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Willer Express - Inexpensive Highway Bus Reservations in English

Japan has an extensive and efficient train network; however, without an intimate knowledge of the system, its complexity can make it difficult to figure out an efficient route. On top of that, while most railway, bus and ferry companies publish their timetables online, few offer good English language resources. Luckily there are several excellent English language resources available to help travelers navigate the railway system in Japan.

English Online Route Finders

Route finders allow you to find transportation routes between any two train stations in Japan. While the systems vary in search options, at the most basic they offer an English interface and reliable results. The two services that we recommend are Hyperdia and Jorudan:


Thanks to its English interface and flexible search options, Hyperdia is the best route finder website available to travelers. It is also the only website with the option to exclude Nozomi and Mizuho trains from the results, making it an excellent tool for Japan Rail Pass holders to determine routes that are valid with their passes. Likewise, the option to limit results to only local JR trains makes it a good tool for Seishun 18 Kippu users.

Simple Search Options:

Hyperdia's basic search functions allow you to quickly look up routes between two stations. Just start inputting a station name, and Hyperdia will attempt to autocomplete it. One of Hyperdia's weaknesses is its inability to recognize alternate station name spellings. For example, Hyperdia will only recogize "Shin-Osaka" with a dash, but won't understand "Shin Osaka" with a space or "Shinosaka" written together.

Another minor challenge for the user is to know the actual station names. Fukuoka's main railway station, for example, is called "Hakata". Entering "Fukuoka" will get you to a small station in the countryside of Toyama Prefecture. Likewise, "Shimoda" will get you close to the northern tip of Honshu rather than to the more famous city near the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula whose railway station is named "Izukyu Shimoda".

From = Enter the station that you depart from

To = Enter your destination station

 = Add to Favorites

 = Swap the From/To stations

Date = Select a travel date. If your travel date is more than 2-3 months in the future, we recommend that you input a similar date (e.g. weekday, non-holiday) in the near future instead, because timetable data is only published a few months in advance, and Hyperdia sometimes returns strange data for dates in the far future.

Time = Select a time

Type = Choose whether the time you selected is your desired departure or arrival time

SearchDetails = Open advanced search options


To search the first connection of the day, select a departure time around 3am.
Conversely, to search the last connection of the day, select an arrival time around 3am.

Advanced Search Options:

Clicking the SearchDetails button will open the advanced search options where you can further refine your search. This is especially useful to exclude airplanes or certain train types from the results, e.g. for Japan Rail Pass holders to find routes that exclude Nozomi trains.

Pass1 - Pass3 = Enter the name(s) of stations that you want to pass along the way.

Order = Select how to order the results.

Route Outputs = Select the number of results to display.

Airplane = Check to include flights in the results.

Airport Shuttle Bus = Check to include airport buses.

Bullet Train = Check to include shinkansen (except Nozomi, Mizuho and Hayabusa trains).

NOZOMI/MIZUHO/HAYABUSA = Check to include these shinkansen trains in the results. This is a useful option for filtering out Nozomi and Mizuho trains which are not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Note, however, that unlike Nozomi and Mizuho trains, Hayabusa trains are covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

Limited Express = Check to include limited express trains that require a limited express surcharge. Limited express trains that do not require a surcharge (e.g. Keisei and Hankyu limited express trains) will not be affected by this option.

Express = Check to include JR express trains in the results. Express trains by other railway companies will not be affected by this option.

Liner = Check to include liner trains, i.e. trains that require a special liner ticket.

Walk = Check to include walking (between nearby stations).

Sleeper Limited Express/Express = Check to include night trains that are classified as limited express or express trains.

Ordinary Train = Check to include trains that do not require a surcharge, especially local and rapid trains.

Japan Railway (JR) = Check to include Japan Railway trains.

Private Railway = Check to include private railways, i.e. non-JR trains. This is useful for filtering out results that are not covered by the Japan Rail Pass or Seishun 18 Kippu.

Understanding the Results:

The routes that Hyperdia produces are fairly straightforward to understand, as long as you know a few of the symbols. We will go step by step from the following example:

Route Summary:

Take Time = The total time to get to your destination including transfer times

Transfer = The number of transfers along the way

Distance = Total distance traveled

Total = Total cost of the trip including any supplementary fees. This is the price that you pay. It is determined by adding up the Fare and Seat Fee (described below).

Fare = The basic fare which is calculated based on distance traveled. Usually known as the base fare.

Seat Fee = Confusingly labeled by Hyperdia, this entry lists the total cost of all supplementary fees for the specified route including limited express fees, green car fees, berth fees and seat reservation fees.

Departure Station Information:

 = Departure Time

 = Departure Symbol

TOKYO = Departure station name

[Departure track No.16] = Track number that the train departs from (only shown if available).

Station timetable = Lists departure times of similar trains from that station for the entire day

Add to favorites = Add this station to your favorites

Transport Information:

[177 Min] = Time spent on this train

Different symbols are used for the different types of transport including:

= JR Shinkansen
= JR Train = JR Limited Express Train = Airplane
= Non-JR Train = Non-JR Limited Express Train = Airport Bus
= Estimated time to walk between nearby stations at an average pace

SHINKANSEN HIKARI 519 = Train name and number

Train timetable = Full timetable for this train

Interval Timetable = Lists other trains that run between the same two stations for the entire day

In-between Station Information:

 = Arrival time of first train, departure time of next train. You can assume that the time between the two is sufficient to make the transfer at an average pace.

 = Transfer Symbol. Other symbols that may appear include:

 = Backtrack Symbol. A transfer is necessary to a train that departs the station in the same direction which the incoming train arrived from.

 = Through Symbol. No transfer is necessary. Passengers can remain onboard the train. Hyperdia shows through-stations for technical reasons that are often irrelevant to travelers.

SHIN-OSAKA = In-between station name

[Arrival track No.24/Departure track No.20] = Track number that the trains arrive/depart from (only shown if available).

Station timetable = Lists departure times of similar trains from that station for the entire day

Add to favorites = Add this station to your favorites

Destination Station Information:

 = Arrival Time

 = Arrival Symbol

HIROSHIMA = Destination station name

[Arrival track No.11] = Track number that the train arrives on (only shown if available).

Add to favorites = Add this station to your favorites

Fare and Seat Fee Information:

Fare = The base fare for each section of the journey. In case of flights, only the regular fares (as opposed to discount fares) are shown.

Seat Fee = Supplement fee to be paid for shinkansen and some limited express, express and night trains. Dropdown boxes let you select seat options if available, such as unreserved seats, reserved seats, green car seats or night train berths (actual berth types available on night trains are not always accurately displayed).

Notes for Japan Rail Pass Holders

One of Hyperdia's major strenths is that it allows Japan Rail Pass holders to limit their searches to those that are covered by their pass. To do so, you need to uncheck the following from the Advanced Search Options: Airplane, NOZOMI/MIZUHO/HAYABUSA, Liner, Sleepr Trains and Private Railway. Note that this will also remove search results that include Hayabusa trains on the Tohoku Shinkansen, which are covered by the Japan Rail Pass. On the other hand, be warned that the results may include a small number of JR trains that partially use non-JR tracks on which pass holders have to pay a supplement fee.

Notes for Seishun 18 Kippu Users

Hyperdia is also a powerful tool for Seishun 18 Kippu users. In their case they should only check the Advance Search Options boxes for: Japan Railway(JR), Ordinary Train and Walk. Note that results may include a small number of JR trains that partially use non-JR tracks which are not covered by the Seishun 18 Kippu.


Jorudan is a simple and reliable tool to look up train connections. Though not as flexible as Hyperdia, in some situations Jorudan may produce more accurate results. For example, Jorudan has been updating timetable data in a more timely manner than Hyperdia in the past. On the other hand, Jorudan is less useful to Japan Rail Pass holders and Seishun 18 Kippu users due to a lack of advanced search options and ambigious train labels that do not clearly distinguish JR trains from non-JR trains.

How to use:

Jorudan's search functions allow you to quickly look up routes between two stations. Their search box is very basic and they do not offer any advanced search options.

Departs = Enter the station that you depart from

Arrives = Enter your destination station

 = Swap the Departs/Arrives stations

Date = Select a travel date, time, and whether that is your desired departure or arrival time.

Seat = Select the seat type (Reserved, Unreserved or Green)

If there are multiple matches for an entered station name, the next page will ask you to select a specific station from a list of matching station names. If there is just one match for both departure and arrival station, you are directly forwarded to the result page. Note that Jorudan is a little more forgiving of alternate spellings of station names than Hyperdia.

Understanding the Results:

Jorudan produces results that are self explanatory. Take the following example:

There are only a few things that need explanation. One of them are routes involving trains that travel across railway company borders. In this case the route will appear to require a transfer between trains, but a "Direct" label to the left of the station name indicates that no transfer is necessary, and passengers can remain onboard the train. The example screenshot below illustrates that the "Direct" label can be easily overseen:

The other thing that requires explanations are the icons used to represent the different types of transportation. The following are the icons that appear on the result page and their meanings:

 = Shinkansen (always JR)

 = JR Trains that do not require a supplement (local and rapid trains)

 = Limited Express Trains that require a supplement (both JR and non-JR)

 = JR Express Trains

 = Night Trains (always JR)

 = Non-JR trains that do not require a supplement

 = Subways (always non-JR)

 = Airplane

 = Airport Bus

Japanese Online Route Finders

There are several Japanese language route finder websites and applications that offer a wide range of feature sets and additional search options. A few of the free web offerings include:

Printed Timetables

Printed railway timetables in Japanese are sold in bookstores and kiosks across Japan. Both nationwide timetables as well as those covering a specific region or railway company are available. The largest timetable books contain kana readings for all station names, but they can still be rather difficult to use without Japanese reading skills. Unfortunately, comprehensive printed English timetables are not widely available, however some rail companies print booklets and pamphlets of timetables for selected routes.

Among the most complete nationwide timetables are the JR and JTB timetable books, which are published monthy in full and pocket versions. Besides the full schedules of all train lines operated by Japan Railways (JR), they contain the basic schedules of trains by other railway, bus, ferry and airline companies as well as a wide array of practical information covering topics such as discount tickets, fares and regulations.

Page last updated: December 3, 2013