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Japan With Kids - Forums: Traveling to/from and in Japan: Trains

A sampling of Train Travel planners in English (Train stations must be known. There are some Roman spelling ambiguities so it doesn't hurt to try slight variations). - (uses Hyperdia's software)
By Ruth on Tuesday, May 25, 1999 - 11:54 am:

Help! I am getting very conflicting info on taking my 5 year old on the shinkansen. We will be traveling in mid-June between Hakata and Tokyo, with a stop in Yokohama (at least). Should I buy a Japan Rail Pass for her also so that we can reserve seats together? What's the likelihood of us being able to sit together without a reservation if we get on in Hakata? What about getting on in Tokyo?

By Cornelia on Tuesday, May 25, 1999 - 11:58 am:

I am answering Ruth's questions referencing the "Railway Timetable" published by Japan National Tourist Organization.

A child under 6 years of age does not need a ticket. So theoretically I suppose she can sit on your lap if things get rough. (My daughter does not sit at all. She explores and makes friends.) Here is an exact quote:
"no charge for infants 5 years or younger unless the infant occupies a seat"
In practice this means that if there happens to be an uncrowded train, no one will force you to pay for a seat for your youngster, even if she elects to use several (ie. for stretching out and sleeping)

From my own experience:
There are no major holidays in June, meaning that the main traffic will center around the peak commuter hours and weekend travelers. If you decide to use one of the first three or so cars (depending on the length of the train), which are unreserved seats, and are at the very head of the queu (if there is a queu), you should be able to grab 2 seats without any difficulty, and it is pretty unlikely that the conductor will force you to give one up. Typically, in that case the mother would stand allowing her child to sit (in Japan).

If you prefer to get a reserved seat for yourself, the only way to get a reserved seat for your daughter is to buy her a ticket. But you could decide to "live dangerously" and hope for a couple of vacancies in the car, and politely request a seat change once the train has started. However, there is always the chance that the"vacant" seat will be reserved from the next stop.

Hakata to Tokyo is a long way and it seems likely that sooner or later that seat will be filled. Shin Yokohama station to Tokyo is a very short ride (about 16 minutes), so standing (if necessary) might be relatively painless. I personally would make my decision based on the price of the children's rail pass versus a child's reserved seat ticket cost.

IF I am reading the fare chart correctly (1 Feb 1998), an adult would pay *about* 21,720 yen one way from Hakata to Tokyo and a child 6-11 would pay 50% or 10,860 yen one way. Sorry, I don't have a more recent fare chart.

There are typically no discounts for buying round-trip tickets. There are "bucket shops" around the corner from certain stations in Tokyo that sell slightly discounted shinkansen tickets (you save about 1000 yen per ticket). Unless you have a friend in the know to help with this, it could just add to your travelling stress. Here is a link for info on the discount ticket places.

You may be able to obtain a more up-to-date issue of the "Railway Timetable" from:

East Japan Railway Company - New York Office
One Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020
tel: 212-332-8686
fax: 212-332-8690

By Cornelia on Tuesday, April 23, 2002 - 4:53 pm:

Tokyo area:

Super Urban Intelligent CArd otherwise known as SUICA,
brought to you by East Japan Railway Company starting 18 November 2001

Well, I don't know about the 'Super' and the 'Intelligent' parts (or is 'Super' an adjective for 'Urban'?) but there is a card available for using JR trains, only, called the SUICA card. It costs a minimum of 2500 yen to get one, but thereafter you can just add money to it forever or until you lose it. The 2500 yen breaks down into 2000 yen to be applied to train fares and 500 yen for a deposit (! for 5 yens worth piece of plastic !). Here is the official web site

After endless puzzled perusal I think I found the advantage of having this card from the consumer's point of view. It does not pass through the ticket wicket machines but rather needs only to be dabbed at a sensor on top of the machine to be "read". Provided of course that your station has the modern machines installed.

You can also combine your monthly JR commuter pass with it and an extra allotment of money for trains stations outside your commuter pass corridor. So in this sense it's like combining the old IO card together with your commuter pass.

What it can't do:
It does not work on any other trains except Japan Rail trains.
There is no discount of any sort on your train fares.

Personally this puts me right back at square one. I currently carry two cards in my wallet and an assortment of pre-paid multiple trip tickets. With the multiple trip tickets I get 11 tickets for the price of 10 (and 14 for the price of ten on weekends with the subway system in Tokyo). With my bus pass I pay 3000 yen and get 3300 yen worth of bus fares. Etc. In other words I at least get to save some money for my trouble of learning how to keep these organized in my pockets and hanging on to them AND using them all up before they expire.
picture of SUICA card, SUICA symbol, old style IO card, and JR symbol

By Cornelia on Thursday, April 25, 2002 - 9:39 am:

More on trains in and around Tokyo:

image of running man icon

The one card that I think has turned out to be useful is the one with the little running man icon in one corner. It can be used on about 20 train lines but NOT Japan Rail. It helps to bypass the crowds at the ticket vending machines and makes ticket vending machine identification unnecessary.

I think everyone has a story of how when they first arrived here they bought the wrong ticket from the wrong vending machine for the train they wanted to take.

This card is called the "Passnet" -- logical, it's thin and floppy like a phone card and is fed into a ticket vending machine for a ticket. I found a fairly detailed description of how it works and a list of which train lines it can be used with: written up in early 2001. It's possible that more train lines have joined since then. To see if you can use it keep your eye open for the running man icon. It definitely works on both subway systems in Tokyo. One snag, in Doug's words: "If you are using a PASSNET card and want to transfer from a PASSNET-accepted companies line to a non-PASSNET one, you must completely exit one station and enter the other. If you try to transfer from one to the other, the card will be rejected. Examples - JR/Keikyu at Shinagawa or JR/Odakyu and JR/Keio at Shinjuku."

Does anyone know if this card is also useful in other metropolitan areas of Japan?

By the way this site by Doug Coster from Australia is pretty darn good. For rail enthusiasts as well as travelers:
He also has a site called:
His email address is:

By Cornelia on Wednesday, June 12, 2002 - 6:20 pm:

I just found out that many Japanese call the passnet card also by the name s f card.

By Scott Hancock on Monday, August 5, 2002 - 2:00 pm:

Maybe this isn't so new, but I just noticed JR has an English site for making reservations:

One negative is that one is forced to enter one's credit card info to become a "member".


By Cornelia on Monday, December 9, 2002 - 5:39 pm:

For anyone who is interested in understanding why the trains in Tokyo are not all under one umbrella (and why we have to buy so many different tickets, instead of having one transferable ticket), here is a bit of history on the greater Tokyo area rail development. Well, a piece anyway of the total development.

By Natasha on Tuesday, February 4, 2003 - 11:03 am:

This is my current favorite site for finding train routes in Tokyo and in Japan. It's in English. You have to know the station names that you are leaving from and going to. There is a station finder too.

By Karen on Tuesday, February 4, 2003 - 12:35 pm:

This is the one that I use since it lists five alternatives. That way, you can compare price versus travel time and make your decision. It also allows you to choose the time of day you plan to travel at.

For this search, you just need to know the beginning of the names of the stations you are going to. For example, instead of inserting Yokohama, you could just write: Yoko.

from Karen 2003 nov 18:
The hyperdia site is down until mid-December while they upgrade their servers. In the meantime, I use this site:

By Admin on Saturday, September 27, 2003 - 10:22 am:

Thanks to Karen and Natasha for the two great links above for finding routes between train stations (in English)!

I just want to add that the "japanhomesearch" site also allows you to find stations via the first few letters of the name and also gives you five solutions. I just did research on the route from Musashi-kosugi to Otsuka and found some variation (very minor) in the results. At the moment I think they are about equal in information and ease of use. The japanhomesearch site says the trainroute info was last updated September 2001. The hyperdia site suggests the content is current as of June 2003. But I know that I myself often update pages on this site without updating the line that says "last updated:_____".

Since webmasters aren't perfect either I would guess that possibly the one site may have been updated since 9/2001. The way to check it is against new train stations that have opened since then, but I can't think of one. (When did the Oedo subway line open?)

Note from Admin: for Bicycling in Japan please go to

By Pato on Monday, April 5, 2004 - 7:26 pm:

JR has a very helpful English information line (Tokyo) which is open 10-6 everyday including weekends; tel 03-3423-0111.

By Pato on Saturday, September 25, 2004 - 9:30 am:

If you just need to hear that train platform ditty again... these are from Japan Rail East.

By May Ose on Monday, May 29, 2006 - 12:59 am:

hi guys

pls do check our tourist website at

hoping that all of you may find it usefull. thanks

--- is a JapanWithKids supporter ---

By Admin on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 7:29 pm:

The new number for English information East Japan Rail is 050-2016-1603 (open from 10:00-18:00 EVERY DAY).

As of 18 March 2007, there will no longer be any smoking cars on the Shinkansen trains.

Also when buying round trip tickets to ski destinations, make sure they are giving you the "ski + trip" reduced fares. A lot of JR personel seem to be unaware of these special fares and have to be reminded. These special fares also do not seem to be showing up on any of the English language sites, but the savings is about 16%.

By Cornelia on Monday, May 28, 2007 - 11:28 pm:

Seishun 18 Kippu (tPW)
JR 5 days (non-consecutive) local and rapid (futsuu and kaisoku) trains ticket. All ages OK. Cost: Y11,500
Limited to defined holiday periods.
Up to five adults can travel on the same ticket. (Five stamps for same day.)
Read more about this butt-numbing option at:

By leadchatter on Friday, June 1, 2007 - 4:12 am:

Hi everyone,

Going on holiday to Japan soon – canft wait!

Ifm planning to buy a Japan Rail Pass for my trip and I was wondering if Japanese subway travel is included in this?
Any help would be appreciated.

By Cornelia on Saturday, June 2, 2007 - 1:04 am:

Dear Leadchatter,
Japan Rail pass is for Japan Rail only. And astonishingly there are tons of other rail companies. Depending on where you want to go there are places where there is no Japan Rail (JR) train or the JR train goes to an inconvenient place on the wrong side of where you want to be. For example, going from Osaka or Kyoto to Nara (which is famous among other things for heaps of tame deer wondering around, looking for handouts even).

And of course there are no trains at all in Okinawa (only a monorail in Naha City). Bring an international driver's license along if you think you may want to rent a car.

The Japan Rail does operate the Shinkansen which you can take as far south as Fukuoka City and as far north as Hachinohe. Here's a nice map of the Shinkansen routes:

The JR Pass is a great deal, even one round trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima will pay for it. Too bad us non-tourists aren't allowed to purchase them!

By Cornelia on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 - 5:01 pm:

Shinkansen tickets: Jiyuseki tickets (unreserved seating) are good for the day printed on the ticket and the following day (2 days). In case you need or want to stay a day longer.

By Ricardo Robertson on Friday, June 29, 2007 - 2:21 am:

Hello leadchatter,

As far as I understand, the Japan rail pass is not valid on the subway but subway tickets are still very cheap. According to the site they cost around £1 per trip, which wonft break the bank when youfve already bought a Japanese holiday! ;)

Good luck and have a great trip!

By Edlyn Niimi on Friday, June 29, 2007 - 2:05 pm:

Just a reminder though that the JR Pass is good for JR trains in Tokyo and the JR Yamanote Line is the most traveled train in the world and loops all around the City Center so you can definitely use it while in Tokyo. I live in Tokyo now but on many previous trips I always bought the JR Pass and traveled all around Tokyo on it. I think for a few days in Tokyo you will do quite fine with the JR Pass.

Also, if time permits I would recommend that you use it to take the ferry to Miyajima Island. It is an absolutely lovely place and the ferry trip is included in the JR Pass.

By Wendy Chan on Saturday, June 30, 2007 - 10:33 am:

My family is living in Tokyo and we are going to Hokkaido in August for travel. We have a stop from Sapporo to Noboribetsu for one night and back to Sapporo again. Should we buy the Seishun 18 Kippu? We have 2 kids (5 and 3). Are they charged full fare as well?

By Sandy Cox on Sunday, July 1, 2007 - 10:47 am:

Kids who have not yet started elementary school (which starts on April 1 of any given year, so they could even be slighlty older than six and still qualify), can ride all trains free of charge if accompanied by a ticket holding adult (limit of 2 free children per adult).

By Sandy on Sunday, February 3, 2008 - 9:01 pm:

Tokyo Metro Eight trains news about delays, etc.
In Japanese only though.

By Edlyn on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 5:55 pm:

My 6 year old is starting shogakko in April and I understand at that time she officially needs to pay for train and bus travel. I'm wondering if there is a children's suica? I have looked all over the web but can't find it. We use bus cards so no problem there but we also use Suica for the train and I would hate to have to either buy a ticket every time she as with us. I thought about getting another Suica and then going through the gate where there was an agent so he could over ride the system every time which could be just as inconvenient as buying a ticket.

What is everybody else doing?

By Edlyn on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 5:56 pm:

My 6 year old is starting shogakko in April and I understand at that time she officially needs to pay for train and bus travel. I'm wondering if there is a children's suica? I have looked all over the web but can't find it. We use bus cards so no problem there but we also use Suica for the train and I would hate to have to either buy a ticket every time she is with us. I thought about getting another Suica and then going through the gate where there was an agent so he could over ride the system every time which could be just as inconvenient as buying a ticket.

What is everybody else doing?

By Lseacord on Friday, February 22, 2008 - 8:08 pm:

There is a children's Suica (kodomo you suika) available, according to JR's web site in Japanese. It says you can buy one at a manned ticket/pass window. I myself have not bought one, so I don't have any more details.

By Caroline on Saturday, February 23, 2008 - 9:14 pm:

When you buy your child's commuter pass, ask that it be made into a Suica. It will cost you 500 yen extra (deposit). Your child can then use the pass for his regular school commute (as a normal pass) and also use it when he needs travel outside of his normal route (you just need to recharge it with the amount you want.) They're cool and practical! No more waiting in line to get tickets!

By Edlyn on Sunday, February 24, 2008 - 11:13 am:

Thanks. We don't have a commuter pass since we live a two minute walk from shogakko...thank goodness for that. But we do take the train other places and didn't want to fool around with tickets for her. I'm going to the station this week and see if I can get the kids suica. I love my Suica and used it as far away as Hakone but not Morioka (in case anybody is planning a trip)

By Edlyn on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - 9:06 pm:

Okay, I went down to get the Suica and the agent asked for a gaijin card or passport for my daughter. She wasn't with me at the time and I didn't have hers. But does this seem strange? I didn't show a gaijin card when I got my suica. If they require proof of age not sure how showing it to the agent when I buy it proves that the person using it is a child. I would think that is the job of the gate agent. I'm going to try again but seems a little strange to me.

By Caroline on Thursday, February 28, 2008 - 11:30 am:

Now that you mention it, I do remember showing my daughter's school ID card when purchasing the Suica pass/card. A passport or gaijin card will also do. You do need to show your child's ID as proof of age so that s/he can benefit from the lower children's transport rate. Good luck!

By Edlyn on Thursday, February 28, 2008 - 12:09 pm:

Okay, thank you. I'm going back today with gaijin card.

By Edlyn on Friday, February 29, 2008 - 8:56 am:

I got the suica yesterday and it has my daughter's name printed on the front. I didn't even realize it until I got home. Kind of cool.

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