how to look up train times (in English) in Japan

Coming from the western side of the U.S., I had never ridden a train nor ever had a need to. The majority of my transportation was by car, and occasionally hopped on a plane or bus. (In fact, my first time on a plane wasn't until after I graduated high school). Some time after I moved to Seattle I learned how to use the public bus system, and even then it took me some time to navigate. I had no idea what awaited me in Japan, though I was eager to learn new ways of getting around.

My second day in Japan I decided to cut out on not-so-helpful seminars (provided for newbies of that popular teaching program in Japan...) for some city exploration, starting from Shinjuku station - one of the busiest stations in Tokyo. Upon entering the station, I froze as the busyness moved around me. Throngs of people passed by, weaving in and out almost effortlessly, as sign boards blinked destinations and times in neon and the hum of voices filled my head. Have I mentioned before that I am easily over-stimulated? After a few moments of simply staring, I began a long process of trying to understand the colorful, littered map that is Tokyo's train lines. I thought I would head to Akihabara first, and before I left my friend offered notes on which line to take. His words flew fast, and unfortunately, being a visual person, none of it registered. I'd never been to Japan before. Public transportation was still new. He reassured me I could just ask someone in a special booth. Yeah, if I could even find it... (my Japanese was not anywhere good enough at the time to figure out very much...)

Well, somehow I ended up on an orange line that runs straight from Shinjuku to Tokyo rather than the green Yamanote line that runs in a circle, though I did accurately determine the ticket cost. What I didn't realize about the train I got on was that I would need to transfer to the Yamanote line to get to Akihabara. So I got off at Kanda. One stop away from Akihabara, and I considered it was successful enough for my first time. I explored the area, finding nothing exciting there besides an Office Depot store. (They have those in Japan? I thought at the time.)

Now, navigating the train system hardly phases me, aside a few random instances (and makes life more exciting anyway). And making the process even easier are two websites that allow you to look up train times, distance, cost, etc., all in English. Need to plan a trip to Japan? Trying to figure out how much it will cost from Point A to Point B? Want to know when you need to be at the station? Try these:



Both sites allow you to enter information in English and are free to use. Choose your place of departure and destination, your approximate times and date, and click search. Both will provide a list of possible options including the train line, number if applicable, transfer information if a transfer is required, etc.

I typically use Hyperdia, though I know some people prefer Jorudan. Both will also list information for private railways, though this information may not be as up to date as information for JR. That's something to keep in mind if you live on a private rail line. You can also look up shinkansen times (bullet train) and with Hyperdia, flight information (though, I have never used it for flying, so I can't recommend it for that).

*Hyperdia recently announced a new iPhone app, Hyperdia by Voice, and I've been trying it out today. Has some issues, and supposedly you can only use it free for 30 days, but we'll see how it does with more testing.

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