Japanese trains – more than JR

Japan is famous for its train services, which have a reputation for going almost everywhere, punctuality, and speed. Because of this, many visitors decide to get a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) thinking that they can go everywhere with this. While JR has a national network covering large areas of Japan, there are also a number of private rail companies. These provide services in specific regions, including to well-known tourist destinations.

Let’s have a look at some of these rail companies and the tickets and passes they offer.


Kintetsu offers services between Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya and Mie. They are a good option between Kyoto and Nara, because the Kintetsu Nara station is more centrally located than the JR Nara station. They have some good value passes for travel in these areas, ranging from 1 to 5 days.


Keihan is useful for travelling between Osaka and Kyoto, including Uji, Fushimi Inari and the Higashiyama area. They have 1 and 2 day tickets which will help cover a lot of sights in those areas.


The Nagano Electric Railway, or Nagaden, links Nagano with Yudanaka, the closest station to the Jigokudani monkey park. Nagaden also runs buses in the area. While JR will get you to Nagano, you will need to take a Nagaden bus and/or train to get to the snow monkeys. There are some ticket deals available.


Odakyu runs from Shinjuku station in Tokyo to Hakone and Enoshima. They offer the popular Hakone Freepass and other passes.


Tobu runs services from Asakusa to Nikko, and Ikebukuro to Kawagoe. Both are popular day trips from Tokyo. They offer various passes which may include use buses as well.

These are just some of the private rail companies in Japan. You may encounter others while you are in Japan or planning your trip. When you are planning your trip, look up trains in Hyperdia. Beside each train listed, there is a little train symbol. Private railways have a pink train, shinkansen run by JR have a blue train, and all other JR trains have a green train. This will give you an indication as to whether the JR Pass can be used or not. If the train is run by a private railway company, looking at their website can give you useful information on tourist passes and tickets, special trains, and local sightseeing.

Do you have any questions about travelling around Japan? Please feel free to contact me.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.