Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Train in Japan


Japan's four major islands, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku are covered by an extensive and reliable network of railways. Trains are a very convenient means to explore Japan for foreign visitors, not at last thanks to the Japan Rail Pass.

About 70 percent of Japan's railway network are owned and operated by the Japan Railways (JR), while the remaining 30 percent belong to several dozens of private railway companies, especially in and around metropolitan areas.

Read more on Japanese train tickets, timetables and on how to ride trains.

Japan Railways (JR)

Japan Railways (JR Group) is the successor of the national JNR (Japanese National Railways), which was privatized in 1987 due to huge debts.

The JR Group is made up of six regional passenger railway companies (JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Shikoku, and JR Kyushu) and one nationwide freight railway company (JR Freight). Together they operate a nationwide network of urban, regional and interregional train lines, night trains and bullet trains (shinkansen).

The operation areas of the regional JR companies and shinkansen lines

Private Railway Companies

Several dozens of private railway companies exist in Japan. The smaller ones consist of just one line, while others operate quite extensive railway networks. Some of the major private railway companies are listed below:


Tobu (approx. 460 km)
Tobu operates an extensive network of railway lines into the suburbs and prefectures north of Tokyo. Interest for Tourists: Access to Nikko.

Odakyu (approx. 120 km)
Odakyu operates three lines from central Tokyo to western Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture. Interest for tourists: Access to Hakone.

Tokyu (approx. 100 km)
Tokyu operates a network of two main lines and several shorter lines in the south of Tokyo. Interest for tourists: Access to Yokohama.

Keisei (approx. 100 km)
Keisei operates a main line and several branch lines from Tokyo to Chiba Prefecture. Interest for tourists: Access to Narita Airport.

Seibu (approx. 180 km)
Seibu operates a network of suburban railway lines west of central Tokyo.

Keikyu (approx. 90 km)
Keikyu connects Tokyo with Yokohama and southern Kanagawa Prefecture. Interest for tourists: Access to Haneda Airport.

Keio (approx. 80 km)
Keio operates a network of railway lines west of central Tokyo. Interest for tourists: Access to Takaosan.


Meitetsu (approx. 500 km)
Meitetsu operates an extensive railway network around Nagoya. Interest for tourists: Access to Inuyama and Central Japan Airport.


Kintetsu (approx. 570 km)
The largest private railway company. Kintetsu operates an extensive railway network in the southern Kinki region, serving Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Ise and Nagoya.

Nankai (approx. 170 km)
Nankai operates a network of railway lines in southern Osaka and Wakayama Prefecture. Interest for tourists: Access to Kansai Airport and Koyasan.

Hankyu (approx. 150 km)
Hankyu operates several lines in northern Osaka and connects Osaka with Kobe and Kyoto.

Keihan (approx. 90 km)
Keihan operates one main line, connecting Osaka with Kyoto and several shorter lines.

Hanshin (approx. 50 km)
Hanshin operates one main line between Osaka and Kobe, and a few short branch lines.


Nishitetsu (approx. 120 km)
Nishitetsu operates a network of railway lines in Fukuoka Prefecture around the city of Fukuoka. Interest for tourists: Access to Dazaifu.

Any advice or question? Voice them in the forum!

english links

Japan Railways
Official website of the JR Group.
JR East
JR West
JR Central
JR Hokkaido
JR Kyushu
English websites of some of the JR companies.
Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI)
Lots of information about railroads and railway technologies.
Japanese Railway and Transport Review (JRTR)
Journal providing information and commentary on railways and transport issues in Japan and worldwide.

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