Basic Japanese Phrases for Communicating in Train Stations

Although more and more major stations in the Tokyo area and in major cities have staff who can communicate in foreign languages, it is still limited. Here are some Japanese phrases that will help when riding the train.

Buying Tickets

【Convenient phrases you can use with different words】

(1) Train stations in major Japanese cities usually have automatic gates that travelers must pass through to get on trains (there are some exceptions in small regional stations). To pass the gates, the traveler must insert a valid ticket to the destination, or use a transit IC card. Almost all train lines have ticket vending machines near the gates, so tickets can be purchased there. If you are using a travel IC card, make sure there is enough money on it. Also, at major stations on the nationwide JR system, there are full-service ticket offices called Midori no Madoguchi, where you can buy tickets that cannot be purchased from the vending machines. When you don't know where it is, try asking using the following phrase.

[en] Where is ○○?
[jp] ○○はどこですか? (○○ wa doko desu ka?)

[en] ticket office [jp] きっぷ売り場 (kippu-uriba)
[en] ticket center [jp] みどりの窓口 (midori no madoguchi)

(2) Transit IC cards are recommended if you plan to travel by train. There are various types depending on the region such as Suica・PASMO (Kanto area), ICOCA (Kansai area), and SUGOKA (Kyushu area). If it is within an area of reciprocity, IC cards from different areas can be used. They can also be used on various lines such as JR lines, private lines, and subways. Also, some lines have discount tickets, such as 1-day tickets, so check them out as well. Use the following expression to ask how to purchase them.

[en] How do I buy ○○?
[jp] ○○はどうやって買うのですか? (○○ wa douyatte kau no desu ka?)

[en] ticket [jp] きっぷ (kippu)
[en] SUICA [jp] スイカ (suika)
[en] PASMO [jp] パスモ (pasumo)
[en] ICOCA [jp] イコカ (ikoka)
[en] SUGOKA [jp] スゴカ (sugoka)
[en] IC card [jp] ICカード (aisii-kaado)
[en] one-day pass [jp] 1日乗車 (ichinichi-joushaken)

How to Efficiently Ride Japanese Trains >

*Some transit IC cards cannot be used across areas. In addition, some lines do not accept IC cards, so please check at the station.

Asking About Train Lines and Routes

【Convenient phrases you can use with different words】

(1) Train stations in major cities are very big and even locals sometimes get lost. In addition, the systems are complex, with many lines, such as JR lines, private lines, and subways. If you get lost, you'll be able to smoothly communicate your destination or the train you want to get by using the following phrases while showing a map, transit map, or transit app.

[en] I'd like to go to ○○. (○○ ni ikitai desu)
[jp] ○○に行きたいです。 (○○ ni ikitai desu)

[en] ●●station [jp] ●●駅 (●●eki)
[en] platform number ● [jp] ●番線ホーム (●bansen-home)

[en] I'd like to ride ○○. (○○ ni noritai desu)
[jp] ○○に乗りたいです。 (○○ ni noritai desu)

[en] ●●line [jp] ●●線 (●●sen)
[en] uptown train [jp] 上り電車 (nobori-densha)
[en] downtown train [jp] 下り電車 (kudari-densha)
[en] headed to [jp] ●●行き (●●yuki)
[en] direction [jp] ●●方面 (●●houmen)
[en] bullet train [jp] 新幹線 (shinkansen)
[en] subway [jp] 地下鉄 (chikatetsu)
[en] local [jp] 各駅停車 (kakuekiteisha)
[en] local express [jp] 準急 (junkyu)
[en] express [jp] 急行 (kyukou)
[en] rapid [jp] 快速 (kaisoku)
[en] special rapid [jp] 特急 (tokkyu)
[en] first train of the day [jp] 始発 (shihatsu)
[en] last trian of the day [jp] 終電 (syuuden)

Advice To Successfully Transfer Trains in Japan >

Get to a Convenient Spot in the Station/Leave the Station

【Convenient phrases you can use with different words】

(1) Train stations have a number of convenient spots. Although there are information boards in various locations, large stations have quite complex structures. When you don't know which way to go, ask a station staff the location of your desired destination using the following phrase.

[en] Where is ○○?
[jp] ○○はどこですか? (○○ wa doko desu ka?)

[en] ATM [jp] ATM (eiteiemu)
[en] toilet [jp] トイレ (toire)
[en] pay phone [jp] 公衆電話 (koushu-denwa)
[en] post office [jp] 郵便局 (yuubin-kyoku)
[en] coin lockers [jp] コインロッカー (koin-rokkaa)
[en] left luggage office [jp] 手荷物預り所 (tenimotsu-azukarijo)
[en] elevator [jp] エレベーター (erebeetaa)
[en] escalator [jp] エスカレーター (esukareetaa)
[en] ticket gates [jp] 改札 (kaisatsu)
[en] exit [jp] 出口 (deguchi)

(2) Many stations have bus stops and taxi stands right outside. Insert the mode of transportation you want to use in ○○ to ask where to go.

[en] I want to take the ○○.
[jp] ○○に乗りたいです。 (○○ ni nori tai desu.)

[en] Where do I take ○○?
[jp] ○○乗り場はどこですか? (○○noriba wa doko desu ka?)

[en] bus [jp] バス (basu)
[en] taxi [jp] タクシー (takushii)

(3) Use the following phrase to communicate your desired destination. This phrase can also be used to tell the taxi driver where you are going. Insert the address or name of the place you want to go to in the ○○ and show them a map or guidebook for added clarity.

[en] I want to go to ○○. (○○ ni iki tai desu.)
[jp] ○○に行きたいです。 (○○ ni iki tai desu.)

[en] hotel [jp] ホテル (hoteru)
[en] ryokan(Japanese inn) [jp] 旅館 (ryokan)
[en] restaurant [jp] レストラン (resutoran)
[en] tourism information area [jp] 観光案内所 (kankou-annaijo)

Use taxis for efficient sightseeing! A Guide to Japanese Taxis >

When You Have Left or Lost Something

【Convenient phrases you can use with different words】

(1) If you forget something in a train or lose something in a station, contact a station staff immediately. Left and lost items are often handed into station staff in Japan, so it's very likely you'll get it back!

[en] I dropped ○○.
[jp] ○○を落としました。 (○○ o otoshi mashita.)

[en] luggage [jp] 荷物 (nimotsu)
[en] money [jp] お金 (okane)
[en] wallet [jp] 財布 (saifu)
[en] passport [jp] パスポート (pasupooto)
[en] cell phone [jp] 携帯電話 (keitai-denwa)
[en] smartphone [jp] スマートフォン (sumaato-fon)
[en] computer [jp] パソコン (pasokon)
[en] ticket [jp] きっぷ (kippu)

How to communicate with Japanese people who are weak with foreign languages? >

Large cities have many train routes so you can travel easily . Please enjoy using them while being sure to follow the rules such as waiting in line to board and a light and refrain from talking loudly while on the train.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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