Monday, August 24, 2009

Kintetsu Railway

Kintetsu Railway operates both intercity and commuter rail services in the Kansai region. Kintetsu serves Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Yoshino, Ise, and Nagoya. Kintetsu's main Osaka station is located in Namba.

Kintetsu offers two rail passes, both of which can be purchased from within Japan. 3,500 yen buys five days of unlimited rides on all of Kintetsu's ordinary trains and on the Iga Tetsudo and three vouchers. 6,800 yen buys that and unlimited rides on Mie Kotsu buses and discount coupons to area attractions. These passes are bought once you are in Japan.

The Kansai Thru Pass can also be used on ordinary Kintetsu trains running within Kansai.


Meitetsu trains serve Aichi Prefecture. Meitetsu also runs buses within the same area. It primarily serves to connect Nagoya with its suburbs as well as connecting that city with Gifu in Gifu Prefecture. Don't expect to see much countryside on most of their routes. Tourists are most likely to take a Meitetsu train to or from Central Japan International Airport (Centrair) which is south of Nagoya. Other major destinations include Inuyama and Toyota. Their eastern main line reconnects with the Tokkaido line at Toyohashi. In all Meitetsu runs between eight different lines.

Meitetsu trains have electronic displays that not only give destination information, but also display the train's speed. Top speeds are 120 km hour and trains rarely run slower than 70 km/hour. Meitetsu train cars look newer than those running in other parts of Japan, although they are probably just better maintained. The train I took looked the same as the Meitetsu trains that I took four years ago when I lived in Japan.

Their website also offers information about which stations are handicapped accessible. Click on the individual line that you want to take for this information. Most stations are not accessible, but at least the information is available. First class cars have accessible bathrooms.

Some trains supposedly require reservations, however you can always buy tickets from the conductor on the train without paying a fine. One day tickets are available, but I am not sure of the price at this time. Tickets are usually cheaper

Overall, they offer good commuter rail service.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Lodging: multiple, mostly at the back entrance
Tourist Office:
Of Interest: ramen tour restaurants in the station, international center, downtown (20 mins.)
Tourist Office: in the center of the station
International ATM: post office to the left of the Sakura exit
Internet Access: international center

Nagoya station serves three different train companies, Meitetsu, Kintetsu, and JR Central. It is about a half hour walk to downtown Nagoya (Sakae). The shinkasen to Nagoya stops here. Three lines of Nagoya's subway system stop here.

Downtown Nagoya is about a twenty minute walk from the station walking straight down Sakura-dori after leaving the station by the Sakura (main) exit. The International Center is on the way. It has a good library with books, magazines and newspapers. The center also has information about Japanese classes and some local events. To get to both the International Center and downtown, take the Higashiyama (yellow) subway line.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Lodging: multiple
Tourist Office:?
Of Interest: downtown Osaka
Internet Access: On the second floor in of Osaka Station in an office services store
International ATM: Osaka's main post office is nearby

Osaka Station and Hanshin's Umeda Station are basically across the street from each other in downtown Osaka. Umeda subway station is here also. Higashi-Umeda and Nishi-Umeda subway stations are connected to Osaka station through underground passage ways.

I vsisited this area a couple of times when I lived in Japan, but I did not spend much time here during my most recent trip. I remember the main kabuki theater was within walking distance, and that people were very friendly and helpful.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sannomiya (Kobe)

Lodging: multiple

When I was going from Himeji to Osaka, I was confused as to when I was actually going through Kobe. Here is what I discovered later.

Many lines connecting Kobe to other parts of Kansai do no actually stop at a Kobe station. If you want to go to Kobe, and can't find a station with Kobe in the name, look or ask for Sannomiya. This stop is a major transfer point, and I believe it is downtown. I know that there are several hotels in the area, including a couple with decent prices.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sanyo Electric Railway

Sanyo Electric Railway company operates train lines within Hyogo Prefecture. With the Hanshin Electric Railway Company, Sanyo jointly operates an express service from Himeji to Osaka`s Umeda Station. As of August 2009, ticket cost 1,200 yen. All day tickets for Sanyo trains cost 1,400 yen. All day tickets for both Sanyo and Hanshin trains are 1,700. A three day ticket costs 50,000 yen.

The Himeji train station has escalator access to the rails, but no elevator. There is no English on the information boards.

Cars are subway style. They were the only ones that I encountered in Japan that did not have the fluorescent lights on during the day. Lovers of natural light, take note.

The Kansai Thru Pass works on some Sanyo trains.


Lodging: multiple
Tourist Office: in the station building and next to the castle park
Of interest: Himeji Castle (world heritage site)
Internet Access: In the tourist office for 100 yen/15 minutes

Himeji is mainly known for its castle, a world heritage site. The entrance to the castle area is about 20 minutes walk from Himeji station through the downtown area. Expect to spend at least an hour going through the site.

Make sure you stop by one of the tourist offices. They have maps and information in English. Also, the videos they show are informative even if you don`t understand Japanese. The tourist office near the castle rents bikes, and the tourist office in the train station rents computer access. The computers in the station are good, but you have to stand.

Himeji City is the western most extent of the Sanyo Railway, a company with mulitple lines that serves a large part of Hyogo Prefecture and parts of Osaka. All day tickets are 1400 yen. The train from Himeji to downtown Osaka is around 1200 yen.

Himeji is a stop on the Sanyo Shinkansen. This train takes three hours to get to Tokyo going one way and two hours to get to Hakata going the other. Intermediate stops include Shin-Osaka (forty-five minutes) and Kyoto (an hour and a half) to the east and Hiroshima (one hour) to the east.

Of these destinations, ShinOsaka(one hour) and Kyoto (an hour and a half) can be reached by express train. In fact, the shinkansen takes the same amount of time to get to Kyoto as the express trains do. Express trains stop at both ShinOsaka and Osaka Stations. Regular trains only stop at Osaka Station and take about an hour and a half to get there.

Express trains head to Tottori Prefecture on the opposite coast, taking an hour and a half to get to Tottori City and two hours to get to Kurayoshi (Tottori).

Local trains make frequent twenty minute trips between Himeji and Aioi in western Hyogo Prefecture.

All trains are operated by JR West.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mijushima Rinkai Railway (Kurashiki, Okayama)

The Mijushima Rinkai Railway primarily transports freight between Mijushima Port and Kurashiki Station and within the Mijushima area. However, it operates one passenger line from the start of the port to the station. It is a one car train that mostly operates on an elevated track.

Mijushima Port is considered to be one of the best night time views in Japan. An elevated train is a pretty good way to see the sights.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Of Interest: Okayama Castle, Korakuen Garden, downtown Okayama, museums
Lodging: multiple
Tourist Office: yes
Nearest international ATM: There is a post office straight down the street in front of the station.
Nearby Internet: Yes. There are two internet cafes across the street from the extreme left of the station area.
Other transit: Okayama Electric Tramway has a stop in front of the station.

Okayama is the capital of Okayama Prefecture, and the train takes you right downtown. It takes about fifteen minutes to walk to Okayama Castle. Just walk straight from the station. This street will take you through downtown Okayama. The castle is nicknamed the Crow Castle because of its distinctive black lacquer walls. Korakuen garden is next to the castle. If you don`t want to walk, you can take a tram to both places. Okayam Orient Museum and the Okayama Perfectural Museum of Art are both near the castle area.

Okayama is a Shinkansen stop. To the west, ShinOsaka is about an hour to the east while Tokyo is about four hours away. To east Hiroshima is between 45 minutes and and hour and a half away. Hakata, on the island of Kyushu, is at the end of the line. Bullet trains take between 100 and 200 minutes to get there. (The faster times are usually by Nozomi trains which do not accept rail passes.)

Local trains take between an hour and an hour and a half to get to the northern border of Okayama Prefecture at Tsuyama. Going east, trains end just inside Hyogo Prefecture. Local trains take about an hour to get to Aioi. Both local (55 minutes) and express trains (35 minutes) go to Kamigori to the north of Aioi. Going west local trains take an hour and a half to get to the middle of Hiroshima Prefecture at Itozaki Station in the city of Mihara.

If you are going to Shikoku by train from Kanto or Kansai, you are probably going to change trains here. Both local and express trains take an hour to get to Takamatsu, the capital of Kagawa Prefecture. Kochi, the capital of Kochi Prefecture, can only reached directly by limited espress trains which take two and a half hours.


Lodging: multiple
Tourist Office: in the historic district, about twenty minutes walk from the station
Of Interest: Bikan Historic District, multiple museums

I was luck enough to arrive during the Kurashiki Tenryo Summer Festival. There was a parade of groups dancing down the main street, and street food in all directions. I also got to see the Bikan Historic District at night.

The Bikan Historic District is made up of houses and rice warehouses dating from the 17th century. Several have been converted into museums. The first houses are about a fifteen minute walk down the main street from the train station.

Kurashiki`s port is served by a local train company, the Miyushima Rinkai Railway. This company mainly hauls freight, but it does run one car for passengers on one of its lines. That car does fill up at times.