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

How to 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...

  An overview of train travel in Japan...

   - how to check train times & fares

    - maps of Japan's rail network

    - classes & reservations

    - how to buy tickets

  Japan Rail Pass guide...

    - will a rail pass save you money?

    - what does a Japan Rail Pass cover?

    - how does a Japan Rail Pass work?

    - making reservations to go with your pass

    - how to buy a Japan Rail Pass

   - regional passes & Seishun 18 Kippu pass

  What are Japanese trains like?

  Travel tips:  Luggage, food, finding your train

  Finding your way around Tokyo station

  Haneda Airport trains & Narita Airport trains

  Useful country information - currency, visas, time zone etc.

  Places to see in Japan...

  Ryokans, capsule hotels & the Tokyo Station Hotel

  Recommended guidebooks

Ferries to & from Japan...

  Ferries from Japan to Russia

  Ferries from Japan to China

  Ferries from Japan to South Korea

  Europe to Japan by Trans-Siberian Railway

  Flights to Japan

  Travel insurance


Useful country information

Train operator:

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

Japan train times: www.hyperdia.com - English button is upper left. 

Japan rail map.  Tokyo metro website (with map): www.tokyometro.jp.

 

 

Japan railpass:

Japan rail pass informationBuy a Japan Rail Pass in UK, Europe, Asia, Africa, Buy a Japan Railpass in the USA & Canada, Buy a Japan Rail Pass in Australia/NZ,

Time zone:

 GMT+9 all year round.

Dialling code:

 

+81

Currency:

 

1 = approx 125 Yen.   $1 = 103 Yen.  Currency converter

Hotels in Japan:

Ryokans, hotels & capsule hotels   

Flights to Japan:

 

Cheap flights to Japan

Tourist information:

www.jnto.go.jp or www.seejapan.co.uk.  

Hotels in Japan  Tripadvisor Japan pages   

Visas:

 

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:

5 December 2016


Train travel in Japan

A quick overview...

How to check train times & fares...

How to buy tickets...

Maps of the Japanese rail network...

The classic network...

The shinkansen high-speed lines...

Ordinary class or Green Car?

Reserved or non-reserved?

Sample journey times, frequencies & prices...

 Typical journey times & fares

 Journey:

Distance

Time by Nozomi *

Time by Hikari *

One-way fare:

Train frequency:

 Tokyo - Kyoto

513km, 320 miles

2 hours 18 min

2 hours 38 min

13,710

Every 15-30 minutes

 Tokyo - Shin-Osaka

552km, 345 miles

2 hours 33 min

2 hours 53 min

14,250

Every 15-30 minutes

 Tokyo - Hiroshima

894km, 559 miles

4 hours 1 min

4 hours 49 min

18,880

Every 15-30 minutes

 Tokyo - Nagasaki

1,328km, 830 miles

7 hours 14 min

8 hours 21 min

25,850

Every hour, change Hakata

 Kyoto - Hiroshima

380km, 237 miles

1 hour 36 min

1 hour 59 min

11,300

Every 15-30 minutes

 Hiroshima - Nagasaki

434km, 271 miles

3 hours 10 min

3 hours 25 min

13,690

Every hour, change Hakata

1 = 125 yen.  $1 - 103 yen.

* Nozomi = fastest Shinkansen stopping pattern, Japan Rail Passes can't be used.  Hikari = next fastest train type, Japan Rail Passes can be used.

Check Japanese train times & fares at www.hyperdia.com or www.jorudan.co.jp.  Another useful resource is www.japanrail.com

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.


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...

A Japan Rail Pass probably will save you money...

  1. Train fares in Japan are very expensive.  There are no cheap advance-purchase deals, just one hefty fixed price for each journey.  Even if you are only planning one round trip, a Japan Rail Pass may well save you money over point-to-point tickets.

  2. For example, a 7-day Japan Rail Pass costs 29,110 = 215 or $268.

    A regular round trip ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto with reserved seat is around 27,500 = 212 or $263.  From Tokyo to Hiroshima it's 37,760 = 291 or $361.

    So a 7-day Japan Rail Pass virtually breaks even for a one round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, and saves money for one round trip between Tokyo & HiroshimaIndeed, as it also covers the Narita Express between Tokyo & Narita airport, it may even save money on that trip to Kyoto.

  3. To work out whether a pass makes sense, first check Japan Rail Pass prices at www.japan-rail-pass.com.  Then use www.hyperdia.com to check point-to-point fares for the journeys you intend to make.  Remember that the total price you'd pay = basic fare + the reserved or unreserved seat fee.

  4. Green car or ordinary class?  A green class pass is great if you can afford it, but ordinary class on Japanese trains is perfectly adequate, there's no need to pay more if you don't want to.  Green car simply gets you more leg and elbow room, and carpet rather than synthetic flooring, that's all.  Personally, I find shinkansen ordinary class seats a little cramped where they are arranged 2+3 across the car width, the 2+2 seats in the green car are much more spacious.  On the other hand, if you plan to be spontaneous much of the time and not pre-plan everything you'll end up in the unreserved ordinary class cars, so don't fork out for a green car pass if you're not going to use it.

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...

Busy periods to avoid:  Golden week, Ubon, New Year...

Buy a Japan Rail Pass ...


Regional rail passes

Japan East Pass, Sanyo pass, Kansai pass... 

Seishun 185 days unlimited travel on local trains for $22 per day...

1-day metro & local train passes for Tokyo...


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 simply means new fast line.  These are high-speed lines, built to European and North American standard gauge with the rails 4' 8" 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.

Tokaido & Sanyo shinkansen, N700A 16-car trains...

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, arranged 2+2 across the car width.

 

Ordinary class seats, arranged 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 8-car trains...

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 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) seats on an E5 shinkansen...

Limited Expresses on the classic network...

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 as Limited Express, and these train come in all shapes and sizes...  Nagasaki, for example, is well worth a visit but is not on the Shinkansen network.  You take a Shinkansen high-speed train from Tokyo, Kyoto or Hiroshima to Hakata or Shin-Tosu, then switch to a Kamome Limited Express on the regular narrow-gauge network.  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!

Class 885 train operating a Kamone Limited Express from Nagasaki to Hakata   Green car seats on the Kamone from Nagasaki to Hakata

Limited Express Kamome from Hakata to Nagasaki.  The Green car seats get a great forward view past the driver.  Ordinary class seats are very similar, but arranged 2+2 across the car width.

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 on the classic network...

Completing the picture, there are many, many local and rapid trains, again of many shapes and sizes...

Japanese rapid train   Japanese local train

Rapid train at Shin-Osaka...

 

Local train in Tokyo...

Sleeper trains... 

There are only one or two sleeping-car trains left in Japan.  The sleepers run on the classic narrow-gauge network, but they can save time compared with daytime travel.  Unfortunately they are an endangered species - the useful Tokyo-Nagasaki sleeper train is already gone, and the Hokutosei  and Cassiopeia sleeper between Tokyo & Sapporo disappeared in late 2015/early 2016.  More information about overnight trains in Japan

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.  It's now the only sleeper train running west of Tokyo.  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.


Travel tips

Ticket gates...

When accessing (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 a Japan Rail Pass you'll need to use this.  Just flash your pass at the side gate and you'll be waved through.

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

This is the 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 hop on Sakura 557 without a reservation, you can see that cars 1-3 are the non-reserved ones.

Pltaform 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 exactly 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 trains...

Luggage is no 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.

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 car 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 train, 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 refreshment trolley.

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

An ekiben with octopus, bought on the train...

 

A selection of mouthwatering ekiben at a station...


Tokyo station

Finding your way around Tokyo station...

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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Station.  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 stations' 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 www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/1day.


Sponsored links...

 


Places to see...

A Series 300 shinkansen train crosses a Tokyo streetIt's impossible to mention every sight or attraction Japan has to offer, but here are some highlights of a visit to Japan that might give you some ideas.

Tokyo

One of the world's great cities... Stay in a capsule hotel;  visit the site of the Tokyo castle (with only the foundations now visible) near the entrance to the Emperor's palace;  shop till you drop in Tokyo's busy Shinjuku district; take a JR suburban train out to Kamakura to see the Great Buddha, the second largest bronze Buddha in the world.

The 'Three Monkeys' at Nikko, JapanNikko

A not-to-be-missed day trip from Tokyo, Nikko's history as a sacred site began in the middle of the 8th century AD.  There are many temples and historic buildings spread through woodland in the hills around this small town, including the famous three monkeys:  'See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' (pictured, left).

Frequent trains of the Tobu Railway link Tokyo Asakusa station with Nikko in less than 2 hours  - but note that Japan Rail Passes don't cover the Tobu Railway so you'll need to buy a ticket.

Kyoto

Golden Pavillion, Kyoto, JapanCapital of Japan from 794AD until 1867, Kyoto should be on every visitor's itinerary.  Office blocks and pinball arcades in the modern city rub shoulders with tiny wooden houses in the older parts of town.  There are several important temples in and around the city, including the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and the Kimkaku-ji Temple or 'Golden Pavilion', pictured right.

Nara

A worthwhile day trip from Kyoto, Nara is home to the Great Hall of the Buddha, the world's largest wooden building, housing the world's largest bronze Buddha.  The train trip from Kyoto takes just 35 minutes, and there are usually two trains each hour.  This line is run by the Kesei Railway.

Himeji castleHimeji

The best-preserved traditional Japanese castle (pictured, left) is to be seen at Himeji, on the Shinkansen between Osaka and Hiroshima - well worth a stop.

Nagasaki

The second atomic bomb exploded in Nagasaki three days after the Hiroshima one - although this time not quite in the centre of town, but in a suburb called Urakami.  However, Nagasaki has much more to offer than reminders of 1945.  Nagasaki has a long and fascinating history, and many beautiful temples and historic buildings have survived.Atomic bomb dome, Hiroshima

Hiroshima

Hiroshima needs no introduction.  It's a large modern city, but you'll never forget your visit to the Peace Park, site of the epicentre of the atomic bomb explosion, or a tour of the museum there.  You can see the 'T' shaped bridge (or rather, it's modern replacement) at the top of the Peace Park - this was allegedly the aiming point of the bomb-aimer of the 'Enola Gay'.  Pictured right is the 'atomic bomb dome', previously the Industrial Promotions Hall, and one of the few buildings not completely flattened by the bomb.

 

 


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...

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 www.booking.com.  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 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.  This is 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.

The Tokyo Station Hotel Check prices & book...

Another unique place to stay that deserves a special mention is the 5-star Tokyo Station Hotel.  Though in this case it's perhaps 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...


Haneda Airport to Tokyo

How to transfer from Haneda 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 Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho interchange station.  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.


Narita Airport to Tokyo

The Narita Express from Narita Airport to Tokyo...

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...

The Keisei Skyliner from Narita to Ueno...

Cheaper options...


Europe to Japan by Trans-Siberian railway

London to Tokyo in 12-14 days by Trans-Siberian Railway


Ferries to/from China, Korea, Russia

Ferries between Japan & China, Korea & Vladivostok.


Guidebooks

Lonely Planet Japan - click to buy online...Rough Guide to Japan - click to buy onlineJapan by Rail guideJapan by Rail & Lonely Planet guides...

In the age of the internet, a printed guidebook seems like 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.  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 Amazon.co.uk...


Flights

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, www.opodo.com...

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

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Travel insurance

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

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 myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

 


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