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Kanji Cheat Sheet: How to Navigate the Japanese Train System

Keep calm and find the right station exit with this guide to catching the train in Japan!

By 1 min read

My relationship with the Japanese train system has always been complicated. There are times when I’m able to navigate it well enough to feel almost like a Tokyo native and times where I feel like I can’t even read the English signs.

Coming from Manila, which only has three working train lines, terrible traffic, and barely any sidewalks, acclimating to the Japanese train system was like jumping into the deep end of a shark-infested swimming pool.

I couldn’t understand how one station could have over 30 exits (I’m looking at you Shinjuku Station).

I first visited Japan in the fall of 2016 and despite months of preparing, I still got lost. I couldn’t understand how one station could have over 30 exits (I’m looking at you Shinjuku Station). Sit down and buckle up kids, let’s get into the most commonly seen Kanji in Japanese train stations.

Do you want the express or local train?

English Japanese Romaji
Train 電車 densha
Subway 地下鉄 chikatetsu
(Train) Line sen
Express 急行 kyuukou
Semi-express 準特急 juntokkyuu
Limited Express 特急 tokyuu
Rapid 快速 kaisoku
Local Train 普通列車/各駅停車 futsuu-ressha/kakueikiteisha

Picture this, you’ve just arrived at Shinjuku Station and it’s as busy as ever. You fumble your way around the massive station trying to look for a way to get to your Airbnb/hostel and all you have on hand is the train line, station name, and station exit.

Read the full article on GaijinPot Study!

Japan101: Getting Around

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