Trains

There are three types of train: Local Trains, Express Trains and Shinkansens. Japan is one of the most expensive countries in the world in terms of train fares. The faster the train, the more expensive it is.

Shinkansens are the trains that are often referred to outside Japan as the "Bullet Trains."

Planning rail journeys

Train schedules and fare information

Look no further than Hyperdia . It is all in English, has complete digital timetables (including non JR trains), plans your journeys for you, allows you to choose from different train types, and gives you prices.

On some local trains it adds on a reservation charge where there is none, especially for journeys around Akita. For any non-express trains (always labeled in Hyperdia) there is no reservation charge; just the basic fare.

Purchasing tickets

In general tickets must be purchased for each and every leg of a journey, although this can be done after you alight, as these companies’ service are not transparent (as they are in Europe for example). However, if you are only going to travel on JR, then you can buy through tickets, after the event if necessary at the destination station.

Seishun 18

The JR Seishun 18 pass (青春18きっぷ; seishun 18 kippu) is a package deal available in certain periods during spring, summer and winter. Unlike the JR rail pass, it can be used by foreign residents. It costs ¥11,850 and is valid for 5 days of unlimited travel on local and rapid trains. It can be shared by people travelling together (read the JR website for details). Exludes express, limited express and Shinkansen.

Period On sale Valid
Spring (confirmed dates for 2013) February 20 - March 31 March 1 - April 10
Summer (likely dates) July 1 - August 31 July 20 - September 10
Winter (likely dates) December 1 - December 31 December 10 - January 10

Limited Express trains

Express Trains and Limited Express trains. These link major cities and towns, running along side the Shink services in some cases. They require an additional “express” or “limited express” fare to be paid in addition to the basic, which would be applicable only to local trains. Unlike Shinks, these run on networks transparent to the local trains, and in fact sometimes are just non-stopping local trains. If you board one without a ticket purchased specifically for the journey, you will have to pay the Express fare on the train or at the destination station.

Very often it is not worth taking an Express/Limited Express in preference to Shinks. For example, Shinjuku-Nagoya 4h 47 min, 12130 Yen, 1 change. Compare this with the Nozomi Shinkansen; 1h 40min, 10980 Yen direct.

Limited Express trains in Akita

From Akita, there are various Limited Express options.

  • Niigata. 3 trains a day (8:30am, 12:49pm, 16:33pm), 245 minutes, 7220 Yen, direct. Opens up Chubu region.
  • Osaka. 1/day, 10 h 42 min (leave 8:50am, arrive 7:32pm), 2 changes, 19880 Yen.
  • Aomori City. Several times a day, 2h 30min, 5650 Yen. Useful for getting around Tohoku.
  • Sapporo. 3/day, 9h 3min (leave 8:46am, 9:41am, 12:47pm), 2 changes 22270 Yen.
  • Sakata. 13/day, 1h 36min (leave 5:51am, 7:00am, 8:50am, 9:47am, 12:12pm, 14:47pm, 16:33pm, 17:37pm, 19:34pm, 20:23pm, 21:05pm, 22:33pm), 3900 Yen. Direct. Opens up Yamagata, Fukushima, and Miyagi.

Overnight trains

Many Express/Limited Express services are overnight sleeper trains. These are comfortable and cost effective ways of getting around.

Services in Akita

From Akita, you can get night trains to:

  • Tokyo, Akebono sleeper (Ueno station), 10 hours, leaves about 9:00pm arrives about 7:00am, 14,000 Yen.
  • Osaka, Nihonkai Express. Leave 19:34, arrive 7:11, duration 11h 37min, direct, 20270 Yen.
  • Sapporo, Cassiopeia Express and Sapporo Hokutosei Limited Express . Leave 19:31, arrive 6:07, duration 10h 36 min, 1 change (Aomori City), 19190 Yen.
  • Kyoto, Express. Leaves 19:34, arrive 6:34, duration 11h, direct, 19950 Yen.

These are run by JR. More information available at Japan Guide. Book at Akita Station.

Other night train options are Tokyo-Sapporo direct (Cassiopeia), Tokyo-Kumamoto (near Nagasaki) direct (Hayabusa), Osaka-Sapporo (Twilight Express), Kyoto-Nagasaki direct (Akatsuki).

Train Operators

Japan Rail

Most trains in Japan are run by Japan Railways (JR), which is split into two holding companies JR East and JR West. All Shinkansens are run by JR. There are many other private rail companies, operating some slower Express lines and many local lines.

Akita Nairiku Line

This train line runs between Kakunodate and Takanosu and gives you access to a side of Japan that is rapidly disappearing. In fact, you should ride the Nairiku Line while you can, because it may disappear in the near future. Along the Nairiku Line, you can see rural Japan at its finest. The people who live in the towns along the way are remarkably kind and the scenery you can see from the window is some of the most beautiful in Akita. Check out their website for more info.

Nairikusen in Spring.

If you are looking for an adventure for a day, take a ride on the Nairiku line, but remember as you travel, life moves slowly along this line and their are no neon signs pointing out the most interesting things to see. Take it easy, go slowly, talk to the locals (they tend to be a bit shy, but if you break the ice, they are wonderful people), and you are likely to have one of the most memorable experiences of your JET experience.

To find the Kakunodate Nairiku Line station, exit the JR station and turn right. Walk past the convenience store, past the cherry bark omiyage store, past the toilets, and walk into the door that is in front of you.

To find the Takanosu station, exit the JR station and turn right. Walk to the adjecent building and enter it. In the winter, you will find the locals warming their hands around the big stove in the middle of the room.



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