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Japan’s railways centre mainly around urban areas and, depending on the type of train, it is possible to make short-distance trips within a city or medium- or long-distance trips between cities. Trains are relatively punctual and medium- and short-distance trips are cheap compared to other modes of transport. Further, the Shinkansen (bullet train) has such high-speed services that it can link Tokyo to Shin-Osaka in around 2.5 hours and Tokyo to Hakata in around 5 hours making it suited to long-distance travel.

Shinkansen

Shinkansen
Shinkansen&Mt.Fuji

This is a mode of transport that provides a high-speed connection between major cities and is operated by JR. These services operate at speeds of over 200km/h for the majority of journeys but despite the speed trains maintain high comfort and safety levels. The 5 Shinkansen routes are listed below. There are 3 types of train: Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama.


Name Point of Departure Terminus Railway length Operating distance Operating company
Sanyo Shinkansen Shin-Osaka Station Hakata Station 553.7km 644.0km JR West Japan
Tohoku Shinkansen Tokyo Station Hachinohe Station 593.1km 631.9km JR East Japan
Joetsu Shinkansen Omiya Station Niigata Station 269.5km 303.6km
Hokuriku Shinkansen※ Takasaki Station Nagano Station 117.4km 117.4km
Kyushu Shinkansen Kagoshima Route Shin-Yatsushiro Station Kagoshima Chuo Station 126.8km 137.6km JR Kyushu

JR

Japanese map JR Corporation

JR is short for Japan Railway which is divided in to JR East, JR West, JR Hokkaido, JR Central, JR Shikoku, JR Kyushu and the Japan Freight Railway Company. JR has the largest coverage in Japan and its railways are used by most people. Normal JR lines are called “Zairaisen (lit. conventional lines)” as opposed to Shinkansen (lit. new lines). JR services encompass almost the entire country and are very convenient for short- and medium-distance travel.

JR

Subway

Subway

As the majority of lines in underground railways or the subway as it is commonly known are underground, passengers are unable to see the scenery making it a mode of transport that is not particularly suited to sightseeing. However, due to regular and frequent service, it can be used to travel around the centres of large cities. Further, as the subway serves stations that are not served by above-ground railways, it is extremely convenient. Fares tend to be slightly high compared to other forms of public transport.

Private Railways

Private Railways

In general, railways and tracks run by private enterprises that do not belong to JR are called private railways. (These are also known as independent railways.) There are a large number of private railways all over the country, the most well known being Tobu Railway, Seibu Railway, Odakyu Electric Railway, Tokyo Metro, Nagano Railroad, Hankyu Railway and Hanshin Electric Railway, etc.


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