sanyo Shinkansen to Hiroshima, Kobe and Hakata.  There are now a whole range of shinkansen lines linking all the most important cities in Japan, including Niigata, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Hakata and Kagoshima.

small bullet point  Watch the video, Tokyo to Hiroshima by shinkansen

small bullet point  Watch the video:  Hiroshima to Nagasaki by shinkansen & Limited Express

Tokaido & Sanyo shinkansen N700A

These 16-car N700As owned by JR Central & JR West operate the Nozomi and Hikari services on the Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo, Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.  Many Nozomis and a few Hikaris extend to Hiroshima, Kobe & Hakata over the Sanyo Shinkansen.  These trains operate at up to 285 km/h (175 mph) on the Tokaido Shinkansen and up to 300km/h (186 mph) on the Sanyo Shinkansen.

N700A train on the Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka Tokaido Shinkansen

N700A shinkansen at Tokyo main station.

Green Car seats on an N700A shinkansen   Ordinary class seats on an N700A shinkansen

Green Car, seats 2+2 across the car width.


Ordinary class, seats 2+3 across the car width.

Shinkansen seats are always rotated to face the direction of travel, and all seats come with a drop-down table attached to the seat back in front.  If there are four of you, you can rotate one pair of seats to make a face-to-face group of four.  There are power sockets (Japanese 2-pin) at all seats on these N700s.

Shinkansen urinal   Shinkansen smoking room   Shinkansen refreshment trolley

Gent's urinal.


Small smoking room.


Refreshment trolley, cash & cards accepted.

Sanyo & Kyushu shinkansen N700

These 8-car N700 shinkansen trains owned by JR West & JR Kyushu operate the Mizuho & Sakura services on the Sanyo & Kyushu shinkansen lines between Shin-Osaka, Hiroshima, Himeji, Hakata and Kagoshima.

Green Car seats on N700 JR Kyushu shinkansen   N700 JR Kyushu shinkansen

Green Car seats on an N700 8-car shinkansen.


An 8-car N700 at Shin-Osaka station.

Green Car seats on N700 JR Kyushu shinkansen   Green Car seats on N700 JR Kyushu shinkansen

Ordinary class reserved seats on an N700 8-car shinkansen.


Ordinary class unreserved seats on an N700 8-car shinkansen.

On most shinkansen trains, ordinary class seats are the same whether reserved or non-reserved.  But on these particular trains, ordinary class reserved seats (above left) are arranged 2+2 across the car width, much more spacious than the non-reserved cars (above right).  An added benefit of reserving a seat!

Joetsu, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Hokkaido, Yamagata & Akita shinkansen

You'll find a range of exotic trains on the Joetsu, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Hokkaido, Yamagata & Akita shinkansen routes heading north & east of Tokyo.

E5 sinkansen train   E6 shinkansen train

A JR East E5 shinkansen at Tokyo station.


A JR East E6 shinkansen.

E7 shinkansen train   Gran Class seats on an E5 shinkansen train

A JR East E7 shinkansen at Tokyo station.


Gran class (premium 1st class) on an E5 shinkansen.

Limited Expresses

An extensive network of classic 3' 6" narrow-gauge lines covers the whole of Japan taking you to almost every city and town of any size.  The fastest trains on the classic network are classified Limited Express, and these train come in all shapes and sizes.  Indeed, the classic network often parallels the shinkansen:  For example, you can travel between Kyoto, Osaka and Himeji by Limited Express on the classic network just as easily as by shinkansen.  Give it a try!

Ordinary class seats on a Thunderbird Limited Express   Limited Express Thunderbird at Shin-Osaka.

Limited Express Thunderbird between Osaka, Shin-Osaka, Kyoto & Kanazawa.  The photo shows how comfortable the ordinary class seats are, and the large picture windows a welcome change for the smaller windows on the shinkansen.  You may well find yourself using such trains between Kyoto & Shin-Osaka, in connection with shinkansen to Tokyo.

Local & rapid trains

Completing the picture, there are many local & rapid trains on the classic 3' 6" narrow-gauge network, again of many shapes and sizes.

Japanese rapid train   Japanese local train

Rapid train at Shin-Osaka.


Local train in Tokyo.

Sleeper trains: See the video

There's now only one sleeping-car train left in Japan, the Sunrise Express.  It runs as one combined train from Tokyo to Himeji & Okayama and then splits, the Sunrise Seto heading for Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku and the Sunrise Izumo heading for Izumoshi.

You can use the Sunrise Express at no extra charge with a Japan Rail Pass if you make a reservation for one of the basic nobinobi berths (see the photo below left) or you can pay the room fee to have a private compartment.  Expect a private sleeper compartment for one person to cost around ¥8,000 for a B-type single, around ¥7,000 for a similar but slightly smaller B-type solo, or ¥15,000 for a more spacious A-type deluxe single-bed sleeper with washbasin.  For two people, it costs around ¥15,000 per compartment in a B-type single-twin with upper & lower berths or ¥16,000 per compartment in a B-type Sunrise twin with two lower berths side by side.  Without a pass, you pay the regular fare and limited express extra fare plus these berth costs.

The sleeper train runs on the classic narrow-gauge network, but it can save time compared with daytime shinkansen travel but more importantly it's a unique experience, watch the Sunrise Express video.  It could save a hotel bill too!  See the official Sunrise Express information page, in Japanese, translatable with Google Chrome, to see photo of each accommodation type and check current berth fees.

Travel tip:  Himeji is a popular destination, but the Sunrise Express arrives there very early westbound and leaves late at night eastbound.  Remember that with a Japan Rail Pass you can easily double back, leaving or boarding the train an hour away in Okayama at a more attractive time instead.  The useful Tokyo-Nagasaki sleeper train is long gone, and the Hokutosei  & Cassiopeia sleeper trains between Tokyo & Sapporo disappeared in late 2015/early 2016 with the expansion of high-speed shinkansen services to Hokkaido.

Nobinobi floor berths on the Sunrise Seto   Twin berth sleeper on the Sunrise Seto   The Sunrise Seto about to leave Okayama

The Sunrise Express links Tokyo with Himeji, Okayama, Izumoshi & Takamatsu and is now the sole surviving sleeper train in Japan.  It has nobinobi floor berths (above left, free with a Japan Rail Pass, reservation required), single and twin B-type berths (a twin berth compartment is shown above centre) and deluxe single and twin compartments, not shown here.

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Travel tips

Ticket gates

When entering (or leaving) the platform area at any principal Japanese station, you'll need to pass through a set of automatic ticket gates like the ones shown here.  To catch a shinkansen train you may need to pass through two sets of gates, the first to access the JR Lines platform area serving the classic network, then another to access the Shinkansen platforms.  The gates are usually open by default, they'll spring shut if you try to pass through without a ticket.  All gate lines have a staffed side-gate, and if you have an old-style Japan Rail Pass you'll need to use this.  Just flash your pass at the side gate and you'll be waved through.  However, Japan Rail Passes are now being issued in the same format as normal magnetic-stripe card tickets, and passes in this format will operate the gates.

Ticket gates at Hiroshima station

Ticket gates at the entrance to the Shinkansen platforms at Hiroshima.  As you can see, the staffed side gate is on the left.

Finding your platform, train & seat

Many visitors worry about language in Japan, but signs are in both Japanese and English and the system is so efficient and easy to use.  The photos below show how easy it is to find the right platform, stand in the right place for your car when the train comes in, and be sure you're getting on the right train.

Train departures board at Hiroshima

Main departures board at Hiroshima.  It alternates between Japanese & English.  To the left of the clock, departures towards Hakata.  To the right of the clock, departures towards Tokyo.  I have a ticket for Sakura 557 leaving at 14:27, I can see it will go from track 11. 

Tip:  The board also tells you which cars are unreserved.  If you want to use Sakura 557 without a reservation, you can see that cars 1-3 are the non-reserved ones.

Platform departure board at Tokyo.   Platform markings show where to stand for each car number   Destination & train number on the side of a shinkansen carriage

Platform indicator at Tokyo.  The train now at platform 16 is Hikari 507 departing 09:33.  The next train at this platform will be Kodama 645, followed by Nozomi 319.


Car 10.  Platform markings tell you where to stand for the doors to each car.  The 'clover' indicates a green car.


Hikari 507.  Signs on the side of a shinkansen train confirm which train it is.  This is bound for Shin-Osaka, this is a green car, and it's reserved.

Luggage on Japanese trains

Luggage is no real problem on Japanese trains.  Within reason, you can take what you like, nobody weighs it, measures it or argues about it.  You simply take it with you onto the train and stick it on any suitable luggage rack.  The overhead racks on shinkansen trains take anything up to backpack size.  If you have a huge suitcase or don't want to lift heavy bags to the overhead rack, go to the back of your car and put your bags in the gap between the wall and the rearmost seats, as in the photo below right.

Rules for very large suitcases from 2020

Extra large luggage rules have applied to the Tokaido, Kyushu & Sanyo shinkansen lines since May 2020.  Passengers with very large suitcases over 160 linear centimetres (linear cm = length + width + depth) will have to reserve a place for their suitcase at the same time they reserve their shinkansen seat, it's free of charge.  But if they don't reserve, they face a ¥1,000 fine (about $8) on the train.  It will no longer be possible to travel in an unreserved seats car with very large suitcases.  The suitcases will go in behind the rear row of seats, or (when modifications are completed) in a new lockable luggage area which will replace some of the washbasins in designated cars.  Obviously, the 160cm cut-off means this won't affect backpacks or normal-sized luggage, just over-sized cases.  For more details see

Luggage racks on Shinkansen train   Larger luggage can go here...

Most items fit on the overhead racks.


Room for large items at the rear of the car.

Luggage lockers at stations

All principal stations have luggage lockers in various sizes in various locations.  Expect a small locker to start at around ¥300 or ¥400, and you'll need coins.  It's not usually difficult to find vacant lockers at any time of day.  Below right, arriving in Himeji at lunchtime it was no problem to find a vacant large locker which took two backpacks and a holdall for ¥700.  There's also a small staffed left luggage office at Tokyo station, inside the Marunouchi central entrance inside the JR Lines gated area.

Left luggage lockers at Himeji   Large locker

Luggage lockers in Himeji, useful when stopping there to visit the famous castle.

Food on board: Eki-ben

First the bad news.  Japanese trains don't have restaurant cars or even a bar car, just vending machines and in some cases a refreshment trolley.  The trolley on premier shinkansen trains such as Nozomi, Hikari, Mizuho or Sakura services sells tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, sake, snacks, small tubs of ice cream.  The trolley accepts both cash and credit cards.

Now the good news.  You can of course take your own food and drink onto Japanese trains, and one of the joys of Japanese train travel is the ekiben - eki meaning station, ben short for bento, meaning traditional Japanese packed lunch.  Ekiben is sold at ekiben shops found at all main stations, and also from the refreshment trolley on principal shinkansen services.  Ekiben comes in all sizes, shapes and qualities, but expect a decent large box to cost perhaps ¥800 bought at the station or ¥1,000 bought from the trolley on board a train.  The ekiben boxes include chopsticks and finger wipes.

If you want to buy ekiben from the shinkansen refreshment trolley, just ask the trolley lady - she'll show you pictures of the what she has available in a little laminated menu booklet, just point to the one you want.  You'll soon be a Black Belt in the ancient and honourable Japanese martial art of Eki-ben...

Ekiben shop at Tokyo station   Ekiben & sake bought from the trolley

One of many ekiben shops at Tokyo station.


Ekiben & sake bought from the shinkansen trolley.

Ekiben with octopus, bought on a train   Selection of ekiben at a station shop

An ekiben with octopus.


A selection of mouthwatering ekiben at a station.

Power sockets & WiFi

You can reckon on finding power sockets for standard Japanese plugs at seats on almost all shinkansen and most limited expresses.  Free WiFi is now available on most shinkansen routes including the Tokaido, Sanyo & Tohoku lines.  Check your mobile provider for a data package for Japan, there is good mobile data reception along most shinkansen routes.  You'll also find JR Free WiFi at a key stations including Tokyo, Shinagawa, Nagoya, Kyoto & Shin-Osaka.

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Tokyo station: See location map

Tokyo's main central station is shown as plain Tokyo in timetables.  Unlike most main stations worldwide, Tokyo station lacks a main entrance and main concourse.  It's something of a rabbit warren, but as most visitors end up there sooner or later, here are some tips.  You can read more about the station and its history at  It's the busiest station in Japan in terms of trains, though not in terms of passenger numbers.

Which platform?

Tokyo Station, Marunouchi side

Tokyo station

Tokyo's historic station building on the Marunouchi (west) side.  The Marunouchi North entrance is beneath the dome on the far left, the Marunouchi South entrance is beneath the other dome on the far right.  What appears to be the grand central entrance is sealed off, the Marunouchi Central entrance is a smaller door to the left.   The 2nd & 3rd floors (meaning the 1st & 2nd floors for a European) are occupied by the 5-star Tokyo Station Hotel.

Marunouchi North entrance   JR East Travel Service Centre

Marunouchi North entrance, viewed as you walk in from outside, with the North Passage to the Yaesu side ahead, and the row of ticket gates just out of short to the right. 

Japan Rail Pass Exchange office, Marunouchi North entrance:  The arrow marks the JR East Travel Service Centre, interior pictured above right.  This is the most relaxed place at Tokyo station to exchange a Japan Rail Pass voucher for the actual pass.  Open 07:30-20:30 every day

Tokyo Station, Yaesu side

Tokyo station, Yaesu Central entrance

Tokyo station Yaesu Central entrance on the busy east side of the station.

Shinkansen ticket office, Yaesu side.   Japan Rail Pass exchange counter, Tokyo Yaesu Central.

Japan Rail Pass Exchange office, Yaesu side:  You can also exchange your Japan Rail Pass voucher at counter 6 in the JR Central Shinkansen ticket office at Yaesu Central, also open 07:30-20:30.  There are several Shinkansen ticket offices on the Yaesu side, all looking very similar, it's the one nearest the Yaesu Central entrance that has the Japan Rail Pass counter.

How to buy local tickets

Self-service ticket machines, Tokyo station

Buying local tickets in Tokyo.  There's a row of ticket machines like this near every entrance to the platform area.

The yellow & green machines on the left sell Shinkansen & Limited Express reserved & unreserved tickets & reservation changes.

The pink or green machines on the right can sell local tickets in the Tokyo area.  The map above the machines shows the price to each station on the local network from the station you're at, you simply select that price on the machines, see the How to buy tickets section above for more details.

One-day metro & local train passes for Tokyo:  There are 1-day passes you can get to cover either metro trains or metro trains + JR local trains in the Tokyo area.  You need to clock up perhaps 5 or 6 journeys in a day to make one of these worthwhile.  See

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The Tokyo Station Hotel: Check prices

The lovely 5-star Tokyo Station Hotel is another unique place to stay that deserves a special mention, even if (unlike capsule hotels) it's not a budget option!  The hotel occupies the 2nd & 3rd floors of the historic and beautifully-restored 1915 station building on the quieter Marunouchi side of Tokyo station.  Given that so many of Tokyo's classic hotels have been destroyed by earthquakes or wartime bombing then rebuilt as modern tower blocks, this has to be one of the most historically-interesting places to stay.  It's a luxurious and well-located choice, too, with a first-rate breakfast buffet served in the Atrium located inside the large central pitched roof above the 3rd floor.  And it's so handy for the trains.

Tokyo Station Hotel   Double room at the Tokyo Station Hotel

Tokyo Station Hotel, built in 1915.


Double room.

En suite bathroom   Breakfast in the Atrium, Tokyo Station Hotel

En suite bathroom.


An excellent buffet breakfast in the Atrium.

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Ryokans & capsule hotels

Any visit to Japan is a cultural experience.  Don't just stay in western hotels and visit the sights.  Make the places you stay part of the experience, by staying in a traditional Japanese ryokan, or even a capsule hotel.


Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns.  The rooms don't have beds, the floor is covered with tatami matting on which you place a bedroll.  You may be offered a hot cup of green Japanese tea when you first arrive.  You can sometimes find ryokans online on hotel booking sites such as  The very best and most famous ryokans can be fabulously expensive, but cheaper ones can be a budget option.  Search for Ryokans in Tokyo Search for Ryokans in Kyoto.

Family room at the Kyoto Q-Beh ryokan   Q-Beh Ryokan, Kyoto

In Kyoto, the excellent Gion Ryokan Q-Beh (pictured above) is 10-15 minutes walk from the Kyomizu-dera temple, 10 minutes walk from the Gion Geisha district.  It has budget dorm rooms and private rooms, and free WiFi.  The photos above show a family room with shower & toilet.

In Hiroshima, try the Chizuru Ryokan, 10 minutes walk from the Peace Park.

Capsule hotels

Another classic Japanese experience is to spend a night in a capsule hotel - which coincidentally is also a money-saving option for staying a night in the heart of Tokyo or another big city.  These are more civilised than you might think.

The hotel reception looks like any other hotel reception.  Remember to take your shoes off before you walk in, and place them in one of the lockers in the lobby.  Upstairs, there will probably be several floors of fibreglass sleeping capsules, each floor with its own locker room and shared showers.  You change in the locker room and put your clothes and bags into your locker.  Your capsule has radio, alarm clock and TV, and a screen or curtain pulls over the capsule entrance for privacy.  The main drawback is that the main clientele for these hotels is Japanese businessmen who have missed their last train home, so capsule hotels are usually male-only.  But capsule hotels for women do exist.  The pictures below show end-entry capsules, but some capsule hotels have side-entry types, and you'll now find some capsule hotels with larger, more hotel-style capsules too.

You can usually walk into a capsule hotel and ask for a bed for the night, but if you want to pre-book this unique experience, try the Capsulevalue Kanda in downtown Tokyo near Kanda station, one stop north of Tokyo station, a bed in downtown Tokyo for as little as ¥3,400 (about £26 or $32) per night.  Men and boys over 10 can stay there, but not women or children.

Capsule Hotel Kanda, entrance   Inside a capsule hotel   Inside a capsule

The Capsulevalue Kanda is 5 minutes walk from Kanda station, one stop north of Tokyo station.

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Haneda Airport to Tokyo

Monorail station at Haneda International Airport

Haneda Airport Arrivals lobby, monorail entrance.  From left to right in the picture above, an ATM (get some cash out!), ticket machines (buy a JR Transfer ticket for the monorail+train into Tokyo), the ticket gates onto the monorail platforms and (marked by the arrow) the JR East Travel Service Centre where you can exchange a voucher for a Japan Rail Pass if you like.

Haneda Airport monorail train   On board the Haneda Airport monorail

Step 1, the monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho interchange.  Every few minutes, journey time 14 minutes.  It's driverless, so get a seat up front for great forward views as the monorail threads its way at high level through Tokyo's docklands.

Yamanote Line train   Yamanote Line train, Tokyo

Step 2, JR Yamanote Line from Hamamatsucho to Tokyo station.  It's clearly signposted JR Yamanote Line and its trains are colour-coded green as shown above.  The line is a loop around Tokyo, look for the Tokyo direction.  It runs every few minutes.

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Narita Airport to Tokyo

Option1, Narita Express to Tokyo main station

Narita Express ordinary class   Narita Express train at Tokyo

Narita express ordinary class.


A Narita Express train at Tokyo.

Narita Express luggage space   Narita Express Green Car

Luggage space.


Green Car seating.

Option 2, Keisei Skyliner from Narita to Ueno station

Cheaper options

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Europe to Japan by Trans-Siberian Railway

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Ferries between Japan & China, Korea, Vladivostok

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Railbookers logoTours of Japan by train

If you want a tour agency to organise a tour of Japan for you with train travel, transfers & hotels included as a package, Railbookers specialise in train-based tours and have several suggested tours of Japan by rail, including Best of Japan, Scenic Japan and Golden Route of Japan.  These can be adjusted to your specification.

UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600,

US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775,

Canadian flag  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910,

Australian flag  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526,

New Zealand flag  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 000 554 or see website.


Japan by Rail & Lonely Planet guides:  In the age of the internet, a printed guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but you'll see so much more and know so much more about it if you have a decent pocket guidebook.  The Trailblazer Japan by Rail guide is specifically aimed at train travel around Japan, with both city and train information - highly recommended!  Other than that, for the serious independent traveller, the best guidebooks to take are either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  I personally prefer the layout of the Lonely Planet, but others prefer the Rough Guides.  Both guidebooks provide excellent levels of both practical information and historical background. 

Click the images to buy online at

Japan by Rail guide   Rough Guide to Japan - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Japan - click to buy online...

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Flights to Japan

Overland travel around Japan by train is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But a long-haul flight might be unavoidable to reach Japan in the first place. 

1)  Check flight prices at Opodo,

2)  Use Skyscanner to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines...

skyscanner generic 728x90

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Travel insurance & other tips


Staysure travel insurance


Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flag offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA. logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for the country you're visiting and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.


Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month at time of writing.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than digging a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.


Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I get a small commission to help support this site.


Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from or from Buy from


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