Japan's four major islands, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, are covered by an extensive and reliable network of railways. Trains are a very convenient way for visitors to travel around Japan, especially in conjunction with the Japan Rail Pass.

About 70 percent of Japan's railway network is owned and operated by the Japan Railways (JR), while the remaining 30 percent belongs to dozens of other private railway companies, especially in and around metropolitan areas.

Elsewhere on the site are pages on how to ride trains, shinkansen, tickets and timetables.

Japan Railways (JR)

Japan Railways (JR Group) is the successor of the national Japanese National Railways (JNR), which were privatized in 1987 due to huge debts. The JR Group is made up of six regional passenger railway companies, which are JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Shikoku and JR Kyushu, and one nationwide freight railway company, JR Freight. Together they operate a nationwide network of urban, regional and interregional train lines and the shinkansen (bullet trains).

The operation areas of the regional JR companies and shinkansen lines

Private Railway Companies

Dozens of private railway companies exist in Japan. The smaller ones consist of just a single line, while others operate extensive networks. The major private railway companies are listed below: