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Why Rail is the Best Way to Travel around Japan

When travelling around Japan, choosing the right transport option is the key to creating your best travel experience.


And if you are seeking authentic local experiences, the best option is to travel by train. Here are 4 reasons why railway travel should be your top choice when visiting Japan.

Railway Travel in Japan

1. Rail travel is efficient and accessible


If you're traveling to Japan’s main Honshu island, railway travel is the most convenient and efficient option. Japan's public transport networks are highly developed, with dense railway networks in Tokyo-Yokohama, Osaka-Kyoto, and Nagoya metropolitan areas. The high-speed train Shinkansen connects major cities efficiently, making it a breeze to access places within each region and explore popular tourist destinations.


2. Rail travel provides unique cultural experiences


Railway in Japan offers more than just transportation; it offers an authentic cultural experience. From witnessing the meticulous cleaning process before departure, to experiencing Japanese hospitality through train crews and service staff, you'll get a glimpse into Japan's values of safety, punctuality, and cleanliness. Additionally, there are sightseeing trains across the country that offer immersive experiences showcasing regional history, nature, and local traditions.

Japan's high-speed train


3. You’ll be supporting the local economy and sustainability


By choosing rail travel, you can actively contribute to the local economy, especially in rural areas. Many local railway companies operate scenic train routes, aiming to increase revenue and preserve their services in the face of declining populations. By riding these trains, you not only get to explore hidden gems but also help sustain the local communities and protect the cultural and natural resources of each local area. Plus, rail travel is an environmentally-friendly option, as trains produce significantly lower carbon emissions compared to other long-distance transportation methods.

 


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4. You’ll have more opportunities to interact with locals


Trains provide a unique space to interact with locals and get a glimpse of their daily lives. Sitting face-to-face with fellow passengers allows you to observe conversations, fashions, and behaviors, which should help you to understand Japanese culture better. Also, station staff and tourist information offices at stations are great resources for seeking recommendations and engaging with locals.


Public transport in Japan

How to organise rail travel in Japan


When travelling by rail, the first thing you may want to consider is whether it’s worth buying the Japan Rail (JR) Pass. It’s a discounted ticket that allows you to take unlimited train rides anywhere within the JR networks under a certain period, namely 7, 14 and 21 days. With this pass, you can use Shinkansen, local trains, buses, and ferries that are operated by JR.

My recommendation is to fix your itinerary first, calculate the total travel cost for your travel route and determine whether JR Pass is a cost-effective option.

If so, order it online and have it ready before making a trip to Japan since the price is the most reasonable this way. JRPass.com has an easy-to-use interface for English-speakers with some useful tools such as a Fare Calculator. It's an officially registered agency that sells JR PASS and Regional PASSES that will come in handy when you’re exploring a specific region of Japan.


Keen to find out more? Click here to listen to the Japan Experts Podcast episode!


Full disclosure: I may receive a small commission from your purchase through these links. I would use the service for myself if I were to visit Japan and so I will be recommending their offerings to you regardless.

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