Taking trains in Japan maybe is one of the easiest things to do. The signs are clear, you just need to see where is your destination and on each platform you can see the times of departure. To take the normal trains, you just need to buy your tickets paying the price according to your destination. In every station, you will find automatic machines and a big banner with the station names and prices depending on the distance. Also, you can get a pre-paid card, that you can recharge anytime you need.
People use subway trains everyday, to go to work, to school, inside the city and going to other cities too. There are different types of trains: regular, rapid, super rapid. In some kinds, like limited express trains, you will need to pay a little bit more (this trains don`t stop in every station and normally have reserved seats). So, you must be careful you don`t get in one of these by mistake! You will notice because in the platform sign that announces the train, it will be colored in red. Once it happened to us, we got in it and had to pay ¥700 more for the ride. We were amazed by the speed, though, but it was a very expensive ride!
Also, there are special trains with japanese characters, like Anpanman, a very cute character very famous among children!
When arriving to the station, first you need to pass through the station gates, inserting your ticket on the gate and don`t forget to take it when it comes on the other side! Keep your ticket with you at all times, because when you get to your destination you will need to insert the ticket again in the gate to exit.
To get on trains, people make a line, which is not very common in our cities, where everybody wants to get in first. In Japan, people wait for the people inside to get off, and then get on the train in a very organized way. In big cities, like Tokyo or Osaka, there are special cars in the trains for women only.
The other type of train, is the bullet train, called Shinkansen, in japanese. If you come to Japan, at least one time you should get on this really fast train! This trains are high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by four Japan Railways Group Companies. The maximum operating speed is 320km/h. That is really really fast!
There are also different types of Shinkansen, some are faster than others, some stop on more stations and take more time to arrive at your destination. The shinkansen tickets can be bought at JR Ticket Offices (called Midori-no-madoguchi, which actually means “Green Window”) or at Travel Service Centers.
When you buy tickets, you can choose between reserved and non-reserved cars. The advantage of purchasing a reserved seat is that you won`t take the risk of going standing all the way in busy days, like holidays. But, it is also more expensive. If you get a non-reserved ticket, it`s important that you find which are the cars that are non-reserved (normally, it can be from cars 1 to 3). If there is not space to sit, people stand on the aisles or the spaces between cars near the doors.
If you can actually get a seat, you will be surprise by how comfortable it is! The space is bigger than the one you get on airplanes and in the window or aisle seat you can find an outlet to plug a charger if you need.
Also, a very interesting fact about shinkansen trains is that the seats can be turned over 180 degrees, so even if you are travelling with a partner or a large group, you can always manage to sit together and talk. For example: Shinkansen seats distribution is 2 seats on one side and 3 seats on the other. So two, four, three and even six people can sit together facing each other!
Inside the shinkansen you can buy snacks and drinks. There are also bathrooms in between cars.
One thing you need to know, is that Shinkansen (and regular trains) are really punctual. In 2012, JR Central reported that the Shinkansen`s average delay from schedule per train was 36 seconds. This normally is due to causes like natural disasters. Even now, we can`t understand how they can be so punctual all the time. The only explanation we find is: it`s Japan.